The biggest Problem facing the classic car world today comes down to kids. For the most part, younger people just aren’t interested in automobiles the way they once were. In the 1960s and ’70s, kids needed to drive to have a social life. Today, with cell phones, texting and social media, there’s less of a need to physically be together in order to hang out. As a result, the number of teen and young adult drivers has diminished dramatically.
If kids aren’t interested in cars or the mobility they bring, there’s not a lot we can do. However, once they reach a certain age — 22, say, and just out of college — a car often has a greater appeal. Jobs and travel mean that these young people will probably need an automobile.
Learning to love cars is a lot like gaining a taste for wine or an eye for art. You take an initial interest, you become educated and you eventually gain an appreciation.
The first step for those of us already involved is to open young eyes to the need for a car. Then we have to show them that old cars can offer more smiles than new ones. Classic car shows on television offer exposure to old cars, and while you won’t get a person who doesn’t like cars to read a car magazine, TV is entertainment and a great tool for piquing a young person’s interest. And, of course, nothing beats getting your son, daughter, nephew, niece or neighbor into your own old car, with the scent of leather, the cool Bakelite knobs and chrome, and all the sounds and other smells old cars produce. The final step is pretty obvious: Take them out and let them drive the car, even if it means a few lessons on how to use a manual transmission. This is something Hagerty is actively doing with the Hagerty Driving Experience, which visits cities all over the U.S. and Canada to connect classic cars with young people who want to learn how to drive them.
Once you get them in an old car and behind the wheel, 90 percent of the time they’re hooked. That’s what got me when I was a kid. I was already a veteran passenger in Dad’s Model As, but once I took a ride in something I really enjoyed — like the Ferrari 250 GT in which the owner scared me witless — I was really and truly converted.
We need to give young people exposure to old cars, like Hagerty is also doing with its Youth Judging program. They get to experience what it’s really like to be around great cars, and more often than not, the enthusiasm of the owners is contagious. Then we’ve got ’em.