Classic Ford Mustang

Cancellation or Postponement? What 2021 May Hold For The Collector Car Hobby

It would be easier to compile a list of the collector car events which were NOT canceled in 2020 than it would be to add up the ones which were. There’s no point lamenting what has happened to the car hobby because of the pandemic shutdown, and let’s not lose sight of the many people, both those who got sick and those who cared for them, who have suffered through this crisis. One silver lining is that many of us have had a chance to re-evaluate what’s important and embrace each day as something to be treasured.

Back In The Driver’s Seat

For those of us already in the hobby, one treasure has been the gift of some extra time to spend with our cars, either maintaining them, repairing them, or perhaps best, doing some driving in them! Driving can be an ideal socially-distanced way to enjoy one’s self. Maybe 2020 was the year you finally found that classic set of wheels you’ve always wanted. Or perhaps you said to yourself that you will finally purchase the collector car of your dreams in 2021. (For more about buying and enjoying that first collector car, be sure to read my free e-book here or hit the Free Download button below).

The hobby has always had the advantage of multiple ways to indulge: cruise nights, auctions, tours, rallies, and various club events can be enjoyed at different levels of investment in time and money. The pandemic impacted each throughout 2020. Over and over, we heard the refrain, “wait until 2021.”

Well, 2021 is here, and things are getting better, but slowly. There’s much optimism among car enthusiasts that we will soon be back to normal, but patience is still called for. With that in mind, and with spring almost here, let’s look ahead, 2021 calendar in hand, and gain some insight on how the year is shaping up for those of us itching to get back into the driver’s seat.

Calendars Are Usually Booked

The car hobbyist’s calendar has traditionally been filled with a consistent parade of events conducted during the same time frames each year. Highlights include the Arizona auctions in January, the Amelia Island Concours in Florida in March, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Monterey auctions in northern California in August, and the AACA Hershey car show & flea market in Pennslyvania in October.

In addition to those major shows is the constant stream of auctions (Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, and RM Sotheby’s among others); large regional shows such as the Woodward (MI) Dream Cruise and the Greenwich (CT) Concours; and innumerable tours, rallies, and small-town cruise nights. Most of these either didn’t occur or were significantly scaled back in 2020.

Mecum Auctions will host its third annual auction in Glendale, Arizona, at State Farm Stadium on March 18th through the 20th. The 1,200-car lineup will be headlined by the collection of Steve Todhunter, which comprises 20 vehicles ranging from seven pristine, low-mile Ferraris to a 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra FAM previously owned by the late actor Paul Walker.
Mecum Auctions will host its third annual auction in Glendale, Arizona, at State Farm Stadium on March 18th through the 20th. The 1,200-car lineup will be headlined by the collection of Steve Todhunter, which comprises 20 vehicles ranging from seven pristine, low-mile Ferraris to a 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra FAM previously owned by the late actor Paul Walker. Photo: Mecum Auction, Inc.

The New Normal

This year may not have started as favorably as hoped, as the big Arizona auctions were effectively minimized, although each auction house put its own spin on things. Last year saw eight auction houses hold massive live events in the area (remembering that January was still pre-pandemic). However, in 2021, only three companies, RM Sotheby’s, Russo & Steele, and Bonhams, have held events with in-person attendees. In all those cases, attendance was limited to registered bidders. Gooding and Worldwide conducted online-only auctions. The big dog of the pack, Barrett-Jackson, canceled their auctions in 2020 but will proceed forward with their 2021 Scottsdale auction, starting on March 20th.

The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), the country’s (and world’s) largest classic car club with over 35,000 members, holds its annual meeting in Philadelphia every February, a tradition that has its roots in the 1930s. For 2021, the Club announced that the meeting would be shifted to May, and only a few weeks later announced that restrictions in the state of Pennsylvania meant that the meeting would be canceled, pending the possibility of finding a venue in a different state for it.

Looks Like Postponement (So Far)

With winter weather keeping hobbyists and their machines under cover, it is the eternal hope of spring that brings us outside to enjoy the fresh air and each other’s company again. Organizers across the country recognize this and are working to balance that against ongoing restrictions, vaccine rollout, and the very human desire to be normal again. The Amelia Island event hosts have already announced that their traditional early March timeframe will now be pushed out to late May. The Greenwich Concours, an early June event since its founding in the late 1990s, will take place this year in late October.

