Is a car’s status as a “classic” determined just by a calendar? Is every car of a certain age considered a classic car? It all depends on who you ask.
From a legal standpoint, a car is usually considered classic when it’s 20-25 years old or older depending on what state you’re in. There’s also usually a caveat that it has to be unmodified to get a “collector” license plate. But are state governments and insurance companies really the top authority on classic cars?
If you ask twenty different classic car clubs to define a classic car, you’re likely to get twenty different answers. The age qualifications range from 20 years to 50 years and beyond. One common theme is that a car is only a classic if it has some historical value and is worth preserving rather than sending off to a junkyard. If it has no historical significance, your car might just be old.
The big classic car clubs like the Classic Car Club of America and the Antique Automobile Club of America actually maintain lists of what cars they consider classics. These lists are vetted by passionate, knowledgeable car collectors with a great taste for classics.
Sometimes the definition of a classic car is simply in the eye of the beholder. Maybe you have an old Chevrolet Chevette with a collector plate and it’s your pride and joy. It’s not fast, pretty, or valuable, but if you’ve decided to save it from being scrapped, then it has every right to be considered a classic.
Then there are antique cars, a category with an even wider range of opinions on the definition. Generally, any car built before WWI can be considered an antique and anything before WWII could be an antique depending on who you ask. At the very least, any pre-WWII car could safely be called “vintage.”
What do you consider a classic car? Is the guy with the collector plate on his nineties Mazda Miata cheating or is age just a number?