I once asked Craig Jackson why he thought that Restomods were so popular. He said that buyers got the looks of a classic car with the comfort, convenience and performance of a modern one.
Sometimes people new to collecting would buy a restored old car — say a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. Then how an old car drives gave them a big surprise.
By modern standards, many old cars are slow, have terrible brakes and squishy suspensions. They don’t have a/c, and when you go around a turn you slide across the bench seats.
When someone buys a Restomod, they get all the visual appeal of a 50-year-old classic combined with the acceleration, brakes, handling and comfort of a modern car. You can expect anti-lock brakes, cruise control, a/c and a monster stereo.
Going 80 mph down the expressway is not a challenge. Stop-and-go traffic won’t overheat the car. Shoulder harnesses provide a nod toward safety.
I think the same need for performance, comfort and safety is part of what is driving the spectacular increase in prices for cars built from 1986-2006. SCM calls them “Next Gen” and Europeans have referred to them as “Youngtimers” for over a decade now.
A Youngtimer BMW M3 — or a 16-valve Mercedes 190 — are pretty spectacular cars. Even as they are now up to 30 years old, they offer performance that a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso could only dream about.
Those of us in our 50s, 60s and 70s cut our teeth on primitive cars, such as MGAs and TR3s. We grew up with non-synchro-first-gear transmissions, and heaters you turned on by opening the hood and spinning a faucet handle.
Cruising at 70 mph was nearly impossible in some of these cars, and heaven forbid you should ever have to stop in a hurry.
Oil and water levels were routinely checked at every gas stop.
Safety features were non-existent.
Is it any wonder that a 30- or 40-year-old buyer would walk right by a Maserati 3500GT and put their hand up for a BWM M6?
I see level or declining interest in cars from the 1950s and 1960s from the market at large. Those of us who like them have gone through our buying and collecting cycles, and we are now often thinning our collections.
But the generation just behind us is still accumulating wealth —and is often allocating it towards Next Gen cars. And Restomods.
While we old timers glory in the punishment we inflict upon ourselves by driving 50-year-old cars long distances, the generation just behind us is simply expecting more from their cars. More performance, more brakes, more handling and more comfort.
It’s a trend that’s been reflected in auction results for the past year. And it’s one I don’t see changing in the future.