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On the road with Australia’s classic car enthusiasts

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), October 2011 – September 2014 (n=125,856). NB: chart does not add up to 100% because 3.8% of motorists have ‘no idea’ what year their car was manufactured. Thumbnail image: copyright Beverley Goodwin (Flickr Creative Commons)

Eric Bana’s got his 1974 Ford Falcon XB coupe, Clive Palmer’s got his 1965 Newcastle Rambler and Lindsay Fox has his gull-wing Mercedes 300SL*: but they’re in a very small minority. According to the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research, just 0.5% of Australia’s driving population own and drive cars manufactured between 1950 and 1979. So how does this rare breed of motorist compare to owners of more modern cars? Read on…

Overwhelmingly men, and more likely to be Pre-Boomers (born before 1946) than any other generation, people who own/drive cars manufactured in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s tend to view their autos — and life — in a different light than those with more recent models.

Australia’s motorists, by decade of car owned/driven

Australian Automotive Market Research - Decades Owned Car

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), October 2011 – September 2014 (n=125,856). NB: chart does not add up to 100% because 3.8% of motorists have ‘no idea’ what year their car was manufactured

The high-maintenance 1950s and 1960s

Hailing from a time when fins were in and chrome was cool, cars of the 1950s and 1960s turn heads wherever they go. So it comes as no surprise that owners of classics from these decades are 130% more likely than the average Aussie motorist to agree with the statement, ‘I regard myself as a bit of a car enthusiast’ and 60% less likely to regard their car ‘simply as transport from A to B’. After all, isn’t that what second vehicles are for? (And nearly all have one…)

Of course, old cars tend to need a lot of maintenance, and owners of 50s and 60s vehicles are especially well qualified in this regard. Not only are they 75% less likely than the average Australian motorist to agree that ‘I’m not very good with mechanical things’, they’re 220% more likely to have worked on their car in the last three months.

The fun-loving 1970s

While owners of cars manufactured in the 1970s are also more likely to work on their car in any given three-month period, what really sets them apart from other drivers (including those with older classics) is their focus on fun. Compared to the average Australian driver, this group is:

  • 150% more likely to agree that they ‘will only buy a car that is fun to own’
  • 125% more likely to prefer ‘a car that has lots of sex appeal’
  • 115% more likely to ‘like a car that handles like a racing car’

Don’t go changing

But it’s not just in their automotive attitudes that drivers of old autos distinguish themselves. Choosing to own and drive cars of this advanced vintage appears to be consistent with a certain ambivalence towards the modern age.

For example, owners of 1950s and 1960s vehicles are 58% more likely than the average Australian motorist to agree they ‘don’t like to know too much about what’s going on in the world today’ and 32% more likely to feel that ‘technology is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up with it.’

Meanwhile, people with 1970s cars are 21% more likely to believe ‘there’s too much change going on these days’ and 16% more likely to ‘like things to stay the same’.

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“While wealthy, high-profile enthusiasts like Lindsay Fox are famed for their large collections of classic, vintage and veteran vehicles, they represent just one end of the spectrum. People who own and drive cars from the 1950s, 60s and 70s are actually less likely than the average motorist to be on incomes of $100,000 or more and more likely to be in incomes between $15,000 and $25,000. 

“So on one hand, we have these famous collectors of historic prestige models and on the other, the retired enthusiasts channelling their nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ into a car from the era. And between them, they comprise half a percent of Australia’s motoring population!

“But though they are a very small group, these motorists represent a passionate and potentially lucrative niche market for insurance companies, auto parts retailers, mechanics and restorers who take the time to understand and reach out to them.”

* NB: Of course, Palmer and Fox own so many historic and rare cars they each have their own auto museums to showcase them!

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%