How millennials will save our car hobby

How millennials will save our car hobby

It's the appeal of analog: Your non-digital automobile provides hands-on experiences that younger generations want, but that the computer screen and self-driving cars cannot duplicate

Between traveling and work and other responsibilities, including an eight-day babysit of three grandchildren, it sometimes takes me a few days — OK, sometimes a couple of weeks — to get around to working my way through the Sunday edition of The New York Times (yes, I’m an old codger who actually likes to get printer’s ink on his hands as he reads his news).

But I’ve finally read David Sax’s mid-November essay, “Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over.” The subhead on the article is “Many of us are yearning for records, real books, and hardware stores,” to which I suggest we can add cars that you not only drive yourself but that need some tender-loving care from time to time, perhaps even some carburetor adjustment or re-setting of the ignition points (remember those?).

How millennials will save the classic car industry | Journal

‘Analog’ includes the appeal of traditional design elements

In addition to writing his piece in the NYT, Sax is the author of The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. In his essay, he notes that in this Digital Age, not only has analog survived “but, in many cases it is thriving.” He points to such things as the surging sales of vinyl records (and the equipment to play them), of printed books, of instant-film cameras (remember Polaroids?), and even of board games.

“This surprising reversal of fortune for these apparently ‘obsolete’ analog technologies is too often written off as nostalgia for a predigital time,” he writes. “But younger consumers who never owned a turntable have few memories of life before the internet drive most of the current interest in analog, and often include those who work in Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.”

How can this be? Why is this happening? Sax offers an answer:

“Analog, although more cumbersome and costly than its digital equivalents, provides a richness of experience that is unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen.”

How millennials will save the classic car industry | Journal

Older engines invite hands-on tinkering and the acquisition of craftsmanship skills

That bears repeating — “a richness of experience that is unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen” — to which I’ll note that he’s talking about a computer screen, not a windscreen.

“People are buying books because a book engages nearly all of their senses, from the smell of the paper and glue to the sight of the cover design and weight of the pages read, the sound of those sheets turning, and even the subtle taste of ink on your fingers. A book can be bought and sold, given and received, and displayed on a shelf for anyone to see. It can start conversations and cultivate romances.”

How millennials will save the classic car industry | Journal

It’s not nostalgia, but the richness of the experience that appeals to young generations

To which I add a “ditto” as his words relate to classic cars as well as to books or vinyl records.

In fact, Sax adds, “The limits of analog, which were once seen as a disadvantage, are increasingly one of the benefits people are turning to as a counterweight to the easy manipulation of digital.”

So, what does all this mean for our cherished classic and collector cars? Well, for the most part, while they can be cumbersome and costly, the experience they provide is vastly different from those provided by a self- or Uber-driven vehicle. Like a printed book or vinyl record, they can be seen and shared. And let’s face it, car shows are as much about conversation as they are about cars.

How millennials will save the classic car industry | Journal

The design details of older cars are unmatched by more modern machinery

“Analog excels particularly well at encouraging human interaction, which is crucial to our physical and mental well-being,” Sax writes.

Oh, and here’s more good news for those worried about whether the classics in their care will find caretakers in the future:

“We do not face a simple choice of digital or analog,” Sax adds. “That is the false logic in the binary code that computers are programmed with, which ignores the complexity of life in the real world. Instead, we are faced with a decision of how to strike the right balance between the two.

“If we keep that in mind,” he concludes, “we are taking the first step toward a healthy relationship with all technology, and, most important, one another.”

In other words, next time you want to flip off a millennial with a loud and too-highly pitched exhaust and ridiculous wheel camber, don’t confuse hoonigan with hooligan (although you likely were one once). Instead, offer a thumb’s up and engage in a conversation. After all, someday that kid might be buying your car.


Related Posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • Michael Milne
    December 4, 2017, 11:04 AM


    Nice to see an article with a positive spin on the future of the classic car hobby. I hadn’t made the connection between vinyl and classic cars before. Let’s hope the trend continues.

    • Nick@Michael Milne
      December 4, 2017, 2:33 PM

      I hate to be a downer on this but people have always bought what they grew up with. The problem is most of the cars of the 80s and 90s were nothing special. Hard to tell one from the other. It was the bland years. The 1989 Ford Taurus just doesn’t do much for anyone! Sure we all love the Ferraris and Lambos but who can afford them? No millennial will ever understand the significance of the tri-five Chevrolets. The pre war cars are coming down in value as this generation dies off. The 50s cars are starting to see the same thing. Does anyone really like Corvettes after 1973? I don’t think so and the market reflects it.

