- Brett Hatfield
The Future for Auto Enthusiasts
Let’s say you are a car guy (if you are reading this, it’s a likely assumption). You have managed to assemble a tidy collection of cars you love for a variety of reasons. You may have an iconic sports car that has a particular sentimental value, or a fun convertible, a hot rod show car, a cool old 4x4, or even some vintage motorcycles. You are deeply invested in the car culture. You watch the trends, read magazines and online articles, and evaluate how that may affect your collection and bottom line. Lately, you find yourself concerned about what you are seeing and hearing for your long-term automotive hopes and dreams.
The Good News: As auto enthusiasts, we live in interesting times. There is a global horsepower war like never before. Cars offering 500-plus horsepower used to be the exclusive domain of tweaked supercars from specialist tuners. Today there are no fewer than a dozen factory cars touting over 700hp. Bugatti have a pair checking in at 1,500 ponies-the Chiron and the Divo-provided you have the wherewithal to throw down seven figures for transportation. Current new car offerings are better than ever before, with advances in safety, technology, and efficiency. Maintaining classic vehicles is also better now with research and sourcing streamlined via the internet, and the new ability to 3-D print obsolete or long-since-out-of-production parts. How-to videos readily found online further enable collectors to maintain their vintage stables. We’ve never had it so good.
The Not-So-Good News: Manufacturers, governments, and more than a few companies seem poised to cram hybrids and electric vehicles, many with self-driving or semi-autonomous capabilities, down our collective throat. The United States government doles out billions of dollars annually in the form of subsidies and Electric Vehicle tax credits, $7,500 per vehicle with a 200,000 unit cap per manufacturer. That means the first 200,000 EVs a manufacturer produces will receive the tax credit, and the auto makers are pushing to have the cap lifted. Tesla has already eclipsed the 200k units, and GM will soon hit the mark. Your tax dollars are funding this. Proponents of the tax incentive and EVs argue that electric cars will greatly reduce emissions when compared to traditional internal combustion vehicles. That is possible, but one must consider that nearly two-thirds (64.2%) of the electricity production in the US still comes from fossil fuels. Nuclear represents another 19.7%. (It would be possible to power 100% of the US power grid from recycled nuclear waste, but first one would have to convince the masses that a nuclear accident wasn’t going to eat a hole through the Earth--see China Syndrome—but I digress.) Only 16.1% comes from hydroelectric, wind, or other renewable sources. Electrifying our transportation would put an additional stress on the electrical grid, and increase demand for production, effectively increasing emissions. Additionally, states with higher electric demand may not be able to accommodate a massive increase in EVs. California lacks additional electricity production margins to take on replacement of internal combustion vehicles with EVs.
Hope on the Horizon: With the advent of YouTube, it seems like every enthusiast and wannabe auto journalist now has the ability to host their version of automotive news and views in the public forum. Many of these have an enormous following: Matt Farah and Zack Klapman with The Smoking Tire, Mike Musto with The House of Muscle, Doug DeMuro, Tyler Hoover, Freddy 'Tavarish' Hernandez, Rob Ferretti with SuperSpeeders, Ed Bolian with VINWiki, and innumerable others have helped keep the passion alive for our collective auto hopes and dreams. With videos of how to build things, what-not-to-do advice, and fantastic stories of misadventures, there are endless hours of enthusiast content to consume (a particular gift for car guys who must suffer through long winters). Those of us with gasoline coursing through our veins have had an outlet, a source for ideas, and often for laughter with those who would be mutually car obsessed. A new generation has found inspiration in working on their cars, modifying, building hot rods, speed-record rockets, and finding ways to obtain the coolest rides possible. The enthusiasm is as strong as ever. One need only look at the growing popularity of collector car auctions, enthusiast events, cruises, shows, etc., to see the car community is alive and well.
What should we take away from all this? In time, the car culture as we know it will most likely change. Fifty years from now, it probably won’t be recognizable to those who consider themselves car people now. Collector cars and internal combustion vehicles may well go the way of the horse; to be used only in specific areas, away from the masses and everyday life, a weekend hobby for those wealthy enough to afford them. The coming 25-30 years may be the swan song for collector cars. If you own them, and you are letting them sit to preserve investment value, you may want to reconsider. Some cars will likely see a considerable rise in value over the next decade, but not all, or even most. American classics that were considered to be Blue Chip investments over the past couple decades (early Thunderbirds, Tri-Five Chevys, Mid-Year Corvettes, Hemi MOPARs) are beginning to soften in price as the Baby Boomers who collected them are selling them, as they retire and downsize. Those same Boomers have come to prefer a better ride, handling, more sumptuous interiors and quality stereos (one need only look to the rise of the high build-quality Resto Mod to see that trend in motion.) What is becoming more popular are cool cars from the 1980s, ‘90s, and early 2000s, as Gen X-ers and Millennials earn better livings with more disposable income. The cars on the rise now are those that were on bedroom posters fifteen to thirty years ago.
If your investment is beginning to see a dip in price, you may either want to sell, or do the FAR cooler thing: Drive it! Do what the car was meant to do! Check the fluids, make sure the tires hold air, give it a rinse, and get behind the wheel. Maybe, just maybe, some kid who loves playing with his toy cars will see it, think it’s the best thing ever, and will become inspired. Talk to people about your car. Encourage them to get involved in our culture and community. We may be able to keep it alive a while longer. The hypothetical collection in the opening paragraph is a description of my collection, and I drive them all. I take them to shows, and when I do, I always let kids sit in them, let their parents take pictures. Let’s keep our passion alive, for at least a couple more generations. Hopefully, I won’t ride to the cemetery in an electric hearse. If I’m really lucky, Chris DiGanci will drive me, performing endless smoky burnouts along the way.