December 6, 2022

When Does a Car Become a Classic?

When we talk about vintage vehicles at White’s Bodyworks, the question often comes up about when a car truly becomes a classic. This is often a slightly contentious issue because there are no real set rules. Get a bunch of classic car enthusiasts in a room and you’ll soon see that there are more than a few disagreements.

40 years is usually mentioned but this is because the rules change for cars and they don’t have to pay vehicle excise duty after this time. There are also a few other categories such as veteran cars (anything manufactured before the First World War), vintage cars (vehicles made before 1930) and post-vintage cars (made between 1930 and 1945).

Anything after that and more than 40 years old can reasonably be considered a classic vehicle. That sounds fair enough to our team at White’s Bodyworks.

Unfortunately, it’s not as clear cut as that and there are a few different schools of thought. For example, is a Mini Coupe made in 1995 a classic or not? Some would say that it is definitely. But it’s not yet more than 40 years old.

So what other factors determine, at least in some people’s minds, what makes a classic? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Nostalgia

If a car gives you a sense of nostalgia, then you might reasonably consider it a classic. This can depend on how old you are, of course. If you were around in the late 70s and early 80s as a kid you might fondly remember the Ford Granada. If you were born in the 2000s, the Peugeot 206 might be something of a classic in your mind.

You don’t have to have lived through a particular period, you may just have a liking or attachment to the 60s or 70s because of their style. Nostalgia can often be connected to our favourite TV shows or films that stick in our memory.

Nostalgia, just like the 40-year rule, can be a bit difficult to pin down and is maybe not the best indicator of whether a car is a classic or not.

2. Classic Car Design

For some classic car enthusiasts, there has to be something in the design of the vehicle that makes it stand out. We can understand this, we all have our favourites, whether it’s the sleek design of a vintage jag or the shark fins on a classic Cadillac. Many cars of the past have a unique identifying feature in their design that makes them stand out – we immediately recognise what they are.

The humble Mini is a point in question. It was undoubtedly made famous by the Michael Caine movie The Italian Job but the car has been an enduring brand throughout the last 50 or more years.

3. The Cultural Impact of Classic Cars

The reason that the Ford Mustang became such an iconic car in the late 60s wasn’t so much because of its design or thundering engine. It was mostly down to the legendary star of the big screen Steve McQueen. Its role in Bullitt has become a part of our cultural history and for that reason alone we see it as a classic. You won’t be surprised to find that it sold for $3.4 million when it came up for auction in 2020.

Think of the many Bond cars going back to the iconic  Aston Martin, the VW in Herbie Rides Again, the Delorean in Back to the Future and Dodge Charger in The Fast and The Furious. All these cars became classics more because of their association with big movies than anything else.

A Classic is in the Eye of the Beholder

Age is one thing, provenance is another. Some old cars disappear and are hardly thought of again. Others become the target of classic car enthusiasts. Some are obvious like the Ford Capri, one of the top racy numbers of the 70s. Others like the Morris Minor are less obvious. Indeed, the Morris Minor owners club has branches all over the UK today and thousands of members.

The thing to note is that classic car owners are generally quite devoted to their vehicles and it may be that this should be a defining feature determining why we call it such in the first place. In the end, of course, it’s just an identifying name. If you want to call your car a classic, then you are welcome to do so.

Bring Your Classic to White’s Bodyworks

We have more than two decades of experience in restoring and repairing classic cars of all types. If you’re searching for a garage you can trust and a team that is passionate about what they do, then White’s Bodyworks should be your first port of call.

You can check out our extensive portfolio here.



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