Define a 'Classic'...?

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plastic penguin
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How old does a vehicle have to be before it's classified as a classic? Then further down the line, when does a classic become a vintage?

Usually I speak glibly with friends (hard to believe... I actually have friends) when classics are mentioned, but are there any parameters or defining lines?

Nuno Granja
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Here we go again....

In portuguese classic car forums, regularly someone start a new topic about that and after a lot of words spent, no conclusions at all, even if everybody knows that a Austin Healey 100 is a classic car.

We have an expression to define this kind of discussion as the same as "trying to define the gender of angels"

 

 

nuno granja

DUESIE
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Great can of worms you've opened there PP. But a subject worth arguing over, and I guess this is the place to do it. The term vintage has long been accepted as that defined by the VSCC, meaning strictly made between 1919 and 1930, with those before 1919 being termed veteran. But 'Classic' is harder to define. Nuno's 'gender of angels' analogy is about as close as anything, and if I try to apply my thinking here, I am sure others will differ. Some classics are obvious just from age, style, value or whatever, so a Bugatti T57, Ferrari GTO or Cord 810 needs no qualification. The term classic can apply to more mundane machinery if it has earned the label through various means. So we might recognise engineering, and then allow any Twin-Cam Alfa, rear engined Porsche or anything supercharged. Then there is styling; and that although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the extremes of say fifties Americana or a Zagato Lancia, from a deco era Figone and Falaschi to a one-off showcar wedge all ensure their recognition as classics. Maybe even a car can be extra classic by association, whether it be that a Mini Cooper gets extra points because of their rally results, a De Lorean because of a movie role and the scandal of it's founder's demise, or just that Princess Anne had a GTE. The real argument starts when we try to define what is NOT a classic, and then when an owner of a Hillman Avenger gets irate because we did not give his choice of wheels due respect. If we flip through classic car magazines, there will always be an odd Ford Consul for sale (too basic, why bother when there are Zephyr/Zodiacs around?) or a photo of a Morris Eight, (which only gets in because it is old). So does old alone qualify? I would prefer it didn't, but some would say yes. If so, how would we define what sets a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr apart from a 1937 Morris Eight? Or by being the same age, does the 75 Hillman Avenger stand alongside a 75 Dino 246? Certainly it differs also in where you are looking. Nuno still posts photographs of 70s Datsuns and 80s Transits as something worth noting, or even worth preserving. Sure they once were common and are now less so, but that alone does not desrve any recognition, although maybe his perspective may be different in Portugal where the mix of models on the road may make these models stand out? To borrow from the earlier Triumph debate elsewhere, a Herald or TR6 is assured it's place in the heirarchy, but the Toledo or TR7 are still out in the cold. No explanation needed there. Anyone else have a better definition? I suspect this one will run for a while!

plastic penguin
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Nuno Granja wrote:

Here we go again....

In portuguese classic car forums, regularly someone start a new topic about that and after a lot of words spent, no conclusions at all, even if everybody knows that a Austin Healey 100 is a classic car.

We have an expression to define this kind of discussion as the same as "trying to define the gender of angels"

 

 

nuno granja

Can't vouch for what's discussed in Portugal, but certainly seems like a reasonable question in dear old UK for someone trying learn more about old cars.

If you think, clearly, it's an aimless subject then don't respond. I want to learn more and a response such as this doesn't come close to answering the question.

BTW, is that a cross-gender Angel?

DUESIE
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plastic penguin wrote:

 BTW, is that a cross-gender Angel?

No, just a bit light on his feet !

plastic penguin
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DUESIE wrote:

Great can of worms you've opened there PP. But a subject worth arguing over, and I guess this is the place to do it. The term vintage has long been accepted as that defined by the VSCC, meaning strictly made between 1919 and 1930, with those before 1919 being termed veteran. But 'Classic' is harder to define. Nuno's 'gender of angels' analogy is about as close as anything, and if I try to apply my thinking here, I am sure others will differ. Some classics are obvious just from age, style, value or whatever, so a Bugatti T57, Ferrari GTO or Cord 810 needs no qualification. The term classic can apply to more mundane machinery if it has earned the label through various means. So we might recognise engineering, and then allow any Twin-Cam Alfa, rear engined Porsche or anything supercharged. Then there is styling; and that although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the extremes of say fifties Americana or a Zagato Lancia, from a deco era Figone and Falaschi to a one-off showcar wedge all ensure their recognition as classics. Maybe even a car can be extra classic by association, whether it be that a Mini Cooper gets extra points because of their rally results, a De Lorean because of a movie role and the scandal of it's founder's demise, or just that Princess Anne had a GTE. The real argument starts when we try to define what is NOT a classic, and then when an owner of a Hillman Avenger gets irate because we did not give his choice of wheels due respect. If we flip through classic car magazines, there will always be an odd Ford Consul for sale (too basic, why bother when there are Zephyr/Zodiacs around?) or a photo of a Morris Eight, (which only gets in because it is old). So does old alone qualify? I would prefer it didn't, but some would say yes. If so, how would we define what sets a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr apart from a 1937 Morris Eight? Or by being the same age, does the 75 Hillman Avenger stand alongside a 75 Dino 246? Certainly it differs also in where you are looking. Nuno still posts photographs of 70s Datsuns and 80s Transits as something worth noting, or even worth preserving. Sure they once were common and are now less so, but that alone does not desrve any recognition, although maybe his perspective may be different in Portugal where the mix of models on the road may make these models stand out? To borrow from the earlier Triumph debate elsewhere, a Herald or TR6 is assured it's place in the heirarchy, but the Toledo or TR7 are still out in the cold. No explanation needed there. Anyone else have a better definition? I suspect this one will run for a while!

