Millennials collect cars with new classics like Datsuns and DeLoreans

Who doesn't want a DeLorean? But as millennials take up collecting, tastes also turn to early SUVs and "the big American boats."

Millennials are getting into car collecting, changing the notion of which vehicles are worth owning and preserving.

This year, for the first time, millennials are responsible for more collectible-car activity than previous generations, according to Hagerty Insurance, the largest insurer of collectible cars.

Contrary to popular belief, millennials drive and enjoy cars, Hagerty Insurance CEO McKeel Hagerty said, but the vehicles that fire their imagination are more likely to be pickups, SUVs, and performance cars from late 1960s to early '90s than the 1950s sedans, hot rods, and early muscle cars prized by previous generations.

Get ready to see more Cutlass Supremes, Land Rover Defenders, Mazda RX-7s, Ford F-series pickups, Datsun 260Zs, Chevy Monte Carlos, BMW M3s, and VW Corrados at classic-car gatherings.

It's a progression that happens as every generation reaches the point where they have the time and money to collect and restore cars. A classic car is generally considered one at least 25 years old.

American muscle cars from the 1960s were a dime a dozen 20 years ago. They became collectible classics when baby boomers and Gen Xers hit their peak earning years and sought out the cars they admired as kids.

It's happening again, to a different set of cars.

"Cars nobody thought twice about 10 years ago are generating great interest at auctions and museums," said Matt Anderson, transportation curator at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. "People like to collect cars that were popular when they were kids or in high school; 1980s Firebirds, especially Trans Ams, are having a resurgence."

The current classics won't disappear, but they'll be less numerous when collectors gather. Just as there will always be Model T devotees, the 1955 Chrysler 300-C, the '59 Cadillac Eldorado, etc. will always have fans.

Millennials are more interested in going places than working on their classics, McKeel Hagerty said. That's bad news for old British cars, which are "noticeably absent" from the list of cars getting millennials' attention.

"They were legendarily demanding," he said. "Millennials are not looking at them at the same level as earlier groups. They buy vehicles that are fun. There's an ever-increasing interest in SUVs - early 4x4s, like the Land Rover Defender, early Jeeps, the Ford Bronco, and International Scout."

Though cars built through the 1970s are relatively simple machines, collecting vehicles from the 1980s will present new challenges. The Buick Riviera offered a touch screen a decade before other brands, but try to find replacement parts now for its cathode ray tube.

Jack Nerad, Kelley Blue Book editorial director and executive market analyst, sees "old Minis and mid-'70s Japanese pickups" getting some love.

"Then there are the big American boats from the '70s and '80s era: Cadillacs, Buicks and Lincolns. For [millennials], it's not the classic muscle cars and definitely not flathead roadsters," he says. "They're heading in new directions."