I’m not quite forty yet. Not far off though. As such, I’m of an age that remembers the true advent of the internet and its surge in popularity. When I was the age of my children, all I had to play with was a brick and my imagination. My kids, however, have more technology at their disposal than NASA did when it put Neil and Buzz on the Moon. The speed and advance of technology has been, and continues to be astonishing. And it’s at this point, you probably think I’m about to talk about how classic cars still have there analogue place in an increasingly digital world. Except, I’m not.
Instead, I want to talk about the advance of trust. This, for me, has been the most fascinating part of the technological revolution, and it’s an area that has been subject to considerable amounts of change. And yes, classic cars fit into this. But I’ll get to that.
In the late 1990s, when the Pollitt household first had access to the internet, it was a frustrating affair. First of all, we had to wait until after 6pm to use it, as anytime earlier would incur charges that would see the house repossessed. And even then, we had to wait for the modem (remember those?) to bark into life. When it did, we were occupying the phone line. Mother Pollitt didn’t grasp this concept, so would cut us off when she picked up the landline phone (anyone?) to ring her friend, Linda. It was a clunky, disjointed affair, and that was before you even made it to cyberspace itself.
When you did back then, the internet was a deeply ungraceful place. Gaudy colours, clunky website designs, it was awful. And it was also a place that wasn’t to be trusted. People on the internet were not to be trusted. Ask my mother, and everyone on the internet was a criminal deviant of some sort. Do not talk to people on the internet, the internet is a nerdy place for weirdos. We were warned, regularly, that the internet was not a place to be trusted. But then, in the 2000s, things changed. Significantly.
With the wider availability of broadband, more people had the internet at home. Then came 3G, which gave people the internet in their pocket. And at any time, and without fear of being interrupted by a call to Linda. Businesses soon cottoned on that the internet was a vital tool. One that any business worth its salt should have a little corner of. And as more and more people adopted it, the trust increased. Banks got involved, Google happened, PayPal and other secure payment providers happened, online shopping exploded, eBay came along, and the rest as they say is history. What was once a place apparently full of digital ne’er do wells was suddenly full of trusted, respected businesses. All backed by an infrastructure set to make this online world no more stressful than putting on a pair of slippers. All of a sudden, the internet was our best friend.
And now for classic cars. The advent of the internet has, most importantly of all, brought us closer. It has put us in touch with owners around the globe, it has facilitated the creation of content to satiate our need to see classics in action, it has been a lifeline for finding rare and often forgotten parts. It has, on the whole, been a wonderful thing. Especially on that last point. Parts. But what about full cars?
There was, of course, eBay, but that soon turned into a fetid cesspit of morons. Harsh? Try selling any old car on there and you’ll soon be nodding in agreement. For general, workaday cars, it’s fine, but for older, specialist stuff it’s a nightmare full of chancers, the illiterate and the downright rude. Something else needed to be done, and thus we saw the advent of specialist classic car auctions. And these have been a very interesting development.
Of course, this neatly dovetails into mentioning our own auction platform, which is going great guns. But this post isn’t here to be self congratulatory. Instead, I’m looking at the trust. When we launched, we had the team, the format and the science with which to theoretically make it work. The big X in the equation was people. But, the internet and online world has come some way since the screaming modems on the ’90s, and now, we’re not just seeing trust, we’re seeing clear preference. People are bidding on our cars, and on the cars of other specialist online auction sites, and they’re bidding big money. A record-breaking Alfa Romeo for £50,000. A Mercedes-Benz for £226,000. Incredible figures, and figures that aren’t alone. Cars are selling online for big money every day.
And there it is. The trust. By building this social link, this everyday acceptance of the internet, we have made it a close ally. It’s now not taboo, or ‘for nerds’. It is instead a requirement, an expectation, and a facility that only the foolish would operate without. And this trust has gone all the way, so it seems. We’re not just buying parts or show tickets, or watching videos about classics. We’re buying classic cars, millions of pounds worth of classic cars, on a weekly basis. So no, this post isn’t about how classic cars fit in with the modern world. Instead, it’s a moment to reflect on just how important new technologies have been for the advancement of the classic car. We, as an industry, aren’t trying to fit in with the modern world, we’re instead bending it to our will and to our needs. And that, frankly, makes the classic car world even more incredible.