Finally, we’ve been given an unambiguous definition: The answer is “from the tender age of 18 years”.
Pfeeeeew, that sure took a load off my shoulders! Again and again we have discussed the subject at ViaRETRO, and as an editor I am confronted with the question almost daily: What is the definition of a classic car – and of course, every perceivable variant of that question. Even though the discussion has been ongoing since before ViaRETRO even came to be, the answer is not yet clear and probably never will be – especially as most people seem to primarily consider subjective criteria. But maybe that’s it? Maybe there IS no single answer to the question. Or is there?
As usual, it helps to stay on the objective, quantitative and indisputable side of things where everything can be measured, weighed, counted, computed and analysed. It’s the more productive approach compared to merely waffling on with statements like “if the owner himself thinks his car is special, then it is indeed special”, which is utterly useless in even the biggest and wettest of boozefed bar debates. So being more a little more scientific about it: What if we look at when people begin to think that any given car is something special? Then perhaps, we might get something useful to work with?
Sure. But how do we measure it? German analysts have an approach for this: They judge it with your wallet.
Namely, put your money where your mouth is. The adage may sound rather non-German, but in the classic car world it makes sense to look at money spent on maintenance or improvements.
And yes, indeed here lies the answer – coupled with use of a little logic. Cars are from day one inevitably getting older and will wear, which in return means they will show more and more faults with age. All else being equal a six-year-old car will have more faults than a two-year-old car. A twelve year old car will have even more and so on, of course.
There are plenty of statistics available on cars faults – if you live in a country where cars must be MOT’ed regularly and where data is gathered together in an accessible manner. So we will of course have to look towards Germany.
A group of Germans (probably engineers and most likely during a late Saturday night-after-hours analysis with cola and popcorn) came up with the idea of investigating whether this curve of increasing number of faults would at some point during a car’s lifespan change direction – i.e. a car would suddenly start having fewer faults with age rather than more? And indeed: Yes, it does. From a certain age the cars simply begin to display less faults and errors again. Now, as we owners of old cars know very well, this does not happen all by itself or merely by putting them out in the sun. It happens only because the owners at that point start to spend more money on their cars than necessary to just keep them running: The reason they do this is because they start to consider the car as more than a means of transport.
And the year in which it happens can be finally and unambiguously fixed as the age at which a car evolves into an “enthusiast vehicle”. When does this happen? From the 18th year.
Amazing, isn’t it? Both the fact that there IS a finite result as well as the result itself. The tender age keeps me from using the term “youngtimer”, let alone “classic”! But the result is crystal clear nonetheless. And as I said, it really made my life much easier: 18 years is the answer.
As always, we obviously welcome our knowledgable ViaRETRO readers to continue discussing the matter in the comments section below…