Where is the collector car hobby headed?

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You know the warning about ostriches with their heads buried. The collector car hobby can't follow suit. It needs to be intentional about mapping its future. Again this year, the ClassicCars.com Journal gets ready for Monterey Car Week by looking well down the road | Larry Edsall photo

Punch “2030” into your GPS and it’s likely to provide you with a list of local streets, avenues and boulevards with addresses starting with 2030, or perhaps it will suggest the route to Dover, Massachussets, and its 02030 zip code.

But your GPS won’t point the way to 2030 for the collector car hobby as it rolls through a major transitional period during the next few years, as Baby Boomers give way, albeit reluctantly, to the upcoming generations of car collectors and what initially will be their very different interests.

To help predict and perhaps even to help point the way, we again have asked several leaders in the hobby, include some of those very next-gen members, to help us provide a road map as we move on down the hobby highway.

We did this exercise last year in the week leading up to Monterey Car Week, and we’re repeating the process this year, though with different essayists.

While this article is by way of introduction, the series begins Tuesday, August 6, with Lindsey Harrell, who this fall will become the president of the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance & Motoring Festival, looking at the future of concours and auto shows.

On August 7, John Kruse, professional educator and co-founder of Worldwide Auctioneers, examines the next decade ahead for the collector car auction industry.

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Next up is Roger Falcione, founder of ClassicCars.com, who will look at the changing collector car marketplace and the vehicles that will appeal initially to the newcomer next generations. (Remember, however, you Baby Boomers, that when you were young, you probably had little if any interest in the pre-war, let alone Brass Era cars that you now collect. You were into building hot rods and maybe that Mustang you coveted in the high school parking lot.)

On August 9, Michael Bodell, Lotus enthusiast and collector, motorcycle racer and the youthful deputy director of the Petersen Automotive Museum, looks at how technology is updating the country’s car museums and making them more attractive for visitors.

It’s my turn next, on August 10 taking a look at the next-mod trend in collector cars. We’ve had resto-mods. Next up come electro-mods, or as some put it, the future proofing of the collector car.

On August 11, McKeel Hagerty writes about the seismic demographic transition the hobby is experiencing and what it means.

And then, on Monday, August 12, as Monterey Car Week begins, we’ll summarize the series and ask for your comments and reactions.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

25 COMMENTS

    • There is no collector cars any more, the supply is being used up.an Whats left is junk,or non collectibles,that people are trying make into a collectible, WON’T WORK !!!! Will not replace the 32 ford coupe,the old customs,the hot rods of the 50s and 60s or the muscle cars of 60s and 70s,and the people today trying to get $125,000 for a 40 ford,just won’t happen the younger people don’t have money. They don’t even know what a 40 ford looks like.

  1. I have been a hobbyist, builder and collector for over 40 years..I am now 70….in anticipation of soon reading here on the subject of collector cars in the coming decade, one distinct element stands alone to me above all others…the combination factor of age and descretionary income availability.
    There are so many vehicles currently owned by people in the 65-80 year old age range that will likely be sold during the next ten years that will necessarily have an large effect upon price…the question becomes then, who will want to buy them and who can afford to buy them…..many younger people may have respect and admiration for 40’s, 50′, 60’s and other special interest vehicles, but they do not seem to be enamored with them enough to gather large cash reserves beyond their normal living expenses to make cash purchases…and, unlike new car sales with lease options and relatively low interst rate loans, most transactions remain as cash purchases. There will be exceptions, but clearly younger people also have an eye upon new technologies, accessories, gadgetry, electric advances and other draws which will likely keep them from being anxious to own and maintain the precious memoirs of the older generations’ early years of hot rods, customs and muscle cars….I have had this same discussion with my own adult children who watched restorations and final products being presented at shows and cruise nights….they can appreciate the older cars, but if they are any indication, we will reach a point where there will be a very large supply of restored vehicles for sale and far fewer people lining up to purchase than ever before..as a result, placing a ton of money into something like a tri-five Chevy may not make much sense if the goal is to recover most of the money spent later on-there are just too many of them around and pick buyers in low numbers will be in control of the market

    • The days are over for American cars and hot rods. The younger generations don’t have the funds or interest in a 50 yer old car. I track C2 Corvettes on Ebay. The prices start at $50,000 and do not sell. Unless owners take a deep cut in price, then the cars will sit in their garage forever.