In layman's terms, I fully understand that a 1960s, 70s and 80s car are clearly defined as "classic". Does this mean my 1991 Audi 80 Sport is a classic? If so, what about my 2001 Alfa?

My late father-in-law used to own an antiques shop (paintings mainly) and they, those in the antiques business, would suggest an antique is 50 years +.

From what you've said it is mainly subjective, rather than set in stone. Would that be correct? 

DUESIE
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Some might use those guidelines. I am aware there are those who consider anything no longer made and therefore by definition getting rarer every day as a classic. If one follows that line then exactly how old defines a classic is still subjective. One might say 70s, another up to 80s, and someone else anything over ten years old. For example when the government introduced the tax-free licensing status in the late 90s it was planned to have a twenty-five year age qualification that was rolled forward annually. Yes they scrapped that idea, but if it was today's definition then a 1987 model would now qualify. I guess what I am saying is I have never recognised age alone as making a car a classic, but if some do, then they will all have thier own idea of what that age is. Of course you could ask someone on C&SC magazine what is thier definition, but then of course other magazines (who may target different markets anyway) may have other ideas. It will be interesting to se what others care to add on here. As for the antiques trade, I always understood the term to mean more than 100 years old until a few years ago, when with a lot of new TV shows, and ebay opening up the world market and suddenly EVERYONE is an 'expert'. Now very few if any antique fairs and markets are strictly datelined (where vendors stock has to be dated and verified as suitable for sale) and even 70s 'retro' is acceptable.

Nuno Granja
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plastic penguin,

Dont worry, i just give my perspective based on the experience I get with the regular participation on bigger webforum (and from another country). For sure other people will have other perspectives.

At portugal we use that expression about the angel's gender when is very dificult to get any conclusion from a big discussion.

 

nuno granja

David Evans
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Hello plastic penguin

Funnily enough, this month's update from the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) in the May issue of C&SC is about the same topic...

According to the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens (a similar European organisation), a classic is a vehicle that's more than 30 years old. But there's another train of thought that says a classic is a car that's no longer in production for which there's an owners' club, which seems more appopriate – to me anyway. That brings in the likes of Imprezas, Smarts and Figaros, for which there are massive followings...

Not everyone will agree with including those as future classics, but that amazing Impreza tribute to the late, great Colin McRae has to be one of the best events that any car enthusiasts have ever organised!

Chief tea-maker, C&SC

Mario Laguna
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Dear David,
I slightly disagree with you.
No legislative power in the world has ever defined a "classic" vehicle, but ancien, historic, veteran, vintage or whatever, for the simple reason that "classic" would be a nightmare to define.
What FIVA defines is "a historic" vehicle, not a "classic".
Please see bellow.
Besr regards,
Mario

 

FIVA defines a historic vehicle as a mechanically propelled road vehicle:
- which is at least 30 years old;
- which is preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition;
- which is not used as a means of daily transport;
- and which is therefore a part of our technical and cultural heritage.

La FIVA définit un véhicule ancien comme un véhicule routier à propulsion mécanique :
- qui est âgé d’au moins 30 ans ;
- qui est préervéet maintenu dans un éat historiquement correct ;
- qui n’est pas utilisécomme moyen de transport quotidien ;
- et qui, en conséuence, fait partie de notre héitage technique et culturel.

 

GBt
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Yes Dave so sad Colin Mc Rae tragically was killed in a helicopter crash and his arch rival Richard Burns from a Brain Tumour . I recal as well as seeing it in the mad but also Vickie Henderson Butler from Channel 5s Fith Gear took part in a Suburu.

Fair comment Mario too, but when the government in the UK were hell bent on imposing what some were calling a 20th century form of Window tax, in the 18th century many big houses had windows boarded up, as a tax was levied on every window, this mirrored in a dafly drafteed out preposal issued in a white paper circa April Fool'd day 1995. The  parameters within supposedly laid down as of what constituted a a vehicle of historical and led to a date set in sand.

Quote:
If you think, clearly, it's an aimless subject then don't respond. I want to learn more and a response such as this doesn't come close to answering the question.
I dont and didnt when I had classic cars and bikes, so my view both then and now, for what its worth my tuppencehalfpenny's worth                                                                                                                                                                                                                                and exit right.

