The Evolution of the Car Culture
Writer // Janelle Morrison
A local automobile enthusiast, Les Acree is a veteran of car shows and fervently looks forward to showing his vehicles at Artomobilia every year. Acree’s collection includes original cars and trucks as well as RestoMods. RestoMods have the timeless appearance of the original but have the more modern, high-performance parts of today. Acree’s RestoMod Corvettes feature the best of both classic and modern-day ingenuity and design.
“Artomobilia is one of the premier car shows anywhere in my opinion,” Acree said. “It involves not only car enthusiasts, but the city plays into it as well. It is a well-organized event, and the venue of downtown Carmel is an outstanding venue for people to show their automobiles. There is a variety of automobiles at this event, and I believe that it has become the car culture mecca in Indiana. It also features quality cars that are usually several notches above most other car shows. It’s a large show with over 400 vehicles, and it rivals some of the national shows.”
Acree has attended over the last few years and always bring something different to Artomobilia. This year, he is bringing a classic 1948 Chevrolet Hauler with a 1959 Corvette loaded on it.
“This year, I wanted to do something different that I think will appeal to a large demographic,” he said. “I think people will enjoy seeing the classic hauler with a classic car on it. Being there, supporting the event and supporting the city of Carmel are what it’s about for me.”
Acree talked about his affinity for Corvettes and the role that RestoMods will play in the future of the car collecting hobby.
“The future of the Corvette is already on the drawing board,” he stated. “The Corvette’s evolutions will take it from a front engine layout to a mid-engine layout. If you look at the Corvette that you can buy today for $100,000, it rivals a car that you buy in Europe that costs $300,000-$500,000. The Corvette’s technology, performance, and styling rival its European counterparts. There have been several iconic Corvettes over the years. What I am really into now is RestoMods. I have original Corvettes in my collections, but I will take a Corvette that is not restorable, and I RestoMod it using the original body but all modern parts.
“If you look at the hobby going forward, I believe that the RestoMod is going to be a significant part of the hobby. It is already bringing in huge dollars for the ones that are done right with the look and feel of the older car with all of the modern components of the new Corvette, such as Bluetooth technology, modern suspensions, brakes, air conditioning and everything that is available in today’s market.”
Acree shared his thoughts on the future of car shows like Artomobilia and on the upcoming generations of automobile enthusiasts.
“Most collectors or enthusiasts start when they are young. They get the bug about cars,” Acree expressed. “Whether they grew up around cars that their father had or just grew up in the car culture, it’s started by being exposed to it in some way. I grew up in Greenwood, Indiana, and was kind of a ‘gear head’ even before I was a teenager. I have several Corvettes and old trucks in my collection now. I enjoy old GMC and Chevrolet pickup trucks, and I have some old semis.
“I believe that there are cars that are meaningful to some people that maybe belonged to their father or grandfather. Some people grew up in Chevrolet or Ford families. Then there are some people who specialize in a genre of cars that are of particular interest to them, but if you are a true enthusiast, it doesn’t matter what kind of car it is. You admire all of the cars for their quality, restoration and their place in history.”
He went on to talk about the benefits of meeting like-minded people and craftsman when attending shows like Artomobilia. “You have a shared passion with the people that you meet at these events,” Acree said. “You meet talented craftsmen, and you develop not only a business relationship with them, but you also build friendships simply by being enthusiasts.”
Acree said that some classes of cars are diminishing in value and appreciation due to the fact that large scores of people who were driving these cars in those decades have passed on. However, he is confident that the car culture will remain strong in the upcoming decades in spite of the younger generations having a plethora of alternate entertainment options.
“I believe that demographics with any sport or hobby or even in the professional world are always changing, and you have to adapt with the change,” Acree emphasized. “If you look at the car culture now, a lot of cars have a shelf life. For example, the 1940 cars are diminishing in value because the men and women who grew up with those cars are no longer here to appreciate them, so there’s no emotional connection to those cars. The ‘50s cars are beginning to diminish in value because the men and women who grew up with those cars are now in their late 70s, so now we are looking at the ‘60s and ‘70s cars, and they are very popular. That segment of the car culture and the customization of that genre are appealing to the people in their 50s and 60s. The interest in those cars is going to be around for at least another 10 years.”
He said very few cars stand the test of time and beyond the generation that grew up with them like the timeless Duesenberg.
“If you look at kids today, in particular, the ones who are growing up in our area, they will eventually obtain a level of success and want to buy a nice car,” Acree said. “The Vipers and the Corvettes of the ‘80s and ‘90s are of interest to the younger generations. I believe that the car culture will always be evolving, and it will evolve into an affinity that people have with cars they grew up with.”
Be sure to check out Acree’s collection and his explanation of his RestoMod work on YouTube (search “Three Amazing Corvettes”).