    • I am inclined too agree with Robert! As a comparison, Look at what is happening to the housing market. Most young people are not interested in houses with land, they want an apartment or a low dollar built townhouse with current technology in the home while all the well built homes that baby boomers are selling (that could be updated) are NOT their interest. I think it is sad but I see the housing and car markets going in a similar direction. Down

    • I believe that Mr. Jones has is right. I am 61 and I see the future buyers being very much into technology. Also the finance’s will play the most important role. It is unfortunate but the future will be more about survival (both from a financial as well as a physical perspective).

  2. There will be classic Honda’s and Toyota’s. That’s what the millennials drive. People won’t be interested in spending thousands on a classic car. Hopefully,the rip off auction houses disappear. They are responsible for the normal Joe unable to afford a decent classic. This also includes dealers who charge and purchase unreasonable amounts for classics. Sellers, we know you put a load of cash in that car, and probably bondo, but nobody told you to do so. You won’t get out what you put into it. So quit asking for top dollar on the classic that you did not lift a finger to restore. BTW, like many of you, I’ll be dead by 2030. Someone else will be enjoying your classic or most likely selling it thinking how foolish you were to dump money into a future rust bucket. They won’t get the price you might ask, but hey, it’s free money. They’re need only enough to buy another Accord. Yep, you’ll be rolling over in your grave. Selling my classic car for a Honda!!!

    • You can’t blame the auction houses and the dealers for sky-high prices. The prices are set in an open market by willing buyers. When those would-be buyers stop bidding (if ever?), the prices will drop.

  3. Gathering information is not easy. It is important to ask people from several different backgrounds to be able to gain perspective. If you ask the people in a bar what is the future of booze consumption, they will likely tell you that there is no problem with alcohol, now or in the future.

    • We have to face the fact that things will change but I am more of a optimist. There will still be younger people that have memories of cars of the 50’s and 60’s around for a while. I come across a lot of younger people who remember fondly their grandparents cars. When they have the discretionary income to collect a classic will they? I don’t know but I am not going to worry about it. I intent to just enjoy having a classic as long as I can and it makes sense and just have a good time.

    • I am 50 years old and recently went to a car show along with my ’71 Grandville Convertible. The overwhelming majority of people showing and viewing cars had to be at least in their mid sixties and older. This is an expensive hobby and I just don’t see it being accesible for younger people. Couple that with the fact that millions of people (young and old) would rather engage in fun time with their electronic devices than participate in the labor of love that is classic cars. Interesting times ahead!

  4. I can see where the future of the hobby is in danger of complete extinction. I am 58 years old and I have never been interested in any car built before 1955. I respect them and appreciate them for what they are but I would never buy one. I completely understand how somebody 10 or 20 years younger than me wouldnt give a hoot about my 1972 Challenger or 1969 Super Bee.

    • Interesting topic on where the collector car hobby is headed. IMHO, as long as there is some demand, there will be some worth. I’m looking forward to the restomods of the future… All the tech, and greener options? Why not?! The concours cars will only go up as the wealthy include them in portfolios, however there will be that demand for specialty accessories and parts. We just need to brand the hobby to the youth as ‘recycling’!

  5. Sadly, for some of us now older guys, it’s getting harder to find a place to call ‘home’. Cruise nights have cars from the 2000’s all over the place. Very few 50’s fin cars or early 60’s cars around. My ‘newest’ old car is 1970, which seems almost new to me, but is now 50 years old. I can still remember thinking how my 61 was only 2 years away from getting antique plates in 1984. "Suddenly" it’s a 58 year old car. Shouldn’t 58 year old cars have cranks on the front of them and be driven by old guys with pipes in their mouths and big hats on their heads? I’m now the "model A guy" I used to look at with respect, but also with no idea of why he would want one. I guess it happens to every generation. 1970 is an interesting year. Go back 50 years from 1970 and most of the country was still on horseback. Go ahead 50 years from 1970 and you’re where we are today with electric Teslas and Hellcrate engines of 1000 HP! Time marches on. Hopefully I can continue to enjoy my 57/61/70 automobiles even though it is coming up on 2020.