Even smaller groups are under pressure to announce dates, reserve hotel rooms, and hope for the best. An example is the Alfa Romeo Owners Club (AROC), of which your author is a member. After canceling their annual national event in July 2020, AROC announced that the event would carry over to July 2021. Since that announcement, it’s again been moved, this time to September. Time will tell whether the club can stick to that.

This postponement theme affects international events as well. One example is the Mille Miglia (1000 Miles) rally in Italy, normally conducted in May. Last year they were able to hold the rally in October. For 2021, it’s been moved back one month to June. Another example is the Goodwood Members Meeting, a UK extravaganza typically held each year in late March or early April. Like some other events, it’s been pushed back more than once, first to May and now to October, all due to continuing government restrictions around large gatherings.

At least two annual events are far enough away that, fingers crossed, organizers are sticking to their traditional calendar for now. The Woodward Dream Cruise, canceled in 2020, is on target for its traditional August date in 2021. The Pebble Beach Concours has likewise published its 2021 event dates, also in the usual August time slot. It remains to be seen if the accompanying auctions will be able to hold live events in nearby Monterey by that time.

NAIAS Detroit.
The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), also known as the Detroit Auto Show, was canceled for 2021. Instead, organizers announced a “bridge to the future” auto-centric event, the Motor Bella, scheduled for September 21st through the 26th at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan. Photo: NAIAS.

Smaller Events May Thrive

One of the challenges for all the shows and auctions we have named so far is crowd size. It is ironic that the more popular (read larger) the event, the more difficult it becomes to enforce the necessary social distancing. Turning that around, the smaller local events have felt empowered because get-togethers can still occur while minimizing the risks.

For example, a local Cars & Coffee Sunday morning event that might draw two dozen vehicles, if held in a large enough parking lot, allows cars to be spaced apart and spectators to socially distance. I personally know of several smaller and local outdoor shows which are still on track for late March or early April. It’s important to add that local ordinances such as social distancing and mask-wearing will be enforced at those events.

The same potentially holds true for tours. Some clubs have held one-day tours, beginning in a parking lot with everybody staying put inside their cars. The lead car heads out first, all the others follow, and participants tour the countryside from the safety and comfort of their own vehicle. At a pre-designated spot, such as a park, everyone unpacks the picnic lunch they brought and chats with others while keeping a six-foot distance. It can be a win-win if the group stays small enough.

A classic Ford Mustang basks in the evening sun during the Allen Park Downtown Development Authority’s Classic Car Show on June 19th 2019. The annual show, held in Allen Park, Michigan, brings in collectors and car enthusiasts from all walks of life.
A classic Ford Mustang basks in the evening sun during the Allen Park Downtown Development Authority’s Classic Car Show on June 19th, 2019. The annual show, held in Allen Park, Michigan, brings in collectors and car enthusiasts from all walks of life. Photo: Carl Anthony.

Going Forward

If you are as anxious as I am to start getting the old iron out of the garage and back on the road, my advice for now is, think small. Explore local shows especially. Even though they will probably be happening on a reduced scale, they are much less likely to be canceled outright. Find out what your local car club has planned (and if you don’t belong to a local club, please join one today – the benefits are innumerable).

My approach at the moment is to scour the national calendar and look at dates. I’ve already made hotel reservations for an April event in Pennsylvania, but I’ve also ensured the hotel room is cancelable up to 48 hours before arrival, so I’m covered. If it’s not feasible for you to travel, you can always head out and do some “car spotting.” To my amazement, I always find the most exciting cars in nearby parking lots and gas stations.

Meanwhile, as stated initially, you can always take a solo run (or grab your best mate provided that s/he is part of your pandemic inner circle). Be smart, stay safe, keep patient, and soon enough, we will all be enjoying our wonderful car hobby again.

Richard Reina is the Product Training Director for CARiD.com, and Automoblog’s resident expert on the classic and collector car market. He enjoys restoring and driving old cars with a special love for anything Italian. Richard is the author of The Collector Car Hobby, a guidebook for finding and enjoying the classic car of your dreams.

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