Defining a ‘classic’
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.