Gen Z Defies Trend And Craves For Classic Cars

TikTok, YouTube, and video games are piqueing the interest of a new generation in classic cars. However, they seem to be drawn to a different kind of car than older auto enthusiasts.

Young people are now positioned to carry on the flame of combustion-engine car culture, contrary to forecasts that it would disappear along with the baby boomers.

Car racing games like Forza and Gran Turismo are turning kids and young adults into classic car junkies thanks to the heritage, history and soul they ooze.

Gran Turismo 7

“If anybody wants to understand where the car market is going, you’ve got to kind of stare at those two games,” says McKeel Hagerty, CEO of vintage auto insurance company Hagerty Inc. These games, and several others, allow you to choose classic (and contemporary) cars to race, modify, own (virtually) and study.

Millennials and Gen Zers raised on a diet of “Fast and the Furious” movies are also falling for “JDM” cars (Japanese domestic market): Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, Mazdas and Mitsubishis.

Car shows of the 80s played a lot in popularizing classic cars

This trend reminds us of how “American Graffiti” made baby boomers fall in love with hot rods, and then Generation X couldn’t get enough of the star cars in Knight Rider, Miami Vice, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A Team, Magnum, P.I. and Starsky and Hutch.

Just to drive home the point—at this month’s Greenwich Concours d’Elegance — a premier annual auto show held in Connecticut — the grayer-haired patrons clustered around the antique Rolls Royces and Cadillacs, while the younger adults checked out more affordable and newer models.

“I saw a lot of people around the Nissans,” said Jackson Kessler, a 25-year-old from Natick, Massachusetts, who’s a car influencer on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube under the name Captain Crankshaft.

“When you’re younger, you can’t afford all the super-nice cars,” said Kessler, who brought along two former junkers he’d restored: a Porsche 911 and an Aston Martin.

A hot car for people in their 20s is a Mazda Miata “that you can then modify and have fun with,” Kessler says.

He sees his followers getting into cars by way of racing simulators like Gran Turismo as well as games like Forza, “CarTok” and other social media sites.

“The younger demo is watching a lot of YouTube content, a lot of TikTok, vertical short-form content” about vintage cars, Kessler said. Sixties-era cars are consistently the most popular among older owners applying for insurance through Hagerty.

Thanks to video games and other cultural influences, “we’re seeing an awful lot of the next-gen come up to us, and they’re very knowledgeable about cars,” says McKeel Hagerty.


The bottom line—some young adults may be shifting to electric vehicles, but they still spellbind many who can afford classic cars. It was bound to happen. How can you ignore classic cars—they are like kinetic artwork. There’s a small but solid bunch of carmakers and EV lovers pushing to popularize electric cars, with the goal to make them mainstream by 2030. However, while EVs do offer a certain type of mobility freedom and yes, do deliver zero emissions motoring, there is still a strong market out there—especially a younger audience—who will lean towards combustion engines for the foreseeable future—spurred on by Tiktok, YouTube and video games.

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