Stop complaining. Start making it better.

Good advice. I’m taking it to heart.

I go off on these angry rants about how classic car fans moan about the graying of the hobby. I complain that these fans don’t realize that their exclusionary behavior and adherence to the way car clubs have always operated keeps them stuck in their own doom loop.

But Gandhi is right, folks. We must become the change we want to see. So I’d like to tell you about a few things I’m doing to create the kind of classic car hobby that I would really love to see.

I’m very excited to announce that I’m creating the soundtrack for
The Citizens Motorcar Company-America’s Packard Museum here in Dayton, Ohio. This is the ambient audio that you’ll hear as you wander through the museum.

My pitch is to create dozens of modular radio spots that vary in theme and tone. There will be spots about Packard’s history, the cars in the museum, and upcoming events at the museum. We’ll also try to get some celebrities who are Packard fans to do some short announcements for us. (Edward Herrmann and Jay Leno, you don’t know it yet, but you’ll be receiving some scripts.)

All of the spots will be modular. They’re not dependent on each other and can be played in any order at any time. We’ll then put these spots on an iPod that’s hooked up to the sound system. We’ll put the iPod on shuffle, and just let them play. Whenever content needs to be added or deleted, we’ll simply modify the playlist in iTunes.

The tone of the spots is very contemporary. I don’t want the museum to sound like it’s stuck in the 1940’s. So I’m writing scripts that will be performed by younger people in their teens and twenties. I want the personality of the spots to alternate between the museum and younger people who would be visiting it and learning about Packards for the first time.

Stay tuned for more news about this project as it inches forward. I’ll use this blog to link to some of the spots after I’ve produced them.

My second effort is more humble but no less important. Remember the Carillon Park orphan car show that I
recently complained about?

I’ve decided to get involved in organizing the event. The show is a coupling of two different marque clubs (AM C and Studebaker). I’ve organized a post-mortem meeting to talk with the guys from each of these clubs about the most recent show. My goal is to deal with a change in management at
Carillon Park and to see how we can make next year’s show better.

I’ve never helped to organize a car show before, but I’ve decided it’s time to get involved. Although many fans avoid car shows, I think they’re still the best way to entertain and educate the public about classic cars. They’re great recruiting tools, and I intend to make our local event more attractive to the public. Fingers crossed.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to spiff up the hobby. Please leave some comments here, and keep the dialogue going.

Comments

I see dead newsletters.

And they don’t even know that they’re dead.

I’m paraphrasing a famous line from the movie
The Sixth Sense, but I’m dead serious. Car club newsletters are dead as the trees they’re printed on.

Newsletter editors: it’s time to stop printing newsletters and start cultivating your community online. You can lower yearly dues dramatically and keep your fellow car fans informed with news that’s day old instead of dead weeks ago. (The Nash Car Club of America has an email list that sends out emails to and from members daily. There’s a lot of great discussion back and forth about parts, car shows, history and philosophy. It’s a great way to connect with others.)

Marque club officers: it’s time to start using tomorrow’s technology to celebrate yesterday’s technology (our cars). If you want to recruit a younger generation, use the tools that they’re using: Facebook, Twitter, discussion groups, etc. All of the objections you get about communicating online keep you stuck in the past.

It’s time to make a statement by declaring that our clubs will only survive if we start recruiting younger members. An important way to do that is to meet them on their terms, not yours.

It’s time to make the hard decision to step aside if you are unwilling to make these changes.

Our cars are from the past. Our enthusiasm about our hobby doesn’t have to be. We need to change now, or our clubs don’t stand a ghost of a chance.
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When you don't change

Last December the Connecticut Post published an article reporting that orphan car historian Patrick Foster had decided to stop writing books.

He cited several reasons. Bad economy. Car magazines going out of business. A migration from publishing on paper to digital content. A diminishing interest in cars among young people.

These are all good reasons to quit. Indeed, if you’re trying to make a living from reporting on old cars, you might be better off selling insurance, which is what Foster is doing now.

This is what happens when you don’t change.

Instead, I want to ask Mr. Foster and others why they don’t try new things. Why don’t they migrate their existing content to digital formats? If younger people don’t like to read, why don’t they make videos? In essence, why not try to meet your audience on their terms instead of yours?

Use Facebook, podcasts, and YouTube to maintain and grow your audience instead of turning inward and talking to the same old (and dwindling) crowd that buys print magazines.

Basically, if you have a body of work like Foster’s, you could repackage it for the digital age and sell it using these new media.

If communicating car history is a passion, does it really matter what outlet you use?

The only thing that matters is that you change with the times. Change, or die. Or sell insurance.
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Sign Up!

