Opinion Piece: Good Times Ahead (Street Commodores Editorial Column)

02 Sep

This is the 14th in a regular series of editorial pieces we’ll be posting here on the blog, originally written by Hosking Industries’ Ben Hosking for Street Commodores magazine and other magazines he’s completed opinion pieces for. This column appeared in issue 180 of Street Commodores:

Good Times Ahead (Written December 8, 2010)

I’ve been out and about of late and I’m hearing nothing but good things.

I’ve talked a bit about my foray into feature car photography recently. The process has taken me out of the office a lot more than I’ve been used to in recent years. I’ve been able to travel all over Sydney and the Hunter region to attend car shows as well as shoot subsequent feature shoots. I also got to spend a few days travelling north to the Central Coast and Newcastle to shoot a few cars recently and throughout, a similar theme seemed to keep popping into conversation.

Surprisingly and happily, the word from both car owners and business owners seems to be that things are on the up and up. Everyone will remember the contraction we saw in most areas of the scene during the GFC in 2008. While some lucky businesses were able to report that they were suffering no ill effects of the crisis, many more were. If the businesses were doing it tough, it makes sense that the people who normally paid them the money for their parts or services – you and I – were doing it hard, too.

At the time, we were hearing about forum members and car builders losing their jobs or having their hours cut back. The cost of living was higher, food prices looked like they’d never stop climbing and fuel prices saw plenty more people jumping onto public transport. About the only thing to work on our favour at the time was a tumbling interest rate – not that it stopped some from losing their homes.

Thankfully it looks like the turnaround is in full swing. People are opening up their wallets again and spending big on things that they’d held back on for the last 18 months or so. I was talking with a spare parts shop owner just the other day who told me that he was noticing a big rise in his business of selling rare old parts. Apparently it wasn’t long ago that he either couldn’t move anything off the shelves, or he was being forced to part with things far below what he used to get for them. Now, his bits and bobs are commanding prices surpassing what he got before the GFC.

Various other workshop owners who had previous complained of slow business and the higher number of tyre kickers than they’d previously had to suffer are now saying business is back to normal, or better. It seems that the shackles are off the expense accounts and lines of credit. The results are being seen at car shows around the country.

While I can only personally talk of car shows on the east coast, I’ve been seeing a large number of new cars turn up at even small, community car shows. It wasn’t long ago that I was starting to get the feeling that I’d seen just about everything I was likely to see for the next year or so, but lately I can’t help but turn a corner and run into another newly finished machine. While not a Commodore event, my attendance at this year’s Toranafest in Newcastle saw us walk away with well over 10 new Xtreme Holdens feature cars that we hadn’t even seen before.

It was a similar story at other events like the comparatively tiny EH Holden Club show at Colyton, NSW and the larger All Holden Day in Clarendon, NSW. Both events scored us a bunch of new feature cars for Street Commodores and other sister magazines and they were cars we hadn’t even caught wind of before the day.

Looking at photographic coverage from events elsewhere around Australia confirms the same thing. People are working feverishly to finish off projects they’d either had in the back burner while things got tough, or they’ve been working hard on the last few months to get done for whatever big event was around the corner. Short version is that it’s all good news for the scene!

When I got involved with Street Commodores eight years ago I heard older veterans of the industry musing over when the torrent of fresh features would run out. I myself have questioned the very same thing on occasion. But you know what: the river never dries up. Sure, it slowed a little between 2008 and 2009 but that supply of quality feature cars never stops and with this fresh resurgence in activity we’re seeing a boom on all fronts.

Viva la horsepower!

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