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Classic cars: why we need clarity

Published 09 April 2013

A recent online discussion about old cars, the tag ‘classic’ was applied to a car I was discussing; more specifically, that the motor in question, a Peugeot 205 Gentry was ‘not a classic’. Considering I never said it was – but actually think these cars are quite special – I was more than a little puzzled.

It did get me thinking – once again – about the whole tagging situation, and old cars in general. The ‘classic’ car thing sometimes does leaves me baffled. It’s too vague, too blurry, and as a term, far too open to misinterpretation. It’s clear that as a catch-all term, it does have its uses – but when no two people have the same idea about what should – and should not – be included in the club, it really is time to do it European style and start categorising old cars rigidly, and apply names and formulas, based on age.

After all, the dictionary definition for classic is:

  • Having a high quality or standard against which other things are judged

Thinking about it in those terms, a brand new car could be a classic. Wouldn’t you say that the Jaguar F-Type or Range Rover Evoque, for instance, are two British classics that define their sectors, and are cars their rivals are judged against?

And with that in mind, I do think it’s time to do what the Germans, and most other Europeans do, and simply divide by age. It’s been done before, and still goes on for the really old cars – so why not extend? And do away with tedious, tiresome ‘classic’ car elitism once and for all?

Here’s my proposal:

  1. Veteran car – pre-1905 (as before)
  2. Vintage car – 1905-1929 (as before)
  3. Pre-War car – 1930-1939 (commonly used, but not clearly defined)
  4. Oldtimer – 1940-1982 (originated in Germany and used across Europe now, rolling to cater for all post-War cars that are older than 30)
  5. Youngtimer – 1982-2002 (as above, a rolling band, from 10-30 years old)

The reason I’ve gone with a rolling set-up for the post-War cars is simple, and again ‘borrowed’ from the European way of doing things. In all countries (UK aside, which has its silly 1974 cut-off; and – I think – Denmark), 30 years is the typical point where cars become Oldtimers, and start to attract those ‘classic’ exemptions we like so much. So it seems completely logical, to me at least, that we should do the same – and also accept that in time, and the passing of the years, new cars are consistently joining the historic motoring scene.

And that means that in a stroke, the scene would be more inclusive, more welcoming, and finally accepting that as time goes by ‘younger’ cars are getting old. And more importantly, cherished and enjoyed.

As for ‘classic’ cars, let’s re-take that word’s true meaning, and accept that in order to be classic, it needs to be good. Not old. That’s something else entirely.

Comments

AJJ    on 9 April 2013

Seems completely sensible to me, I've never really worried about the classic tag, if someone loves the car, whatever it is then great!

Andrew Elphick    on 9 April 2013

The young timer / old timer tag is definitely worth a push in blighty, as the author says it is a European accepted standard.

Frankie    on 10 April 2013

Hasn’t this been an issue since the EU and FIVA shook up the legal defination of a “Classic” car?

Alexander Boucke    on 11 April 2013

You surely mean the charter of Turin from FIVA (here: http://www.fiva.org/EN/Torino/... - this is nothing legal, just a recommendation. The definition of classic cars in legal terms cannot be done through the EU, this is a national legal matter. Here in Germany we have a 30 year age limit plus a checklist for condition which is added on top of the road safety test. Germany does not have a legal definition of youngtimer, it is a loose term to describe a car getting collectible, but being too young to fall into the 'oldtimer' group of over 30s.

BMW Mass Air Flow Sensor    on 6 June 2013

We like so much. So it seems completely logical, to me at least, that
we should do the same – and also accept that in time, and the passing of
the years, new cars are consistently joining the historic motoring
scene.

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