The Old Car Hobby… Literally

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Old car shows are getting old.old one

Not just the cars, either.

I’ve been going to car shows since I was a teenager in the ’80s and what’s changed is that now there are almost no teenagers (or even 20-somethings) at the car shows I attend. The typical owner/attendee is a guy like me in his 40s or 50s – or older. Often, much older. My experience has been that you’re much more likely to find a 55-year-old than a 25-year-old at a car show.

I think I know part of the reason why.

But let’s begin by defining our terms.

What is an “old” car?  Is it a 30-year-old Taurus? Or is it a ’69 Chevelle? Both are old. But only one is interesting, emotionally alluring … and so has become collectible. I think part of the reason that the car hobby is dying off is that modern old cars are generally not interesting or emotionally alluring in the way that pre-modern cars were – and so, the hobby continues to focus on pre-modern cars. On cars built before computers, without air bags and elaborate emissions controls, that people actually tinkered with as kids and so bonded with.old 2

The line of departure is circa early-mid 1980s. When cars got computers, fuel-injection, “onboard diagnostics” – and so on. More so, with each passing model year. An Event Horizon of complexity/cost was reached (and one other thing, which I’ll get into shortly).

This is the moment at which the old car hobby began to go into a kind of stasis – focusing on cars built then and before – but not hence. Meanwhile, the flesh-and-blood devotees of the pre-modern stuff grow old. And are not being replaced or even supplemented by younger blood.

The latter are busy with their tablets and smartphones.

When I was teenager in the ’80s (and before that, in the ’70s and ’60s) high school and college-age kids commonly drove what we now call “classic muscle cars” – the stuff mostly owned today by affluent middle-aged guys. These cars were their everyday rides.HR cover 1983

If you were a gearheaded teen in the ’80s, you had a ’70s Camaro or Nova, maybe even a run-of-the-mill “sort of” muscle car like a 307 Chevelle. I knew a guy who ownd a ’66 289 Hi-Po Mustang. One of my best friends had a ratty – but original – ’71 Plymouth GTX 440. Another had a Formula 400 Firebird. Such cars were just used cars back then. Cheap, accessible.

The same was true for prior generations. In the ’60s, high school kids drove ’55 Chevys – and so on, back to the era of the Model A. The rising generation drove the prior generations’ used-up cast-offs. It was what was available – the used car fleet of the era. But the cars were also interesting and emotionally alluring.

Most teenage boys of my generation – or at least, a lot of them – wanted a hot rod. Or at least, something with the potential to become a hot rod. A four-speed V8 Camaro was the iPhone of Generation X. Probably because there were no iPhones when Gen Xers were teens.

This dynamic held through the mid-late ’80s, when there were still plenty of everyday driver ’70s cars still on the road, available on the used car market for not much money.

Fast forward to now.

With a handful of exceptions here and there, the only people who can afford a ’60s or ’70s muscle car nowadays are still Gen X (now in their 40s) and older guys who keep them as toys. They are not high school kid transportation/hot rod projects financed by a part-time fast-food job.

Meanwhile, the teenagers and twenty-somethings of today grew up driving FWD/air-bag-equipped, computer controlled cars – most of them not even cars but minivans and sedans. They did not bond with these cars emotionally the way previous generations did for the simple reason that a minivan is not interesting or emotionally involving in the way a 455-powered Olds Vista Cruiser was. A 14-year-old will find no air cleaner lid to flip over in order to hear the four barrel wail when you floored it.old 3

The other crucial element in re bonding with cars at a young age is learning to work on cars.

Back in the day, this was common.

Teenagers in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s learned to work on cars  because they had to. The pre-computer-era cars broke down – a fairly rare occurrence today. They also required regular maintenance that went deeper than a once-a-year oil change. Tune-ups and so on. And this was maintenance a teenager could perform. A $15 socket set and some screwdrivers, etc. was all one needed to pull a carburetor/tear it down, clean it, adjust it – put it back on. The ignition system was similarly simple. You could get a little more power out of the engine (usually) by loosening the one bolt that held the distributor in place and then rotating it a little to advance the timing. You learned – seat-of-the-pants-style – to not advance it too much (the engine would knock and let you know). It was – important – simple fun.

As was the rest of the car.

With almost any modern car, in contrast, the tool set necessary to perform even simple repairs is usually much more involved – and modifying the things for increased performance even more so.toaster

But I think the critical aspect is that the cars hardly need anything, maintenance-wise or otherwise. They are appliances that generally just run. The teenagers of today don’t learn to do anything – because the need rarely or never arises.

And when it does, how many sixteen or seventeen-year-olds are going to try to deal with it themselves? It’s a bit much to expect a sixteen-year-old to figure out what’s not right with a direct-injected/variable-cam-timed engine governed by an ECU that’s fed data by half a dozen sensors, all of which requires a bit more in the way of electronic (and mechanical) know-how than richening up the idle air-fuel mix on a Holley four barrel (which you did with a flat blade screwdriver).

Even professional mechanics are not infrequently stymied. When the “check engine” light comes on, what you’re often dealing with is not something mechanical that’s out of whack – and which can be seen, handled, identified – but rather a software glitch. Some intermittent electronic hiccup deep within all those harnesses.

It’s not very teenager-level.

And air bag-equipped/computer-festooned latter-day “safety” cars are just not as interesting as the old stuff. They are toasters. Who bonds with a toaster? When it stops working, you buy a new one.

