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Hansen: Nostaglia, freedom meet behind the wheel

March 14, 2013|By David Hansen
  • A black El Dorado Cadillac shows the design of yesteryear while parked on the showroom floor at Laguna Classic Cars and Automotive Art in Laguna Canyon.
A black El Dorado Cadillac shows the design of yesteryear… (DON LEACH )

Some say it's a guy thing. Others say it's nostalgia. Still others say it's because of what took place in the back seat.

Classic cars.

We long for them in embarrassing ways. If we have one, we baby it — more than our kids.

Most people have at least one old car that turns their motor.

Andy Coyle has a couple dozen. The long-time Laguna Beach resident opened Laguna Classic Cars and Automotive Art about a year ago and sells "reachable collector cars" on consignment.

They are not the ultra high-end rarities that you only find at elegant concourse events. Instead, they are realistically priced and desirable, like a near perfect 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible, fire red with a back seat the size of Nebraska.

Or a 1966 Pontiac GTO with a politically incorrect 389 V8. Or an iconic 1965 Mustang convertible, one of Coyle's favorite models.

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Coyle, 55, spent a lifetime in the car business, starting out at Ford, giving tours of the plant in Dearborn, Mich., while still in college. Later, he became a Dodge dealer, then had his own RV dealership. Over the years, he also raced with various organizations, which is why he likes muscle cars.

But the dynamics of the classic car business are changing. It used to be a somewhat predictable cycle of ownership. Guys in their 50s and 60s would buy the cars of their youth.

Now, that's not necessarily the case.

"Young people are getting driver's licenses at a slower rate today than they did 30 years ago," Coyle said. "The reason is they are infatuated with the Internet, phones and all that, so they are socially communicating on that medium rather than in a car the way we did when we were growing up."

Prior generations got their driver's license the day they turned 16 so they could go to the mall, bowling alley or drive-in.

"Cars are freedom," he said. "And as you get older, you're more entrenched in daily life — kids, career, retirement, whatever — but cars are a reminder of our freedom. You get in them and go."

This shift in the market affects the type of classic cars that are bought and sold. Hot rod cars of the late 1940s and '50s, for example, are dropping off as that generation passes, Coyle said.

"Hot rods are really hard to sell for two reasons. They're a personal creation for an individual, and the hot rodders are getting too old. They're dying off," he said. "Right now, what's hot is muscle cars — (Pontiac) Tempests and GTOs and (Chevrolet) Chevelles."

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