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Thread: What Makes a Classic Car?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    What Makes a Classic Car?

    Colorado, like many other states I assume, offers special license plates for "collector or classic" vehicles, as seen below:


    The criteria for such a plate is that the vehicle must be over 25 years old. Typically, these plates have been seen on cars such as the '57 Chevy Bel Air (neat!), '62 Cadillac El Dorado (drool...), or a stock '67 Ford Bronco (something that I am always after). However, the other day, I saw such plates on a late 70s or early 80s Chevy Citation. As I was behind one at a light, I was suprised at both seeing a running Citation in 2009 and the fact that it was considered a "collector" vehicle.
    I was weirded out by this...

    So, like, I am just getting older and now astounded at the fact that cars built after my birthdate are now eligible?
    Or could it be that mass produced cars from a weird era in the industry are just not worthy of "collector" status.

    Your thoughts. Is a classic car based on age alone (like the Citation) or should it be based on image (like the '72 Chevelle)?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  2. #2
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Not going to lie, I have a white 1986 Oldsmobile Calais and I plan on restoring it in a few years when it becomes a classic. My dad bought it new, and I bought it from him almost 7 years ago. We both took good care of it - very few scratches, still in operating condition, replaced things like trim and hubcaps (complete with old 1970s-80's Olds logo) when needed, etc. It's still a nice looking car when it's freshly washed and waxed. If I ever move back to Oklahoma (which is where it's currently stored), I'm going to start driving it again fairly regularly and start repairing and replacing things as needed.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I think part of the appeal of an older car (or anything) that has been restored is the "out of time" ness of it. To see something today as it was when brand new so many years ago is an interesting sensation and one that a lot of people seem moved by.

    That being said, I also feel freaked out by "classic" cars that come from within my lifetime. Its probably mainly just the way it makes me feel old, but I also sense that there were just a lot more cars made in, say, 1985, than in 1964. That makes those vehicles less unusual and less of a commodity perhaps. I also personally think the level of hand craftsmanship (or at least the degree to which that is evident in the vehicle) is not as obvious in newer cars.

    But, I would really like to see TexanOkie's restored Olds when its done. That sounds pretty cool. I had a 69 Olds Delta 88 I inherited from my grandmother in Tulsa. It was one heck of a car, but a gas hog and enormous, so eventually it had to go. I often wonder if its still tooling around Austin somewhere.

    I also now realize that my Vanagon is "classic" as of this year. Hmmm.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    In terms of cars built after 1970, I think it has to be something that is/was iconic. I think my argument for this is that prior to 1970, every year each car model was completely different (57 Chevy was completely different than a 56 Chevy). In the 70s, though, the industry started having models that ran for multiple years. So, no offense, I don't consider a 1986 Olds Calais to be a "classic" car.....a 1982 DeLorean, on the other hand....

    (nothing wrong with a Calais, of course...I'm sure its really nice).

  5. #5
    Cyburbian azmodela's avatar
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    I'm not a fan of the loose 25 year old requirement for classic vehicle designations. It tends to water down the significance of such a plate. They should do what some states do, break it by year of manufacture. Some states have horseless carriage plates which can only be used on cars before a specific build year, often in the 20's or 30's, then you get a historical plate, which is often good through 67'. For some reason, 67' is seen as a magical year, often because of the advent of emissions controls, but also because it's the dawn of what is truly considered collectible, even though there are limited post 67' examples.

    I expect to seem some legislative movement towards restricting classic plates on cars in the future, there isn't a car made today that we'll be restoring and driving in 50 years.

    And I don't care what you say, GM never built anything worthy of a classic status in the 1980's.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    That being said, I also feel freaked out by "classic" cars that come from within my lifetime. Its probably mainly just the way it makes me feel old, but I also sense that there were just a lot more cars made in, say, 1985, than in 1964. That makes those vehicles less unusual and less of a commodity perhaps. I also personally think the level of hand craftsmanship (or at least the degree to which that is evident in the vehicle) is not as obvious in newer cars.
    This statement works for me and sums up my thoughts.