      • Darin Roberge@Nick
        December 4, 2017, 4:00 PM

        I completely disagree. I’m currently shopping for a C4 solely because it was my childhood dream car. It’s unquestionably slim pickings from that era, but there’s a few bright spots. My generation does have an appreciation for 60’s and 70’s cars too though!

        • John@Darin Roberge
          April 29, 2018, 6:31 PM

          I agree with you trying to find a C-4 Corvette but for a slightly different reason. I have one, and it is one of the most cost effective sports car that has modem handeling and mostly good manners. I think it is mostly a good looking car, as even the newer models look very much like them. People ask me what year mine is and when I tell them it is an 1986, they are really surprised//

      • Richard Truman @Nick
        December 4, 2017, 5:12 PM

        The tri fives are hard to forget.
        I just sold a 63 Split window 300 HP automatic Sebring Silver for 90,000 .
        To take its place I bought a 57 Chevy Truck , 327 AC, power steering with a beautiful Turquoise paint job
        The strong Icons should keep there value the style and Heart pounding performance cant be duplicated with a battery performance vehicle

      • Darin Roberge@Nick
        December 4, 2017, 5:41 PM

        Id somewhat have to respectively disagree. I’m currently shopping for a C4, for no other reason that it was my dream car when i was a little kid. I’ll certainty admit that the traditionally desirable cars from the 80’s and 90’s do leave a bit to be desired, but the Japanese did have their own muscle car revolution during that time, which are affordable and certainly capture my generations imagination. Thanks largely in part to video games and media, we (albeit from a different perspective) also have an appreciation for muscle cars. The biggest problem for our generation is that we don’t have any disposable income. I expect that to change eventually, but i wouldn’t count out collector cars for people my age just yet.

        With that said, I would agree on 50’s Americana and pre war. With the exception of small pockets of sub cultures (IE rat rods/rockabilly), that stuffs glory days are far behind them and there is nothing unusual about that. Collectibles have life cycles. Especially collectibles that are largely nostalgia based.

      • old50grit@Nick
        December 4, 2017, 7:37 PM

        I’m reading the same publications as Nick. I’m also observing that prewar cars, unless significantly modified, require more effort and attention to detail in order to drive, so you see the prices going down or the cars staying on the market for an extended period. Skills and patience of the younger generation are limited. Check out the Hagerty data. They have the customer database and will tell you the market trends toward newer vehicles (easier to drive, more comfortable, more reliable) and they have the age demographic information.

      • Michael Milne@Nick
        December 4, 2017, 8:15 PM

        One of the reasons I wrote my book, the Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums & Attractions, was to make more people aware of the great car sights in America. The feedback I get from readers is that the book has made family road trips more interesting as young people get to see these cars up close and learn more about them and the hobby.

        • Walter@Michael Milne
          April 27, 2018, 9:29 AM

          Where can I find this book? All of my vacations are based on car museums except Disney World.

        • Walter E. Johnson@Michael Milne
          May 1, 2018, 4:33 AM

          I purchased the book. It’s awesome! Thanks.

      • George@Nick
        December 4, 2017, 8:16 PM

        You hate to be a downer yet . . .

      • Alan C@Nick
        December 23, 2017, 8:45 PM

        Just purchased a ’64 GTO convertible [for ‘slightly more than when I bought one in ’64]
        which is in the process of being restored. Prior to putting it in to Performance Motors
        in Naples,Fl. it turned a lot of heads of the ‘younger’ generation and smiles from those
        from my generation

  • Rick Schmidt
    December 5, 2017, 8:38 AM

    My personal experience is that once a person enters the hobby of owning/collecting/driving classic cars… IF they’re in for keeps (i.e. they enjoy it and pursue long-term), they tend to dive a bit deeper in with each successive acquisition or swap. Once you’ve been there and done that with a particular era or type of automobile, and you’re looking to expand your horizon a bit, you start looking a bit earlier, or you start eyeballing vehicles that you’d never considered being interested in when you first began. I’ve seen this dynamic with many collectors, and even my father. In the early days of our collecting, if it wasn’t 1955 or newer, it just wasn’t on our radar. Years later, pops (and myself) is tremendously fascinated with pre-war (especially 1934-earlier) and owns a good selection of them. Bottom-line, there will NEVER be a day that you see an old Packard or Pierce Arrow parked beside a house, or in a carport, forgotten. Whatever the values might be (they’re sagging a bit, but I believe there’s a firm bottom), there will always be those willing to adopt, learn the car (and its repair/upkeep), and enjoy the challenge. So I’m not all that pessimistic.

