What are classic cars?

Anyone and everyone with an interest in old cars has a favourite; maybe one that was in the family or they owned themselves many years ago, or one that was totally out of their reach financially but they always dreamed of owning.  We often hear these folk talk about classic cars and some enthusiasts also use the term, so what does it mean?

In the conventional sense it can mean any car which a person might regard as something unique or special, memorable in its time.  Hence the word may be used to describe the Citroen 2CV; the VW ‘Beetle’; a Jaguar XK120; an Alvis Lagonda or a limited edition car whenever it was built, even one built in the last few years or so as there is no time period for the use of the word; therefore, it is a rather vague depiction and more to do with the opinion of the speaker. 

So what description might we give our cars?  The DVLA classifies cars produced before 1st January 1976 as ‘Historic’ and they qualify for the ‘Zero’ rated road fund licence.  Hence the word ‘Historic’ is now the colloquial word for any car built before then, whether post-war or pre-war.  However, we can be more accurate as the Vintage Sports Car Club Ltd does have definitions for various periods of production.

Cars built on or before 31st December 1919 are ‘Edwardian’;

Cars built on or before 31st December 1931 are ‘Vintage’;

Cars built on or before 31st December 1941 are ‘Post-Vintage’,

Cars built on or before 31st December 1961 are ‘Historic’. 

Unfortunately in the USA and Australia their definitions are slightly different; well they would be, wouldn’t they!

Inevitably at any rally we will be asked when our ‘Sevens’ will be eligible for the RAC ‘London to Brighton’ run.  Well, the straight answer is they never will as that annual event on the first Sunday in November is solely for cars, classed as ‘Veteran’, which were built before 1st January 1905, with the option for the organisers to invite a small number of vehicles out of that period.  Several marques have organised London to Brighton runs, and one of our members has completed the three ‘Austin Seven’ events held in 2000, 2005 and 2009.

It is always a joy to see so many different makes of pre- and post-war cars still on the road and displayed at rallies.  Whichever model you own you still appreciate the other marques which were on the road when we were children, even perhaps learned to drive in one of them.  By driving and displaying them we evoke memories and occasionally meet someone who wishes to buy one, it is a friendly and rewarding hobby and is not so expensive as some people may think.  But do not leap in to buy the first car you see, take advice from knowledgeable members in a club like the CA7C and you will be able to make a sensible purchase and have the support and encouragement of like-minded enthusiasts.

This article, written by Doug Castle, first appeared in the North-Cornwall Advertiser on 5 Nov 2008 and the Mid-Cornwall Advertiser on 19 Nov 2008.  It was reproduced in CA7C Seven Focus in Jan 2009 pp8-9.