Mopar's Generation Next
I just finished reading Rob Wolf's excellent editorial in the most current issue of Mopar Collector's Guide — called "Generation Next", an obvious play on Generation X.
In the editorial, Wolf points out that those of us who experienced the Muscle car Revolution first-hand — were the baby-boomers, and are now between 55-70. The Next'rs are in their mid-to-late thirties and their forties. They saw these cars in the childhood when they were still street driven and at shows. The editorial further points out that there is a crop of these Generation Next people working at dealerships, restoration shops, and racing — but they might be the end of the line, and the last to be able to even work on these cars.
That's very true in large part — but there are exceptions. My son Dallas is 24, has been racing Mopars since he was 16 (when he also obtained his NHRA Class IV License), is the crew Chief for all of the cars we race on a National Circuit — and yesterday won NMCA's 2011 "Crew Member of the Year" award at the Award's Dinner at PRI. The newest car he's ever raced is a 78 Aspen — and the oldest a 63 Plymouth. Steven, the Shop Rat at my shop is 19 and works part-time (25-hours a week) at my shop. He too is a Mopar man, and is capable of doing a engine/transmission swap on a mid-60s Mopar pretty quickly. He works for minimum wage because he is able to work on the old Mopars as much as swinging the mop. He has another part-time job where he pulls engines and transmissions on imports for twice what I pay him — but he rather work on old Mopars with us rather than working full time for his other employer. My youngest daughter is 13, and has been going to races with me since birth. She can tell you the year of any B-body and we're setting up my 10-second Vitamin C (63 Plymouth NSS car) for when she hits 16.
These kids are rare — but they do exist. They can exist in greater numbers if "Generation Next" will take the time to pass the heritage along. It takes a little psychology — and it takes getting to them when they're still young. In the case of Dallas, I took him to every car show and race I ever attended since he could be pushed in a stroller. He learned old Mopars before he could be corrupted but any kids with Imports. Same with motorcycles. I'm a Harley man, and much to his mother's chagrin, I bought him a large touring bike at 15 and took him riding with me until turning him on his own at 18. He learned from me, instead of on a crotch rocket by some punk with his hat on backwards and 300 body piercings. Steven's father is a die-hard Mopar man, and like Dallas, Steven never saw an import parked on the property. My youngest daughter was given her first go-cart at 5, and helped to assemble her 6-speed dune buggy at 8. She started driving on the property at 10.
My generation did a lot to create the Generation Next people, and now it is their duty to pass this along to their kids — and the earlier the better. Take them to car shows and tell them about why these cars are so special. Include them with the washing and working on your cars. Build a project together. I bought Dallas his first car at 15 — a 78 Magnum with a warmed over 360, as he had a special license to drive to and from school. He still has that car. We built his (now — but started as a 12-second) 10-second 72 Demon together when he was 15 — which we still have.
It doesn't have to end with the "Generation Next", if the Generation next will take the time to drag their kids away from the X-Box, and get them into the garage working on cars with them. A father is his son's biggest influence — and he only has a limited time to use that influence. My generation needs to do the same with our grandchildren.