So, the chain was broken.old Camaro

Modern old cars are use-’em-ups (and then throw ’em aways). Since the late ’80s, the rising generations have not bonded with cars the way prior generations did. If a kid does not “get into” cars as a teenager or very young adult, it is increasingly unlikely that he ever will.

This leaves the older generations to carry the torch. Which, no doubt, they will do – until they no longer can. At which point, the hobby will not quite die – there will always be a few eccentrics (just as there are still eccentrics out there who lovingly preserve old trains). But the old car hobby as an integral part of the youth culture? That’s gone and done forever, I think

For which you can thank Uncle – the government – which as usual sucks the life out of everything by making it too expensive. Or too much hassle.

Just wait until he goes after iPhones.

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  1. When the boomers begin to hit the end of the line, the hobby will enter a golden era for the millenials who did learn how to maintain carb cars.

    Most millennials will inherit machines they have neither the time nor inclination to maintain and operate. They will let them sit for a while, decay a bit, maybe spend a hefty pile of money paying the shrinking pool of people who can handle such machines to keep them alive, then give up sell them to other millennials who learned how to handle them.

    And then the glut of boomer toys will begin, and millennials like myself will scarf up antique cars at a fair price and teach our yet to be born children the art and science of it all.

    You can already see the very early signs. Cars that were boomer toys, tricked out, restored once, muscled up, and completely aged again. This is already how I acquired my 56 metropolitan. Gen X-er inherited it from his boomer father who died, tried to keep it running but had to pay others to do so, finally called it quits and sold it.

    • I will cling to my Trans-Am until I’m too crippled and rheumy to deal with it – and only then will I give it to someone worthy.

      See: Gran Torino

  2. I really hope the hobby doesn’t go away. I’m a Pontiac fanatic and it runs in the family. My dad has a 78 Trans Am and I have a 79 Trans Am. I’m only 21 but I drive mine everyday and I enjoy every second of it. Hopefully more people my age get into the hobby.

  3. I have to agree with Eric, at least about feeling that the vast majority of cars today display no soul. They are toasters. We have standardized “bumper” heights (and have had for quite some time), no hood ornaments (lest someone get impaled upon them), air bag requirements (steering wheels housing digit-breaking balloons), and onerous CAFE fleet requirements that make contemporary cars look like what Godzilla tossed, stepped upon, and crushed in black and white while Raymond Burr reported the horror of it all. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Jaguar, a Beemer, or a Bruick. Same, same, same, and same some more. Unless you have the really big bucks or buy a car from an era when they had distinctive looks and a bit of personality.

    One thing I really hate about today’s plasticized auto era is the tendency for drivers to leave at least a car length or two between vehicles at a stoplight. They are afraid of the concomitant fifteen hundred to three grand cost of a ten mile per hour bumper bender. Hence, it takes many more stoplights to be able to cross an intersection (while Big Brother’s cameras are watching, of course).

    • Not only the cars, but we of that generation learned to work on tvs, washers, dryers, mowers and any other device that needed fixing. Note now the lack of repair skills in the younger generation, the “throwaway generation.” And yet this “throwaway generation” talks of environmental sustainability. Figure that out!!!

      • It’s very easy to figure out. The conditioning of people is to keep them permanent children without the ability to think clearly as human resources and consumers obeying authority.

        They are taught environmentalism to get them to obey. They are taught consumerism so anything they earn laboring in the system is passed back up the pyramid. Ever notice that mainline environmentalism despises the individual who doesn’t consume? The person who lives as they say but stays out of the collective?

        Once I saw the actual goals of the ruling class nothing government does is stupid or contradictory. It all serves the end results desired. Published end results. Spoken end results. There’s no secret to it. They wrote it down a century or so ago and have been working towards it since.

    • With pickups and light trucks and SUV’s having to conform to “pedestrian friendly” bumper specs, most everything here in Tx. looks the same from the front. Mostly Ranch Hand brush guards that are bull bars too. We have so many deer and feral hogs even mini-vans and cars often have them.

  4. I guess it all depends on where you live. In Davie, fl. there was a 300 plus car show every Friday. Everything from lambos to rat rods. Tuners to hot rods and muscle cars. Where I live now it’s two shows a month at the most with 30 cars max.. All hot rods and muscle cars. And at 52 I’m the youngest guy at the show. I still don’t understand why more young people don’t build SBC S10’s. Talk about tire smokin’ drift machines! S10 cost $1000 or less, SBC new $2000 or less, Trans. $1000 or less and other parts add another $1000. $5000 or less total. Go have fun! P.S. I don’t care what you believe just don’t try to force me to participate in what you believe or want to do or we’ll start having a 2nd. amend. conversation.

    • Hi Moparman,

      In re the S10: I think it’s because 20-somethings have no experience with such vehicles, having grown up (mostly) with FWD and four-cylinder cars and minivans. Many have never even driven a RWD car with a V8 engine.

    • moparman, 6 years ago when I lived in Odessa, Tx. there were lots of young guys who built S-10’s and they did them nicely too, really nice paint and mechanicals done right. They’d come in and get some nitrous. They got off on an old man liking their ride. Some of them were real sleepers too, some pretty rank little trucks. I always liked that body style and a 383 would make them run with the big dogs.

