Great American Muscle Cars
Among the things Jackson discovered was the fact that while there may have been only 550 Duesenbergs ever built, the number of Hemi ‘Cudas wasn’t that much greater and that before too long there would be a lot of baby boomers who would want them.
Not only would the boomers want muscle cars, but for the most part they also were redefining, or at least expanding the definition of what they’d accept as a muscle car. For many of them, it wasn’t just the original muscle cars, but also muscled-up pony cars such as Shelby Mustangs and big block Camaros, and even cars such as Chevrolet Corvettes and Dodge Vipers and Shelby Cobras because, while technically “sports cars,” they were very much Americanized sports cars, more about muscle than finesse.
A sad irony, Jackson says, is that it was one of those life-changing, you’ll never forget where you were when you heard the news events – the terrorist hijackings and attacks of September 11, 2001 -- that triggered the baby boomer generation into its all-out pursuit of the muscle car.
“After 9/11, people realized we may not live forever,” he says. “The attitude is ‘I’ve worked hard my whole life. I’ve always dreamed about doing this [owning and driving a real muscle car]. Now is the time to do it. Tomorrow may never come’.”
Or as one collector car auction veteran put it, the attitude is: I’ve always wanted a Hemi and now I’m going to have one!
“We’re experiencing a generational and monumental shift in the collector car hobby,” says Steve Davis, executive vice president of Barrett-Jackson.
The baby boom generation now has both the time and the money to put into car collecting, and the cars they want are muscle cars. And it’s not just the life-long car guys who want them. Because of Speed channel’s extensive television coverage of the Barrett-Jackson auction, and a myriad of other television programs that feature muscle cars, more and more people are being exposed to the hobby. They may not have hung out at their local garage as teenagers, but they’ve been able to watch and to learn from their living rooms, and now are ready to participate in person.
And just as baby boomers have not been content to idle their way through their careers, they also are redefining “retirement.” They plan to stay active, and that doesn’t mean they want to sit around and simply look at a muscle car parked in the garage. They want to drive, and to participate in events, whether a local cruise-in or the Woodward Dream Cruise, vintage racing or road rallies such as Arizona’s Copperstate 1000.
“It doesn’t have to cost you seven figures to have a collector car that you can enjoy,” says Craig Jackson. “You have cruises and road rallies and vintage racing.“
And, he adds, you don’t have to have a car with matching numbers to go to a cruise-in and have a good time. However, you would need such a vehicle should you want to display your muscle car on the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach some year.
So here we are, at the 36th Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction, and just as at the first one, there will be a Duesies and a Packard or two, and maybe even some Woodies rolling across the block, and they’ll command big bids. But the frenzy figures to focus on the muscle cars.
And when he’s not up on the auction block, don’t be surprised if you spot Craig Jackson out in the parking lots, checking to see what we’ve all driven to the event and making some mental notes on what that might mean for the future.
Larry Edsall is editor-in-chief of www.izoom.com, an auto enthusiast website, and author of the new book, Barrett-Jackson: The World’s Greatest Collector Car Event.
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