  6. Interesting timing of this topic. I spent this past weekend with my Dad in Louisville for the 50th NSRA Nationals. I’m 56 and he’s 78. Huge turnout with over 12,000 cars registered. And unsurprisingly there were thousands of electric scooters roaming the place. At one point Dad made the comment that if they made everyone over 65 leave, the place would’ve been nearly empty. Of course that led us into a discussion of a topic similar to this post – what’s that show going to look like in 10+ years?

    There’s going to be lots of cars from the 30s, 40s and 50s coming to market as ownership ages and declining prices will be a result. I look at all the personalized street rods (think ZZ Top Eliminator type rods) and just don’t see a market. People are going to be giving those away. I think traditional hot rods will hold up better but pricing expectations are going to have to come down.

    At the show, there were a lot of "for sale" signs in windows with most that I saw at numbers with pretty inflated expectations. There was one really clean, hot rodded 55 Chevy with an asking price of $65k. No doubt the seller had more into it than that but I just can’t see it trading at a number close to that.

    The best of the best and rarest of the rarest will survive but those below that will take a beating. Buying these cars today should be for the enjoyment and not for the investment potential. I’ll be following the 55 Chev market closely and will scratch that 45 year itch one of these days in the not too distant future.

  7. A Calif Legislator told Association of California Car Clubs at their annual conference, "You guys are one BILL away from not being able to drive your cars!" This warning is going to happen. I can see us having to apply 6 months in advance to get a permit to attend an event. The administrative fee will be outrageous. And, since internal combustion will be generally outlawed, only a few nitch refineries will exist. You will pay over $100 per gallon. Don’t think this is possible? Have you priced R 12 lately?

    • I hope most of you are wrong, but, I see your point.Its sad but I was told a couple years ago that for every car guy that joins NSRA, three drop out. I am seeing first hand how hard it is to sell a hot rod as I have one listed on this site . Hardly no interest.

  8. I constantly find myself in conversations about this topic. However, we don’t limit it to the collector car policy. I would add to the endangered list Nascar and Harley-Davidson. Harley thought they would catch the eye of younger buyers with the V-Rod. I owned one and it was an incredibly well-built bike. It was priced out of the budget of younger people who preferred an import sport bike for half the price. Harley is preparing to launch an electric bike. Price? $30K. I hope I am around to see how the NSRA, Nascar and Harley fare in the next 25 years.

  9. Sorry guys, but the car hobby, which includes collector cars, fixing and restoring cars, and car sporting events of all kinds like racing, car shows, and parts swap meets, is going to die with us. The car shows in my area, Wisconsin, are already showing fewer and fewer cars for sale and display. The good cars are being sold at auctions or on line at "Bring A Trailer".

    I am 73. If I can live long enough I might be able to pick up a bargain dream car. But probably, as another reader said, these cars will languish in garages because the widows won’t be able to get what their husbands paid for them. They may try to donate them to museums for a tax write off, but there are so many that there could be thousands of new museums filled with our old cars and nobody interested in looking at them.

  10. I started to wonder what the kids of the people driving those cars will be driving or collecting in 40 or 50 years.

    I imagined 4 or 5 cars parked in the futuristic Dairy Queen parking lot. The cars were fully or mostly restored 2012 Hyundai’s, Toyotas, a Chevy Volt and maybe a Mustang (aren’t they everywhere anyway?) I imagined the Hyundai owner telling the Toyota owner how is Dad would only drive a Hyundai so that’s what he drives– he would never drive that Japanese stuff – Korean all the way baby! No mags, no headers and no big tires to be seen.

