To quote the prolific car collector and comedian, Jay Leno, “Any car can be a collector car, if you collect it”. Car collecting is a deeply personal journey and the true collector seeks out the automobiles that stir the soul. That doesn’t mean other reasons for collecting vehicles like historical preservation or investment have no merit, but it does mean that antique and classic car designations really don’t mean anything if you love the cars you collect.
Car collecting has become quite a large industry, however, and as with all industries, certain standards have been employed. These standards cover everything from era classifications to vehicle condition, although it is important to note that standards can vary from country to country, and sometimes even by state or automobile club. For the purpose of this article, we will present the general definitions.
ANTIQUE OR CLASSIC?
While the exact classifications vary a little depending on the club, and some use the terms vintage and antique interchangeably while others make a distinction between the two, below is an overview of the car classification types.
The Antique Era generally covers any car made prior to 1930. This includes vehicles from the Brass Era, which were the first vehicles or “horseless carriages” as they were known, powered by gas, steam or electric power. At the turn of the century, Henry Ford pioneered assembly line car production and completely changed the automotive manufacturing industry with the launch of the Ford Model T. Car production boomed for almost thirty years until the Great Depression of 1929, which most car manufacturing companies did not survive.
The Vintage Era ascribed by some classic car clubs and car enthusiasts is the period from 1920 – 1930. This narrow era covers a period of exponential growth in the automotive industry, with production numbers at the end of the decade unmatched again until the 1950’s.
Antique cars did not have the power, comfort or safety features that are standard on cars today, although new features like hydraulic brakes, interior heating and radios began appearing during the Vintage Era.
Because of their age, most antiques have undergone at least some restoration. They are incredibly valuable and are often displayed at museums and exhibitions.
The Classic Car period begins in 1940, a time when many car companies turned to plane manufacturing to support the war. Not surprisingly given the wartime hardship, many of the cars produced during WWII were of a more pragmatic nature, focused on durability and practicality rather than looks and luxury. After the war, luxury and styling again became desirable in automobiles, with the trend growing in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s with the birth of the muscle car, and beyond to the modern luxury sports car.
A car must be more than twenty years old to be classed as a Classic Car.
There are two systems employed to classify cars by their condition: the category system and the points system. The former uses six categories to rate the condition of a particular vehicle, while the points system assigns points up to 100 for vehicles in perfect condition.
1-6 Condition System
This grading system rates the condition of a car from 1 to 6, with the lowest number being the best condition and the higher number indicating worse condition.
- Excellent: Either in perfect original or restored condition with all components operating as new.
- Fine: An original in near flawless condition, a highly maintained original with superior restoration, or a completely well-restored automobile.
- Very Good: Well-restored or partially restored car (with all parts necessary to finish restoration) that may be showing some wear, but with all components fully operable.
- Good: Vehicle that requires only minor work at most to be functional, although must be drivable. Restoration may be dated, incomplete or not to perfect standards.
- Restorable: Requires complete restoration including body, chassis and interior. May not be drivable, but is not damaged or weathered.
- Parts car: An unrestorable vehicle. May be a damaged and/or weathered, or already stripped car that may not be drivable.
100 Points System
The points system is quite similar to the six category rating system, although it allows for more precise rating than the former.
This is a flawless original or fully restored vehicle in mint condition.
A near flawless original or fully restored vehicle.
Possibly an older restoration or an original car with minor wear that is still of high enough caliber to show.
Complete car in either original or restored condition that shows some wear.
A running vehicle with no major flaws that is showing some wear and requires minor body or mechanical work.
Functional car in reasonably good condition that has some flaws.
This is a vehicle requiring restoration, although it should be in mostly complete condition. Restoration needed may include body, interior, chassis, motor or a combination.
A car that requires extensive restoration.
This is an unrestorable car best used for parts.
Rating System Conversion
Below is a comparison of the six category rating system to the 100 point system.
- 1 (Excellent) = 90 – 100 point car
- 2 (Fine) = 80 – 89 point car
- 3 (Very Good) = 70 – 79 point car
- 4 (Good) = 60 – 69 point car
- 5 (Restorable) = 40 – 59 point car
- 6 (Parts Car) = 39 and below point car
When it comes to buying and selling vehicles it’s important to know what type of car you are looking at, its era and it’s condition. Although the condition rating systems do not take into account the rarity of a vehicle or the market demand, they are an important metric when considering overall value of a vehicle.
For more about car collecting and a look at some of David Disiere’s car collection, check out some of our older blog articles.