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Classic? Collectible? Special Interest? Just Old?

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
The term "Classic" has become a label for so many
different types of cars, that the word is rapidly
losing its meaning.

For this reason, many curators, appraisers,
collectors and writers are trying to creat more
accurate definitions for "old" cars.

What do you think? Should a 1930 Duesenberg and a
1964 Rambler both be called "classics"? Can a
"classic" be only ten years old? If everything is a
classic, then nothing is, right?

Here are some of the more common terms being used
in the world of vintage cars today. What do YOU
think they ought to mean?

Special Interest
Old Car

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  • GTRocksGTRocks Posts: 48
    Antique = just old (historic plate capable)

    vintage = turn of the century old

    Classic = old (historic) but popular (mustangs, camaros, etc.)

    Collectible = one that has demand like the classics, but not necessarily as popular

    Special interest = kit cars, deloreans, woodys, etc.

    Old car = one that was just pulled out of the weeds
  • SpedmanSpedman Posts: 15
    Is 'Classic' just a look? Sounds weird, but You could get a good argument that the original 240Zs, Corollas, and Datsun B210s were classics for the effect they had on the car buying public. In the case of the 240Z, you had a really striking sports looking car that didn't cost an arm and a leg to buy and maintain. The Corollas and B210s really made people think that maybe they weren't being unreasonable for asking that a car be cheap, easy to maintain, and last for 100,000 miles without a major overhaul. I bet 30 years form now those early Datsuns and Toyotas will be considered Classics the way the original Bugs were. And you have to admit, they were a whole lot better cars than the Bugs, even the mid-seventies Superbeetles.
  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    I think that the term is very much open to interpretation. Certain groups will have their very specific definitions, but one can always make an argument in favor of a different one.

    Also, certain aspects of a given car might be considered 'classic', while others are not.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    Well, if you called a Datsun B210 a classic, what the heck could you call a Duesenberg? Certainly not the same thing.

    "Classic" has to be something very special in my mind, a term reserved for the most interesting and inspiring cars.

    There was a term used for a while called "Milestone" that I was for cars that achieved a certain notoriety for certain accomplishments, either technically, or in marketing even, but wasn't in the Duesenberg or Bugatti or Packard V-12 class.

    So maybe the first "T-Bird" or "Corvette" could fit into that category, along with say the first BMW 2002, the first Mustang, etc.

    I wouldn't call a 1959 Cadillac a "milestone' since it was definitely an evolutionary dead-end. Not exactly the Golden Age...that would be to my mind a "collectible"

    "antique" to me means "brass era" type cars...pre electric lighting, pre starter motor...really old buggy-type cars.

    "vintage" and "classic" could overlap...a vintage car could really go back to anything pre World War some "classics" are "vintage" but not all "vintage" are classics.

    Anyway, the point of my rambling is that you can't lump a magnificent V-16 phaeton with a Datsun B210 and call them the same thing..that's just stretching it too far for me!

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    I agree with you that the term Classic should be reserved for those true classics-like the Deusenbergs, a few Packards, Bugattis, etc. Also, Antique for the brass era of buggy type cars. Vintage for prewar II. The term old car could be applied to almost any old card. "MIlestone" might be applied to any major change or new concept-like the '49 Cad/Olds, '53 Corvette, Ford V8, "55 Chev/Pontiac[first V8"s, and others-like maybe the Mustang. Special Interest and Collector are terms a little harder to define. I take two magazines-"Special Interest Autos" and "Collectible Automobile"-and both of them feature articles about the same kinds of cars-all of them collectible and of special interest. What do you think about these two terms?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    I think "special interest" is really a substitute for "old car"'s a polite and gracious way to include everybody, which is good.

    "collectible" is also pretty wide-open, in that I guess if just one person collects Hillman Minx 4-door sedans then it is "collectible"...but I'd like to think the term meant that there is actually some demand country-wide, and a club and a registry, etc...something more than a pile of rubble in someone's back yard.