  5. Damn, looking at that pic from Two Lane Blacktop brought back lots of memories. I first saw it at a drive-in…..but I guess nearly everybody did. Warren Oates(RIP….we miss you)was a hoot. That car with the BBC sound and the rock crusher sounded so much like a buddy’s SS 396 he’d converted to a wild 427. We used to race nose to nose, BBC and SBC. And those were the good old days when the sheriff is standing with everybody else watching you go by with headers open and fire streaming out the underside. I don’t recall him ever saying a word to us about it. Hell, it was the most entertainment in town.

  6. I was a teenager during the import boom of the late 90’s to mid 00’s. It was my generation’s muscle car era. Like the muscle car era it’s time has come and gone. My generation can no longer afford to modify cars. Jobs with livable wages have been non-existent since I’ve graduated high school (9/11 Happened my senior year) and college (Graduated in 07 same year as the crash). My late teens to early 30’s have been dominated by one recession after another. 30-50% of people my age still live with their parents. The fed funny money has driven aftermarket prices through the roof even for “cheap” domestics.

    Is it really any surprise that only the very rich can afford to race or modify their vehicles? Aftermarket engine blocks, forged pistons, forged rods, turbos/superchargers and computer combos will set you back $10-20k+ not including labor. Slicks are $1500+ a pair, built transmission $5k+, rear ends, suspension…you get the idea.

    Very few can afford to buy a car then dump another $10-20K into it when the average household income is $50k.

    On the other end of the spectrum is the Lambo and GTR aftermarket. The very rich buy brand new cars for 100K and spend another 150k for 2000 horsepower turn-key monsters like the Underground Racing Lambos or the AMS GTR’s. Those shops have 1-2 year waiting lists! The car culture isn’t dead…the common folk are just broke.

    • Pedro, you hit the nail on the head. Wages aren’t much higher if at all than they were in the late 80’s but the dollar is worth next to nothing. Nobody I know of has really kept up to the wages of the early 70’s.

      If they have they’re making a quarter mil a year and I don’t see that much. I saw a lot of people my age in the patch that was booming the last couple years doing everything from being straw bosses to welding to picking up rocks on right of ways. They live on site in an RV with their wives and hoard every dollar they can.

      When I haul rock from quarries at 65 I’m about the mean age with lots of drivers older than me and not working because they’re having fun. I see women in big rigs old enough to be nearly bald and they’re hustling loads cross-country.

      We’ve been had in this country by banksters and their proles. I hear LEO’s crying about making $60,000/yr. Most make much more in larger towns or working for the state or feds. It’s one reason workshops for civil asset forfeiture have huge attendance. They know they’re stealing and are looking to get better at it. If you think the money they get isn’t split up or flat taken then you’re living with your eyes shut.

      I was in jail with some hispanic guys who got stopped by the DPS and searched. They got $1.5M out of the car. When everybody asked them about it they said it was news to them, they had $2.8M when they got stopped. So basically, 3 guys split that $1.3M or maybe had to give up some to some others but who knows if any of the others ever saw more than $1.5M. I’d bet not. And who lets the LEO’s keep it? You bet, their masters and companions in crime. It’s one of the reasons their life is the only one worth anything. No doubt the judge got a cut, probably a good one.

      • Amen, Eight.

        Things began to get really bad after they passed the “free trade” agreements (NAFTA, etc.) in the ’90s. This opened the door to global-scale labor arbitrage (“outsourcing” and “right-sizing”) which put American workers in “competition” with Chinese/Asian/Indonesian/Pakistani/Indian workers (latter-day serfs) forcing American workers to accept ever lower wages for more and more work and longer hours. Meanwhile, as they were earning less, the cost of most things they needed did not go down but instead went up. Now add inflation.

        Result? America is becoming – is – an oligarchical authoritarian collectivist state on the Mussolini/Hitler Model but without the (in Germany’s case) decent infrastructure and public works or the trains running on time.

        With each passing year, more of us face living “in a van, down by the river.”

        The upside is, at that point, they’ve no longer got leverage on us.

        We’re finally free.

        • eric, get ready to be a great deal “freer”. When TPP and TPIP pass we’ll be on about the same economic level as the up and coming in India or maybe slightly less. The open borders and free stuff to illegals was planned long ago.

          I only wish I could get it across to everyone that it took both parties, both sides of the Republocrat coin to get us here.

          And education seems to be the dividing factor in any age group. Those with the least have the least concern and vice versa.

          The best of the survey companies show my age group to overall be the most likely to buy into the “protect us from evil” bunch. It’s strange though that I don’t see that among the people I contact. Of course, Texas isn’t really that much of a “protect me” state.

          Some of the young are totally brainwashed though and some aren’t and once again, it gets down to who pays attention and who doesn’t.

          But we’re about to be so “free” that people are going to turn their lawns of whatever passes for dirt around where they live, into something less like victory gardens and more like survival gardens.

          And that’s another thing Monsanto for the most part, although all Big Ag/Big Pharm companies are complicit in and that’s the “no country gardens” society we now have. In times past everybody with a tractor and planter had a great garden whether they gave most of it away or tried to use a great deal of it. No more though. Everything in the farm belt is sprayed with Roundup so that nixes gardens. It even nixes garden for me an my neighbors who are or used to be truck farmers. A couple years ago my neighbor who thought he was going to be in the truck gardening business had everything he had including his greenhouse doused with Roundup. He sued and got $3,000, a virtual slap in the face.

