The death of classic 30's-50's cars


#1

Is it just me or does it seem cars from the 30’s-50’s are getting less and less popular. Not only are they rare in everyday life clearly, but even at large car shows they seem to be less common than the 60’s muscle cars.
When you come across one it’s usually an older couple who owns it. Younger car guys these days go for late model or nothing older than 65 it seems. In my journey owning and rebuilding my 50 cadillac several people have remarked I’m the youngest they’ve seen be into these cars. Even calling me an old soul because of it. While I recognize the privilege to own something like this, it hasn’t cost more than the late model 98 mustang I used to work on and modify, and I had started a whole mustang club full of about 40 members with a friend. Now that I have this caddy, there’s no group I can find that loves the old stuff and works on them and modifies them. It feels like a dying breed. I wish the younger generation would take to them. Sure some are ridiculously expensive but many aren’t.


#2

You’re right, folks typically restore what they remember, so the ‘daily driver’ '30s-'50s cars are seeing less and less interest. Collectors will keep the super rare ones at high prices, but not the regular cars.


#3

yep, the 50 s cars do nothing for me. I never even rode in one. once you get to the 65-71 models I get interested, they are the ones I drooled over in high school and remember fondly from my early years


#4

Interest in cars is almost always age-related, IMHO.
Thus, when I saw a caravan of early '40s Fords on I-287 recently, they were all being driven by elderly men–who undoubtedly have a soft spot in their hearts for these cars of their youth. Incidentally, they were tooling along at ~62 mph in the right lane, so these cars were still capable of maintaining a decent speed. Perhaps they were all equipped with Overdrive?

Similarly, I like cars of the '50s, as those were my formative years. To a slightly lesser extent, I like the cars of the '60s, as that was when I was a teenager.

My point–and I think that OP’s point also–is that the younger folks nowadays are not very likely to want the restored classics of an earlier era, and that does raise the question of what will happen to those cars when their current owners pass away.


#5

Archie Bunker and Edith sang: “Gee our old Lasalle ran great!” on All in the Family. Those were the days! Our grandfathers remembered cars from the 30s, and our now very old parents drove Mustangs. Time moves on.

Duirng a summer job in college (1964) I worked in a metal processing plant. The foremen was a car nut and had restored an early Model A Ford. That’s what he remembered fondly.


#6

This is why we’re seeing increasing interest in cars from the '70s-'80s, even though those were the ‘dark ages’ of car performance.


#7

I think I had been drooling over the 60’s stuff for so long, that they’ve nearly become “common” to me. For whatever reason the 50’s stuff really does it for me. Also the 30’s and 40’s. They are so fascinating to see the technology, thought processes in design, etc. They just have so much presence when you look at them. I will say, although from mostly older people, the cadillac has gotten so many comments and questions and that’s just sitting in the parking lot. It’s not even fully road worthy. While working on it a car full of teenagers pulled up in awe asking what it was haha. I just hope there’s a resurgence for the beauty of these machines. For me it’s not a nostalgia thing because I was born in 86.


#8

Come to the Back to the 50’s car show in St. Paul and you will see lots of cars older than 64. In fact all 11,000 of them are older than 1964. Nothing newer than 64 is allowed. Plan to spend the day. I agree though that its a generational thing but really, I kinda doubt the 70s and 80s styling will ever be classics. Compare that to a 57 Ford or 59 Chev or 61 Merc. Plus the music of the 60’s is still popular as ever.


#9

Then there’s Leno who likes everything:


#10

The old fat-fender cars, you get them up to 50 or 60 MPH and you quickly realize you are in a death-trap…They don’t steer or brake very well, they don’t do anything very well…Better than walking or riding a horse but that’s about it…Why invest 20-80K restoring something like that?? Yeah, some of them have a delightful visual impact but that’s about as far as it goes…


#11

@Bing - Just curious, what fraction of the cars at the show are '54 or older? Seems like interest really goes up starting in '55.


#12

I have a friend who buys, restores and sells old cars. He started with a Model A Ford in the early 1960s. At one time, he had a 1939 or 1940 Packard. He bought and held onto cars that a person in his or her late 50s or early 60s would have driven as a young person in his or 20s. The reasoning was that those people in the late 50s or early 60s would fantasize about the cars they drove in their youth and have the money to pay for a restored car from that period.
I like cars of the 1940s, 1950s and mid 1960s. I am 72 years old and I drove these cars as a young person. Now move up a decade and a half and you will find those people who were in their 20s in the late 1960s through the early 1980s.
Back in the late 1970s, I started out to restore a 1948 Dodge. I had it running well, but the needed bodywork would have been quite expensive. I was driving it down the street and was offered more than I had in the car and the person offering the money had a Dodge and I had some cash.


#13

@texases I have no idea, but a lot of them. Since it is the Minnesota Street Rod Association that puts it on, there are a lot of the 30’s and 40’s rods in various stages of completion. You can pretty much see anything you want. One year I only found one 59 Pontiac but this year there were a number of them.


#14

You’re right, all years, lots of rods. Here’s one of many videos:


#15

I agree that the people who love cars of the 50’s are getting out of the hobby one way or another. Thise born in the 60’s don’t usually lust after 52 Frazer’s. You see a declining market value for Model T’s and A’s in 20114 dollars. The million dollar peak of the market for Hemi Cudas is well past, too. All collector cars go through this generational change.

I see lots of 50’s cars at hot rod shows. Yes, they cars don’t run like a modern one but they can be modded to, if one decides restoration is not the right path for them. Usually with modern crate engines, automatics, disk brakes on Mustang II suspensions and AC.


#16

It didn’t scare me to drive in the 100+ range in the 50s and it wouldn’t scare me now if the car was in good mechanical shape. When you have regularly driven a tractor with two trailers between Buffalo and Watertown NY all winter, nothing you can do with a car will scare you.


#17

Well 55 really was the start of" change every car every model year" and that was what did in the independents, they just couldn’t afford new tooling every year with the number of cars they sold.


#18

I respectfully disagree that the day of the million dollar Hemi Cuda has passed. Just recently Mecum sold one at auction for 3.5 million. It’s one of 2 known to exist and given the extreme rarity the point could be made that it’s worth that much to someone who has deep pockets and wants to kind of one-up the other guys a bit.

Craig Jackson has a Hemi Cuda convertible and he has stated that he’s been offered 2 million for it some years back and turned it down. That car does not even have the original Hemi engine in it although I do believe Jackson went searching and found the original motor in England stuffed back in some garage.

An original 426 Hemi engine alone will bring more than the MSRP of most cars up for sale.


#19

Like I said, rare stuff will stay expensive (VERY few real 426 hemi anythings were made), and 60s - 70s stuff will stay popular for quite a while. But a '52 4-door stock Chevy or Ford will be hard to sell…

Even the rods are not guaranteed - ‘Fast and Loud’ did one, had something over $60k in one, sold for something like $50k at auction, I think…


#20

The late 40s and early 1950s cars were for the most part unremarkable. Unless it is a convertible or very special car like a Cadillac Biarritz or Lincoln Mark II, collectibility is low and has been for quite a while. Don’t forget that most cars from the 60s and 70s are not collectible, and essentially nothing from the 1980s is.