Antique, Classic And Vintage Cars
What Is The Antique Car
You might think that "antique cars," "classic cars" and
"vintage cars" are words for the same type of
vehicle. These words are often used interchangeably.
Technically, Vintage Car and Classic Car designations
cover shorter eras than the Antique era.
Antique cars cover the spectrum from pre-vintage cars, through
the hot rod era and clear through the muscle car era of the 1960s
Antique Car, Vintage Car & Classic
The antique car definition includes, of course, all types of
vehicles, not just the high-performance cars of interest to
hot-rodders. In its 2008 Judging Guidelines, The Antique Automobile
Club of America defines an Antique Car as follows:
All vehicles that are 25 years old or older
and were eligible for operation on public roadways except for
classes 24a, 24b and 24c at the time of manufacture, are eligible
for judging at AACA National Meets. A vehicle registered in the
proper class is judged with other vehicles in the same
Today it is commonly accepted that an Antique Car is any
vehicle manufactured at least 25 years ago. Most states will
issue special license plates for vehicles at least 25 years old,
with mileage limitations. Some states have the antique car cutoff
as short as ten years old, with certain provisions.
Agreement is elusive, however, on what entails a
often defined as any vehicle built between the start of 1919
and the end of 1930. The 1919 start date of the
Vintage period is seldom questioned, although early cars such
as the fine specimin above, driven through the 2007
Louisville Nationals Exhibition, were manufactured earlier
than 1919. These earlier cars would be Antique Cars, if
not Vintage Cars.
In the strict British definition, 1930 is the cut-off. Some
American sources prefer 1925 since it is the pre-classic car period
as defined by the Classic Car Club of America. Others consider the
start of World War II to be the end of the Vintage period.
Some see the Classic Car period as
overlapping the Vintage period, especially since the Vintage
designation covers all vehicles produced in the period while the
official Classic Car Club definition includes
only high-end vehicles.
The Classic Car Club of America believes it created the term
"classic car" and therefore has the right to define it as "a fine
or distinctive automobile, either American or foreign built,
produced between 1925 and 1948. Generally, a Classic was
high-priced when new and was built in limited quantities. Other
factors, including engine displacement, custom coachwork and luxury
However, many automobile enthusiasts outside of this club hold
the less limiting viewpoint that a "classic car" includes any
older, very fine and classy vehicle.
The 1949 Mercury is considered by many to be the classic car
that defined an era and inspired dreams.
To put things in perspective, cars were still somewhat rare
in 1919. By 1930, they had all but replaced buggies and other forms
of primitive transportation. Industrialized nations began
building road systems. Cars became more practical and
comfortable with the ability to negotiate unpaved
Improvements came quickly.
- Car heating and the built-in car radio.
- Antifreeze allowed water-cooled cars to be used
- Four-wheel braking from a common foot
- Hydraulically actuated brakes.
- Power steering.
- Towards the end of the Vintage era, the system of octane rating
of fuel was introduced, allowing comparison between
During this period, society became more car-oriented. For
example, the drive-in
restaurant was conceived. Suburban shopping centers were developed.
lining roads in the United States, as travelers took their
vehicles for road trips.
On today's crowded, polluted highways, we may feel nostalgia for
those times. But most of us would not trade our Prius
or Deuce Coup replica to go back in time. And why should we,
when we can have all the modern conveniences and still enjoy
the romance of eras past?