credit: David Smittle

Why you should take someone about half your age to a car show*

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* or cruise-in, concours d’elegance, motor sports activity, auto show, cars & coffee, etc.

It’s no secret that fewer young people are becoming involved in the collector car hobby. Just do a web search on “aging demographic” in quotes followed by classic or collector car and you’ll see thousands of of links that rehash the obvious.

Or you can attend just about any concours d’elegance or car show and look around to see how few people are half your age or younger. (Exceptions to this argument would include a cars & coffee or Radwood event, which while popular with a younger audience, only make a dent in the significant challenges facing the collector car industry as a whole.)

Much credit is due Hagerty, SEMA and other organizations for their outreach programs and event organizers who cater to millenials by offering beer gardens, kids activities and other amenities. But I’ve yet to hear of anyone advocating the benefits of a no-brainer campaign as simple as:

Don’t attend a collector car function by yourself!

This one simple gesture by an individual spectating or exhibiting at a car event can go a long way toward increasing participation in the old car hobby (which, by association, includes vehicles like trucks, motorcycles, vintage tractors and wooden boats.),

Posing with IndyCar champ Ed Carpenter or sitting on a vintage scooter makes for lasting memories, both for these lucky youngsters and also the grey-haired gentlemen taking the photos. That’s certainly quality time well spent!

Posing with IndyCar champ Ed Carpenter or sitting on a vintage scooter makes for lasting memories, both for these lucky youngsters and also the grey-haired gentlemen taking the photos. That’s certainly quality time well spent!

Please follow my line of reasoning as to why such a simple effort as bringing a guest addresses waning interest in old cars.

Current situation:

  • At car shows in particular, an inordinate number of people attend by themselves. (My personal, not scientific, observation.)
  • Solo attendees are likely to engage in “car talk” with others of similar age… for hours

Here’s what can happen when you bring someone, preferably half your age — a generation younger. If you’re 60, bring a 30-year-old. If you’re 40, bring a 20-year-old. That’s an important factor.

  • Now you’re afforded the opportunity to engage someone for several hours in the sights, sounds and smells of whatever automotive activity is going on, whether it be a show, parade, autocross or other event.
  • By making a concerted effort to share your wisdom and enthusiasm, you will have given your guest a sense of what the car hobby is about. Hopefully, they’ve enjoyed the quality time and you can take pleasure in giving back to hobby you enjoy so much. 

Making it a family affair

This family learned all about an unrestored 1918 Buick at the Dayton (OH) Concours d’Elegance. Owner, Robert Anderson, drove this remarkable car 20 miles to the show. I was so fascinated that I recorded a video of him arriving and also the operation of the engine’s external valve train.

Twice this summer, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling 100s of miles in a 60-year-old sports car to participate in multi-day automotive activities with family members half my age. Similar to the youngsters mugging for the camera in the photos above, I’m fortunate to have a digital record of the extraordinary adventures.

Photos: all images by John Olman, except the featured image courtesy of David Smittle.