The Vocabulary of Car Collecting

Some old cars are just old. Some are donated to charity, if charity will take them. Others are given up during community clean-ups and some make the journey to the wrecking yard. But a few actually increase in value. There are old cars bringing higher prices than they did when new.

When you search the net or talk to experienced collectors you will come across labels such as antique cars, vintage cars, classic cars, muscle cars, pony cars. And every one of these has been sought after by a collector.

You will see ads in prestigious magazines such as Forbes identifying the top ten classic cars and the top ten vintage cars. On Sunday afternoon, it is not uncommon to see a club out for a rally. And there is a club for every car category.

But what constitutes an antique, a vintage or a classic? Some definitions have been established but there are also times when the definition is the product of the definer. And often times the definitions don’t agree.

For example, the Antique Automobile Club of America defines an antique car as any car over 25 years old. However, outside the club it is defined as those cars manufactured from the start of development through 1916.

Vintage cars are designated as those produced between 1916 and 1924.

Classic cars are a confusing mix. There are almost as many definitions as there are definers. Some categorize a classic car as one produced from 1925 until today. For certain, to become a classic car, it has to be appreciated and sought after by a significant number of people.

Even auto thieves have their say as to what is and isn’t classic. World wide, auto thieves exhibit a definite preference for Japanese manufactured automobiles. In a ‘Top Ten’ list, auto thieves were found to favor the Honda Civic, Toyota Century, Honda Accord, Accura Integra, the Toyota pickup, and the Nissan Sentra. The other four cars on the list were American. No European cars were listed. However, the content was probably influenced by the location of the list maker and the home base of the thieves.

But European makes, notably the 1954 Mercedes 300SL, the 1966 Porsche 911, the 1961 Jaguar XKE, and the Volvo 1800 E are on a top ten list of vintage cars.

The demand for vintage car advertisements also furnishes a clue as to what is and isn’t popular.

The Classic Car Club of America defines a Classic as: “a fine or distinctive automobile, either American or foreign built, produced between 1925 and 1948.” Classics should be cars that were built in small quantities and high priced when new. The club maintains a list of classics.

The club also readily admits that their definition may not be followed. A look at Forbes top ten will corroborate that statement.

And then the government enters the arena as most states in the United States have laws for defining antiques, vintage, and classics for the purpose of vehicle registration.

So what really appears to determine a classic is popularity. If enough people fall in love with a junkyard relic and desire to own and restore it, that auto will become a classic.

However, there is one certainty. Whether antiques, vintage, or classic, these cars will appreciate in value as years pass.

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