What Makes A Classic Or Collector Car?

Classic collector’s cars have been a part of American culture for decades. There is just something nostalgic about them, reminiscent of a time when cars were manufactured to a high standard like a work of art.

When most people think of classic cars, they think of the ’57 Chevy hardtop, the ’61 Chrysler 300G, or a classic ’67 Corvette. But there are many types of classic collector cars out on the market and roaming the highways as part of a car club. There are even some new models that are already considered classic cars. But what makes a car a classic or collector car?

Requirements of a Classic or Collector Car

Classic collector cars can be both foreign exotics and domestic American steel. It is hard to pinpoint the requirements of a classic or collector car. So many people have so many different opinions and preferences. Overall, a classic car is one that has stood the test of time and whose value is no longer depreciating. If you want to try to find a better definition, here are some points on what makes a car a classic or collector car.

Age of a Collector Car


The year that the car was made is a significant factor in whether a car is a collector’s item or not. Generally, the older the car, the more value it has. There are some classic car clubs who do not consider a car a collector’s item unless it was made prior to 1948. These cars are true classic models and are harder to come by. However, there has been much dispute about age because of the number of great cars manufactured in the years after 1948. There are clubs that are specifically for cars produced during the 50’s, 60’s, or after.

If you are not sure when a certain model of car was made, you can always check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Once you have it, you can practically look up all the details about the car online. There are several sites that have complete lists of VIN’s for classic cars. By looking them up, you can better find out a classic car’s worth and whether it is considered a classic collector’s item.

Appeal of the Classic Car

The general appeal of a car is another factor in whether it is a collector car or not. Cars that were not popular when they were produced are rarely considered classics. No one wanted to buy them then and no one wants to buy them now. However, a classic usually starts out popular when it was first manufactured and retains that popularity as it gets older. Mostly the appeal is for nostalgic purposes within certain age groups. But sometimes a car’s design is so solid and clean that it just stands up to the test of time.

Number of Cars Produced and Availability

The value of collector cars is influenced by the number of models produced in the year they came out. Some models in the later years saw a high volume of production and thus the market price is lower than cars of limited production. Many vintage cars prior to World War II had limited production runs. Some cars may have only had a few hundred of their kind ever made. So the lower the production run, the more valuable the car will be. If there is a model of car that were mass produced, their market value will not be that high. However, it should be mentioned that some classic car buyers are interested in cars for nostalgia, not a high market value. They collect the cars simply because they like them and have good memories about them.

Another thing to consider is availability. Some models just don’t have many actual cars left on the market. Many vintage cars have disappeared because the owners at the time did not think that the cars would one day be collectibles. So when the cars broke down, they were usually scrapped. Original parts are hard to come by now so many vintage models have bits and pieces replaced with replica parts. Cars that are all original are worth much more than cars with replacement parts.

Collector Car Historical Relevance

One more thing to consider that makes a car a classic is whether the car has any historical relevance. Some car models might have been the first to premiere a new type of engine or unique option which makes them much more valuable. Some cars have represented certain generations. An example is the Volkswagen Bug and Volkswagen Van, both of which are associated with the 1960’s hippie movement. Another thing that makes cars relevant is if they have appeared in popular media such as television and movies. An example of this is James Bond’s Aston Martin or the Lincoln Futura used to make the Batmobile from 1966 television series. So if the car has any relevance historically or culturally, it can make a car a classic.

Car Model Eras

There are some people who try to categorize car models into eras. For example, there is the muscle car era, the bullet era, the box-type era, and so on. A better classification of eras is one which divides classic cars into three categories according to the year the cars were manufactured. There are the antique cars which were manufactured from 1880 up to the start of WWI. There are vintage cars that were made between 1916 to 1924 and are considered the start of the real ‘automobiles’. Then there is the classic car era from 1925 up to the recent past. Eras might be a good way to classify some collector cars but there are still that fall outside the categories. Basically, it depends on the market and individual preference.