One enthusiast has a radical solution to help reverse the aging profile of classic car club members – lend some of the cars to youngsters for a year and get them hooked!
The aging profile of members in many clubs is a perennial worry to those wondering who will have the interest and the passion to keep their classics on the road when it is time for the current drivers to hang up their keys. The concern is twofold: on the one hand that youngsters who have grown up in the digital world of social media simply won’t see the relevance of joining a formal car club, and on the other that they will have developed nostalgic attractions to a much more recent generation of car leaving the established classics unloved and unwanted.
The situation is not helped by spiralling values for classic cars, which often price younger drivers out of the market. That is not such a problem for marques which continue in production today, as they generally enjoy a ready supply of modern classics, secondhand cars and new models to act as an entry point to the brand. A youngster is far more likely to acquire an interest in the classic MGs if they run a £500 ZR as a daily driver for example, than they would have been if the marque had died with the closure of Abingdon in 1980 some two decades before they were even born.
However, supporting a ‘dead’ marque does not inevitably mean a club is doomed to a slow decline. The MG Car Club has set up a Young Members Group complete with a special graduated pricing structure, but the TR Register (the last TR was built in 1981 and the last Triumph in 1984) did something similar with their Youth Group some years back, as did many others. And it is interesting to note that many of the younger members covet and eventually buy models that they could never have seen in general use on the road.
As for the relevance of formal car clubs in this digital age, there too the news is not all bad. Groups such as the Rover P6 Club who embrace the digital revolution have been able to make social media and online forums work to their advantage and increase membership as a result. The Rover marque survived until 2005 of course, but the last Standard car was built way back in 1963 and yet the Standard Motor Club has also managed to stay strong, in part by offering products and services that the members need, including a well-stocked and expanding webshop.
But perhaps the most radical attempt of all in helping encourage youngsters into older classic cars is the Classic Car Loan Project instigated last year by Bob Wilkinson. That began when a friend offered to lend his 1929 Ford Model A Phaeton Tourer to a young enthusiast for 12 months, and Bob stepped up to the plate to organise things. This April the project returned for a second year, but this time with three cars to be handed over to their temporary custodians at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon – the Ford has now been joined by a 1934 Morgan Super Sports three-wheeler owned by a member of the Morgan Three Wheeler Club and a 1960 Vauxhall Victor that has been left to the Vauxhall Victor Club by a late member.
All three classics have been generously loaned out for 12 months, the Ford to Sara Jordan, the Vauxhall to Tom Pocock and the Morgan to Holly Davies. These three youngsters were selected from a shortlist of hopefuls, all aged 25 or above who were able to store the vehicle securely and also display some aptitude or close family support that would help them care for their charges. In return they each have a designated contact from within the respective club to offer further help and support.
In their first progress report since then, it appears that all three youngsters are getting on well. Sara Jordan said of the Ford: ‘I’m having great fun after getting used to double-declutching during changes on the non-synchro gearbox. I have met some very nice people who have welcomed me into the vintage car family with open arms. Everyone has been so helpful, and I am enjoying going to events and looking at all the vintage cars so that I can get an idea of what vehicle I will buy myself. I am so lucky to have had this opportunity. Minor repairs to a stoplight and speedo cable have been the only times I have got my hands dirty… so far!’
Tom Pocock was quickly at home with the 1960 Victor. He says: ‘Luckily the Victor shares a modern layout and many modern conveniences such as a synchromesh gearbox and windscreen wipers, though we did miss a few things like seatbelts. The first thing that hit me was the smell; nothing smells quite like a classic! It took a few laps round the practise area at Gaydon to get the hang of the column gear shift, but the journey home passed without incident. We did get many smiles and waves – the car certainly draws plenty of positive attention. I want to extend my thanks to the Vauxhall Victor Owners Club, Peter James Insurance and Bob for putting the whole scheme in place. I’m looking forward immensely to the year ahead and sharing the joy of classic ownership.’
Holly Davies said of the Morgan (which is called Mabel): “Everybody in the Morgan Three Wheeler Club was welcoming, friendly and intrigued to know more about the loan project and our year ahead. The driving experience is unlike anything I’ve done before, and I have to say it’s made my Fiesta ST look tame. There is nothing better than motoring through the English countryside with the wind in your hair and waving to passers-by, although I have to learn not to wave with my right hand because we slow down quite quickly when I drop the hand throttle…” She added: “I’ve been sharing photos of Mabel on Instagram using the hashtag #livingwithmabel, so if anyone does want to follow our year they just need to search for that. It’s what all the kids are doing these days apparently!”
Leaving the final word to Bob, he said: “It takes months to organise the scheme so I am looking now for more cars to be included in the project next season. We are fortunate to have the backing of Peter James Insurance, Longstone Tyres and the relevant owners clubs to give viability and credibility to this initiative to encourage the next generation, and I would hope to have six or maybe even eight cars available for loan next season.”
If you or your club want to be part of this laudable initiative, you can contact Bob via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01832 734463.
Details of the cars that will be available in April 2019 should appear this summer, with applications being accepted from autumn – we’ll bring you full details when they are released.