The classic car world needs a shake-up | Thank Frankel it’s Friday

12th March 2021
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

The classic car industry is sleep-walking to disaster. Or so it seems to some of us involved therein. If right now you think of a typical classic car enthusiast you’re probably thinking of a man in his fifties who lives in the country, was brought up in a car loving family whose limited range of other interests beyond classic cars and his work are going for walks and to the pub, not necessarily in that order. You are, in other words, thinking of me.


But the problem with me and my generation is that we won’t be around forever and what happens next? With remarkably few exceptions of which I am aware, the generation we have sired is really not that bothered even about cars, let alone classic ones. If you are middle aged or older, you grew up in an age where we were desperate for distractions, particularly if they were beautiful, exciting and fast; by contrast our children have grown in a world where there are so many distractions of such bewildering variety many are desperate to get away from them. They don’t have enough bandwidth for anything else, let alone something that’s not part of their culture in the same was as it was for many of us.

Nor do they have the time or energy because they live in a world of instant gratification. Why spend all that time fiddling with some elderly and inexactly assembled contraption when the result will be at best slow and dangerous compared to any modern car, and quite likely to fail in the very first duty of any such device, namely to get you to where you are going without failing to proceed along the way? Instead why not strap yourself into a Formula 1 car and head off around the world’s great circuits with rather less effort and risk than is required to brush your teeth? Such is the sly and seductive appeal of the virtual world.

There is of course little we can do about that, but I wonder how hard each of us has tried to hand the passion down through the generations? Some will have done without question, a few lucky souls will not have had to try because their offspring will just naturally be interested, but they are a small and dwindling community. For myself I never forced the issue because I was always being dragged off to things I didn’t want to do by my parents and decided long ago that when such things were purely recreational in nature, I’d not inflict the same on my children. The result: offspring with as much interest in cars as I have in wallpaper paste.

What to do? Ironically I think forthcoming legislation will help. Far from outlawing classic cars, I expect the drive towards electrification will actually help raise interest in them. I hope I’m wrong but right now I think it’s going to be hard to make any electric car genuinely interesting and involving to drive, let alone one that is remotely affordable. And I don’t believe for a minute that classics will be forced off the road: their environmental impact is minimal and arguably far less than a modern car that hasn’t yet been built. The industry is worth many billions in the UK alone and I expect petrol will be available for decades to come, whether it is produced conventionally from oil, or synthesised in a laboratory.


But we can’t just sit back and hope the problem will take care of itself. We need to get our young people informed and interested in old cars. Specialist insurance companies need to make them much more affordable to drive and it is absolutely in their interests that they do. Event organisers need to reach out in every way possible (as Goodwood already does) and classic car publications need to start finding and using the hungry young journalists who’ll put ageing old duffers like me out of a job. If not, our generation will die off and, at this rate, our industry will go with us.

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