Misc. Musings: Electric Mercs, Model A’s, Led Zeppelin & Youth Serum

I heard an old Robert Plant song on the car radio the other day.

The ditty, “Little By Little” was a single from his 1985 release, Shaken And Stirred. Although not a huge commercial success, the song rang out of my speakers crystal clear and pitch perfect, 33 years after it hit the airwaves.

Mr. Plant was the lead singer of the biggest rock act of the ’70s. For you youngsters, twiddle ‘Led Zeppelin” into your beloved mobile device…

Plant had the world at his feet (literally) for years, but like any other denizen of planet Earth, he was not immune from immense tragedy and wrenching change. After the deaths of his 5-year-old son Karac in 1977 and bandmate John Bonham in 1980, he found himself in the middle of a painful divorce.

In the video below, look past the dated MTV video values, (with mimes no less) and listen towards the end of the track where a newly single Plant hollers “everything changes…” over and over again.

Nothing stays the same, that’s for sure.

The automotive world as we know it is about to change. Morphing into something unrecognizable to most of us. I know most folks come to Rod Authority to escape the worries of today, but I came across two interesting tidbits, that every hot rodder should know.

The future of our hobby depends on it.

First off, the demographics of classic vehicle buyers has reached a tipping point. In the classic vehicle world, 2018 will be remembered as the year that younger car lovers “grabbed the wheel” from older generations, according to a new book of data from insurance gurus Hagerty.

“For the first time ever, Gen Xers and millennials are seeking vehicle values and classic vehicle insurance quotes via Hagerty’s Valuation Tools more often than baby boomers and pre-boomers by a roughly 47- to 53-percent margin.

“Given current trends, millennials, who comprise the nation’s largest generation, will become the hobby’s single largest group within five years.” 

“Overall, requests for values and quotes from all generations are up 17 percent in 2018 over last year, indicating a healthy market and continuing interest in cars and driving across generations,” said John Wiley, an analyst with Hagerty.

Earlier this year, a Hagerty survey indicated 78 percent of Gen Xers and 81 percent of millennials like, love, or are passionate about driving — compared to 79 percent of baby boomers.

“The most popular vehicle among boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials is the Mustang. Pony cars and Corvettes historically transcend generations, according to Wiley, as do cars built in the late 1960s. Everyone loves late ‘60s cars,” said Wiley. “They just have that allure.” 

Here’s were it gets a little scary.  According to Hagerty, “The Ford Model A, for instance, is the most popular car among pre-boomers (born before 1946), but falls to 38th place among millennials.”  Die hard, purist rodders take note, embracing new tech and trends is the antidote to irrelevance.

The 1973-87 C/K Series Chevrolet pickup is the second-most popular among millennials and fifth-most popular among Gen Xers. Gen Xers and millennials are 35-percent more likely to be interested in a truck or SUV compared to pre-boomers and boomers.Meanwhile, trucks and SUVs are proving to have strong appeal to younger buyers. “Vintage pickups offer a very affordable way into the hobby for a lot of collectors, so it makes sense that as you move from older to younger enthusiasts you see pickups move up the list in popularity,” said Wiley.

American nameplates are, by far, the most popular with buyers of all generations, but millennials in particular, have a soft spot for Japanese cars, quoting them four times more often than pre-boomers. Similarly, pre-boomers are three times more likely to seek information on British cars than millennials. German cars remain popular across generations.

Going, going, gone?

To make matters worse, with all the fuss recently about GM and others drastically cutting car production to gear up for electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, we are watching what is essentially the last gasp of the internal combustion engine.

A future with no rods, customs or gas engines? Sounds bleak indeed.

Not so fast. They say ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ and again, Plant’s “Little by Little” ends with a refrain of “I can breathe again,” offering a flourish of hope, optimism, and renewal.

Which brings us to Jonathan Ward over at Icon Motors. He has a well-known knack for combining the old with the new, but in the case of his electric powered 1949 Mercury, he offers a glimpse into a very bright future of custom cars and hot rodding.

This “Derelict” 1949 Mercury Coupe, combines vintage looks, weathered patina and cutting-edge technology. It’s also powered by  an electric motor — what might be the “small-block Chevy” of the future. It promises a top speed of 120 mph, with a range of 150-200 miles. The new-age hot rod showed up for the first time at SEMA 2018 in Las Vegas.

The build is fairly straight-forward aside from the powertrain. Running an “as found” Merc body on obligatory modern chassis and running gear, the build sports Ward’s deft mix of new metal and tin-worm etched patina. To the untrained eye, the car could’ve been pulled out of a shed yesterday. To the rest of us, the stance, signature lizard and “Derelict” badge are dead giveaways that this is the latest from the Van Nuys, California, master builder.

According to Icon,” This pioneering build adds the sort of visceral connection no modern EV can provide. The electric powertrain is co-engineered between Icon and Stealth EV, even though it looks like a V-8 under the hood. There’s actually two motor controllers and half of a Tesla battery pack where the engine would normally sit.

The powertrain puts out a healthy 400 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. It also has a limited-slip differential and the whole thing rolls on an Art Morrison chassis with modern independent suspension and Wilwood brakes .”

The best part of this “Portlandia” Merc build is that it combines a new set of previously unthinkable, disparate elements. Speaking of a pop culture goulash of influences, thank-you Mr. Plant, Jonathan Ward, Elon Musk and tech millennials for a breath of fresh air, embracing change and innovation. The advent of 500hp, electric Model As and kustoms might be just the dollop of youth serum the hobby needs.

What was once a withering outlook for hot rodding, little by little, becomes better than anything we could’ve imagined.

 

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an Editor at Power Automedia. A zealous car geek since birth, he digs lead sleds, curvy fiberglass, kustoms and street rods. He currently owns a '95 Corvette, '76 Cadillac Seville, '99 LS1 Trans Am and big old Ford Van.
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