21 February 2007

Collecting as a Family

When asked where his car interest came from, collector Jed Rapoport says, “I had no choice. I attended my first car show when I was three weeks old and when I turned 11, my father gave me my first car.”

Rapoport isn’t the only enthusiast with a genetic link to the collector car hobby. According to Hagerty’s 2006 Hobby Survey, 9.8 percent of all enthusiasts were introduced to the hobby by a relative. Although 10 percent is a significant figure, a whopping 67.5 percent of people who responded said: “I just grew up loving cars.” but more often than not, that interest was indirectly spurred by a family friend, neighbor or relative who just happened to have interesting cars nearby.

Father & Son

When it comes to sharing an automotive hobby interest, there’s an incredibly strong bond between fathers and sons. More than 20 percent of the respondents to the survey share car activities with their sons, while 11.5 percent share with their fathers. Michael Eaton and West Peterson prove that you can’t share your hobbies with too many people. They both grew up sharing automotive interests with their fathers as well as their brothers and are doing their best to pass it on to their sons. In the case of Peterson, editor of the AACA’s Antique Automobile magazine, more than the collecting gene was passed down – his dad, Donald Peterson, is former editor of Car Collector magazine.

Sports car collector John Wright came by his fascination with cars thanks to his dad’s interest in early Fords. And like his father before him, he’s done his best to spread that enthusiasm. By the time his son, Johnny, was driving, it was in a red MG that father and son restored together. The completed car was more than just a wonderful Christmas present, it was a shared experience. But just as importantly, John cherishes the support of his wife Linda, who joins him on car adventures, can drive anything and encourages new acquisitions.

As these fathers and sons have found out, the automotive hobby offers much more than just recreation; it offers an opportunity to share all kinds of activities with friends and family, at home and traveling to and from events. In fact, more than 75 percent of hobbyists surveyed say that having a family member involved in their hobby was important to them.

The Women in Our Lives

While growing up, Angi Christensen didn’t have much interest in her father’s old cars. She also saw him rarely because “he was so busy working.” However, when he was home, there was always something different in the drive. She ultimately went to work managing the family’s collector car dealership as a way to “see more of Dad.” She travels to many shows and auctions with her father and finds that she’s learning more about the hobby every day. Although she’s a late bloomer, her 12-year-old daughter Kandace adores cars and spends a lot of time with her grandfather when he’s working on his cars or going to events. 

Although sons are frequent active hobby companions, spouses are the most common motoring partners, with a participation rate of more than 25 percent. Many wives are passive participants when it comes to car collecting, but it wasn’t long before Lee Belf was a full hobbyist in her own right. While in college, she met future husband, Bob, who was a second-generation collector. Their first significant purchase after their marriage was a 1938 Packard and many more classic and brass cars followed. The couple drove their many cars on a variety of tours, a pastime Lee continued after Bob’s death. And the interest won’t end with Lee – her sons drive the cars, too. 

The Best Kind of In-laws

Collector Jim Kamihachi is part of another significant group within the collector car hobby – the 10 percent whose strongest connection was through an in-law. Although he’s always been enamored with cars, because his car-loving father died when he was a baby he didn’t have someone to share his interest with until he was an adult. Jim eventually met and married Louise Henry, whose father Howard was an avid Packard collector. Louise spent her youth on family old car tours. When Jim came along, the transition was painless for her — she had always been around old cars and attended events. With Jim, however, she traded Packards for Corvairs and Lincolns. The fit was perfect for Kamihachi because Louise was always willing to participate and he found the “father I never had” in Howard Henry.

Fred Pratt also married into a car family and his interest was encouraged by an enthusiastic father-in-law who had about a dozen cars he restored himself. Ultimately, the Pratts acquired a V-12 Auburn and early Mercedes from the Sprinchorn estate. Although Pratt’s daughter Carolyn Sprinchorn showed only modest interest in the cars when she was growing up 3,000 miles away from her grandfather, as an adult, she has started making the annual pilgrimage to the ACD Festival in Auburn, In., and has embraced driving and researching the cars with gusto.

All in the Family

Family members participate in the collector car world in another way, too. More enthusiasts (23 percent) buy their cars from a friend or family member than from any other source. It makes sense because there’s much less risk involved when you already know the car and the seller.  Joe Stanley was looking for his first car and was about to buy a VW Beetle. Instead, one drive in cousin Joann’s MGB/GT changed his mind. He still has the car 30 years later.

Whenever Michael Eaton wants to see his father’s old MG TC, all he has to do is visit friend John Wright, who’s had it in his collection for several years. Many years ago, Don Murphy, who owns the Cisitalia that was part of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Eight Automobile” exhibit in 1951 bought the car from old high school friend Don Gordon. Upstate New York enthusiast Dan Suter has four MGs in his small collection. The oldest is the TD that he acquired from his father before the senior Suter retired to sunny Florida.

There’s no question that collecting is more fun if you can share it with family. With a son, daughter, brother, sister or spouse who enjoys old cars as much as you do, you have a built in partner and playmate.

Hagerty conducts an annual hobby survey to gain information about the collector vehicle market to better understand our collector friends, market trends and lifestyle interests.

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