There’s a youth movement taking place in the collector car hobby

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Youthful visitors to a car show at the Petersen Automotive Museum in the summer of 2019 take a close look at the most recent Future Classic Car Show-winning Subaru | Daniel Nikkhoo photo

If you have been following the collector car market in the past year or two, you likely have seen the term “youngtimer” thrown around when referring to both cars and collectors of a certain age. 

The idea of a youngtimer car is one that is in some ways too modern to be considered a true classic, but neither could it be considered as merely a used car. For the most part, these are not just run-of-the-mill models but cars that when new were highly anticipated and well-received, or expensive, and many times all three. 

Some examples: The front- engined Porsche 924/944/928/968, the Acura NSX, 1980s and ’90s Ferraris, both generations of the Nissan 300ZX, the Mazda RX-7, BMW E30 thru E46 M3s, you get the idea. What they have in common is that they were all a new generation of enthusiast-focused cars. 

RM Sotheby’s offered a consignment of more than 140 ‘Youngtimer’ cars that crossed the block at several of its 2019 auctions | RM Sotheby’s photo

For a definition of a youngtimer collector, I would say that he or she is likely between 30-45 years old and somewhat new to the hobby, especially at its higher levels. They are buying at auctions, often paying considerable sums of money for more modern cars that just a few years ago might have been considered merely used cars and certainly not collectible.

Before you discount the whole youngtimer movement, you should know that these cars and their younger buyers are the biggest growth point in the collector car market right now. 

Why is this happening? The reasons are the same as when older collectors entered the market. The younger buyers are chasing the cars of which they had posters on their bedroom walls when they were teenagers. Adding to that is that they spent hours “behind the wheel” of these cars while playing such video games as Forza. 

Now that they are earning more money, they are buying the cars they dreamed about, just like we did. Compared with the Boomer and Gen Xers in the hobby, there are starting to be more of these new buyers, especially as boomers start to exit the market. And while the Gen X generation is certainly significant, there are simply so many more Millennials in terms of sheer numbers.

But youngtimer applies not only to the collectors but to the cars as well. By the way, youngtimers is what such cars and collectors are called in Europe; Americans have yet to settle on a name. Some call them future classics or future collector cars, while others call them modern or young classics.

As vehicles, this next generation of collector cars are considerably more usable than, for instance, a Jaguar E-type or a 1957 Chevy. This is important because these younger collectors tend to be much more drivers than show-and-shine collectors, and usability is at the top of many of their lists of requirements.

There is another factor driving the interest in these newer collector cars. While some have sold for more than $100,000, there are still plenty that can be obtained in the $10,000 range, making them more attainable than, say, a 1967 Austin Healey 3000, which has current owners still think are worth north of $100,000. Price plus drivability make a youngtimer an easy purchase decision to many.

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Head Judge Andy Reid (second from left) chats with a participant.
Andy Reid (second from left) is head judge for the Future Collectors Car Show. Here he chats with a participant at the 2019 event

Another factor is that owners of such cars have somewhere to go. For many years, youngtimer cars have been ineligible for anything besides marque-specific events or local shows. They were considered too new to be eligible for a concours d’elegance or even a collector car auction.  

What happened to change this was the creation of events such as ClassicCars.com’s own Future Collector Car Show – the fifth annual event is scheduled for January 12 in Scottsdale during Arizona Auction week – and Radwood, which is not only a celebration of 1980s and ‘90s cars but an immersive event dedicated to the lifestyle, music and fashion of that period. 

The enthusiasm for Radwood was immediate and there are now Radwood events all over the country (and even in Japan and England), where young collectors and their cars not only are welcome but often are the only participants, although Boomers who bring the right cars, and who can still fit into their ’80s and ’90s fashions, are welcome.

At the sharp (read expensive) end of the collector car hobby, the modern collectibles are the cars that are driving the market upward. Supercars such as the Jaguar XJ220, Porsche Carrera GT and Ford GT, as well as high-end examples of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens, are being bought by the younger buyers, and for lots of money. 

They love these supercars for what they represent and are not bogged down by the sort of modern-era baggage that many older collectors placed on them when they were introduced.

So, do I see this trend continuing into 2020? Looking at the preliminary listing of cars being offered by the auction companies during Arizona Auction Week 2020, I count more than 60 such vehicles, and that’s just in the RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Company and Bonhams catalogs. 

Add in the other auction venues and there likely are more than 200 such cars that will cross the auction blocks next month in Arizona. This tells me these cars are here to stay and will continue to be strong sellers in the future.

I do have advice about this more youthful market. I can tell you that I have started to search for some of these cars myself, specifically a Porsche 924 or 944 Turbo and non-sunroof 928. If I were you, I would head over to the ClassicCars.com marketplace, where there are a number of youngtimer-era cars offered for sale at prices that in a few years will be considered absolute bargains. 

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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

1 COMMENT

  1. Andy, I have been preaching this to the old timers in my club. Of course Woodies are not and have not been made for quite some time, but inviting young timers to our shows and bringing your kids and your grandkids is a positive trend.

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