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“Younger Member” Insights

Ellen Emerson [ September 2004 ]


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Every time you turn around someone is talking about our need to attract younger members. As a “younger member” myself I have some insights about this that I wanted to share.

The majority of younger members, are on a tight budget, some living paycheck to paycheck and week to week. This doesn’t allow for big purchases in the many thousand-dollar range (think 1/2 to one year’s salary) that seems to be necessary to purchase an “acceptable” classic car. This leaves younger people with two options:

1) Don’t buy a car at all and use your paycheck for more practical items like food and the electric bill, or 2) Buy, maintain and enjoy a car you can afford on your current budget.

Believing myself to be a true car enthusiast I have chosen the second option. While most of the club has been very nice about accepting my unconventional “old” cars, I sometimes feel the unspoken question, “Why doesn’t she have a ‘real’ car?” One answer to that question is “Money”.

With very little dough to spend on my hobby, I have a vehicle that was purchased inexpensively. If someone would like to offer me a loan or a gift of something they consider more “appropriate” I would be happy to take them up on their offer. (Strongly prefer convertible please!)

A second answer to this question is that I like my Hondas – a lot. The first car I ever owned that I really loved was my 86 Accord. Because of my enjoyment of this newer car I became interested in the history of the company and their earliest vehicles. Because of this interest in older Honda vehicles I am then more open to having an interest in other, much older cars. You can’t force someone to like a certain type of vehicle. All you can do it try to recognize the fact that they are enthusiastic about some type of car and to try to encourage and increase that enthusiasm to include other vehicles they may not be familiar with.

Because of all the “increase our younger member numbers” talk, I was very surprised about the discussion last month that considered limiting future show vehicles to the 1979 model year. This would mean that no matter how old a vehicle gets, if it’s newer than 1979 it would not be allowed in our shows and considered a collector car.

One of my “inappropriate” cars is a 1980 and I have been waiting (rather impatiently) for 6 years for this car to become eligible for shows. I’ve put a lot of my time and effort into improving the car and we will be completing a restoration this winter. If the 1979 rule goes into affect, it would mean that all of my time and effort would have been for nothing as far as this club is concerned. This would make me very unhappy. (The understatement of 2004.)

I can only assume that 1) other younger folks are in a similar situation as far as old car budgets go, 2) the vehicles they have been able to purchase are just “used cars”, and 3) the cars they are currently interested in may be newer than what some people consider acceptable. If you put a year limitation on vehicles eligible for show, you will be discriminating against younger members and the vehicles they can afford. If they cannot join the VAE and feel accepted, they are far less likely to ever become interested in truly antique vehicles. A little acknowledgement for a similar enthusiasm can go a long way.

One final “issue” is that many meetings are inconvenient for people who work and who do not live in - or close to - Burlington. The Board of Directors meeting starts at 7 and runs for 2-3 hours. When they finish at 10, I don’t get home until midnight. This makes for a very long Monday and tired Tuesday morning. The same is true of show planning meetings. Working people, and especially those with children, do not want to be out late on a weeknight when they could be home spending time with their family. Thank you for reading and for your consideration.

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