    I like the term "milestone" because the word implies some kind of breakthrough or special feature that took hold and others copied...certainly the Mustang was a Milestone car, and the 49 Olds one of the first short-stroke, hi compression V-8s, which later dominated the 60s in America. But a 1949 Kaiser isn't a milestone, maybe just special interest. So there's the difference (the Kaiser was supposed to be radical but by the time it got to production, it was just another old design with a new skin).

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  • Is an Austin Mini Cooper classic, old or just dangerous? I live in Budapest Hungary and have the chance to buy one cheap.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    Hi budaspeed,

    I think the older Austin Mini Coopers are very interesting cars...not "classic" but certainly it an "S" model? If so, it would be pretty valuable, and a total kick to drive! But if just a Cooper, a nice one (really nice one)would run you about $6,500 in the U.S.

    If not a Cooper, but just a plain old Mini, one of the more modern Minis (850 cc I think), I don't feel that car is collectible, but still might be fun to have. I wouldn't pay much for it, though, with a whopping 37 hp!

    You might want to have the car checked out...they can be a bit fragile, especially clutches and transmissions.

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  • Budaspeed-Genuine cooper S is 1275 cc.Watch for fakes using the 1275 engine from an austin 1300gt.with twin carbs.Looks the part but worthless.To check for genuine S is simple -look for 2 extra head studs easily visible at each end of the cylinder head.Other coopers of uk origin were all 998 cc.Any thing else is just a mini.Watch for rust in rear sub-frame and sills,door posts,under rear seat and spare wheel well.To be classic it must be in excellent condition and WITH HISTORY.Otherwise it is just an old car.
  • vmanvman Posts: 103
    I must admit that I'm intrigued by the number of possible interpretations to the labels we (the world) put on cars. Having read the above postings, I decided to check out the online dictionary ( to see what the real definitions of some of the words are and mentally compare them to what has become accepted in the auto world.

    Classic (adjective): serving as a standard of excellence: of recognized value. Synonyms- traditional, enduring, authentic, authoritative.

    Classic (noun): a work of enduring excellence: a typical or perfect example.

    Antique (adjective): existing since or belonging to earlier times: made in or representative of the work of an earlier period. Synonym- ancient

    Antique (noun): a relic or object of ancient times: a manufactured product (as an automobile) from an earlier period.

    Vintage (adjective): of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality: dating from the past. Synonym- classic.

    Vintage (noun (without mentioning grapes)): a period of origin or manufacture. Synonym- age.

    These are just the definitions that can apply to cars. I see now why there is so much confusion. It seems to be a matter of interpretation and perception. I believe that it is possible to identify a classic before it becomes an antique. For example, new Dodge RAM trucks. By definition, a Model 'T' Ford could be classic, antique, or vintage, but I think of it as an antique because it wouldn't appeal to me. A Model 'T' collector, however, would probably consider it vintage because of his special interest.
    Where does this end?
  • The dictionary definitions do clear up the terms to a great extent, at least for my part in looking up info on a 1964 Chevie 3/4 ton v-8 p/u in pretty
    good condition. I didn't know whether to look as
    antique, classic, vintage, or just plain "junk".
    From the definitions, vintage appears to be the
    only category that fits. read each definition with
    the vehicle in mind and it's pretty clear. thanks!
  • I will need to change that 64 p/u from vintage to
    antique. Wishful thinking...does point out the fact that the definitions need to be understood
    when discussing vehicles for collecting or of
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    I think "collectible" would be a good term for a truck like that...antique really needs to be old, don't you think?
    The Model T would qualify as antique, at least if grouped with "car"...relative to the history of cars it's an antique...but since cars are 106 years old, I personally can't see how one 35 years old, only 1/3 the lifespan of cars, could be antique or vintage...