I’ve talked about the need to market your orphan car at car shows. Today, I want to share an idea about how to do that.

Recently, I learned about Steven Tuck. He runs a business in Tampa, FL, called
CarShowSigns.net. Let me tell you, this guy does outstanding work. Check his site. You’ll see.
1947Studebaker

Taking your car to a car show and simply abandoning it is a huge missed opportunity to educate the public. But a good car sign can really help raise awareness about your wheels. And a GREAT car sign shows that you’re proud of your work and want to share it with others.

Steven’s efforts fall into the “great” category. The graphics are sharp and professional. The information on each sign is clear, concise, and minimal. (With good graphic design, less is more. Information is easier to digest. Steven follows this rule religiously.)

Each sign is 21” x 28”. He does the printing via a dye sublimation heat transfer directly onto aluminum. Steven says, “They are very durable, as durable as the paint on your car and will not fade. You can clean them using quick detailer like your vehicle’s paint.”

The price for this fantastic, permanent marketing piece is $300. Pay once. Display it forever.

The result will be an increased interest in your car. And that’s ultimately what you really want, right? (Make sure you’re there with your car to answer all the questions that people will have.)

How you present your car is as important as how you fix your car. That’s how you keep people educated and interested. It’s also how you pass your car down to the next generation. (They can’t want it if they don’t know about it.) Let Steven Tuck at Car Show Signs help.
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How do you market to orphan car geezers?

I was selling at a car show here in my home town of Dayton, Ohio, yesterday.

It wasn’t a good day. The weather made car owners hesitant about whether to show up or not. Many didn’t. As a result, the show was sparsely attended.

And there I was with a killer booth and lots of great orphan car t-shirts with a modern sensibility to them. I even had a sound system playing vintage orphan car radio commercials. I thought I had a can’t-miss formula for success. I sold one shirt.

Selling at Carillon Park 2011

Even though I was right near the action, very few people came over to look at the goods. One AMC guy came to my booth and growled that the prices for my tees were too high. He proclaimed that this was the time of year when his club sold all their tees for $5. My brother replied to this guy, “That’s not very profitable is it?” Not what AMC Guy wanted to hear. He grumbled about how my shirts looked old. My brother dryly told him that they were printed just yesterday. AMC Guy stomped off in a huff.

I’ve encountered this attitude a lot with older orphan car fans. They get calcified in their thinking. They relish in finding ways to exclude others like hot rodders, for instance. They treat car shows like complete narcissistic exercises instead of opportunities to educate the public. Regardless of who’s selling what (if anything), they grumble about price.

Somewhere along the way, they’ve turned into geezers.

Let me be clear about something. If you have a body that’s older than 50, you might not be a geezer. You might enjoy taking chances, trying new things, breaking routines, welcoming new people into your tribe, accepting people for who they are, and buying things. If those traits fit you, you’re not a geezer.

But if you’re older, and you put on your Hate Face more often than not, you’re a geezer. Rest assured, I WILL stay off your lawn.

So after a dismal selling experience yesterday, I asked myself over and over, “How can I reach these people?” I love their cars just like they do, but I don’t seem to fit in with them. (Yup, lots of soul searching and existential angst yesterday.)

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can change their minds. I think I need to find ways to move forward and reach young people by using new methods. I need to talk about the orphans that they know: Pontiac, Plymouth, Saturn, Oldsmobile, etc.

And I need to help create a new car show experience. To me, the car shows where people gather in parking lots and plaques are handed out like business cards are boring and wasted opportunities. Too much turning inward.

I haven’t settled this issue for myself yet. So I’ll turn to you. How do you deal with older orphan car owners? Can you show them a better way? Can you sell them anything, even ideas? What are your stories and your solutions? Should we just ignore them and focus on younger car fans? I’d really like to hear your stories before I become a geezer myself on this issue.

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Gone Autos Podcast #4: Geoff Hacker with ForgottenFiberglass.com

Wanna hear "the best American car story never told?"

Then listen to Gone Autos’ interview with Geoff Hacker of ForgottenFiberglass.com. Geoff and his friend Rick
Forgotten-Fiberglass-logo
D'Louhy are on a mission to revive America's fiberglass-bodied sports car heritage.

Through dogged research and countless interviews with the fiberglass pioneers, Geoff is determined that someday you'll know as much about Victress, Glasspar, and LaDawri as you do about Corvette and Avanti.

It's an epic story of America's do-it-yourself fiberglass pioneers told by an amazing do-it-yourself historian. Do yourself a favor, and download this podcast now.

Listen to the audio-only version here.

For a video-enhanced version, click on over to the Gone Autos Podcast page. (You’ll need QuickTime for Mac or Windows to enjoy both sites and sounds.)
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