          The future isn’t bright for anyone whether they’re aware of it or not.

    • Hi Pedro,

      Yup. I think your analysis is exactly spot on.

      I have a number of friends still in their mid-late 20s. Several have had to move back home. The others live with roommates or in apartments. Even if they had the desire, they don’t have the funds to toss at a project car, track car, even a high-perf. street car. They are happy if they have a basic shitbox and can afford to put gas in it. The rest is optional.

      I haven’t done much beyond maintenance to my TA in years because – drumroll – I can’t afford it. And I could not afford the car, either, if I hadn’t bought it 20 years ago. When I had money.

  7. I don’t make it to many muscle car/hotrod shows but as far as the VW scene is concerned, it’s thriving, and this isn’t just local, it’s world wide. Every show I go to is a mix of many generations, young and old. Some shows are air cooled only, some are a mix of air and water cooled, heck, I don’t discriminate, I own a ’65 Bug and a ’82 Rabbit pick-up, (which by the way, both are now sporting “No Clover” stickers, thank you Eric) the wife has a ’74 Super Beetle, (no sticker on her car, she thinks the sticker is going to piss off Irish people?). All of our cars are super easy to service, parts are abundant and best of all, NO FUKIN’ COMPUTERS!
    One thing that I have noticed though, the prices on just plain ass beaters are going up, (mostly ’67 and older) just watch some of these auctions on TV, especially the early VW Buses, (restored) they’re going for a hundred grand, or more! If you want to get into an air cooled VW, a Bug would be the one to get, they’re still reasonable.

    • Hi Adam!

      I often miss my ’73 – and think often about finding another/similar. I had a lot of fun in that car. Do you know whether anyone makes a five-speed (OD) transaxle for the Beetle?

      • Yes Eric, Gene Berg makes a 5 speed conversion kit (parts only), but it’s not what you think. All Beetles came from the factory with an overdrive 4th gear, they changed the ring and pinion through the years. The Gene Berg kit puts 4th gear in the 5th position to give you a close ratio gearbox. You have to be carefull how you gear an air cooled, too much rpm and you cook the oil, not enough and you’ll melt a piston or head. It all depends on the combo. The wife’s Super has a somewhat stock 1600 with dual carbs and a header and she can cruise all day long at 70mph and gets over 30mpg and with a little more tuning I should be able to get it to 35mpg. In my 2017cc ’65, well, put it this way, the size of the grin on my face is directly proportional to how far I push the loud pedal.
        Jake Raby has a 5 speed also but the only way you can get it is to purchase a complete “drivetrain package”. An engine and trans combo tailored to how you will use the vehicle.

        • Sounds a little like what Chrysler did with the A833 OD transmission in the ’70s. They swapped the linkage around making the 1:1 top gear third gear, while adding a fourth gear for overdrive. My Volare has one. It works well but has a long shifter throw for a car trans.

  8. I once owned a 1986 BMW 535i, it was, or nearly was, the first year BMW put an ECU into their cars. They were known to randomly fail, causing the car to die, anywhere and anytime. Wait a few minutes and it would start back up and run, until the next time. This happened to me. No one could repair the ECU, and they were very expensive, so I found a used one hoping it was ok. This was the point I realized cars were no longer physical, analog machines. They had crossed into the digital domain never to return.

  9. There are plenty of kids out there tuning cars these days. The VW Golf is a great candidate, as is any 1990s era BMW 3 series, Audis, and lots of Japanese cars too. Not to mention pickups, SUVs and heavily modded Jeeps. I think the issue is that they aren’t interested in formal car shows. Most of them are daily drivers, and plenty of them are intentionally painted with primer and flat black paint, something that a typical car show guy would find abhorrent (which is the point). But they do get together for road trips and rallies, spend a lot of time posting Youtube videos showing off their burnouts and drifting skills, and really spend a lot of time in forums discussing their cars.

    Emissions regulations are a problem but plenty of guys keep the stock exhaust and have a way to quickly swap it in when they take it to the testing center (along with running high alcohol fuel during the test) to keep everything nice and legal. Once they get their clean bill of health, it’s back to normal. Not saying it’s right, or even ethical, but if they are that serious about their cars, I’d bet it’s running cleaner than most people who don’t do anything but change the oil.

    • One more thing: Reprogramming the computer on VWs and Audis is so commonplace that the first thing the dealer is told to do is connect up the diagnostic computer to see if any of the factory settings have been changed (the dealer computer phones home to Germany to compare). It was a big problem, so much so that they sent me a letter at one point explaining that any alteration to the software would void the powertrain warranty. Of course if the car is out of warranty, anything goes. Although I guess the dealer could refuse to repair a vehicle that had been altered…

  10. Rice Rocket mania proved there were plenty of youthful enthusiasts as recently as the first decade of this century.

    Want a new era “collectible?” I’d look for a last gen Prelude, with four wheel steering. Or any recent V-8 Mustang, Charger, Challenger or Magnum.

    Electronic complexity complicates maintenance. But any car that was made in large quantities and that remains fun to drive….ingenuity will find a way to keep it running.

    Harassment by badge boys could become a bigger issue. A solution might be to seek sanction by small towns or other events, and hold these shows in conjunction with local fairs, celebrations, etc.

    • Hi Mike,

      Yeah – but rice rocket mania has died off, too. It seems (to me) it reached its apogee in the mid-late ’90s.

