by Judy Gonyeau
Walk into the Apple Barn in Brimfield, MA on a Friday morning and you’ll think you’re back in time listening to a group of kids hanging out at the local diner talking about their cars. Where you actually are is a favorite breakfast haunt of the members of the “Old Car Guys Collector Club” (OCG) enjoying good friends and conversation as they have for over a decade, to discuss what brings and keeps them together – a love of old cars!
Listen closely and you can soak up the conversation as they talk about news, test each other’s knowledge, and occasionally solve world problems. This gang doesn’t focus on one brand or one age of cars, but on the world of older cars – talking about everything from fixing a chain drive to whether or not to add a GPS to your Model B to get to the next Car Show – and sharing their passion for what turned road travel into adventure. While owning an old car is not a requirement, having a love for older cars, is.
The Age Old Problem
We started the conversation by asking what they see as the difference between a “classic” versus “antique” versus “vintage” car. The topic really got their engines going. “The lines are blurry, in my opinion,” said John. But as several point out, a car 25 years or older is considered an antique according to Massachusetts state law – something many members of the group find offensive. “That means a 25 year-old Honda is an antique. That just doesn’t feel right,” said Barry, with many nodding their heads in agreement. “In Connecticut,” noted Doug, “The maximum assessment on antique cars is $500 – you could have a million-dollar Rolls Royce and only be assessed $500, the thought being that you won’t crush old cars and get rid of them but keep them up and running.” But does this really matter to this group when it comes to talking about antique cars? Not really.
The consensus among the OCG is that “classic” cars are those made before the 1930s. A general online definition of a “vintage” car is one made between 1919 and 1930 – “the age of the really fancy cars like the Dusenbergs and the Moreys,” said Dave. Barry chimed in with, “I think Vintage and Classic are pretty much interchangeable,” with many nods in agreement around the table.
When pointing out that in the traditional world of antiques, 100 years in age is considered an “antique” and anything over 30 is “vintage,” Dave quipped, “Then we all almost qualify as Antiques!”
Many of these guys grew up working on cars with their father and grandfather, or spending time under the hood with their buddies supping up cars, getting their old cars to run, or restoring a car they found. In many cases their first car was their first love.
George, for example, has had the same 1931 Model A Ford Roadster for the past 55 years. “It runs great and I love driving it.” Edgar still has the first car he ever owned, a 1931 Model A. John had a 1963 Corvair, and has stayed a fan ever since. Denny 2 (D2) worked an entire summer mowing lawns to buy a 1942 Dodge when he was a kid. And Barry inherited his ’35 Plymouth from his father. “It is where I really got into the mechanics of the car.”
The Simpler the Car, the Better
The OCG recognize and celebrate the simplicity and individuality of the cars in their lives, along with the stories about working on them to keep them going.
“If you can’t change a tire, don’t get an old car,” says Dave. And according to Pete, “You have to have a curiosity about the car and the science behind it. I am in this because I love the mechanisms in the car, the gears and inner workings, and how it all fits together.”
“Today, it is all about making cars using robotics, incorporating computers, and using a lot of plastic,” said Barry. And the self-driving craze? These car buffs tend to shake their heads no on that topic. “The older cars made the driver in charge of the driving. You had to pay attention. You were engaged in making it work,” said Larry. Added Dave, with a laugh, “Plus, old cars were easy to work on, which is a good thing since they always broke down!”
According to the group, the construction of the insides of older cars tends to be “variations on a theme” because they adhere to the same basic standards of operation. If you understood the process of how the combustion engine worked, you could use that to work on later engines to figure out answers to questions and the problems in front of you. If you knew what engine part handled what part of the operation, you could theorize what was working or not working based upon how the engine was behaving, especially when you talked it over with your mentors and good friends.
When it comes down to it, this group is all about the experience. From parts and tools to trivia and problem-solving, they share their experiences and offer support to one another. They even have a newsletter Denny 2 puts together for the group because he loves to share the information he finds.
Look through this issue to discover some of the Factoids Denny 2 has shared with his fellow Old Car Guys, and find a group of your own, formal or informal, to join in the banter about old cars.