Share Page:


What is a classic car?

Jaguar E TypeThis is a much debated subject of course which has been going on for many years, and no doubt will be a topic of discussion for decades to come. There are so many factors involved I very much doubt there will ever be a definition that encompasses every person’s idea of what a classic car is.

For many, mention the term "Classic Car" and in this country at least, the vehicles that spring to mind will be some of the well-known favourites from the 1950's 60's and 70's - for example, the smaller Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite, through MGA & MGB and the various Triumph TR's to more expensive sports cars such as the E-Type Jaguar, as well as saloon cars from this period, including the Morris Minor, Triumph Herald, Ford Zodiac, and Mk II Jaguar to name but a very few. Higher end models such as the Aston Martin DB 4, 5 & 6 and the Jensen Interceptor amongst countless others are well known to many as all-time classics, as they have deservedly been for many years now. No doubt in years to come, cars from the 80's and 90's will be considered as having achieved classic status - in fact you could say that this is already the case when you think of the MK3 Ford Capri or Sierra Cosworth for example!

In Britain, very old vehicles do have some clear definitions. These being Vintage (before 1905), Edwardian (1905 to 1918) and Veteran (1919 to 1930). However at present, for the British market at least, there are no real hard and fast criteria as to what constitutes a classic car. This is in contrast to the USA, where it is suggested that a car should be between 20 and 45 years old to be considered a classic, and cars that are over 45 years old are classed as antique.

The definition of what is a classic car can be very subjective. Generally in Britain and perhaps some of Europe, you will find that the great majority of people would expect the car to no longer be in production and perhaps at least 20 years old, but having said that, some fairly recent production cars are considered by some as "modern classics", especially some of the very expensive low volume production cars. You can be assured that some current exotica such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis will be guaranteed classic status in a very short space of time.

For many people a classic car will be a car that was on the road in the time of their youth - perhaps it may be what your dad, uncle or perhaps even grandparent had when you were young, or maybe a car that you once aspired to owning when you were going through your formative years - and yes nostalgia can be a big part of what makes some cars a classic to you.  Perhaps classic is not the best word to describe all the cars we may love – possibly "cherished" would be a more embracing term.

Morris MinorFrom a different angle, in the UK to qualify as a classic car for tax purposes in business, the car must be at least 15 years old at the end of the tax year and have a market value of over £15,000 (at time of writing). Not to be confused with road tax - this is a completely different subject which I will come to later. Many Classic car insurers will also expect a vehicle to be over 15 years old before they would have it on their books as a classic.

What the DVLA determines as a historic vehicle (to use another term) is any vehicle constructed before 1 January 1973. These vehicles are then eligible for a free vehicle licence under "historic vehicle" legislation. When this law was introduced it was initially to be a rolling date so that any vehicle over 25 years old would be exempt from road tax. Unfortunately this was frozen in 1997 (many are campaigning to change this) to leave the cut-off date for historic Vehicle status as it is now.

A widely held opinion on this subject is that the car must have "bottomed out". This means that the car will have reached its lowest point in value as a used car and will have started to appreciate in value again - this is a very good indication of desirability.

Another marker as to what may be considered a classic car is as to whether or not it is featured in many of the popular classic car magazines - although there is a fair amount of bias present between the different publications with one or two magazines not giving any column inches to some of our more every-day and affordable classics, but featuring heavily on the expensive and exotic, which are sadly beyond the reach of many pockets, but none the less classics.

So it will seem that we all have our own ideas, our own dreams and desires, and that they will be different from person to person, but there will be common ground - in not only what is classic and what is not - but the reasons for owning and cherishing the cars themselves - whatever the marque or model may be.

In Britain, and of course this is a British classic car website, the real glory days of car manufacture have now long passed with all but a handful  of our own manufactures now consigned to the  history books and perhaps our own fond memories. These long gone makes are the cars that you will find on this website, and hopefully considered by you the reader as Great British Classic Cars.

GB Classic Coins