Defin­ing a ‘clas­sic’

New Zealand Classic Car - - EDITORIAL -

When an old friend asked me re­cently “When does a car be­come a clas­sic?”, it started me think­ing. To be per­fectly hon­est, I wasn’t able to pro­vide a de­fin­i­tive re­ply, sim­ply be­cause, when it comes to find­ing a com­mon an­swer be­tween any num­ber of clas­sic car en­thu­si­asts as to what con­sti­tutes a clas­sic car, it raises more ques­tions than an­swers.

Is it strictly de­ter­mined by age? If so, how old does it have to be? Or is it a com­bi­na­tion of age and other fac­tors — make? Model? En­gine? How about pop­u­lar­ity among en­thu­si­asts? And the list goes on.

Even more con­fus­ing is that the def­i­ni­tion of a ‘clas­sic’ car can vary enor­mously depend­ing who you ask, with an­swers likely to be dif­fer­ent from a car club, an in­sur­ance com­pany, and a govern­ment depart­ment.

As far as vet­eran cars are concerned, the an­swer is quite sim­ple — they were built prior to World War I. Like­wise, with vin­tage cars, which are those built pre 1930 through to the end of World War II. From then on, things start to get a lit­tle vague, ex­cept for one thing we can all agree on — for a car to be a clas­sic, it must be old.

Many will ar­gue that cars built in the 1940s are un­doubt­edly clas­sics, while oth­ers are adamant that a mid ’80s–built car has ev­ery right to be la­belled a clas­sic car, and still oth­ers will sug­gest that a car must be at least 20 years old but not more than 40 years old to be con­sid­ered a clas­sic car.

The other side of the equa­tion is that there’s no guar­an­tee that any car will au­to­mat­i­cally be­come a clas­sic and be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate in value once it reaches a cer­tain age, un­less there’s some­thing about it that makes it desirable to col­lec­tors and en­thu­si­asts alike. Many fea­tures on cars built dur­ing the ’60s and ’70s, for ex­am­ple, push all the right but­tons for cer­tain en­thu­si­asts, but will there be as many clas­sics among cars made in the ’80s and ’90s, even 20 or 30 years from now? Who knows?

Not all are desirable and col­lectible cars, and it be­comes sub­jec­tive which older ve­hi­cles are pop­u­lar and have the propen­sity to in­crease in value and pop­u­lar­ity. Sup­ply and de­mand is also a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor, and what about cars that are con­sid­ered ‘mod­ern clas­sics’ — not to men­tion new cars that are la­belled ‘in­stant clas­sics’? Now my head’s re­ally start­ing to spin.

Time for a lie down and more ther­apy.

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