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Retro versus Classic Cars

The ‘Classic Car’ term is bandied about freely and is applied to a large variety of vehicles spanning all the way back to World War 1. The dictionary definitions vary slightly in wording, however are all in agreeance that word ‘Classic’ is applied to items that are judged over time to be of high quality and potentially high value.

 Specifically, when referring to vehicles, a Classic car would be one that has historical interest, is collectible and worth preserving or restoring rather than simply discarding or parting out.

To properly characterise the ‘Classic’ term its easiest to divide it into two groups – Classic and Modern Classic. The Antique Automobile Club of America is a world renown organisation and recognises Classic Cars as being those ‘fine or unusual domestic or foreign automobiles primarily built between and including the years 1925 and 1942’. Interestingly their definition overlaps with the generally accepted Vintage car definition of cars built between 1919 and 1930.

Modern Classics are typically vehicles ranging from 15 to 35 years, however this sub-category is more vague and innumerable definitions exist, varying between clubs, insurance companies and Government vehicle-taxing bodies. Modern classics would be cars such as the Ford Sierra Cosworth, Range Rover, Lotus Esprit, Nissan Skyline GTR, Honda NSX, Mazda RX7 and BMW M3 just to name a few.

No matter the exact definition of the term ‘Classic Car’, it should be a collectible vehicle that is seen by most to be special in some way. Whether it be a striking design, technological advancement, performance or racing pedigree, a Classic Car will stand the test of time and hopefully be a sound investment for its owner.

In contrast ‘Retro’ cars are much easier to define and are those styled to resemble or take on key design elements of cars from previous decades. These retro cars will have modern running gear and safety features and typically outperform the cars they intend to resemble. Most of the large car manufacturers have at some point in time produced a factory Retro version of their originally produced cars and there are many great and not so great examples

Best of the bunch are undoubtably the 2005 Ford GT retro version of the original late 60’s GT40, Hondas’ brilliant hybrid version of the NSX, Fiats’ 124 Spider, the Mini Cooper and more recently Renaults’ Alpine A110. Of the not so exciting group would have to include Volkswagen and their attempt to sell a retro Beetle, hoping no one realised the engine had moved to the front, drove the front wheels instead of the rear and was now powered by an uninspiring water-cooled Golf motor!

It’s also worth mentioning the ‘Resto-mod’ class of vehicles which refer to those original classics that have been updated with modern running gear and features by individuals or specialised companies. Included in this is the increasing trend of re-powering older petrol-powered classics with electric powertrains. The Lunaz Bentley and Jaguars, Jaunt Motors’ exciting Land Drover project and Kreisel’s electric Porsche 910 are all examples of this modernising technique.