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The Next Generation of Car Enthusiasts

By Bill Bounds

Ferrari 340 America Vignale SpiderI’m just going to put it out there, as a younger person this hobby/sport is frustrating. The issue at hand is access. The internet is great for contributing knowledge to the equation, but it can’t compare to standing by as a Ferrari 340 roars off into the distance. The former helps reinforce passion, the latter creates it. The problem is, with the classic car market on a rocket-propelled incline, the amount of times anyone can stand next to something like that is approaching zero. Even the mid and lower grade levels of classics are becoming hard to attain or encounter in normal life. Have you priced out a ’50s pickup lately?

I am personally sandwiched right in between GenX and GenY. As I like to put it; I have no interest in fighting the system, but the system sure seems intent on fighting me. I had the good fortune to have a racing enthusiast for a father, and a British-car-owning tinkerer for a grandfather. Every blessing is a curse, though, and the things I used to have access to are there no longer, leaving only the desire to forge my own memories, to create my own stories with automobiles.

Here are some contemporary models that I can talk about with a decent amount of depth through my own experiences. I would expect someone of my generation could keep up with the conversation. EC1, EF, EG, EK, EM1, DC2, DC5; GC8, GD, GE; NA, NB, NC; YJ, TJ, XJ; W10 (AW11), W20, W30; ST-165, ST-185; AE86; R32-35. I tossed the Jeeps in for fun.

To counter that, here are some models I can again talk about with depth that I would expect Sports Car Digest readership to identify with. Tipo 750, 101, 105, 115; Type 35, 35A, 35B, 37, 39; TdF, SWB, PF, GTE, GTO, LM; TR2-6; XKC, XKD, XKSS, XKE; 901, 911, 904, 906, 910, 917, 956/962. And on and on.

Both generations have the same alphabet soup. Both generations have the same passion. The gap between the first group and the second group seems obvious to me, it’s about access. I have friends that can tell the difference between a D16 and B16 Honda motor blindfolded, but they couldn’t tell you the difference between a Type 35 and a T-26. An XK120, 140, and 150 are all the same to them just like a third, fourth, and fifth generation Honda Civic would look the same to others. I know the differences because I’m passionate enough to seek them out on both sides. I don’t think, however, that the average contemporary “car guy” has anywhere near the access necessary to know that Bentleys, Voisins, Delahayes, Abarths, and Lancias are worth appreciating. Without access to cars like that, I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect them to.

As the subject of this hobby gets more and more expensive, cars will be driven less and less. Not many Lusso owners will let that kid in the parking lot sit in the driver’s seat for a minute. A Gullwing won’t be seen anywhere but a concours. All Cisitalias will end up in warehouse collections where only the caretakers walk in and out. Such a climate does not create that passionate spark that draws people into the hobby. So if any Sports Car Digest readers do have an interest in broadening that horizon, I would ask one thing. Drive your cars. Drive them in public. When you see a kid smiling, or someone smiling like a kid, stop and talk to them. Silver Ghosts to MG TCs to split-window coupes to Ghiblis. Automobiles are inherently engaging, so give yours the space and time to engage others as they have engaged you. I know I am grateful for those who took the time with me, and I will pay that forward as soon as I am able.

Creating my own stories with automobiles is exactly what I intend to tackle in this space. How does someone with a huge pile of enthusiasm and average means find ways to maximize his access? My answers include things like habitually attending the Amelia Island Concours, autocrossing, buying a Jeep, working on one of my grandfather’s cars, road tripping, LeMons/ChumpCar racing, attending The Mitty and the ARRC at Road Atlanta, rallycrossing, and on and on.

If it burns dinosaurs, I think it’s awesome. From ’30s French grand touring cars and ’50s European sports cars to British Touring Cars and Baja trucks, it doesn’t matter. I like all of it.

[Source: Bill Bounds; photo: Julien Mahiels]