What makes a classic?

A classic car is a generic term that can cover many genres of cars worthy of being considered ‘collectable’. Many would use the term ‘classic’ for a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’ or Ford Anglia in the same breath. So age alone seems not to be definitive guide to classic status. 

For some, a broad definition is that classic cars are ones that retain their monetary and aesthetic value after their production has ended. Age, scarcity, expense and the ability to define a niche in its time all contribute to a car being noteworthy, but they do not guarantee elevation to classic status. 

Obviously many cars that were not originally expensive have become classics. The original MINI, for example is not exactly scarce but is considered by many as a classic. So if neither a high price tag nor scarcity can define a classic, then what does? 

Classic cars are more than the sum of these parts and desirability is in the eye of the beholder. Instead, what defines a classic car is far more ephemeral. What that thing is, is an aching desire – a longing you feel when you see a certain car. Whilst beauty does contribute to a car’s classic car status, a particular taste for a type of car is no different than your taste in clothing. So why try to define it at all? 

In the seventies, my father took me on a road trip from Johannesburg to the then Bulawayo in Rhodesia in a lowly Peugeot 404. For me, that car is a classic because of the attachment I feel for that moment in time spent with him. For me, a classic also defines the essence of the time. 

Owning a classic car doesn’t have to break the bank, especially if you keep your annual mileage low. They can also make a great investment with values of some cars appreciating over time, depending on the condition and desirability of the car.  

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