We are in the middle of a sea change in the collector-car world. In my three decades of publishing Sports Car Market, I have never seen anything like it. Much has been written about the changing of the collector-car guard, with Millennials and Gen Xers rapidly joining Baby Boomers as front-line buyers and sellers. It’s happening right before our eyes. Take a look at major auction company catalogs. Up until five years ago, their catalogs pretty much ignored cars built from 1986 through 2005. We at SCM call the best of these cars “Next Gen” collectibles. Today, along with 1960s Ferraris as top-end star cars, those catalogs also feature Next Gen Mercedes-Benz 500Es, Toyota Supra Twin Turbos and Acura NSXs. Mercedes 500Es are selling at $80k. BMW M3s sell at over $100k, and great examples of Acura’s NSX are topping $125k. Cars from this era are sometimes called “Youngtimers” (a term which originated in Germany), to differentiate them from the “Old-Timer” cars of the previous era. I find both terms mildly distasteful — I have never thought of myself as an “Old Timer ” — and I doubt many 30- and 40-year-old enthusiasts refer to themselves as a “Youngtimer.” This is why SCM uses the term “Next Gen.” These are the next generation of collectible cars, and the next generation of collectors is busily buying them. BMW and Mercedes high-performance sports sedans of this era have made the most dramatic gains. Select performance cars from this era (think AMG) are bringing huge money. We tend to collect the cars we grew up with. When I was looking for a first car for my 11-year-old son Bradley, there was only one choice. My first car was a 1960 Bugeye Sprite, and his would be too. I was in familiar territory. For a variety of reasons, mostly because of safety and today’s driving conditions, I’ve decided I will get him something more modern in 2024 when he gets his license. Maybe I’ll enlist the help of a Youngtimer to help me pick it out. My guess is that left on his own, a Bugeye would not be his first choice. This new group of collectors is drawn to the cult and supercars of their era. Cars that can be chipped to 400 — and more — horsepower. Cars that have anti-lock brakes and airbags. Cars that can go tens of thousands of miles between tune-ups. Cars with excellent climate-management systems. Cars that are easily capable of exceeding any posted speed limit, anywhere in the world.

There’s the rub

And for this Old Timer, me, there’s the challenge. These 30-year-old cars are capable of being driven at speeds on public roads that a 12-cylinder Ferrari from the 1960s can only fantasize about. The drivers never have to worry being in the right gear at the right time. Many of these cars are automatics, and they can shift faster than you ever could with a stick. As I have grown up with cars with primitive suspensions, hopeless brakes, balky transmission synchros and engines with peaky and narrow power bands, I have had to master all of these challenges and deficiencies before I can find joy in operating them on a two-lane road. These mechanical relics of a time gone by require my skills to be able to extract what performance they have to offer. I feel needed. That’s rarely the case with Next Gen cars. Any BMW M-series can move along a back road at a blistering pace, stay flat in the turns and stop on a dime. If you’re driving a manual, you can bang shifts with abandon, knowing the hefty synchro rings won’t let you down. If you’re driving an automatic, just flicking a paddle with the tip of your finger will get you the gear you want. You can accomplish all this while enjoying your heated seat, your side of the cockpit set to 68 degrees and your passenger’s to 72. Your favorite tunes will be pouring out of your monster stereo. Take a 40-year-old who grew up in these cars, and ask her or him to choose between a BMW M6 and an Austin-Healey BJ8. I guarantee the BMW will win most of the time. I can blather on all I want about the classic lines of the Big Healey, and its throaty exhaust note. My Next Gen buddy will respond: “OMG, it’s tiny inside. The floorboards are so hot they are melting my shoes. There’s no synchro into first gear, and you have to flick a switch to engage fifth (overdrive). There’s no trunk space, and the top lets more rain in than it keeps out.” For those of us who cut our teeth on Bugeyes, MGAs and Jaguar 120 roadsters, the Healey 3000 was impossibly luxurious — they even featured wind-up windows. But to someone coming from behind the wheel of a 16-valve MB 190E, it’s like going back in time and mounting a triceratops for the morning commute. Starting with this issue, SCM will devote several pages to this new, incredible Next Gen market shift. We will still cover all the wonderful sports and classic cars that we’ve loved for decades. We’re just adding on a couple of rooms to accommodate all the new Next Gen collectors. Next Gen specialist Philip Richter will provide his take on this market segment. His garage currently contains a 1988 E30 M3 and a 1986 Mercedes 190E 16V Cosworth. The new, Next Gen collectors have a much higher benchmark for what they expect from their cars. They are changing the face of collecting, and SCM is changing with them. ♦

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