Classic Cars & Collectibles
By Maxine Carter-Lome
You don’t have to be a collector to stop and take notice of a parked or passing car. It could be one your parents had when you were growing up, the first one you ever owned, the one you’ve always wanted or the one that got away. To many, cars are more than just a mode of transportation – four-wheels and a chasse – especially when you are talking about antique, classic, and vintage cars. They evoke feelings of nostalgia, envy, appreciation and a host of other emotions and memories that make this category of collectibles so universally appealing to collectors, grease monkeys, enthusiasts, fans, and pedestrians.
When we started to put this issue together we looked for the definitions that would help us to understand the difference between the words antique, classic, and vintage as they relate to the car trade. Turns out there is little consensus and it depends on who you ask.
The Classic Car Club of America defines a classic car as being made between 1925 and 1948 and fully restored and running. The Antique Car Club of America defines an antique car as 25 years or older, completely restored and in running order. At the other end of the spectrum, the members of the “Old Car Guys Collector Club” that meet every Friday morning at Collins Apple Barn in Brimfield, MA define “classic” cars as anything before the 1930s, and defer to the state of Massachusetts to define an Antique car as 25 years or older for registration purposes. This month, we share a write-up of our conversation over breakfast one Friday morning with the ROMEOs (“Retired Old Men Eating Out,” as they are referred to by their waitress who has been serving them breakfast for over a decade). The most generally accepted working definitions place cars built between 1919 and 1930 as “vintage,” “classic” as cars over 20 years old, and “antiques” at over 45 years old. Other than broad definitions, the one thing all these cars have in common is that they’re old, and in the eye of the admirer considered a “classic.”
As a country we have had an obsession with the automobile since the Model T rolled off of Ford’s assembly line in 1908. They turned heads back then for their novelty; today they are admired, coveted, and painstakingly restored for their history, design, and mechanics (including three pedals on the floor for braking and shifting the car into two forward gears and reverse, and a crank in front to start the motor). According to Susan Yaeger, executive director of the Model T Ford Club of America, of the 15 million Model T Fords produced between 1908 and 1927, only an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 survive. Many have been passed down through generations of a single family, although, says Yaeger, that’s becoming less common because the children and grandchildren of owners often are not interested in taking over the old cars.
Automotive design and engineering has come a long way since the Model T but through our progress we have not forsaken our love and appreciation for the classic cars that define eras past or our youth. Many old time car enthusiasts trace their continuing love of old cars to the hours they spent with their father or grandfather out in the garage fixing and restoring cars. Those memories and connections are what they hope they passed on to their now adult children, and can hopefully share with their grandchildren. That nostalgia is one of the reasons car shows on Main Streets across the country continue to draw crowds, and of all generations. Cars, like sports, are interests shared among fans and collectors of all ages, and among the generations. These car owners, most of them members of a car club, love nothing more than to talk about their car so its history is passed on, and status as a ‘classic’ secured.
While Main Street car shows let you get up close and personal with beautifully restored examples of classic cars, you can also see some really “cool” classics from the comfort of your living room couch by tuning in to Jay Leno’s Garage and Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Both comics are known and knowledgeable car collectors whose collections are priceless and populated with many rare models of limited production runs.
While high-end collectors such as Seinfeld and Leno focus their collection on such factors as a car’s maker, design, era and performance, there is also an active auction market for “star cars,” whose value and desirability is in their Hollywood pedigree. Barrett-Jackson Auctions makes a market in such cars, and shares some of its favorite Hollywood hits.
Car collectors also tend to be fans of Automobilia (historical artifact or collectible linked with motor cars) and Petroliana (gas station & auto service collectibles). You can learn more about the Automobilia market in Judy Gonyeau’s interview with John Mihovitz of Morphy Auctions. Here we have something for everyone, from advertising ephemera to oil cans, hood ornaments, calendars, signs and posters, license plates, gas pumps and globes, steering wheels, and so much more. As we see on shows such as American Pickers, these items can be readily be found in antique shops, flea markets, old barns, on eBay, and at auctions, making these collections fun and relatively affordable to build. If you are interested in starting, building, or sharing your years of experience collecting petroliana, we have been told that oldgas.com, an online community, is a site worth exploring.
The question we asked all the people we interviewed for this issue is, “what is your dream car?” I’ll ask you the same.
Classic Cars & Collectibles