The next time someone wags an accusing finger at you and suggests that enthusiasm for old cars is merely a niche hobby, try firing back with some convincing new figures from the Vintage Racing League. For example, VRL tells us there are an estimated 10 million people who own vintage, historic, classic and antique cars. That alone is quite remarkable. So is the way those numbers are spread around the globe:
* 4 million in the Americas
* 5 million in the UK & Europe
* 1 million in the rest of the world
Ever wonder how many car clubs exist worldwide? A few thousand, maybe? How about an estimated 100,000? The number of cars owned by the members must be staggering and should awaken any automotive marketer to the possibilities of reaching this vast group of enthusiasts. According to the VRL there are an estimated 100,000 merchants who sell the collector car community $50+ billion in products and services annually. That makes said community an economic force to be reckoned with.
Yet these numbers are, in one sense, misleading. That's because for every vintage car owner there are countless folk who don't own, and may never own, an automobile old enough to qualify and who probably can't afford the cost of buying and maintenance. Count me among them. Much as I love old cars and write passionately about automotive history I do not possess a collector car and even if I did, keeping it running is beyond my means. (I'm not a Mr. Fixit: my reaction when something goes wrong is "call the guy.")
Nevertheless I love the hobby and participate by collecting automotive fine art prints, models, books and other literature, and by attending concours and vintage races. I'm one of multi-millions around the world who support a category known as "automobilia." Some belong to car clubs, many don't, which makes it impossible to attach a number and to be honest, the word itself is meaningless to non-enthusiasts. Tell someone you collect automobilia and they haven't a clue what you're talking about. We need a new way of expressing that segment of the vintage car hobby. Any suggestions?
I'm uncertain about where the VRL got those numbers but even if they're not quite accurate it should be obvious that car collecting and its associated interests, such as concours d'elegance, vintage racing, and automobilia, is far more than a niche. It's huge, bigger by far than most collecting hobbies. So next time you're accused of dallying in a small-time affair, show them the numbers. You may not turn the accuser into an enthusiast but at least you'll get some well-earned respect.
[Photo: Philip Powell]