  • Bill LaLonde
    December 9, 2017, 10:50 AM

    I agree with some of this article but not all. Adjusting carburetors and setting points is beyond the scope of many enthusiasts. The fuel injections and pointless ignitions make vehicles easy to drive and give more performance along with better gas mileage. I remember all too well the many problems with the early vehicles that are not easily overcome by about 99% of the population. I agree that all the bells and whistles on the new vehicles are over the top and in many cases not necessary. A happy medium would work for me, both in cars and even in politics. Oops, I may have opened a can of worms there.

  • Brian Pawlak
    December 19, 2017, 6:59 PM

    The only millennials that will be interested, are the ones who inherit any one specific collector car, mostly for family a heirloom or investment Most of them do not even want to learn how to drive a stick. It is sad, I am 69 years old, test drove cars for GM, then bought and sold thru the gas crisis’s when GTO, and 396 Chevy’ were kicked to the curb. Yes, I even met John Delorean one morning, Oct 20th, 1971 when he was the polite, General Manager for Chevrolet. Anyway the young men today do not have the passion, sorry. How about George Hurst? Ask a millennial about this genius. These beautiful cars are OUR memories, with few exception.

    • Fred@Brian Pawlak
      December 23, 2017, 9:53 AM

      I have many cars in my collection both 40s technology 60s technology 80s technology Mid to late 90s technology and 2000+ technology .I enjoy them all for what they are there a lot of fun and different ways to me all like the Madonna they all have the greatness of the joys fun to work on clean and polish take down the road enjoy going to shows and talking to all people from all generations. Nothing like like a good mix keeps life interesting we all have favorite meals jbut who wants to eat the same stuff every day. Although I love Italian food variety is the spice of life and that’s how it is with my car collection!

  • Norman
    January 16, 2018, 8:10 PM

    I will merely repeat a comment I heard a year ago: "When all these old guys are gone, whatever collector cars around that don’t get junked will be available for pennies on the dollar.". And that’s the truth. So-called "millennials" are looking for driverless cars…have the lowest number of driver’s licenses in the last 40 years…have been the cause of a 40% drop in license applications over the last decade. So dream on about our "hobby" being "saved" by "millennials". This isn’t a "negative spin". It’s the truth. Next time you’re at a car show, antique/classic/musclecar/hot rod or otherwise, take a look at who’s NOT there.

    • Mike @Norman
      March 7, 2018, 12:46 AM

      I would say the classic car show attract a specific group of people. Younger people still have car show, look at the trend of cars and coffee with the lack of the signs, no touch stickers, and creepy leaning dolls.

      • Norman@Mike
        March 20, 2018, 3:15 PM

        Cars and coffee meets do not draw "collector" cars – or at least I have not yet seen a Duesenberg or Delahaye at one yet. And again, most of the over-valued "collector" cars will be suitable a boat anchors inside a generation. That $4 million 250GT California will be a "WTF?" then just as it is now.

    • Amanda@Norman
      March 26, 2018, 12:20 PM

      I am a 30 year old woman and I recently attended a car show. I will say that part of the problem was how I was treated. I got asked multiple times if I was in the right place. I tried to strike up conversations about cars with other attendees and all of them acted like I was crazy or thought I was an employee. I felt unwelcome and it seemed like it was because I didn’t look like most of the attendees. I don’t want to make generalizations or say that every car enthusiast is like this, I just think if the community were more welcoming and less negative towards "millennials" or younger folks, maybe more of them would be interested. Also not all of us want self-driving cars, not sure where you got that stat but a lot of us are terrified of them. Also I think part of the reason for less people having licenses is because of cities getting larger. I know where I live, trying to find parking is a nightmare, so a lot of people opt for public transportation.
      On a more positive note I think people my age and even younger people are embracing more analog along with the digital, there is room for both I don’t think you have to pick one or the other.

      • Peter@Amanda
        April 30, 2018, 9:16 AM

        I totally agree with Amanda!

      • Mike@Amanda
        April 30, 2018, 1:28 PM

        Amanda’s comment is very accurate. A good point she brought up is that while millennials may be interested in some of the classic cars out there, they are tending to live and work in the bigger cities and thus have no space to shelter and work on them. In fact, as she mentioned, they often don’t even have the ability to afford one parking spot, let alone a garage like previous generations did. Even if an urban apartment building allows for a single parking spot, you’re not allowed to work on your car there at all.


Search the Journal

Latest Articles