We work so very hard to look after our classics. Many of us, myself included, have spent endless hours in the pursuit of perfection. Replacing parts, restoring parts, rebuilding parts. We are all guilty of having spent more time and money on our classics than would perhaps be considered healthy. But so what? It brings us joy, it brings us an immense sense of achievement when we see our restoration projects come to fruition, and it makes us beam with pride when we slip behind the wheel and take to the roads. That hard work, then, is worth it. We invest our time, our effort and our money into our cars and we get a nice machine at the end of it. Job done, right?
Well, no actually. There is still something we need to do, and that’s ensure we present classic cars as an exciting and fun thing for the next generation. We need to pull them away from Facechat and Snapbook and we need to bring them into our world. If we don’t, the knock on effects could be catastrophic to our passion and to the not inconsiderable industry that supports it. Plus, on a more personal note, think of your classic. Who’s going to drive it and look after it when you’re six-foot under? Do you want all that work and love going to waste? Of course not.
Go to any classic car show (remember those?) and it’s full of people in head to toe beige. People who can’t get up from a sofa without going ‘hrrnaaarggg’ every time. There are very few young people there, and we need to change that. We need to involve them more, we need to encourage them and show them that classic cars can be fun, can be exciting and can be deeply rewarding. And in doing so, we’ll create better young adults for the future. Today’s focus is on instant gratification, the ‘likes’ and the endorphins that get released from that instant swell of popularity from a social media post.
It’s our job, then, to usher in the joy that comes from owning a classic. The cars can be so easily transposed onto the wants and needs of a new generation. They’re interesting, they’re going to make them stand out, and while rebuilding a car is a mammoth task, the act of doing so is full of ‘quick wins’ and moments to celebrate. Finding the right part, getting it painted, hearing an engine run for the first time in years. If you break down the ownership experience, it’s full of much more joy than an Audi S3 with a stupid ‘pop bang’ map on it.
We also need to remind the younger generation that we, as classic car enthusiasts, are not out here in the cold poking computers with sticks. We know about the online world and we know how to utilise it. Forums like the utterly brilliant Retro Rides serve to encourage home tinkering, events and camaraderie. Twitter can be a glorious place for car people, as I’ve found out in recent years. Facebook pages and groups can be a wonderful place to share ideas, information and to also boost one’s enthusiasm. These online platforms haven’t been shunned by the classic car world, they have been embraced. We need to make the next generation aware of that and bring them into our fold. Hell, even people like HubNut can be found on Tik Tok. Though I won’t lie, I have no idea what Tik Tok is, but good for him, it seems to be gaining traction.
Then there is the matter of work and career. We live in an age now where practical skills seem to be pushed down the order, and instead the working world is digital this and online that. If that’s what you want to do, fine. But if you have kids or know of younger people who are genuinely interested in working with cars, there are directions in which you can point them. The Association of Heritage Engineers for example will help young people find apprentice positions in the classic car world. They can learn a skill or trade, and then they’re set for life. Digital is great, but the world is more than just computers. There are trades and industries out there that are desperate for young blood to take over the reigns. It’s a young person’s playground – they can turn their hand to anything.
Classic cars are important. They are of course wheeled windows in time, taking us back to a different time. But more than that, they can be a wonderful source of joy, they can bring about immense satisfaction and they can be the basis of a rich and rewarding career. They deserve to live on surrounded by the same passion and heart that we afford them now. So, if you have kids, or if you know a young person who has shown an interest, it’s your duty to answer their questions, to share your enthusiasm and to motivate them to become active in our world. Their approach is different to ours, but the world in which they operate is different to the one we started in. We shouldn’t shun them because of it, we should mesh what they have with what we have, and then the classic car world can make a move into the future, not be left behind when we all shuffle off.