 The problem then was on the one hand it was estimated, in 1995, that between 150, and 250 million pounds, were being lost from the exchequer due to Vehicle Excise Duty, road tax evasions. The society of Vehicle Motor Manufacturers and traders were carping, that during the recessionary period of the early 90s under Major's government,the recession then was causing concerns, as they werent selling enough new vehicles, and demands that old pollution making ones, not catalytically controlled, were ruining the planet.

Anyway people personally importing cars manufactured in the UK could source them abroad,  even from 100 percent on tax countries like Denmark cheaper than buying from a UK dealership, so the Government were lobbied by The SMMT on those grounds..

so as hobbyists we regarded a fresh attack, on such fronts, as a foot in the door aproach, (if the robbing hoods cannot get through the windows theyll get in somehow).  We even heard Germany was perhaps considering only awarding their equivelent of UK MOTs, to matching number cars? Scurellous rumour or whatever, a lot of things were up in the air , including presumably Baroque Angeles in their lighter than air loafers, but rather than put a toe in the water to take the temperature the Powers that be initially tried to bulldoze a proposal for off road vehicle tax, back then.

The Department of Vehicle Licencing Centre/Swansea, now A for Agency, or C for cuts, reluctantly agreed to see 38 club delegates and another 20 over 2 days of the weekend of 23rd/4th, I think, in Wales

Not only did the British Historical federation start up but so did an affiliated Guild of American Vehicle Clubs, after a meeeting on 2nd April at Gaydon, the day after the government released in its white paper, iwas copted on to that commitee as editor.

 The incentive to do a round Robin away day 460 mile trip to Swansea, and attend such-in company with my then very best friend, voluntarily representing American Independants CC, I also was Editor for the National Guild of American Vehicle Clubs, but my best mate back then came along to and spoke on behalf of the Independants, as I did also after a request to be delegate for the English TBird club.

We went in my old ragerdy pollution making Mark 5 Cortina, It did smoke, and so did we then.

We were told at The DVLC HQ 2 types of off road tax were to be imposed with a third option. The Government were going to impose this, one way or another, come what may!! It was up to us to accept the most pallatable version. The most easily swallowed I guess, being  the short term tax disc, for lightwork projects, or the long term ones with a nominal charge for admin, which could then be reduced to the shorter term one at a later date. At this juncture the DVLC was about to become computorised, with of course the mandatory mass redundancy-so many experiened since, so maybe the Sword of Damocles, was held aloft for those in fear of their careers, to toe in and fall in line, or get the chop..

A cut off  year 1960 was muted, one where anything before would possibly be free and nominally in staged increased until up to date-but that too was deemed far too complicted. There were members there from the cycle light car club and even the steam afficianodos, so much hot air was released into the Ozome layer, from Welsh Wales those two days, I guess.

However he didnt get it far off base, a Morris Minor club rep caused some muffled amusement,after he suggested 1971 being the cut off year because it was the last year that Classic shaped car (was made, so another they broke the mould, when they made that, presumably a jellymould- its lovely replacement was a Classic Marina-which wouldnt be after ? Even Ital design couldnt save that one either.

After another 2 years of meetings discussions and also on board,various with clout in the old vehicle arenas, The Government was probably made to realise that less than 1 percent of the total UK motoring society, made up of old vehicle folk, and their pride's and joys,was hardly any threat to pollution, and in respect of raising vast amounts for charitable causes, not least to mention providing work in a thriving cottage industry of minor manufacturing offshoots, did a much aplauded U turn and granted Free tax! or tax exhemption for a Vehicle of Historic Interest, I think was the actual wording. On, as stated before a revolving basis. Tackling evasions and such was left to free S ingle O  ff  R oad N otification

ie .. on reaching its 25th year, a car was deemed Classic and therefore exhempt from VED. As well as not being restricted to just one vehicle per individual. further, for personally imported vehicles of less than a projected 100, or a given model, imported, (somehow Grey Imported of Nissan Skylines werent included in that quota debacle or slipped through the net),- Single Vehicle Approval tests for imported cars like say, some friends of mine, who imported a 6 month old Firebird were. Definately for kit cars, which didnt have enough original donor content parts, to keep a year related Plate, and had to also be type approvelled via S V A.and be awarded a Q registration plate.

So even so many kit cars have benefitted from a free tax, if with a pre 73 reg.

Unfortunately things could only get better (not)with the arrival of New Labour, or so the song went.

However Chancellor Brown, keen to fill the coffers in the War Chest Department, and even better at emptying them again both a s chancellor as well as PM-, slipped it steathily out, in the budget following Blair's landslide win, 1997, that was  the revolving bit of the free tax or exhemption scenario, hard fought for over 2 years by so many, actually set in stone pre 1973, if road tax was/is considered the defining issue.As everyone seems to be saying it is up to the individual-or even your insurance company to decide what really constitutes a Classic.