    Maybe there will be Chinese built cars there – a fully restored 2015 Chery Eastar or a
    BYD E6 Electric – after all, the Chinese economy is booming and soon enough their cars will be unloading onto the docks in North America.

    Sadly, most of the cars made today are ‘disposable’ – and I imagine all future cars will be as well – once they are a year or two old, it will be more economical to trade them in for something new. If something goes wrong, just send it to the recycler to come back as that new stainless steel fridge. Instead of putting a new or bigger engine in it, they will put a bigger navigation system, or Bluetooth or extra back up cameras. Maybe they will swap out the old Ion powered module for a new Nuclear or Hydrogen powered unit. No more horsepower wars, but miles per charge wars. In the future, will you be able to push a button to change the colour of your car to match your suit or dress?

    Or, will there even be that many cars 40 to 50 years from now? If electric power or something else is not feasible or accepted by everyone, or if the infrastructure for new power sources is not there, like charging stations on every corner, will gas prices be so high that no one can afford or want to drive a car? Will oil companies die out to be replaced by mega-electric companies that have their hands around the throats of the consumer with high electricity costs?

    Will workers be commuting by the thousands into the cities in electric, driverless trains and fusion powered buses, or will commerce have moved out of the cities to the suburbs and into the homes where everyone will be working from? Will the affordable flying car that was promised to us in the 50’s ever make it to market, and if it does, will it be obsolete by 2052? I guess the big question is – will cars that are made over the next 30 years be worth collecting or restoring anyway?

    Just some odd and random thoughts as I was happily driving along in my 42 year old, internal combustion, gas powered, steel bodied car with big tires, headers and mags…

  11. I think the absurd pricing boomers are putting on their cars is part of the reason there are so many "cheap car" clubs now. Think of the Lemons Rally, Gambler 500, Great Beater Challenge, etc.

    I love participating in these because there are no pretentions about how much money the cars are worth. We all know they’re not $500 cars, but it’s never been asked "so, how much is that worth?"

    Also, no lawn chairs in sight! And this is where all the young people went. I’m 31 and everyone is my age. We are all about enjoying the cars and piling miles on them. Not trying to keep the miles off, keep it pretty and hope to get the money back someday.

    I want to think the Boomer generation thought like that at one time but I have my doubts

  12. I”m a "Baby Boomer"& We are a very PROUD,DEDICATED,HARD WORKING & LOVABLE CLASS OF PEOPLE ! I enjoy reminiscing about growing up in East Chicago,Indiana (Indiana Harbor) we lived among a Great Mixture of Nationalities & Kept Our Strong Roots Memories that were instilled by our Parents & Grandparents.We Appreciated & Accepted the Life that was handed to Us & Learned that if We wanted a much better Life,we had to get a very good Education & Work just as Hard as our Parents did to Improve our Future Destination.I grew up learning & Enjoyed Working on Cars (I was a junk yard dog)Thanks to my Brother-in-law.I got the KNOWLEDGE & Respect from my FRIENDS because I wanted to learn & not Hang around the Streets (become a Hoodlum) I Dreamed someday I would OWN MY ELITE CLASSIC (1932-Plymouth) cuz I HELPED Restore a 1932,3 window coupe 52yrs.ago.(it’s still in the family)Thank God,I was Patiently WAITING for my Dream Car.It finally happened 2 yrs.ago,& I’m Loving & ENJOYING every MINUTE of it !

  13. I just completed a 34 page 7679 word marketing study for the VMCCA – Vintage Motor Car Club of America. I was also recently banned from the AACA forums for a post called The 2020 Club advocating for changes in clubs for a way forward.

  14. I believe the collector car market /segment/trend will continue in a positive way. I think the muscle cars and cars that were so called collector cars, will diminish in value. I believe the true his store cars, cars that have great race provenance, cars that are truly unrestored , cars that I had a significant memory or moment in history, in a movie, those cars will always be in demand and of great value. These cars should appreciate. I am convinced that the cars that have had extensive restoration of the mid 60s cars, 70s cars, and these cars have truly no significance nor should they continue to hold their value or increase in value.

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