Millenials are young people that were born between the early 80’s and the late 90’s. News media has issued a thousands of opinions about this interesting bunch. They’ve been painted, mostly, as lazy narcissists that don’t know how to change a tire and can’t have a regular phone conversation. They don’t seem to care about tradition, they don’t seem to care about history, and we are truly afraid that they won’t care about our treasured classic cars.
But like it or not, the next owners – either intentionally through purchase or un-intentionally by inheritance – will take over ownership of these priceless assets. So why would they – why will they – care about our cars?
I have two millennial kids, both now in their twenties and pursuing different careers. The reasons they care about cars, classic or otherwise, are very different from my own.
On the one hand, we have my son: an absolute obsessed car nut (at least I got something right on the parenting side!). He can tell you the year, make and model of any Porsche from a mile away. But the dirty work? Not interested. On the other hand, there’s my daughter: a musician that lives in New York City and is perfectly content not having a car at all. She sees cars as practical tools for getting around, and her interest is limited to that. When she comes home to visit, she dreads having to actually drive the spare vehicle I keep and maintain just for her.
It’s easy to look at millennials in a vacuum – projecting their behaviors into infinity. But in reality, they are just a bunch of 20 to 30 year old kids that aren’t that different from us at those ages.
Like my son, I wasn’t interested in getting greasy and doing the work when I was younger. Sure, I wanted to drive and be seen in a great car, but I didn’t develop the patience or appreciation for the real DIY work and maintenance until I reached young adulthood.
My daughter isn’t into cars specifically, but she is someone with a growing appreciation for art, style, romance, power, and intelligent design, so there is hope even for her. I am already starting to see glimmers of hope for her as she notices, comments on and appreciates certain vehicles – mostly for their design aesthetic and usage in media and pop-culture, but hey it’s a start! I don’t expect her to be a collector, but she will be an owner eventually, and a fan for sure.
We have to be patient. These kids will come to see the beauty and awesomeness in these vehicles just as we did, and we have to be ready when that happens. Ready to share not just the steel, glass and rubber, but also the stories, the history, and the romance.
It’s our job to preserve all of that – in a way that both survives and ensures the next generation can consume and enjoy the information.
Millennials have been raised on information supplied to them an in easy-to-access mobile and digital form. They probably aren’t going to dig through seventeen bankers boxes filled with original invoices and 50 year old maintenance records. Where was that original window sticker? Was it in the box with the 1970’s baseball cards?
We have a responsibility as parents, educators, and mentors to communicate with this younger generation. We will not outlast our cars – there is always a “next owner” – but the history, the stories, the passion can live on with this next generation.
We can pass down the legacy of our classic cars: why they are important, how to care for them, and what they meant to us as individuals. If we can do this, we can give our future generations the gift of experience, and a compelling reason to take off their VR glasses and give a real car a spin.
That way, when your kid’s kid hops in that beloved classic for the first time, he can experience it, fall in love with it, and learn from it in the same way you did.