Taking a look back at 2020, it’s been an extraordinary time in our industry, to say the least. With the pandemic, tumultuous cultural environment, crazy election, and constant uncertainty of the future, it’s safe to say that 2020 had its share (plus some) of obstacles and challenges. Through all of it, people were able to find the good in things and our hobby is no different.
We were all told to stay home and that moved a lot of people to get out in the garage and work on their project cars! In our previous article, Steele’s Outlook on 2020, I stated that there is no shortage of car lovers out there pursuing this hobby and that couldn’t have been truer.
I think the overall trends mentioned in the 2020 article will continue in 2021. As the younger generations become more invested in this hobby, these things will continue to grow in popularity and have staying power.
That brings me to the question- how will the landscape change for 2021?
The overlanding lifestyle took off like a scalded dog during 2020. Suddenly getting outdoors, away from the cities and suburbs and into the beautiful, wide open spaces America has to offer became immensely popular. Vehicles like the Toyota 4Runner, Land Rover, and Jeep SUVs, as well as the more rugged pickup trucks, are being converted into overlanding rigs made to withstand some serious terrain. These vehicles decked out with the latest in off roading upgrades and accessorized with the latest camping and outdoor gear are quickly growing in popularity and will be a huge part of the aftermarket industry this year.
Brand New Bronco
The introduction of the 2021 Ford Bronco will spark an all-new level of nostalgia for the throwback models. I see this pushing any of the Bronco models (Yes, even the Bronco II) further up on the most popular classic SUVs list.
Simply stated, Tesla has made electric vehicles cool. Have they been around for years? Yes. But now they are accepted into mainstream car culture like never before. You might remember when GM brought their very own E-10 (a 1962 C-10 pickup truck powered by an electric Connect & Cruise concept crate propulsion package offering approximately 450 horsepower, using proven components from the Chevrolet Bolt EV) electric restomod truck to the 2019 SEMA Show and opened many eyes to the concept. I see more of the current electric vehicle technology being experimented with in restomod builds this year.
If there’s one thing that came out of the pandemic of 2020, it’s a renewed sense of spending quality time with family. For hot rodders/cruisers/car people that was no different. Could this bring a rise in popularity for 4 door hard tops, sedans and wagons? I think so. You know the old saying ‘The family that cruises together, stays together’. Or something like that.
80’s and 90’s Pony Cars
Piggy backing on the trends of 2020 is the growing popularity of the Fox Body Mustang and 3rd/4th generation Camaro. You see them on the street, at your favorite car gatherings, on the drag strip- everywhere. This trend will continue to grow in the next year.
Import Hot Rods
2020 saw a major shift in popularity for 80’s and 90’s import cars and now they’re becoming common place. Because of that rise in interest, I see the Toyota/ Nissan/ Honda/ Mazda and BMW vehicles becoming mainstream as hot rods. Keep your eyes peeled for these on social media and at your local cars-and-coffee type gatherings because they’re out there and growing in number.
Not the Same Old Car Show Culture
For several years now the day long “sit in your chair” type of car shows have been slowly fading away. Social distancing and staying home has only continued to hurt these events. Instead, they’re being replaced with shorter, smaller, more regular type gatherings such as Cars and Coffee and cruises like Brew Tours. The newer generation of enthusiast brings a different taste not only in cars, but in how they enjoy them as well. Add in a busy lifestyle like many younger people have and these shorter events will continue to evolve to fit into their limited amount of free time.
I don’t know about you, but for me 2020 meant a lot of virtual events. Trade shows, car shows. cocktail hours, family gatherings, doctors visits, etc. While it’s not what we’re used to, it does open up a world of possibilities not necessarily within our reach before. I predict that more trade/exposition shows will be virtual or at least offer virtual options and we’ll see a rise in global attendance. I know here at Steele our eyes are open for opportunities like this where we can get a front seat view of the industry at different places around the world to see how we can serve them better without incurring thousands of dollars in travel expenses to be a part of a traditional, in-person event.
Here at Steele, the silver lining to a year like 2020 is seeing our industry persevere, evolve, and those that support it, having the down time to dig in and pursue their hobbies and interests in a bigger way. The collector car hobby is stronger than ever and we look forward to being a part of this beloved pastime in 2021 and beyond.
Steele Rubber Products, located in Denver, NC, is a manufacturer and seller of high quality rubber parts and weatherstripping products for classic and vintage automobiles, hot rods, RVs and Boats. Steele offers more than 12,000 parts for cars and trucks as well as a large line of universal weatherstripping and rubber parts to be used on any project. Established in 1958, Steele is a trusted name in the automotive restoration industry.