Antique and Vintage Cars Overview

Car Show

Old automobiles generally have two main classifications, antique and classic cars. According to the Antique Automobile Club of America, antique cars are over 45 years old, while classic cars are vehicles that are at least 25 years old. These can also be broken down into other categories and subdivisions.

Categories of Antique and Vintage Cars

Antique and vintage cars can be placed into smaller categories according to the era that they were manufactured. Although numerous steam powered vehicles were invented over the centuries, Karl Benz, a German engineer, is considered the inventor of the first modern automobile.

The Veteran Era

Ford Closeup

The Veteran Era (1888 to 1905) introduced the first successfully manufactured autos. During the Veteran Era, autos were individually constructed, a slow process that meant cars were extremely expensive and consumers waited months for them to be finished. They were powered by steam, electricity or gasoline, although cars with internal combustion engines were faster and could travel longer distances. These cars broke down often and the roads that horses traveled with no problem were too pitted and rutted for the delicate horseless carriages. Fuel was hard to get and with the quickly changing technology, car owners found that their beloved vehicles were obsolete within a year. Because of these problems the automobiles were seen more as a hobby than a practical mode of travel.

The Brass Era

The Brass Era (1905 to the beginning of World War I in 1914) took its name from the brass decorations adoring the automobiles produced during this time priod.

In 1908, Henry Ford produced the Model T, an inexpensive car with standardized parts. Model Ts were extremely popular and outsold their rivals. A few years later, in 1913, a moving assembly line for mass producing automobiles went into operation at the Ford Motor Company. Mass production changed manufacturing. Ford's Tin Lizzie is well-known, but there were many other automobiles at this time, manufactured by companies still making cars today. These names, although not as recognizable as the Model T, are found at antique car shows.

Important Brass Era cars are:

  • White Streak (1908) manufactured by Buick
  • Model T (1908) manufactured by Ford
  • Cadillac V-*s (1914) manufactured by Cadillac
  • Four-Ninety (1914) manufactured by Chevrolet

Vintage Era

The Vintage Era (1818-1929) encompassed the decade between the end of World War I and the stock market crash that began the Great Depression. Cars began to have enclosed areas for passengers, and comfort was more of a consideration. Increasingly powerful V16 engines were placed in the front of cars.

Important cars of this era were:

  • Bugatti Type 25 (1924) manufactured by Bugatti
  • Ford Model A (1927) manufactured by Ford, this was the best selling automobile of its time.
  • Cadillac V16 (1930) manufactured by Cadillac, this car was considered one of the most luxurious cars of the time.
1932 cadillac

Pre World War II Era

This era began with the Depression in 1930 and ended after World War II in 1948. Integrated fenders, completely enclosed bodies and rear trunks were increasingly popular. Wings, lights, and running boards also become part of the body of the car. Most of the technology that is used today was all ready in use in the cars of that time.

In 1930, several auto makers consolidated because of the effects of the Depression, leaving a few major car manufacturers, many which are still making cars today.

Significant Cars of this era include:

  • Ford V8 (1932) introduced the flathead V8 and set new standards in performance.
  • Citroen Traction Avant (1934) was the first mass produced auto to have front wheel drive.
  • MG T (1936) was the first sports car at a price that most people could afford.
  • Volkswagon Beetle (1938) was designed for efficiency and affordability.
  • Rolls Royce Phantom III (1936) had a V-12 engine and was designed for luxury.

Post War Era

General Motors introduced the high compression V8 engine in its Oldsmobile and Cadillac brands in 1949. The 1950s brought changes in engine power and speed. Cars became more artistic, and the demand for cars rose among the middle class.

By 1960, the American manufacturers worried about foreign competition as Japan perfected smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Although GM, Chrysler and Ford tried to market small cars, they had little success and turned their eyes instead to performance. This created a sub-category known as Muscle Cars.

Important cars of this era include:

  • Ford Mustang (1964) was one of the first of the muscle or pony cars.
  • Chevy Camaro (1967)was introduced to compete with the Mustang.
  • 1969 Datson 240G was one of the first imports to be embraced by American consumers.

How Are Antique Cars Appraised?

Most antique cars fall into one of six categories. Ultimately the value is dependent on the quality of the restoration that has been done.

  • Parts car: This is a car that has no value except for the individual vintage parts that can be used in restoring other cars.
  • Restorable: This is a car that is in damaged condition but could be restored. In order for a car to be considered restorable there can't be more than one third of the car that needs restoration. Two thirds of it must remain original.
  • Good: A good car is one that needs a little fixing. It may have been poorly restored. If it has a low quality restoration the value will not increase even if it is in good running condition
  • Very Good: This car is running and the restoration is acceptable. It may have some wear or be in need of a good cleaning.
  • Fine: A care that is considered fine is one that is carefully restored and the original parts are intact and in good working order.
  • Excellent: This is rare. It is an antique car that has been perfectly restored or one that has never been driven.

Enjoying Antique and Vintage Cars

While most people can't afford a collection of antique and vintage cars it is fun to go an look at them at antique auto shows and in museums. These automobiles are a beautiful piece of history and a reminder of a time when the ability to get from one place to another was not taken for granted.

Antique and Vintage Cars Overview