In the pages of muscle car enthusiast magazines and at car shows where muscle cars are the main attraction, the over-40 crowd is the largest demographic.
Twenty years ago, if you looked through, say, Hot Rod magazine, Car Craft or High Performance Pontiac, the owners of featured cars were mostly young guys in their 20s and 30s. It was the same on cruise nights. Muscle cars were young men’s cars.
Now it’s almost entirely the Just For Men set.
Which is a little jarring (the whole muscle car thing was at one time Youth personified) but is easily explained.
First, muscle cars have become expensive cars – and that almost automatically rules out anyone under 30. The days when a high school or college-aged kid could find a decent-condition ’60s or ’70s muscle car for two or three thousand bucks are long gone. The more popular models – anything with a big block V-8; a Mustang or a Camaro – easily fetch $30,000 or more. Some are six figure cars, a development that’s almost inconceivable to those of us who were high-school age in the early ’80s – when such cars were just old beaters and gas hogs that no one especially wanted. Certainly, no adult wanted.
The point being, not many kids in their late teens/twenties today are in a position to cough up the money it takes to buy a muscle car. It’s not like a new (or recent model used) car, which you can at least finance at a decent interest rate. Most of these purchases involve a private seller who will accept just one thing – cash. Good luck trying to scrape together $20,000 on McDonalds and lawn-mowing money.
The high cost of entry has kept the muscle car ownership pool almost completely static. The guys who were young in the ’80s and ’90s (when muscle cars were still affordable) bought theirs then and have tended to hold onto them; or they simply have the money to indulge because they’re now in their middle years and have had decades to sock away the cash for fun things like blowing a wad on a 40-year-old GTO.
A secondary effect of the high cost of entry is, of course, that younger prospects never got to work on muscle cars, so never grew to know and love them, either. Their formative years were spent hopping up front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive “sport compacts.” This where the Youth have gone.
It’s what they can afford; it’s what they know – and it’s where the future lies (for them).
But where does that leave the classic muscle car hobby?
It’s a graybeard’s thing; something that older dudes will continue to be into for as long as they’re able to be into it. But that’s not an indefinite, infinite thing.
Prediction: After another 20 or 30 years roll by and the majority of Baby Boomers and Gen. X muscle cars groupies are either dead or more interested in their wheelchair scooters than they are in muscle cars, the cars themselves will mostly fade away as curious relics of an ancient time – much like steam locomotives and Civil War re-enactments today. A few newbies will carry the torch, but for the most part, muscle cars will not even register as a blip on the screen come 2030 or so.
The upside is – if you’re still around and still interested – you’ll probably be able to buy that 383 four-speed Coronet you always wanted for a decent price at last.