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The Autorama show in Detroit was not what I expected. I walked in the door and on to the main floor of the Detroit Convention Center. There were rows and rows of custom cars and choppers glittering under the fluorescent lights. Most were 1960s and 1970s classics. They had big chrome rims, flush bumpers and door panels, and decals were often flames.

That specific style of customs, which I think was really codified during the 1990s was what I expected. What shocked me was the basement.

Red 1957 Chevy convertible at an indoor car show.
Autorama 2023 | Dan Tian/Xinhua via Getty Images

As I descended the escalator, the basement came in to view. The concrete space was packed with hot rods and motorcycles. But many of the bikes were 1950s and earlier. The cars were 32 Fords, lowered trucks, and low riders. Many of these vehicles were finished in a carefully planned shabby “rat rod” style.

The folks standing by the older cars in the basement seemed to me, on average, a couple of decades younger than the owners and builders up stairs. This may be because the top floor housed the touring Autorama show and the basement was for a few local Detroit car clubs. But it highlights an interesting phenomenon in the enthusiast scene.

I thought most collectors get the cars that were cool when they were kids. So the Baby Boomer generation drove enthusiasm for 1960s and 1970s classics. By extension, Generation X will collect 1980s cars. And we are certainly seeing 1980s and even 1990s classics become desirable. They even have their own car shows: a series called Radwood. But there’s something else going on.

There are themed shows for even older vehicles. I’m thinking of The Race of Gentlemen. TROG is a series of drag races on a beach in New Jersey. All cars must be 1934 or older. Motorcycles must be 1947 and older. TROG has also run events in California, which I’ve attended. There are certainly many folks representing Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation at TROG. But I’d say this generation of cars are fastest becoming a passion for many Millennial sub-cultures.

Obviously, many Millennials are into the 1980s, 1990s, or even early 2000s classics. And others love the 1960s and 1970s stuff. But there’s a strong Millennial culture of collecting and running even older hotrods and motorcycles than most Baby Boomers did.

What do you think? Are Millennials collecting even older hotrods and motorcycles than Boomers? Join the conversation on Twitter by clicking my embedded post below:

See the Detroit Autorama basement for yourself in the video below: