I am constantly amazed at the popularity of automobile events that have nothing to do with the new-car business but still attract thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people.
Immediately after the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco, I attended the 50th anniversary of the Oakland Roadster Show, now held in San Francisco at the old Cow Palace. Thousands of folks showed up over four days to celebrate the history of the California roadster from the 1950s. It's still going strong.
Then, last weekend in Detroit, came Autorama, where more than 100,000 folks showed up to admire street rods, muscle cars and customs, the whole range of modified automobiles from years gone by.
All year long, we'll read about the concours at Meadowbrook or Pebble Beach and the thousands of people who worship the cars from the '20s and '30s - or newer or older. Add the millions of fans who go every weekend to their local racetracks to watch competitors fighting for the dollars and the trophies. Some are huge events brought to you by NASCAR or CART or NHRA. But there are hundreds of other tracks that show off local racers for a few hundred spectators.
Face it, these people love their cars. They are involved. Just try to count the hundreds of special events available to the people who love to get involved with their vehicles. But there is one nagging question: Can you correlate those many and varied interests with actual new-car purchases?
I can't help but think that the adage 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday' still has credibility. And if it works at the racetrack, logic tells me that it must work just as well at hot-rod and custom-car shows and historic automobile events.
If someone has a passion for a particular brand of car or truck, that preference might carry over to new-car purchases. It gets a little confusing to me when they take a '32 Ford, turn it into a hot rod and put a Chevy engine and transmission into it. I don't know who gets the brand loyalty when that happens.
A lot of people have talked about the value of racing, yet when they do, they talk mainly about the size of the audience and not whether it's an opportunity to establish strong brand loyalty.
I suppose someone will do a study someday, and then my curiosity will be satisfied.