    However, to take on a point, I am remembering my first car was a 1986 Volvo 240, in 2011 it would qualify for the plates...and if I still had the car, I would get them.

    So classic is in the eye of the car owner, then.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Michigan designates these cars as historic, not classic.

    I would agree on the Olds, not too many Calais were made. Originally this was to be the Cutlass flagship vehicle. Far more common from that body style were the Grand-Ams which were more suited for kids and hence ragged-up. I would love an Olds from that era, particularly the rear drive one with the hurst shifter that competed against the Buick Grand National.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    My SO has a 1987 Fiat. It doesn't have one of the special license plates on it; I don't think he's checked to find out whether he could even get one.

    He has the car insured through American Collectors Insurance, which offers low-cost insurance for antique and collectible vehicles. Eligibility is restricted to vehicles that are a) driven on a limited basis (<5k per year), b) not used for general transportation, and c) kept in an enclosed, locked garage. The company defines a "collectible" vehicle as one that's at least 15 years old, unless the car is "of limited production." As I recall, we barely made the 15-year minimum when he first purchased the car. The collectors insurance is definitely worth it, as the rate is about 1/5 of what we pay for our other vehicles.

  9. #9
    I had a 1968 Dodge Charger (Dukes of Hazard?) and that was a nice car.........wish I had it now!

    Also with my ex had a 1956 T-Bird...........1952 Riley (from England), 1964 T-Bird, 2 1954 Fords, 1964 1/2 Mustang....and others.............

    Also had a 1972 Gran Torino (like the one in the movie)

    And about 20 others.................

  10. #10
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Ford Stories

    As I hinted in the original thread post, I have always had a eye for a classic Ford Bronco, years 1965-1977.
    Trouble is, I would like one that is simple and stock, meaning as if I bought it from the dealer the week before. However, too many Cementheads have chopped their classic Broncos, lifting them and making them into rock crawlers (at least here in the West). Perhaps there is a way to return a lifted Bronco to its original state?

    Anyways, there was about 6 months ago, a 1965 Ford truck for sale down the street. First sign in the window says $700, then it went to $500, then to $300. The sign also said that the truck ran, but needed minor carb work. At that time, I didn't know what was going on in the future for my wife and I so I passed.
    But if I can find a classic truck or Bronco that at least ran or needed minor work, that would be great. I have a factory-trained Ford mechanic that lives across the street and he loves projects like that (and works for Bud Light, which is cheap. He would be a good mentor.

    A long time ago, my dad and I were looking at an unused work truck of his, a 1979 Ford F100 Ranger, possibly the most basic truck that Ford built at the time. Single cab, 2WD, long bed with a small Ford 302 under the hood (same 302 as the old Broncos). That 302 ran like a champ, even after sitting unstarted in the high plains sun for years. All it was going to take to repaint the sun faded dark blue paint was $1500, then the title would be signed to me and that would be my truck. However, my old Volvo, my main vehicle at the time, needed tranny work for $1500-- I elected to do that instead and I have been kicking myself ever since.

    ho-hum...

    *DISCLAIMER: As much as I have harped upon the American auto industry here and expounded on the virtues of my Honda, I will say that for trucks my family has always bought Ford and therefore I am a supporter of Ford Trucks.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  11. #11
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    As I hinted in the original thread post, I have always had a eye for a classic Ford Bronco, years 1965-1977.
    Trouble is, I would like one that is simple and stock, meaning as if I bought it from the dealer the week before. However, too many Cementheads have chopped their classic Broncos, lifting them and making them into rock crawlers (at least here in the West). Perhaps there is a way to return a lifted Bronco to its original state?

    Anyways, there was about 6 months ago, a 1965 Ford truck for sale down the street. First sign in the window says $700, then it went to $500, then to $300. The sign also said that the truck ran, but needed minor carb work. At that time, I didn't know what was going on in the future for my wife and I so I passed.
    But if I can find a classic truck or Bronco that at least ran or needed minor work, that would be great. I have a factory-trained Ford mechanic that lives across the street and he loves projects like that (and works for Bud Light, which is cheap. He would be a good mentor.

