Definitions of antique cars, classic cars and historic cars and even “ancient” cars vary from state to state. It can be quite confusing, and some just prefer to play it safe and call their pride and joy an “old collector car”. Designations tend to differ depending on the individual, the state, or auto club or collector association.
For example, the Classic Car Club of America states that a car must be between 30 and 49 years old to be a classic, while cars between 50 and 99 fall into a pre-antique class, and cars 100 years and older fall into the Antique Class. Here is a list from the CCCA which lists what cars it deems to be classic.
The Antique Automobile Club of America defines an antique car as 25 years or older. A Classic is defined as 20–49 years old. There you have it. Still confused? Let us see what else we can find on this rather difficult subject of classifying cars.
- Antique car:
An antique car is a classification that is often set by state law. States usually have a special type of license plate for these cars. For that reason they set rules stating what qualifies as “antique.” In most cases it is a car that’s over 45 years old. Generally the car should be maintained in a way that keeps it true to the original manufacturer specifications. (Wikipedia, 2014)
- Historic car:
Historical cars are generally considered to be those which are at least 25 years old.
- Classic car:
This classification definitely overlaps with antique cars. The definition of classic car is actually quite similar to that of antique cars. A car must be at least 20 years old, but not more than 40 years old to be considered a classic car. It should again have been repaired and maintained in a way that keeps it true to its original design and specifications. In other words it should not be modified or altered. In addition, many add a stipulation that the vehicle should have been manufactured no earlier than 1925. For these reasons all classic cars are also antique cars, but not all antique cars are classic cars.
- Vintage car:
There is also overlap between vintage cars and antique cars. Some vintage cars quality as antique cars, but not all vintage cars are antique and vice versa. Different groups set different cut off points for what qualifies as a vintage car and what does not. Generally, cars that are considered Vintage were manufactured between the years of 1919 and 1930, but some end it at 1925. Unlike the other two classifications, having had modifications does not necessarily keep a car from being a vintage car.
- Vintage plates:
These are the actual plates issued to the vehicle owner, or other original plates (not reproductions) issued by the state for the year the vehicle was manufactured.
Other Cars Types Defined:
Hopefully the following can shed some light on what exactly each car classification is at least for the State of Florida. Check your State’s Department of Motor Vehicles to be absolutely sure for your car’s designation.
Florida State Department of Motor Vehicles
Custom vehicle: A motor vehicle that is 25 years old or older and of a model year after 1948 or was manufactured to resemble a vehicle that is 25 years old or older and of a model year after 1948 and has been altered from the manufacturer’s original design or has a body constructed from nonoriginal materials.
Street rod: A motor vehicle that is of a model year of 1948 or older or was manufactured after 1948 to resemble a vehicle of a model year of 1948 or older; and has been altered from the manufacturer’s original design or has a body constructed from nonoriginal materials.
Rebuilt vehicle: A motor vehicle or mobile home built from salvage or junk, as defined in s. 319.30(1) Assembled from parts. A motor vehicle or mobile home assembled from parts or combined from parts of motor vehicles or mobile homes, new or used. “Assembled from parts” does not mean a motor vehicle defined as a “rebuilt vehicle”, which has been declared a total loss pursuant to s. 319.30.
Kit car: A motor vehicle assembled with a kit supplied by a manufacturer to rebuild a wrecked or outdated motor vehicle with a new body kit.
Glider kit: A vehicle assembled with a kit supplied by a manufacturer to rebuild a wrecked or outdated truck or truck tractor.
Replica: A complete new motor vehicle manufactured to look like an old vehicle.
Ancient motor vehicle. A motor vehicle for private use manufactured in 1945 or earlier, equipped with an engine manufactured in 1945 or earlier or manufactured to the specifications of the original engine. The registration numbers and special license plates assigned to such motor vehicles shall run in a separate numerical series, commencing with “Horseless Carriage No. 1,” and the plates shall be of a distinguishing color.
Antique motor vehicle: A motor vehicle for private use manufactured after 1945 and of the age of 30 years or more after the date of manufacture, equipped with an engine of the age of 30 years or more after the date of manufacture.
Collectible motor vehicle. A vehicle licensed under previous Florida law which has been issued a “Collectible” license plate prior to October 1, 1999, which shall maintain such plate unless the vehicle is transferred to a new owner. Motor vehicles licensed under this section which have been issued a “Collectible” license plate prior to October 1, 1999, may retain that license plate until the next regularly scheduled replacement.
Former military vehicle: A vehicle, including a trailer, regardless of the vehicle’s size, weight, or year of manufacture, that was manufactured for use in any country’s military forces and is maintained to represent its military design and markings accurately.