    Also, I don't think anything mass-produced will ever be a true classic...I mean, people will be fond of them, certainly, but to hold them up as standards of excellence for all time? do you really think "classic" when you hear "Classic Coke"? The word gets watered down if one applies it to everyday objects, I think. That's why "collector" and "collectible" are such handy terms.

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    The Classic Car Club of America lists a whole bunch of Cadillac models from 1936 to 1948 as true classics. Weren't most of these mass produced? I know the list of Cadillacs doesn't just refer to the custom bodied models.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    That's true, the list doesn't refer to custom bodies only, but the list often tries to single out the most distinguished types within the Cadillac production...and Cadillac wasn't mass-produced the way Dodge Ram pickups are mass-produced...they only made a few thousand of each Cadillac model, although pre-depression (1928) as many as 40,000 cars total for the year. But most of the Cadillacs on the list are quite low production, compared say to a VW Bug or Model T Ford where you're talking over 15 million made.

    And back then, Cadillac was a very high quality car.

    I think also that they put cars on the list not only for rarity but for the regard people attached to them. Cadillac had respect back then, and dominated the American car luxury market for many years.

    So between the numbers produced and its status as a commercial vehicle, it's not likely any truck will make the classics list....but then, you never know, time is the real judge of what is revered and lovingly restored, not some bunch of guys in an office making lists. In a way, their job was easy, just to look at the past.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    I think they stopped at 1948 because that was really the last of the pre-war designs (most cars produced immediately after World War II were just slightly altered versions of 1941 cars). So with 1949 we got the "modern" look, and it's true, this year is kind of a dividing line between the old and the new.

    If we could think of a "classic" as a car that a) captured the imagination of the buying public on the day it was first introduced, and b)has stood the test of time and entered into American mythology, we'd have to include the '55-57 T-Bird, the '53-62 Corvette, the 55-57 Chevrolet (convertibles and hardtops and nomads)...these were the first modern and exciting American cars of the postwar era, and today you see them on everything from refrigerator magnets to t-shiirts.

    After that, they seem to get uglier and too new for "classic status" (with notable exceptions perhaps). Can a muscle car be a classic already?

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    I really like your list of new nominees. I would only ask about the '49 Cadillac and Olds-[first modern, OHV V8's] and the styling[fins]of the Cadillac. Actually, I'd like to own a 49 Cad Convertible or Sedanette. I really think the 49 Cad deserves some kind of special status. As for 60's muscle cars? I don't know. Maybe the really rare ones, like the 454 Chevelles and Novas, or the big block Camaros? Maybe some of the Hemi Mopars? I do think the 63-67 Stingrays were distinguished cars-much more so than any of the later Corvettes. And their prices now reflect their status among collectors.
  • C13C13 Posts: 390

    You often say that a given model "has little or no value to a collector" or words to that effect. That's the only kind of collectible I'd be interested in.

    One that's already appreciated some, and that the whole world is expecting to appreciate more, is not where I'd put my money (let's pretend that I have money). I'd gamble it on cars that relatively few people want right now.

    I used to want to buy cars that I thought would appreciate financially but they all went and appreciated. Some of the classic cars I used to dream about have appreciated almost a thousand percent. You've observed this too, no doubt.

    So buying low and selling high is no longer possible, but buying low and having a blast is still feasible.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    that's true what you say, IF you pick the right car. But my point is that if there's no collector interest in a car after 30 years, it probably isn't ever going to happen, so if you're going to "guess" on the next valuable collectible car, it would almost have to be something relatively new. I mean, you can keep a Hillman Minx in your garage for 100 years, and you'll still only get $750 for it. You know how it and demand is the real mantra for determining worth, and even on very rare cars, if there's only 5 in the world and only 2 buyers, then it's a buyer's market, not a seller's.

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    I know what you mean and I appreciate the point, but what I'm saying is that it can be an advantage sometimes to be way out of synch with the market: you buy something that's worth very little to the world but that's worth a lot to you. If you sell it you get nothing back, so either you enjoy having it around for a finite period or you just keep it forever and palm it off on your heirs.

