Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation
Photography by Afshin Behnia, David Marvier, and Yoav Gilad
I’ve been attending Monterey’s “Car Week” and other such events for years now, and my keen observational eye tells me a shift is under way. You actually don’t need to leave the comfort of your own living room to witness it either, clicking on this Petrolicious article from late August will suffice. A Ferrari 375 MM, bodied by Scaglietti won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance’s Best of Show. Usually one hears about a pre-war car named Packard, Mercedes-Benz, Duesenberg, or Bugatti crossing the stage, but not this year. The Ferrari was the first post-war car to win in forty-six years. A fluke? I’m not sure. I think it reflects a generational shift.
Go to any car auction, or watch one on TV, and you’ll see that boomers are the ones driving the bidding now. The market for the older 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s cars (with exceptions) has been in decline as the Silent Generation and older boomers (now getting up there in age) are starting to sell off their collections. People within the automotive auction industry confirmed this too. Post-war Ferraris took nine of top-ten prices paid at this years auctions. That’s no coincidence. The shift in the generational gap is causing waves in the marketplace too. The auctions are mixing many more cars from the ’70s, ’80s, and even ’90s into their sales mix as Generation X members are becoming more successful, and their purchasing power grows.
This generation–my generation–doesn’t want the cars of old, or even their dads’ cars. Unless they had extremely good taste, of course. No, for the most part, and with exceptions of course, they want the icons that adorned their bedroom walls as kids. Amongst them, the Porsche 959, Ferrari F40, Ferrari Testarossa, BMW M1, Lamborghini Countach, Dodge Viper, and Acura NSX. These machines were up there on the wall next to the centerfolds. And if not those exact cars, the more common “garden variety” versions of those machines will substitute. The auction houses are including more early and relatively affordable Mazdas, Toyotas, and Nissans in their lineups too. And these are selling strongly.
What’s perhaps more worrying from an enthusiast standpoint is that while owners may die, the cars will live on. That’s a shift we can all agree is occuring. The older classic cars certainly won’t be going to the crusher anytime soon, but I do wonder what will happen to the concours’ lawns and that wonderful knowledge base that will disappear when their owners do. What will Pebble Beach’s green or the Goodwood Revival look like on a Sunday morning in the year 2040? Will it still be adorned with Packards, Studebakers, and other classics…or will another generation’s idols take their place?
I’m also talking about mechanics, and restorers. What happens when they too leave us? Generation X and the millennials have not been as enthusiastic or willing as the boomers to learn the craft. Too many things to distract them–internet, and social media amongst them. Who is going to know how to work an English wheel for metal work? Adjust points? Rebuild an old Becker radio? Who will pick up the mantle? Car collecting won’t disappear, but maybe some of the old adages about what defines a collector car, what’s available to us, and the history of the hobby will.
What generation are you, and do your automotive tastes lie within or out of your generation? What do you collect, and why?