      • eric, Saturday on I-20 I saw two cowboys in and old Sedan de Ville, about an ’88 model. Damn, it looked better now than then and it was in great condition. I honked but that pitiful Chevy pickup horn and the sound deadening in the Caddy kept them from hearing me. The were both in their 30’s. Not often you see a Caddy like that and less often someone less than 60 or 70 driving it.

  11. Philip the Bruce – I agree with you. Adultery is a different matter since, even from a purely secular standpoint it is (usually) a breach of contract. I realize there are folks that have an “open marriage” so it might not apply in that case, although I personally consider that to be morally wrong. But if you give someone your word, I expect you to live by it. If both the offending parties are each in monogamous relationships, then the harm is greater still. Infidelity in relationships carries over into other aspects of society and community as well. If a person can’t be trusted to keep their word to their closest partner in life, why should I trust that person in a business deal or as a political figure?

    • Thanks Boothe,
      To me, a so-called ‘open marriage’ is not a marriage, anymore than ‘homosexual marriage’ is a real marriage. Marriage is a committed relationship between a man and a woman – both conditions being required by definition. Even in ancient Athens, where homosexual relationships were encouraged, especially between an adolescent boy and an older ‘mentor,’ they did not call it marriage.

    • I agree with you both in re adultery. It’s reneging on a formal contract voluntarily agreed to. Fraud, in other words. The defrauded spouse has been victimized.

      But this places adultery in a different box than homosexuality, or drinking (and other “sins” as defined by religious doctrines). The religious will claim that god has been affronted. Well, fine. Bring him into court and let him present his case that he was defrauded or harmed in some way.

      But until he does, there’s no victim, no harm to others demonstrated. Saying “god” is the victim, the aggrieved party is no different than saying the gnome on my shoulder has been victimized by my refusal to honor him, etc. David is free to believe in his “gnome” – and reverence him however likes (or however he believes his gnome desires and commands) and I am free to believe the same sorts of things about my gnome.

      But I keep my gnome and his gnomish codes to myself – and would never demand that others be punished for having offended “his” laws.

      David, on the other hand…

      • Eric – “I agree with you both in re adultery. It’s reneging on a formal contract voluntarily agreed to. Fraud, in other words. The defrauded spouse has been victimized.”

        And the victim has a right to take action. Trouble is that the busybody god-heads seem to feel THEY have a right to interfere in the issue “because god”, when it is none of their business.

        Funny how you get rid of one clover and the religotards ooze into the vacated space.

      • Yeah, you can’t defend punishing homosexuality on libertarian grounds. I just reject libertarianism :p (Though it has many good points.)

        Because at the end of the day, I believe the scriptures, I am absolutely confident in their truth, and I am convinced that that is what they command.

        • Hi David,

          If you reject Libertarianism then you presumably reject the NAP. In which case, you have lost any moral basis for objecting when aggression is visited upon you. And here’s the thing. I realize you probably believe that only certain aggression is ok – and would not be visited on you because you follow “god’s law.” But “god’s law” is very fungible. It can be parsed and interpreted and rationalized six ways to Sunday. This is in fact exactly what has happened. Dozens of Christian sects – each believing absolutely that their parsing/interpretation is the only correct parsing/interpretation.

          Cue interminable squabbling – and often, bloodshed – because no one can prove they’re right; that they have the one and only pipeline to heaven. It’s all a matter of belief.

          And what if I believe I am morally entitled to “smite” you (or just fine you) because you do (or don’t do) X or Y that I claim my version of “the word” demands you do (or don’t do)?

          Contrast this with the clear, unmistakable standard of the NAP. Is there a victim? Has harm been caused? If yes, then you have a legitimate (because clear, objective, factual) basis for interposition; to hold people who’ve caused tangible harm or created actual (real, flesh and blood) victims accountable.

          But two guys shacking up? Where’s the victim? Who’s been harmed?

          Same goes for working on Sunday, shaving one’s beard, or dressing “immodestly.”

          Because “it is written”?


          You may disapprove; you may not do those things yourself. But ease off with the holy rolling condemnation and demands for (or endorsement of) punishing people.

          This, by the way, is whys o many good people are turned off to your religion. It’s mean, it’s arbitrary – and it’s indefensible except by reference to “scripture” – that is, to some old book written by men who’ve been dead for centuries.

          It’s madness.

          No different than my insisting the scrolls of Ra (or the glyphs of Huxtlopochtli) are “sacred” and their commandments must be followed, else off with your head.

          • Wrong Eric – If I have not violated God’s law, then there is no moral basis for anyone to aggress against me.

            • Hi Phillip,

              No offense meant – but what is this “god’s law”? I know, it is the scripture, the Bible… but prove to me that this is “god’s law” – and not just old books written by men. The Aztec Codexes contain a different “law.” They,too, were taken as absolute truth, straight from the deity through human agency. I assume you do not believe in the “word” of the Aztecs?

              How about the “word” of Ra? For thousands of years, Egyptians believed they were in touch with the deity (Ra) and knew the “truth.”

              I could tick off a dozen similar examples.

              I do not mean to offend; I am not trying to offend.

              I’m merely trying to convey my bewilderment.

              • Come on Eric, you know damned well you won’t get a straight or satisfactorily reasonable answer to that. It will be circular and faith dependant, guaranteed.

