Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs Conference 12th October 2019

Adrian Dean reviews Katya (Kate) Sullivan’s Presentation


Katya presented her views on broadening the appeal of historic vehicle ownership to a wider section of the community with the emphasis of greater involvement of families and young people. She takes a radical look at the various car sub-cultures and quotes examples of how these have developed in America and Scandinavia.

Katya discusses perceptions that young people don’t care about cars and that nations are increasingly planning to regulate internal combustion engines into oblivion. She adds that automotive preservation cultures are flourishing around the world. They may not be engaging with automotive heritage in the ‘right way’- that is as envisaged by self-appointed cultural stewards, heritage groups, museums, and other institutionalised preservation organisations.

In her presentation, Katya claims it’s not about the car but what it means to us. The car means different things to different people at different times and is influenced by culture, socioeconomic groups, age etc.

Katya compares examples of car meets in America and Scandinavia:
Vintage Chevrolet Club of America
Founded 1961, the focus is on points judging. Driving activity is only of secondary importance. There are 7,500 members but there has been a decline of approximately 1,000 in the last 5 years.
AMCAR (Norway)
Founded in 1975 for the enjoyment of American cars. The primary focus is on improving the automotive environment. There are social and driving activities with some points judging. With17,000 members, AMCAR engages in lobbying activity.
In July 2015 at Lillestrøm, there were more than 5,000 people in attendance including a significant presence of women, children and families
There were more than 3,000 cars, driving activities and thousands of cruise spectators but no judging, no hierarchy and few trailers.
Power Big Meet (Sweden)
The largest American car show in the world is held at Västerås, Sweden. It has been held each July since 1978 and attracts more than 20,000 cars. There are two sections; upscale, family-friendly classic car show and a chaotic, anything-goes raggare show. (Raggare- Scandinavian sub-culture based on American greasers, hot rods, 50s music).
Power Big Meet is attended largely by millennials and GenZ and with a significant female participation. (Millennials-those who reached young adulthood in the early 21st century. GenZ – the demographic cohort immediately after millennials)
This event celebrates artistic decay and excess

What are the implications of Katya’s analysis?
As Katya has pointed out, different nationalities and different sociocultural groups interact with automotive history in different ways.
Should we engage these different groups and incorporate a more inclusive approach? If that is our aim, we should look at core patterns.
Katya identifies the following systems of interest:
• Static – museum piece
• Dynamic – daily driver
• Nostalgic – familiar
• Exotic – unusual
• Preservation – restoration
• Use – transformation

Our expectations must be flexible. Develop policy based on sociocultural preferences. Be willing to explore new paths. Listen to and engage with participants.

Katya claims that FIVA and the Charter of Turin specifically discourage a key mode of participant engagement – that of transformation and questions whether there are other systems of interest that we are neglecting or de-legitimising?

In future, how do we balance respect for authenticity, historical preservation and sensitivity to participant preferences and values?
Participants construct their own values and meanings for objects based on their cultures and life stories.

• The best intentions of academics and professionals may not align with the values of participants.
• Automotive heritage appreciation and engagement is a heterogeneous, dynamic sphere.

It was interesting to hear Katya’s description of the historic vehicle events in America and Scandinavia. The considerable interest in American cars of the 50s and 60s in Scandinavia may surprise those of us who are familiar with the UK historic vehicle scene. Also, it was significant that there has been a decline of 1,000 in the 7,500 membership of Vintage Chevrolet Club of America over the last five years where driving activity is seen as of secondary importance. Could it be that interest in parking your classic car in a field full of other classic cars is declining in America?

One of Katya’s suggestions that many enthusiasts will agree with is increasing the attractiveness of historic vehicles to a wider range of social groups by reaching out to them wherever they are. Currently under-represented in the UK are young people and women. Another issue mentioned by Katya is the importance of historic vehicles being seen on the highway by the public. The ‘Drive it Day’ promoted by the FBHVC addresses this and has gained prominence in recent years.

More historic vehicle events should be aimed at families and one such local event that is always a sell-out is the Lymm Historic Transport Day held in June, which attracts 8,000 visitors each year. This embodies many features that are advocated by Katya including a parade into the centre of Lymm by classic cars and a family friendly classic car show. There are also historic barges on the canal, model railways, traction engines, commercial vehicles, children’s activities, music and even a fly-past by historic WW2 fighter planes. This model goes a long way to broadening the public’s interest in historic vehicles and is a way to generate the interest of youngsters and their families.

Katya may have an uphill struggle convincing FIVA to increase the scope of the Charter of Turin to include the transformation of historic vehicles. There is a debate about converting historic vehicles to electric power but both FIVA and FBHVC do not accept that such conversions qualify as historic vehicles.

Adrian Dean