Friends, I have seen the future of the automotive hobby industry, and frankly, I’m concerned.
My worry is that in one generation, we could be witnessing zero growth and exponential attrition in our industry. When I think of the hot rod shows of my youth, I remember wanting to be those guys when I was older. Now, that I’m one of ‘those guys’, I’m worried. The world of hot rodding and racing is shrinking. We’d all like to pretend this isn’t the case, but it’s true. The people that were interested in it are getting old and the cost of entry is high.
I see a few problems and they all seem to impact the bottom line, which is bringing in the youth to carry this passion and preservation forward.
Cost & Inventory –
Remember when a 70’s muscle car could be bought for a steal? Remember when all your buddies were into racing? It didn’t matter whether it was stock car stuff on the local circle track, the drag strip or even the road course guys in their Formula Vs and cheap old sports cars.
Those days have changed. The Big Three stopped making cars that could be easily converted into hot rods. The prices for what they started making went up pretty dramatically. Many of us couldn’t swing a price tag that high plus mod costs. What we could afford and what we lusted after were econo cars from Japan. As I got older, the posters on my walls changed from Camaros and Mustangs to Civics and Celicas and 200SXs.
New Mixing With Old –
Let’s be honest: The regular hot rod guys are not welcoming the next generation. Street rodders traditionally limited themselves to 1947 and older cars. Nice versions of those cars were drying up as collections stayed put or cars were chopped for parts. Simple supply and demand: less inventory means higher asking prices. Kids (and at 49, I’m still a kid at heard) started turning to the newer stuff. Still, if your ride was not pre-1947, you weren’t invited to play. And you’re still not. ‘Come look at what we’ve done, but good luck getting into it or finding someone to take your love of cars seriously.’
Heck, remember the Street Rodder Magazine and the National Street Rod Association allowed the ’47 and newer cars in? Remember that back-lash? I know people who are still boycotting both Street Rodder and the NSRA!
We have to find balance in the old and the new. The muscle car world got flipped on its head when the baby boomers wound up with more money than brains and wanted to relive their youth. 60’s and 70’s muscle car prices, already high, soared through the roof. I think Barrett Jackson and Mecum Auction Houses helped ignite this craze by highlighting the best restored and original muscle cars in the land to increase their auction results. Cars that the old guys drove into the ground back in the day were suddenly worth six- and seven-figure amounts. Once again, the regular Joe could not afford to play with cars anymore and the the next generation had no cars to move into.
They Do It Better –
Fast forward to last weekend at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven Michigan. The #GRIDLIFE group took over the track and put on a festival of the size and caliber that we can only wish to attain. They brought in professional drifting, Sports Car Club of America Club Racing and Electronic Dance Music concerts on three stages. You know what? People showed up. En masse.
This is counter to a show two weekends ago, a local hot rod show ended around 3:00 pm and the park was taken over and filled by another local car tuner car group. Why not join forces and collaborate to create an all day show?
Why aren’t the younger groups approacing us? Simple. We turn them away. This old guard ‘get off my lawn’ mentality has got to stop. I feel that in order to evolve and grow, shows and cars like those at #GRIDLIFE are those that need to be embraced locally to help bolster attendance and sales and entice the youth to get into and stay in the future car culture.
Those with gray or not hair need to lead, mentor and pass on generations of knowledge and talent to the next generation. I’m sure when you were younger, the oldies stations were 50’s and 60’s music. Now; it’s 70’s and 80’s. Let’s reflect that in who we invite to the table. If not, the youth car culture will grow so much that we are forced out of the playground altogether. And everything we’ve done will be just a blip on the radar.
Take a look at the #GRIDLIFE site here – http://www.grid.life/ and then check the videos below to see what #GRIDLIFE is about. Check them out to see the future of car shows and car culture at large.
Check out #GRIDLIFE’s next events and say Hi as I will probably be there. http://www.grid.life/events/
TrackBattle at Autobahn Country Club on July 1st & 2nd, the #GRIDLIFE South Festival at Road Atlanta August 25th – 27th and then another TrackBattle at Gingerman Raceway October 7th & 8th)