I didn’t notice it so much in the early days. My first few cars, while considered retro now, were relatively common then; the likes of the Nova, MkIII Escort, 309, MkII Scirocco, ZX Volcane, 205 GTI, 19 16v, MkII Astra and so on were all over the place in the late nineties and early noughties… but perhaps those of you who drive these cars today are enjoying The Nod? I bet you are. It was when I bought my first Capri in 2004 that I really experienced it. Other Capri owners would make eye contact, then infinitesimally dip their head in acknowledgement as they passed. It wasn’t an overt or extravagant nod, just a simple mutual regard. Some would raise an index finger on the wheel. Others, though not many, would go as far as raising the whole hand in a wave. I was part of something! This was very exciting.
…and that was just in town. On the motorway The Nod was a logistical impossibility due to angles, proximity and thrust, so it became The Flash. Just a momentary blip of light from those quad headlamps, enough to say ‘I’ve seen you - we’re the same, you and me’.
The Nod is a broad and all-encompassing thing. I’m not sure whether I entered into The Land of Nod at a time of gradual evolution or whether Ford drivers’ nodding is model-specific, but when I bought my BMW 2002 Touring in 2006, I found that I was getting The Nod from drivers of all classic and retro cars. On the day I bought it, I was nodded at by a chap in a Midget. There was a local fella in a Morris Minor who’d always accommodate. A nod from a Turbo Technics XR4i turned into a race down the A249! (That was a powerful nod…) Ritmos, MkI Cavaliers, Stags, even Land Rovers, they all welcomed me in. An old lady in a Beetle even accompanied The Nod with The Cheeky Wink once. An unprecedented advancement, that.
If you want to find yourself in nod-overload, try driving an early XR3 around the M25. You’ll ignite the passion of a thousand reformed boy racers; there may not be that many MkIII Escorts around these days, but every Essex traffic light hero will give you The Nod if you’re in an XR3, regardless of what they’re driving. Of all the cars I’ve owned, that’s the one that has the Nod Factor in spades.
Don’t get carried away, though. I tried out The Nod when I bought a Mk1 Mazda MX-5 a few years ago, and nearly ruined my neck tilting at every '5 and Eunos I saw. They’re surprisingly ubiquitous, and they don’t all play the game. At best, you can usually hope for The Glowering Suspicion, at worst The Total Blanking. It’s like going for a high-five and being left hanging. Let’s just keep it as a retro identifier, I reckon. Goodness, aren’t we a friendly bunch in our old-school cars…?