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 miffed.
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 XF or Land 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:
- Veteran car – pre-1905 (as before)
- Vintage car – 1905-1929 (as before)
- Pre-War car – 1930-1939 (commonly used, but not clearly defined)
- Oldtimer – 1940-1982 (originated in Germany and used across Europe now, rolling to cater for all post-War cars that are older than 30)
- 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 1973 cut-off; and – I think – Denmark), 3o 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.
But as ever, I’d love to hear your views on the matter.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.