                • Hi Me,

                  Yeah, prolly so.

                  The thing that baffles me – troubles me – is that David (for one) is clearly a bright guy. And yet, he (and others like him I’ve talked with on this subject) have a kind of “white out” capability that enables them, consciously or not, to waltz right over what – to me – seem to be obvious, even luminous logical fallacies.

                  What does not compute to you or me, they accept with a kind of fanatic certainty that kind of makes my flesh crawl.

              • Of course you are right, Eric. I cannot prove that the Bible I believe is God’s word. But neither can you prove that it is not.
                I’m sure you’ve heard the old saw “You can’t legislate morality.” Well it’s true that you can’t legislate moral attitudes, but you can legislate moral behavior. In fact, that’s the only thing you can legislate. The question becomes ‘what’ morality will be legislated. In India, they have legislated Hindu morality. There are penalties for harming a ‘sacred’ cow.
                I have said repeatedly that I am not intending to force (what I consider to be) God’s law on anybody. But I have the right to maintain that as my personal standard.

                • Total agreement.

                  My bottom line is this: I wish people would chill out a little, admit we don’t know – and allow that reasonable doubt we all ought to have to endow us with forbearance as well as forgiveness. To accept that others are entitled to different opinions. That our private thoughts and actions are are own and no other person’s rightful business unless (and until) they cause a tangible harm to other real people – as opposed to (supposedly) offending our Friend in the Sky. Or Crom. Or Ra … whatever.

                • IMHO it is completely disingenuous to equate a proof with a so-called “negative proof”. Saying that “neither can you prove that it is not” is logically flawed, because it is impossible to prove a negative.

                  People with agendas seem to understand this intrinsically. For example, politicians are always arguing for this or that by saying, if we “don’t do this” there will be so much suffering. They know full well it is impossible to argue against what doesn’t happen. It is exactly the same with religious arguments.

                  • Not always true. Some things can be proven false, e.g., “All swans are white.” 1 black (or pink) swan would disprove it. Not the same as proving a negative, that is impossible, I agree.

  12. Maybe it depends on where you live. I live near Chicago, so there is a huge population for the car hobby- I think out in rural VA and other smaller cities/rural areas, Eric is probably correct on his observations. In the middle of Chicago north suburbs, I have been seeing more CJ7s and CJ5s cruising the city fully restored but driving around with the windshield down- all by 20-30 somethings. Hell I want to get one myself, although a more unique option would be a UAZ469 or GAZ 69.

  13. My observation is that the hobby still exists today, but makes up a smaller portion of the populaiton than it did back in the 50s through the 90’s. It seemed like it was some time during the 2000’s things turned. I think that the big run up in gas prices had something to do with it. The 2007 Energy Conservation Act, setting the fuel economy requirements to 35.5 mpg was the turning point. Automakers have had to rapidly make the cars even more complex than today. Couple that with the enhanced requirements for crash standards for the 2009 and after car models, and it’s game over.

    Cars have more annoying crap on them today than ever – endless seatbelt chimes, daytime running lights, delay off interior lighting, electronic speed limiters, touch screen radio and climate controls, “on star” type telematics, and stuipid, idiotic tire pressure warning systems. Back up cameras.

    Today’s cars simply have too much annoying crap on them. I think as that crap breaks, there will be a market driven backlash against it back to some degree of simplicity. Will it bring the old car hobby back to what it was? Probably not. But if it takes place, cars will bet simpler and more manageable.

  14. Think about your favorite era of cars. Were they brand new when you were in high school, or were they what you and your friends were driving in high school (generally about 10 years old)?

    When all cars started getting the touch-screens (2011-2013), that’s when I started to not care about new cars, personally.

    Before that, I really liked all cars, but had a thing for loaded 90’s cars (loaded meaning, power locks, windows, mirrors, sunroof, leather, a radio with a cassette, and whatever the bigger engine was). I don’t think I’m alone, but it seems many don’t appreciate this era. Cars in this age group were attainable to us.

    I agree with Brent, SHO, SC400, Supra, 300zx (all those Japanese RWD muscle cars), mark 8/thunderbird, even the FWD ones like the Maxima, monte carlo, legend, camry coupe, accord coupe, were desirable. Cars I know I should never own but still like for various reasons like the Aurora or Millennia. There were definitely some likable cars for Gen Y.

    Also, your comment about the Plymouth GTX 440 reminded me, many kids today are spending their money on computer building. They’ll spend thousands on a pc and argue online about which brand of graphics cards and CPUs are better. This is where many of the would-be car guys are, I think.

    I’ll add one more thing. It’s hard to enjoy a car hobby when you don’t have property/a garage to mess around with it. I gotta park mine in the street.

  15. An ’88 Taurus might as well be a ’68 four door Fairlane. Nobody cares about either of them. Although the four door Fairlane does get some attention now thanks to a lack of affordable raw material but that’s about it. But that’s even trickling into four door Mavericks.

    An ’80s Buick GNX isn’t interesting? An SVO Mustang? An Merkur XR4Ti? What about big 1982 Oldsmobile? A ’96 Mustang GT? A Toyota Supra? Or since we’re talking Tauri, how about the first Taurus SHO? (which isn’t all that different than a number of four door sleepers made decades before in theme) The shows that allow these cars are few and far between. The world for 80s and newer cars is one informal meets and such. Or maybe a model specific event that happens once a year.

