What is a "Classic"?

Bob Hubbard

Dedicated LVC Member
Nov 22, 2004
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Los Angeles
On one of the other boards we are having a discussion as to what makes a vehicle a classic.
My feeling ,and what I have alweays been told is, a classic is a vehicle at leaste 25 years old.
Antique must be 50 years old.
On the other board, the consensus is the condition of the vehicle as pertains to inovative design or mechanics that were used as a ruller for later production models.
I still think, the age of 25 determines if it is considered a classic.
Let's hear your opinion.
I suggested that perhaps a rep from an insurance company that deals in classic car insurance could offer an opinion as to what guidelines they use in considering what is, and isn't a classic.
There's two status factors. Collectible and Classic. One is a variable and one is a constant.

The variable is collectible status. A car can be a collectible before it becomes a classic, and a car can be a classic and still not be a collectible for some time. Some cars are collectibles right off the bat and will never not be collectible, and some cars will never ever be collectibles. Also, there's some room for subjective opinion in whether a car is a collectible or not.

The constant is classic status. This one is much more simple, totally black and white with no greys. A classic is anything 25 years old or older. Period, no if's ands or buts. It's a constant. A 1981 Corvette is not a classic even though it's 1980 identical twin is. And a 1979 Omni is a classic even though it'll probably never have any real collector's value.

If there's a non-classic car that's a twin to a classic car (like a 1981 Corvette and a 1980 Corvette) They usually share comparable collectibility and retail value. For instance. A 1984 Lincoln Town Car is worth almost as much as a 1980 which shares it's exact styling. (even though one was called a continental and one was called a town car) That's assuming that the 80 had the 302 and not the 351, with the 351 the 80'd be worth a lot more and 80 was the only year they offered it outside the Mark series.
Condition of the vehicle affects it's value and desirability on a micro-level, but on a macro-level is of no significance. Meaning, if you see a junky 78 Camaro, it's not gonna be worth anything except to a gearhead, it means that this particular 78 Camaro is gonna have very limited collector's appeal, but that doesn't mean that the 78 Camaro at large isn't a collectible.
This is Bob DeKorne of Hagerty Insurance's response:

"Hi Barry and fellow Lincoln enthusiasts: A challenging question to
answer in a single statement - one we obviously deal with hundreds of
times a day. Here's my best shot at it: A vehicle that, due to it's
care or reconditioning, holds a market value higher than it did when
purchased new.

That handles almost anything from the 60's and before quite easily -
even including most high production vehicles that were pretty mundane in
their day. It addresses the 70's cars from the "low horsepower/big
bumper" era if they are in great shape, too. It also addresses the
limited production cars or exotics from the 80's or 90's pretty well -
if they are used hard, they do depreciate and may not qualify for
collector car insurance. It also handles the rare exotics from today -
such as an Enzo, that sold for $650-$750 and are now trading above a

The formula gets a little sticky with modified cars, which we try to
judge on a case by case basis. Take a "new build" street rod, for
example, where a guy spent $100K creating it (including labor). 9 out
of 10 wouldn't trade on the market for $100K, even if flawless and
undriven, so almost every one is "upside down" value wise right from the
start. In those cases, and really, any situation that is very unique,
comparables from the market or a valid appraisal are about as good as it

That being said, just owning such a car isn't a guarantee that a
collector car agency will be able to say "Yes" automatically. At
Hagerty, we profile the family drivers (driving record, past claims
history, storage situation, etc) as much or more than the car itself,
and both pieces have to fit. Experience in the hobby, size of the
fleet, intended usage, and the type of "daily driver" vehicles in the
household are also factors we consider.

We understand that collectors are often anticipating a rise in vehicle
value when making a purchase (hey, I want a good deal when I buy a car,
too!), as well as the "fun" factor in our hobby. Leave the "making
money" thought to the professionals, but obviously, we all like the
concept of an investment that also turns heads and is fun to drive.
That's why the market has been so strong the past 10 years. My
suggestions are simple - do your homework and get as much documentation as possible, buy the best condition you can find (afford), and own these beauties because you love them rather than to make money"

The above response was posted on the other board where we are discussing this subject.
The insurance rep perfectly describes the criteria for insuring a "collector" car but I don't think came close to describing a classic vehicle.
I guess the opinions on this one are quite varied.
Like you, I will stick with my original contention, A classic is anything 25 years old. Period.
I think antique kicks in at 50 years old.
Yeah, it's like I said. Collectible is a variable state and open to loose interperetation, but Classic is a fixed, solid, rigid thing. I'm not real sure when it kicks over from classic to antique, but antique would be just as rigid a standard as classic and 50yrs makes sense. 25, the silver anniversary and 50, the golden anniversary. I think you're right on the 50yr thing. :Beer
techincally a classic is 15 years old, but my aunt's 89 taurus isn't what most people consider a classic. i think a classic is a car that is popular and has a timeless design that all can appreciate, such as the view of the Town Car up one post.
In Georgia, a vehicle 25 years old is eligible for "Historic Vehicle" tags.

A Classic (upper case) is a vehicle identified as such by the Classic Car Club of America. (CCCA) Generally, it is a premium vehicle manufactured between 1925 and 1948. There is a list of vehicles identified as Classics at the CCCA website. Here is the web address:

I just looked up CA historical vehicle plates and they classify it as a vehicle not older than 1922 but at least 25 years old
A British view

I thought you may be interested to know how it works in Britain.

'Non-car people' call all old cars "Vintage cars" and are pretty ignorant of the whole scene. However, the 'official' terminolgy is thus:
Pre-1905 "Veteran"
1905-1914 "Edwardian"
1915-1931 "Vintage"
And that's it. After that, the name 'Classic' is up to the owner or observer to bestow as they will.

A few years ago, the (then) government introduced a bill that meant all vehicles over 25 years old (on a rolling year-by-year basis) were exempt from paying our annual road tax. That meant most people assumed 25 years old was the definition of a Classic car. A succesive government lost no time in curtailing that at what was then 25 years old. So our situation is now that a vehicle manufactured before 1st January 1973 is exempt from paying our road tax, and anything registered afterwards still has to pay!

We have phrases for vehicles after 1931 such as Post-Vintage Classics, Pre-War Classics, Post-War Classics, Modern Classics etc. But none of these has an official definition and the phrase 'Classic Car' is still open to interpretation. For instance, the person up the road with a 1988 Ford Escort considers it a classic as he is only 18 years old himself! Whereas an older person wouldn't share that view.
I find it all relative. In the 1980's as a young enthusiast I considered cars not much more than 10 years old as Classics. But now there's no way that I could look at the c**p plastic European cars from the '80s as anything other than rubbish.
Hello Bob,
In the Netherlands a car is considered classic when it is 25 years or older. With age 25 all taxes are gone, and it can be insured via special "Oldtimer insurances". That means low premium based on the fact that these are hobby-cars.
Jur de Jong.
20yrs to be a classic, 25yrs to be an antique here in Ma, regardless of condition of the vehicle or collectability of it

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