Written by independent automotive journalist Steve Statham
Everybody has to start somewhere. With hobbies, it can start with something as modest as a collection of Hot Wheels toy cars, and then one day you grow up and your garage is full of shiny life-size hot rods.
We all start small and work our way up. It can be daunting, taking that first step into the collector car world. For one thing, you’re contemplating spending more money on a hobby than you probably ever have before. For another, you’ve got to select your targets carefully, as nobody has unlimited funds or storage space. With that in mind, an auction is a great place to get a feel for building a car collection. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded enthusiasts, and instead of chasing down individual listings, you’ll have a large selection to inspect all in one place.
If you’re worried you’ll be the only rookie at the auction, don’t be. Forty percent of bidders at the 2017 Scottsdale Auction were first-timers, and 50 percent of those at the 2016 Las Vegas event were attending a Barrett-Jackson auction for the first time. If you’ve taken the first few steps into the classic car hobby, then you know most everyone likes to talk about cars. Feel free to ask advice from auction veterans. Most will be happy to share tips and advice.
Our primary advice? Find the car that speaks to you. Weigh the opinions of others carefully, but remember the cars that got you excited about the hobby in the first place. More than one gearhead has chased perceived value instead of passion and ended up with an unsatisfying purchase.
A conversation about the first steps to starting a car collection is particularly relevant at this juncture of history, because a generational change of the guard is in the offing. The baby boomers will be with us for a while yet, but they aren’t getting any younger, and their preferences will not rule the market forever. Just as Generation X buyers pushed the Pontiac Trans Am restoration market to new heights in recent years, so too will millennials leave their mark on the hobby.
Granted, the millennials are not a generation known for their love of automobiles; in fact, a significant percentage have delayed purchasing a first car, and sometimes even put off getting a driver’s license. But the millennial generation is large in numbers, and there is unquestionably a segment of car enthusiasts among them.
Which cars will be their favorites? That’s still a developing story, but there are some early indications out there about which collectibles turn millennial heads.
Not surprisingly, Fox-body Mustangs have proven to be an affordable path into the collector car market for younger buyers. “The 5.0-liter Mustang has been around so long that its popularity cuts across generations,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. “Just like with baby boomers and the original Mustang, for a lot of millennials, the Fox-body 5.0 Mustang was the hot car to have during their formative years.”
At the risk of getting dragged down by stereotypes, millennials take their influences from many sources. They never had to wait for a late-night TV showing of “Vanishing Point” to get a cool-car fix, let alone chase down a VCR copy ‒ they could call up viewings of “The Fast and The Furious” on demand, and that movie franchise is not far off in its depiction of millennial tastes. Old cars and new mix together, as do imports and domestics, all modified with the latest speed technology.
Millennials seem more comfortable with Resto-Mods than earlier generations, and less focused on authentic restorations. They have more of an appreciation for Japanese imports as collectibles. The Toyota Supra, Nissan Skyline GTR, Datsun 240Z and early models of the Toyota Celica are all held in high esteem by younger buyers entering the hobby.
A lot of millennials spent their childhood years being shuttled around in SUVs, and for many, a used SUV was their first car. Early indications are that this has sparked an interest in vintage SUVs, such as Broncos, Land Cruisers and Blazers. These cars are increasingly finding their way to the auction block, and prices are rising.
As with every other generation, the cars millennials remember growing up will be the cars they will pursue when taking the first steps toward building a vintage car collection. That means interesting cars from the 1980s and 1990s, even early 21st-century cars. Still, we suspect a lot of the old rules won’t apply. Should be a fun ride.
If you’re thinking about attending a Barrett-Jackson auction for the first time, visit the “Bid” page of the website for tips and information: https://www.barrett-jackson.com/Bidder/Home.