    I think I am the only here who has been somewhat observant of the part of the hobby that includes cars made in the last 30 years. It’s very much there but you’re not going to find it unless you go looking for it. If you rely on the big events, the ones that are easy to find, the ones that have sanction from town government, the ones police will close off streets for instead of break of, you’re just going to find 45+ year olds with cars as old or older.

    Up to a few years ago there was informal cruising about 10 miles from me. The cops crushed it best I can tell. It was right by a bar I would go to. I would see the teenagers and their cars. The cops started showing up to watch and of course punish anyone they could. It died off. The cops are still there. The cruising isn’t. There might be a few people in the parking lot shooting the shit standing around their cars. Maybe. One or two might rumble by. Perhaps they moved on somewhere else. I don’t know. I’m not in the loop.

    I’ve helped a fair number of teenagers in the Mustang forums with their ’96-’98 SN95s. I can find the teenagers and the 20somethings in the hobby. They aren’t afraid of the computer controls. They break their cars messing with fuel and ignition mapping or removing speed limiters or whathaveyou. Some of them whine about it but then get told to suck it up. Because of those buying new Mustangs and then breaking their cars with their own programming Ford took steps to deny warranty coverage for what they broke. There is a not-so-underground culture of paying people over the internet to write ‘tunes’ for cars. That is new maps to follow for specific modifications, removal of limters, and other adjustments.

    IMO The car shows are social events. The 45+ year olds largely don’t want teenagers around. So they make the rules to prevent that. But they make exceptions for themselves. They’ll bring their 80s cars when they want to.

    Another note, I also have ’00 Mazda Protege and there’s non-running ’89 MX-6GT in my garage. I find the younger crowd in the forums for these cars. It’s just a matter of looking in the right places.

    • Hi Brent,

      It may be a regional difference. I dunno.

      All I can tell you is that in my area, there is not much going on – or seems that way. I have a number of friends in their 20s, incidentally. A few like cars in principle – but aren’t wrenchers or owners. They just never “got into it.”

      Of course an ’80s GNX, SVO Mustang and so on are interesting. But they are also much more complex (and expensive to deal with) than the “classic” stuff without the computers, EFI and so on. How much would it cost to (as an example) get that GNX past smog – and registered – if it needed a pair of new cats, 02 sensors and so on? Compare that to the cost of dealing with the exhaust system in a car without cats or 02 sensors. Remember: A teenager, with a teenager’s budget and skills and tools.

      Another example: Fuel pumps. Back in the days of carbs, it was an “entry level” job to take a mechanical pump off the side of an engine and install a new one. Almost anyone could do it. It was a stepping stone to more. Today, it’s typically necessary to drop the fuel tank – a much more involved job that requires more determination as well as more tools. It’s a higher bar and thus a disincentive to make the attempt.

      The situation is not unlike going to a serious gym if you yourself have never worked out. It’s intimidating to ask a 250 pound bodybuilder if you can “work in” on the bench press when you are 155 pounds and have never even sat on the bench before. Plus there’s that big monthly membership fee.

      I don’t deny there are some kids who are still into cars. But I submit there are far fewer of them today than there were yesterday.

      • This is where I put in the not this sh*t again jpg. We’ve had this discussion before.

        I don’t find 80s and 90s cars to be all that difficult. I’ve dropped the tanks in 80s and 90s cars. The former because the tank rusted and was replaced with one I pulled out of a junkyard car the later because the fuel pump had a dead spot. It’s not that much more work that it can’t be done in a driveway. Pulling a fender off a ’73 to treat rust is more work, but something that is expected when playing with stuff like that back in the day. And to play with rusted 70s stuff you better know how to weld. Back in the day getting the frame rail on my ’75 welded up cost a good penny and it was only affordable because the guys who my grandfather went to have his truck welded back in the day were still open. That place is probably gone now. Of course that repair wouldn’t even be allowed with today’s liability issues.

        Smog? 80s cars are exempt. Illinois doesn’t test anything older than 1996. And what costs more is made up by rarely failing. The big money problem is on the other side of the equation, the government/corporatist decimated economy. If keeping my fleet weren’t economical I wouldn’t be doing it. Insurance is the biggest penalty I pay for having four cars with a fleet average age of 20. 43, 18.5, 15.5, and nearly 4.

        As a percentage of population it’s probably declined but numerically I don’t think it’s all that different, perhaps increased. It’s just different now. The old men own the public face of the scene. The cruising area I mentioned, the old men would arrange with the owners of the commercial property to get permission to use the parking lot, they’d have buddies on the police force to make sure people didn’t get hassled, get the insurance, and so on. It would be done “the right way”. But not only do teenagers lack these connections they now lack the skills to get it done. I was never taught how to make things happen. It’s intentional. This is something Gatto spends a lot of time talking about. 30, 40, 50 or more years ago it wasn’t a big of deal to get everything aligned either. There were even businesses that catered to it. Today anything that isn’t permitted is forbidden. So the younger crowd isn’t as out in the open, but they do have their shows and meets and such. But you have to find them. They usually don’t advertise to the public like the old men do.

        Couple weeks ago I go out, park in a parking garage out away from everyone else. I find two early 20s maybe late teens ricers (fart cans, body kits, that sort of thing) hanging out back there. A girl and a boy with their own cars. My concern? They’d do something stupid and crash into my car. They drove off harmlessly. Anyway. The younger crowd isn’t so out in the open. They get hassled. You’ll see them if you go looking for them.

