They say that when you adjust for inflation, $4200 in 1988 is something like $9200 now. But it's more than that. My father was a patient and conservative investor. Putting $4200 in the S&P back in 1988 would yield 50 grand today. He was also smart enough to hop in on some tech stocks before it was too late.
Read the entire article on Hagerty.com:
I was passionate about cars from, I don't quite remember, age 4, 5, or six, maybe. Getting my learner's permit on my 16th birthday, and taking that blissful, first legal drive in the '65 Peugeot 404 wagon, 35 miles from the RMV to the summer house, was everything I'd expected, and more, and then driving across the country the following year.
But I lost my passion for cars after my first bicycle trip, two years after my own first cross-country car trip. It was like I'd done everything in a car, and here was a new way to see the world. I took my first and only cross-country bicycle trip five years after that first legal drive.
Fortunately, that passion for cars came roaring back after I got on an antidepressant that worked. My current car, a Civic with a stick, is my favorite possession. One of these days, I'm going to drive it across the country.
My best friend in high school's first car was a hand-me-down Impala wagon. He hated it, and apparently took some ribbing from strangers when he was alone in it. The rest of us loved it, since he would end up driving any number of people while liberating the rest of us from any sense of consequence for our inebriation. I don't know how we avoided arrest in that seven-year-old, low mileage clunker. It had special features like exterior lights that shut off without provocation. We'd be driving along at night, looking like the most harmless car on the road, and suddenly all the lights would go out. When the second engine failed in a total of a hundred thousand miles, his parents helped him buy a used Mazda GLC four-door with a stick. It was a highly-suspect used car from a Volvo specialist, painted in a Pontiac color of blue after only four years on the road. It was also so reliable that his parents soon replaced all their other GM cars with new Hondas. My friend's car enthusiasm meant that he kept something fun to drive with a stick in his stable until a BMW E46 he purchased new turned into a pumpkin in spite of loving care about a dozen years ago.
I get it that you don't like SUVs or CUVs, but are you sure that young kids don't think they're cool? I have a friend in the business, and he always has a small waiting list of families whose teenagers want any CR-V or 4Runner he can get his hands on, provided it is an automatic. They're driven by pretty much every thirtyish single woman I know who has options too.
Was the traffic and environment then also conducive to producing driving enthusiasts? While a teenager with a car can always make their own fun, it certainly helps to live near good roads with little traffic instead of driving up and down I-95 in South Florida.
I'd argue that the current environment is perfect if you wanted to create a population that was indifferent at best to driving. As you mention, teenagers today are getting handed down Highlanders and CR-Vs, not Accords and Focuses. That is, if they get their license at all because technology has relieved teenagers of the need to get their license until they get to college, or even their first real job. Then they drive because they have to. They have to drive in commutes from hell if they want any chance to own property in the major metro area where their career is. No one loves that sort of driving.
Great tale. I had a very similar story: in 1987 my Dad and I bought a 1984 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z. I had saved up $2200 from cutting lawns and my Dad made up the rest to get to $4100. Looking back, I'm not sure how he came up with the dough. Money was tight. In retrospect, I feel bad for asking. But anyway, I loved that car and not just because it talked when you didn't fasten your seatbelt. It sat in the garage for three months before I got my license and I might have taken it out when my parents were gone. I had to make sure there was oil in the turbo, after all. I never crashed it, but two years later, I got sick of the rough ride and embarrassing build quality and sold it to buy a 1983 VW GTI for $2300. That car changed my life.