An Introduction to Classic, Antique, and Vintage Cars

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1969 Dodge Charger R/T from the Dukes of Hazzard
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This red beauty starred in the hit 1970s show Starsky and Hutch
Knight Industries 2000

KITT was the Black Pontiac Trans Am from Knight Rider
308 Ferrari GTS

The striking red Ferrari from Magnum P.I.
A-Team GMC Van

The A-Team fought crime in this 1983 GMC Van
Classic Cars & Parts

An Introduction to Classic, Antique, and Vintage Cars

For most classic car owners, collecting and restoring them isn’t just a part-time interest; it’s an all-consuming obsession. It’s much more than just being able to say “hey, check out my new classic car.” It’s being able to say “hey, check out my new classic car and listen to its entire lifespan from design to production.” Classic car owners gorge themselves on all the nitty-gritty details and take pride in their extensive knowledge on the subject. This may sound intimidating for newcomers to vintage, antique, and classic car collecting, but it doesn’t have to. Everyone starts somewhere and you can start with this introduction to classic cars.

The first thing you should know is that classic car collecting can get very expensive, very quick. With all that money being invested into these projects, you need to know exactly what it is you’re paying for in replacement parts and restoration costs. That starts with knowing the difference between vintage, antique, and classic cars.

Though there’s some ongoing debate as to the time frame that constitutes a vintage car, it’s generally considered to be those manufactured between 1919 and 1930. Mostly vehicles that were produced around the same time as World War I. However, there are factors to consider other than the year it was manufactured. A vintage car should also have a classy or sporty aesthetic to it that’s combined with some form of breakthrough technology. Vintage cars are often looked back on as game-changers for the automobile world.

Antique cars, on the other hand, are those manufactured more than 45 years ago but are still too new to be considered vintage. “New” being a very relative term here. Much like vintage cars, however, there’s some debate between various groups, such as insurance companies and car clubs, as to what range of manufacturing years classifies a car as antique.

Classic cars are considerably newer compared to those of the vintage and antique classifications and are generally vehicles manufactured between 20 to 45 years ago. American-made cars manufactured during this period are often referred to as American Classics and largely come from the companies Chevrolet, Ford, and Hudson.

While it’s true becoming a vintage, antique, or classic car collector will inevitably drive up your expenses, it’s also an incredibly rewarding hobby. The level of satisfaction one can get from seeing their restored car in its original glory after countless hours of labor is a feeling like no other.

If you think classic car collecting might be for you, here are some other helpful readings to help get you from 0 to 60 in record time:

25 Classic Cars to Drive Before You Die

Automobile Design and History

Restoring a Classic Car

Classic Car Gallery

Partsgeek Classic Car Lovers Fan Page

Maintenance vs Restoration

32 Best Cars to Restore

Glossary of Antique, Vintage and Classic Automotive Terms

22 Vintage Cars to Collect