        Here’s a few at a meet in Virginia (didn’t watch the whole thing):

        • Hi Brent,

          Well, yeah – neither do I. But you are an engineer – and I’ve been wrenching for decades and gotten pretty good at it. But how about a 16-year-old without such education/experience – as well as tools and money? You know… a beginner.

          I don’t doubt that there are still kids who are gearheaded – just fewer of them in real and relative terms. Arguably, because the barriers to entry – hassles, expense – are much greater now.

          When I was in high school, most of the boys were at least interested in cars and probably a quarter of the total were actually involved in hopping up cars. I think it’s a lot less today. Certain facts support this – for example, the fact that a record low percentage of 19 year olds even have a driver’s license. That is a canary in the coal mine.

          Gameboys and iPads have replaced headers and hot rods…

          • I was wrenching on 80s cars too in my early years. Mostly upkeep stuff because well they were still newish cars, but when I was in college when the ‘fun’ started with them. As I have stated before the basics are much the same and a 60s or 70s car in a lot of ways is more difficult. It doesn’t have sensors to tell you whats going on. Honestly I like all the sensors telling me what’s going on without having to hook up a bunch of stuff to the car. But regardless of which tools you use the skills are the same. You still need to know how it works, air, fuel, spark. My ’00 died and would not restart. No codes at all. I had to treat like 70s car to fix it. I used my favorite tool, the vacuum gauge.

            It’s not that hard. And for those who ‘get’ computers today’s cars are a playground. You can tell they let computer geeks loose on them with networking and such going on.

            Of course I read of the stupidest design ever on aircraft recently. The idiots have the entertainment system networked with the flight and engine controls. But what’s worse is that the entertainment system is hidden under the seats. With all the hardware access one would expect. Give a person access to the hardware and there’s no real security and that’s just what someone proved. My guess is the cars are little better but at least physical access is still required.

  16. I remember when Model T Fords were dirt cheap, then outrageously expensive, now considerably more affordable. Mostly because few have fond recollections of the Tin Lizzy and even fewer folks know how to actually operate one, much less work on it. Same thing for any auto with a carb and points and three-on-the-tree with overdrive. Without power steering or brakes or AC but with a radio delete plate smack dab in the middle of the dash. Their dads didn’t have to perform valve jobs in the driveway or replace the clutch on a summer holiday weekend.

    It’s common to see a 30+ year old T-bird or Cutlass or Eldorado still going strong and not look dated in a parking lot or hopelessly crippled to keep pace in rush hour traffic. Most modern old cars today are far more reliable than the “classics” at a car show, a 30 year old car still looks and performs similar to the current offerings with the similar bland styling and plastic adornments and electronic management systems and full creature comforts. And modern antiques better survived the tin worm that devoured most everything pre-1980.

    Cadillac now lends to Chevy as often as often as Chevy gives to Cadillac. No difference remains among the offerings.

    • I live in the land of road salt. I really notice an 80s car. They really stick out to me. The rust ate them some time ago or they just plain wore out or both.

      Rust eats cars still. More slowly but once the car gets over 12-15 years old the coatings start to fail and it requires consistent effort to keep at bay.

  17. Ill agree with richb…at the car show I go to, there is all kinds of stuff there, from 100 years old to brand new, and everything in between. I’ve seen Honda tuner cars as well as lambos in the same isle as a jumping low rider and a traditional south side Chicago ghetto boat with 25″rims. I think one of the most interesting is a 3 wheeled post war Messerschmidt that has a 2 stroke engine and a bubble canopy that flips open to the side. The steering ‘wheel’ naturally looks like a yoke. The venue is monday night car shows at old orchard mall- you can see photos of all that on their webpage, as well as my M1009 I bring. Old bikes even come. The key here- is the show is FREE

  18. I don’t think its as bad as you think it is. As time goes on, the different generations tastes about cars will be different because of their situations. Pre-war cars were once much more popular with the car crowd. But the interest moved to the cars of the 50’s and 60’s with the boomers. As they age, tastes will change once again.

    In some ways, the car culture has to change and its changing for many of the reason you have said. Yeah, its taken a beating with the anti-car movement that has unfortunately grown. It will likely have a harder time beating it off, with fewer people with money to fight back against the deep pockets of the elite.

    But just look at the car “tuner” culture that has developed over the last decade or so. Largely with Honda Civics and cars like it (aka the “cheap” cars of today). Yeah, the spinner wheel covers and the glued on fiberglass parts are silly and ridiculous. But there are more guys (and girls now too) then you think, that are handy with computers and performance parts that are coming on the market for these cars. Getting some big numbers at times from economy car 4 cylinder engines.

    In a lot of ways they are the hot rodders of today. Those 1930’s Chevy and Fords were cheap “economy” cars too. They do a lot of basically the same things, adding power, lowering them down, paint jobs etc.

    You just don’t see them at the cars shows you and I go too. Plenty of these tuners are Hispanic guys in their 20’s that don’t seem particularly welcome at traditional shows. The older guys don’t want those 15 year old Civics next to their 45 year old Mustangs for some reason. It seems so easy for many to forget their younger years now a days and how things were when you were young. When your young you got to use what you got, and today that is a old Honda, not a Ford.


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