    A long time ago, my dad and I were looking at an unused work truck of his, a 1979 Ford F100 Ranger, possibly the most basic truck that Ford built at the time. Single cab, 2WD, long bed with a small Ford 302 under the hood (same 302 as the old Broncos). That 302 ran like a champ, even after sitting unstarted in the high plains sun for years. All it was going to take to repaint the sun faded dark blue paint was $1500, then the title would be signed to me and that would be my truck. However, my old Volvo, my main vehicle at the time, needed tranny work for $1500-- I elected to do that instead and I have been kicking myself ever since.

    ho-hum...

    *DISCLAIMER: As much as I have harped upon the American auto industry here and expounded on the virtues of my Honda, I will say that for trucks my family has always bought Ford and therefore I am a supporter of Ford Trucks.
    As a fellow Honda guy....I've considered buying a mid 90s Ranger (4 cyl, 5 speed, cheap) as a hauler so I don't have to put mulch or sod in my Accord. I've also always had a crush on late 70s Jeep J-10 trucks

  12. #12
    Cyburbian azmodela's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    My SO has a 1987 Fiat. It doesn't have one of the special license plates on it; I don't think he's checked to find out whether he could even get one.

    He has the car insured through American Collectors Insurance, which offers low-cost insurance for antique and collectible vehicles. Eligibility is restricted to vehicles that are a) driven on a limited basis (<5k per year), b) not used for general transportation, and c) kept in an enclosed, locked garage. The company defines a "collectible" vehicle as one that's at least 15 years old, unless the car is "of limited production." As I recall, we barely made the 15-year minimum when he first purchased the car. The collectors insurance is definitely worth it, as the rate is about 1/5 of what we pay for our other vehicles.

    You may want to look into other insurer's of antique cars. I've got several insured through Hagerty, there are no mileage limits, enclosed, locked garage requirements, or other prohibiting regulations. Plus, the cost to insure multiple cars is cheaper than insuring one of my modern cars.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by azmodela View post
    You may want to look into other insurer's of antique cars. I've got several insured through Hagerty, there are no mileage limits, enclosed, locked garage requirements, or other prohibiting regulations. Plus, the cost to insure multiple cars is cheaper than insuring one of my modern cars.
    Thanks, but we're happy with our insurer. My point was simply that you don't need to pay typical automotive insurance rates for antique and collectible cars that aren't driven regularly.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    My definition of a "classic car" would be (generally speaking).....

    Model year at least 30 years ago (with some exceptions).
    Show sharp and clean.
    Limited enhancements (such as bigger-than-stock tires, etc.).
    Broad nostalgia category (admired by many).
    Personal memory nostalgia category.
    Fuzzy dice.

    Classic cars to me would include.....

    1957 Chevolet
    1958 Chevrolet
    1958 DeSoto Firedome
    1964 Pontiac
    1967 Mustang
    Any year GTO
    Street rods (well-preserved or restored).

    BTW....I owned a 58 DeSoto, a 68 Mustang Fastback, a 64 Pontiac.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  15. #15
    My first car was a '63 Ford Galaxie 500 which I bought in May, 1982. Though only 19 years old, I definately considered the car to be a classic. Indeed one classic auto magazine featured a convertable version of my car on the front cover that same year.

    Similar Model

    Chronologically then, a 1990 car would be just as old today as that 1963 car was in 1982. But in no way would I consider any production car from that year to be a classic. Indeed it's even hard to find even a 1980 car that would meet "Classic" criteria even though 1980 cars will be 30 years old later this year.

    There is just something about pre-1975 cars that will never be matched by 1980s - 2000s cars no matter how old they ever get. This is especially true of the 2000s in which I can't tell the difference between many of the models. They may be more efficient and have better repair records, but they are boring as Hell.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN View post
    The criteria for such a plate is that the vehicle must be over 25 years old.
    Ha! thats exactly what I was thinking when a read the title to the thread, and yup, there it is. nuff said, thats it as far as I am concerned.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

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