HomeCar CultureLet's chat: Past, future of classic cars with CCCA president

Let’s chat: Past, future of classic cars with CCCA president


ClassicCars.com had a chance to sit down with Carrol Jensen, president of one of the country’s oldest and largest clubs for classic cars, the Classic Car Club of America, for her insights on the state of the collector car hobby.

ClassicCars.com Journal: What is the CCCA?

Carrol: The Classic Car Club of America was formed in 1953 to celebrate exceptional or unusual foreign and domestic cars built between 1915 and 1948 that are distinguished for their fine design, high engineering standards and superior workmanship. We refer to these cars as “full classics,” a name the club trademarked in 1997 to provide distinction from the ever-evolving term “classic.”

We promote friendship and social activities and encourage the maintenance, restoration and preservation of these great motor cars. Currently, we have about 4,000 members from around the world.

CCJ: How long have you been a CCCA member, and what cars are in your personal collection?

Carrol: I’ve been involved in the club since my husband and I started dating in 1982, and was voted in as president in April of 2018. Our full classics include a 1925 Marmon Phaeton, 1930 Stutz Speedster and a 1948 Jaguar. Additionally, we own a 1912 Stutz Bear Cat, 1930 Ford Model A pickup, 1959 Austin Healey, 1980 MGB and a 1993 Porsche 911.

We enjoy the variety of these cars and the different events for each of them, but we are avid drivers. Our cars have been on tracks, hill climbs and weeklong rallies and sometimes just to dinner with friends!

The Jensens pose with their 1930 Stutz Speedster. | Carrol Jensen photo
The Jensens pose with their 1930 Stutz Speedster. | Carrol Jensen photo

CCJ: What is the allure of owning a full classic?

Carrol: These cars are of a specific era which had dramatic leaps in technology and styling. It was the beginning of the V12 and V16 engines, supercharging, advanced hydraulic braking and many other breakthroughs. This all resulted in fantastic driving cars, whether it’s a high-performance car like a Stutz or a luxury car like a Rolls-Royce — think of it as a McLaren or Maybach today.

Additionally, it was a time when styling really came alive, and many of these cars received unique bodies by custom coach builders in every paint scheme imaginable. Interior materials could range from alligator skin to custom embroidered cloth. The allure is the technology and styling that makes them wonderful to drive, beautiful to look at and historically fascinating!

CCJ: How did the full classics sector of the hobby fair in 2018?

Carrol: We are noticing a shift in recent years as collectors are using their cars more and more for driving, whereas two decades ago they were more “hands-off” for shows. For example, our CARavans (national touring events) are almost always sold out and often have waiting lists. Likewise, our point-judged Grand Classics concours is shifting in that members bring cars to participate, but choose to exhibit their cars versus having them judged.

It has become more about enjoying the cars with friends, and meeting new people.

CCJ: How big of an impact were the results of August’s Gooding and Company Pebble Beach auction, which saw a Duesenberg sell for a new record for an American car at auction, vastly exceeding the estimate?

Carrol: It is such a fantastic car that epitomizes full classics; twin overhead cams and supercharged! The great Briggs Cunningham owned that car at one time and clocked it at 126.6 mph. While this is an exceptional car, it is an also an example of how driveable full classics are.

Strangely, the market is a bit like other sectors. For example, if we look at sports cars, MGs aren’t skyrocketing in value and remain a lot of fun for a reasonable price; conversely a Lamborghini Miura appears to have no upper limit. Full classic sedans remain a great value with little change up or down and a great way to enjoy the hobby at a more affordable price.

But cars like Auburn Boattail Speedsters, Alfa Romeos, or other iconic models continue to steadily climb. I think the biggest difference is that we see collectors buying full classics because they want the car, rather than to speculate on the market. Consequently, many of these cars get traded or sold in private or semi-private transactions rather than high-profile auctions.

CCJ: What are some things that CCCA will be doing differently in 2019?

Carrol: We are investing heavily in our website to create a better experience for both new and current members. We are also adding an online advertising opportunity for our members to be more involved in the buying and selling of full classics.

Jensen stands with her 1925 Marmon Phaeton. | William Hall photo
Jensen stands with her 1925 Marmon Phaeton. | William Hall photo

CCJ: Are you seeing young people at CCCA events?

Carrol: We may have different definitions of young people, but I feel that the 20-somethings are starting to appreciate the grand style and design of these cars, while the 50 and 60-year-olds are just starting to have some free time and disposable income to think about purchasing opportunities.

We encourage membership of all ages — our youngest club member is 15 years old — and it’s a great way to learn more about these cars through our members and our award-winning publications. You don’t need to own a car to join.

CCJ: What does CCCA specifically do for outreach to young people?

Carrol: The CCCA continues to be engaged in a variety of judging activities, including youth judging opportunities. Through both the club and the CCCA Educational Foundation, we look for ways to become more involved with higher learning facilities and colleges to support restoration and education programs with young people.

CCJ: What role do you think car museums will play in the hobby in coming years?

Carrol: I love car museums, and the CCCA has its own on the campus of the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Museums can help in education, but unfortunately they are struggling for funds like all institutions.

I like to see museums that offer other attractions that help underwrite their costs as well as exposing more people to the hobby. Using the facility for meetings, dinners or weddings brings people into that space that otherwise might not be aware of old cars.

CCJ: What is a good entry-level car to get people into the full classics hobby?

Carrol: A closed car (hard-top) of many marques is truly a great entry-level car that can be purchased in the range of $25,000-$60,000 and includes Buick, Cadillac, LaSalle and Packard, among others. Surprising to some would be a few different Rolls-Royce full classic models in that price range on ClassicCars.com right now! But you can find them even cheaper, and we welcome cars in any condition.

Jensen sees a bright future coming for the classic car world. | William Hall photo
Jensen sees a bright future coming for the classic car world. | William Hall photo

CCJ: What part of the hobby do you enjoy the most?

Carrol: It is truly two-fold; both driving cars and being with people. Our unofficial tag line could be come for the cars, stay for the people, and I truly believe that.

CCJ: Some people view the CCCA and its listing of full classics as elitist or exclusive, and think the club should include all years and makes of collector cars. How do you respond to them?

Carrol: Every club has a definition of the vehicles they celebrate, whether it be marque/manufacturer, time period, or both. There is a focused club for everyone, which is why I belong to many different clubs.

The CCCA is the only venue you have to enjoy both these cars and this period, and I invite anyone who has an interest to reach out and become a member.

William Hall
William Hall
William Hall is a writer, classic car broker and collector based in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He has spent the whole of his professional career in the automotive industry, starting as an auto-parts delivery driver at the age of 16 to working for some of the nation's premier restoration shops. He is a concours judge and a consultant to LeMay-America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.



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