    Of course if you bought it to make money on it, then you'd be stuck, like me with this piece of real estate. It'll never appreciate. I figure there best thing I can do is put in a go kart track - at least drown out the neighbors' dogs and car subwoofers.

    A lot of the cars I like have little enough market value already, and I'd go and destroy what little they have by dropping a different engine or something in it, like a Miata drivetrain into a Midget. Who'd ever want that, besides the guy that did it? But he'd have fun.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    Ah, yes, I see your point now C13, and it makes a lot of sense if one has your attitude about it. I think you need a certain amount of high self-esteem to drive a car that isn't the "in thing" however...personally, I drive what I like...but an Alfa is not a Ferrari, and I know that too.

    I've done a few weirdo engine swaps, and its a lot of work but can be fun. Usually, you don't end up with the car you thought you'd get, but really, doing it is the whole point and not the result so the question is---will a Mazda Rotary turbo engine actually fit in a Nash Metropolitan? And then, how do I stop the damn thing?

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    And where can I get one?

    Which, seriously, brings up a related issue. Sometimes when you defy or ignore conventional wisdom in a particularly outrageous way, you might actually start a fad, trend, style, whatever you wanna call it. Obviously, much more often you just spend a lot of money.

    The first guy who attempted to hot rod a Beetle, for example, must have been at best a curiosity among his hot rod cohorts; at worst a maniac, to be attempting to introduce power and handling to a machine that is incapable of ever taking advantage of the components. But in 1999, decades after the cessation of production of the German car (I don't know if they're still being made in Mexico but they're not imported), if you pick up a copy of Hot VWs, you see ads by companies that have been mining that vein for 30 yrs. There must be a fairly large base of support for it still.

    Not that that first guy ever made a dime, but years later it's apparent that there was money there. What reasonable person would have guessed it?.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    Oh, there's a case that makes find a real need (more power for a VW bug, which NEEDS it)...and you fill that you've got lots of the same thing for the Hillman Minx, and you'd go bankrupt...a need that's not demanding to be fulfilled.

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    Granted, the Minx GT is probably not a real smart gamble, but the Nash Metropolitan 'R' might be a hot ticket. Seriously, I'd love one. A girl in my high school (1967) had one and it was considered so 'out' it was 'in'. Everybody thought it was great. Imagine if had actually had some response when you put your foot down.

    Also, while VWs do indeed have a need for power, they also have a great need for 'chassis' in order to utilize the power. Basically, they have a need for a complete redesign. Oddly enough, there's an aftermarket industry that completely redesigns them, while a lot of other models whose original versions came a lot closer to the mark have been ignored.

    It seems that some people have such an emotional connection to the Beetle, they're willing to do whatever it takes to turn it into something like a real car.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    Actually, the Nash Metro is a really horrible car to drive, but they are cute, no doubt about it.

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  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    Imagine a Hillman Minx with extensive modifications and a small block V8, or maybe a hot V6 of some sort. Talk about weird. You know, I can't remember the last time I ever saw a Hillman Minx. I remember seeing them on the same showroom floor with Renault 4cv's, Panhards, and Citreons back in 1958 at a large import dealer in the LA area. Are there any Hillmans at all left out there?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    Actually, a friend said he saw a Hillman taxicab in Cuba recently.

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    I've often thought that an enterprising import/export person could take advantage of the wealth of 1950's US cars in Cuba.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,579
    I've read that they've been extensively modified (since they can't get many parts, they make 'em from whatever they have)...and really, there's certainly no shortage of 50s cars right here in America.

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    I've found a really nice 76' Fleetwood Brougham w/ the 500 cu. inch V-8 that has already been professionally mechanicallyt restored. The exterior and interior are orgininal and in excelent condition.

    You see so little of the 70's cars available any more I suspect a large portion of them have been junked already.
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