Are New Cars Ruining Old Car Shows?

The warmth of the sun felt good on the back of my neck as I joined several old friends who had gathered in the grassy area next to the parking lot where our classic cars were on display. A warm weekend in Minnesota in late September tends to bring everyone out, as does the knowledge there were not too many of theses events left for the season.

Turnout was good, with over 200 cars filling the car show lot, but a quick scan also revealed more than half were built within the last 15 years. I suppose I should have been tipped off to this when we pulled into the lot and the event organizer instructed me to park on the other end of the lot as they were saving this area for MoPar’s… I scratched my head (driving the DeSoto, thinking to myself, “This is a MoPar”). What I didn’t realize is that she meant new MoPars, and soon a large section of the lot was full of newer Challengers, Chargers, Durangos, and Jeeps. While the event was promoted as an American-made event, there was no restriction on years, and they had every right to enjoy the event as much as others.

As we sat in the early morning sun, taking in the array of cars entering the event and enjoying a warm cup of coffee, it didn’t take long before someone in our group remarked, “I think these new cars are ruining old cars shows!” It’s funny how sometimes a single statement can bring back plenty of memories of those who have echoed such concerns in the past. Having been around long enough, I can even recall an old car show where Model A owners had to take a backseat to Model T owners. Over the years, nearly every car has had its place in the hot seat and been shunned by the wider car community, from ’50s to ’60s to ’70s to ’80s and beyond.

I recalled reading an editorial from nearly a decade earlier by Jim Sutherland, who voiced concerns over the onslaught of new sport trucks attending old car shows, in which he wrote: “What kind of twisted logic allows a post-millennium car or a brand new truck to qualify for a car show when some poor schmo who put thousands of unpaid hours into his ’57 Ford has to park away from the show in a dusty parking lot?… I know I speak for every car owner in the free world when I ask for a hard-line adherence to the 25-year rule. In other words, bring that 2009 Mustang back in 2034. Until then, leave it in the dusty parking lot outside the show because you haven’t paid any old car dues. You’ve simply taken on monthly payments for a soulless clone made out of 90 percent plastic. That hardly qualifies as earth-shaking (although the sound system might), and it leaves you outside the fence in the ‘real’ old car world.”

Although written over a decade ago, I was surprised by the number in our group that would make these same claims today. The conversation in our crusty group of car guys became more colorful as we discussed the merits of these newcomers to the hobby, leaving one old gray beard to remark, “Those guys in the new car world have car shows every day of the week… They’re called new car dealerships.” I smiled and reminded them it wasn’t so long ago that many of them lamented the same sentiments in regards to Rat Rods, Sport Trucks, Tuners, or even obnoxiously loud audio systems.

As we discussed the merits of different cars, eras, and fads, we acknowledged that the youthful car enthusiast will always find a way to participate in the car hobby. While the path they choose may be different than our own, if we do not support and encourage them, our hobby will cease. Then there will be no one left with an appreciation for our classic cars, much less a willingness to buy them when we decide to let them go. We concluded our discussion by vowing to go spend some time checking out what these young enthusiasts had done to personalize their rides and to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face. Ultimately, there is a place in the hobby for everyone, and there are still plenty of car events that are geared toward the 25-plus-year-old cars too.

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78 Responses to “Are New Cars Ruining Old Car Shows?”

  1. Mick

    People in the comments section complain of new cars attending shows that aren't 25 years old yet they hark back to the 80's and 90's with their Plymouth duster etc that also wasn't 25 years old at the time they were shown or adorning the cover of Street Machine or Hot rod and Custom, Custom car etc. Many of us would love to get our hands on old american tin but markets and greed have driven the prices way out of the ball park for the average restorer/customiser. Personally I am glad the days of "customised" furry interiors, jack up kits and lethal modifications are over. As motor enthusiasts we are all facing the biggest upturn in the history of the motor vehicle since the inception of the internal combustion engine and as such we should be pulling together without prejudice as in the next 10-15 years the majority of us will be priced off the road unless we can afford an electric vehicle.

  2. Stephen Mark

    It has been a long time since I read such an interesting article.

  3. John Pearson

    I showed up to a show a few years ago with a 99 BMW M3. I distinctly remember the lady at the entrance to the grassy field where we were parking mutter, "That's not a classic car." Over the course of the show, a significant number of people between the age of 15 and 30 walked up and said that it was the coolest car in the show. I was just pleased to not see another 50-70s American car, which is the only type of car that seems to show up to local shows. For me, 80s-90s cars are the coolest ever made and I am stoked to see events like, Radwood, pick up momentum. There is definitely room at most car shows for all generation cars, just understand that different generations of people have different interests.

  4. Raymond Clark

    Those showing old cars isn't the Sam either. Years ago I stumbled into a VW show, figured I'd run into some of my old customers but found none of these did their own work and bragged who did the engine, seats and detailing :(

  5. Mike

    I use to feel the same way, Classic car shows are for older cars. I have restored/modified more old fords than I can remember. Life catches up on those of us over 60 and a couple hours of driving a 65 mustang feels like sitting on a park bench all day. I drove a Roush 2012 mustang and was hooked, power and comfort. For myself it’s always been about driving my cars more so than sitting at a show. I would feel a bit uncomfortable bringing a newer muscle car to a show but that’s just me. Remember when car shows were a sea of model T Model A and lead sleds, I’ll bet those guys didn’t appreciate my “only 10 year old “ 68 mustang GT. If car shows don’t allow the newer stuff in, the hobby will be just as dead as all those model T guys.

  6. finance for second hand car

    Nice article

  7. Trevor Flock

    I think the issue is most classic car shows is they have the same cars year after year, the new car shows do at least have different vehicle showing the newer models, personally I would rather see both so you can see how vehicles have developed over many years.

  8. Ivan Sola

    I kind of not really into new wave plasticars..ours have lasted generations(72 400 bird)..theirs prob wont last 10..i also believe alot of classics are going to horders here and overseas..wich makes for slim pickins ....but hey..ive got mine...they got theirs and in the end..we all love our cars

  9. Lary Cook

    The vibe that vintage cars carry is unmatched. They have a different aura altogether. I've not used any new car in past 10 years.

  10. Doug

    Us old car guys are aging..and dying. We loved the old muscle. You wanted a bad ass car you built the motor and learned to fix the body and custom paint. The new car guys do nothing with interior or paint. Boring cars