As the early months of 2020 unfolded and the world came to grips with a global pandemic, many in the collector car world held their collective breath. The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance had just squeaked through a closing door of public automotive events, and we were all left to wonder if the hobby would ever again look the same. The stock market crashed, and millions became unemployed overnight. We braced ourselves for a collector car market of panic sellers, elusive buyers, and stagnating inventory. But to our surprise and relief, no one blinked.
In fact, just the opposite was true. Top-quality cars continued selling at fair prices to a steady stream of both new and established collectors. Good inventory started becoming scarce, as investors recognized the value of holding tangible investments while stocks tanked. It turns out that no one could have divined the complex cultural role cars would play in our lives and our investment portfolios. No one could have guessed that gas prices would drop to a near twenty-year low and roads would be emptied of commuter traffic, making for ideal driving conditions and increased enjoyment of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. No one, not even pop star Gary Numan in his 1979 hit song “Cars”, could have understood the true weight of the sentiment, “here in my car, I feel safest of all.”
Expensive overseas vacations were canceled, freeing up money for other leisurely pursuits. Air travel ground to a halt, as many considered investing in a luxury vehicle that could facilitate their wanderlust safely.
Restaurants scrambled to reinvent themselves, with some adding carhop service. In a further surrealist flashback to the 1950s, people talked about reopening Drive-In movie theaters.
Bored kids, having reached the saturation point of online activities, followed dad out to the garage to pass wrenches and learn while the old man tinkered on his classic car. Just yesterday, over one hundred enthusiast cars lined the streets of our little village of Elkhart Lake in an impromptu sunny-day, social distancing cruise in what is perhaps the safest way for such a crowd to gather for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, others vowed that they would no longer wait to treat themselves to that special car or motorcycle they’d always dreamed of owning, deciding that life is just too short.
In an illuminating way, this tragic pandemic has shown that our enjoyment of cars is not a peripheral pursuit, but something that permeates every aspect of our being. As the world adapts to a post-Covid reality, expect to see the automobile reassert itself near the center of our lives, just below the pet dog in our pecking order of beloved family members. New automotive activities – or perhaps revisiting old ones – will add value to our social lives, and in turn, secure the future of the collector car in ways we could not have imagined only four months ago.