Generation Z Wants to Keep Classic Cars Alive, But There’s a Lot Working Against Them
With prices skyrocketing thanks to online auction sites and make-believe TV, $1,000 projects are few and far between.
It wasn't long ago that I was reading articles making outrageous claims that Millennials would bring an end to the car hobby. Of course, this generation—my generation—has proved that we love driving cars both old and new, just as much as those that came before us. However, this article is not a Millennials versus Boomers rant. It's about Generation Z and their views on the future of the car hobby. To gain some perspective, I talked with Ben Kahan, founder of Four-Speed Films. Ben is a 21-year-old, third-generation hot rodder from Burbank, California. He is part of what I refer to as the New Old Stock generation of young people who love old cars.
To say Ben was born into the hobby is an understatement. Ben's family has deep roots in the California hot rod scene with the cars to prove it. His childhood was spent riding around Burbank in his father's 1932 Ford, his grandfather's 1924 Model T coupe (built in 1964) and a 1929 Ford roadster. One of Ben's short films features his great uncle Robert Williams, the man said to have created the first rat rod out of a 1932 Ford roadster, which he still owns today.
Ben is grateful to have been brought up in a world of carburetors, rumble seats and pin striping, so I asked him what his biggest worry about the future of the car hobby was. His response was not fearing that the car hobby will vanish or become obsolete, but whether it will be affordable, especially in states like California. Putting time and money into his 1965 Ford Mustang for a future that may not allow him to drive it is a real concern that sits in the back of his mind.
Vintage cars will always be around, but driving laws can and will change. There is also the problem of driving a 1965 Mustang in 2020 traffic. Ben often feels like a motorcycle rider having to give other cars more room than normal, and he’s always on high alert. As Ben puts it, "modern drivers expect you to handle a classic car like a modern car." It can be nerve-wracking.
Ben does not fear or dismiss electric vehicles but brought up an interesting thought concerning their acceleration. As electric cars become more affordable, where will the limit be on how fast they can go? When you start talking about zero to 60 times under three seconds, you have to consider whether the average motorist can handle that. In a future of instant torque, can his '65 Mustang keep up with traffic flow? Not everyone will be driving supercars, of course, though there’s a significant difference in a Tesla’s stomp-and-go power that a lot of older rides can’t keep pace with.
It's easy for older generations to dismiss these concerns because we have enjoyed internal combustion engines and cheap gas for decades. But for younger people like Ben who have only been driving legally for six years or less, it can start to feel like they've arrived at the party an hour before last-call.
Ben says young people who want to learn about vintage cars are here, but the problem is being able to afford to start from scratch. Living in Burbank means classic cars are everywhere, so he doesn't need to look far to find other like-minded NOS gear heads, and YouTube provides an endless source of material for those who have a real interest in learning how to work on older vehicles. The demand isn't the problem—the cost is. Gone are the days where you had web pages full of running project cars for under a grand. A future where the hobby becomes too expensive for the majority is a stressful prediction.
If you need convincing, just spend a day or two on Bring a Trailer. It’s almost like some winning bidders have a minimum amount to spend rather than a top-end budget.
Ben's YouTube channel Four-Speed Films aims to introduce people to traditional hot rods and shine a camera-light on old school rides still rocking and rolling 20 years deep into the new century. With people like him around, the culture’s future is as secure as a five-point harness—take a look for yourself.
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