It's A Classic
Oh yeah? Who says so?

car blog

Recently, a car buddy sent me a link, suggesting that I check out a "classic" car site. I guess I was expecting to see some formal sedans and sleek boatailed roadsters - Rolls-Royces, a Packard custom-bodied V-12, Duesenberg SJs, etc. What appeared on my screen instead was a badly-designed website with the usual mixture of old cars - tired muscle cars, half-built hot rods and nosed-and-decked, primered 1948 Chevies. Not that these are bad cars, but certainly not classic cars. Which brings me to the subject of the chronic overuse of the word 'classic.'

When I was growing up and lusting after the cars pictured in Car Life, Motor Trend and other car buff magazines, I read that the Classic Car Club of America would only permit certain cars to be designated as 'classic.' The car had to be both rare and aesthetically pleasing.

blog automobile

In the mid-1950s, most Duesenbergs qualified; only certain models of Packard, Stutz and Pierce Arrow were accepted. Few Cadillacs were allowed and the only Lincolns permitted were the 1940-41 Continental Cabriolets. It sounded like a pretty snobbish organization - a bit too snooty for my taste.

Now the pendulum has swung too far the other way - everything is now designated 'classic.' Classic 1957 Chevies. (GM made over 1.5 million of them and most were ordinary sedans and wagons - basic 150-series workhorses, or mid-priced 210s - not fancy-schmancy Bel Air convertibles and coupes - although they made plenty of them, too: almost 214,000.). Then there are 'classic' Mazda Miatas (nice cars but hardly a Duesenberg SSJ), 'classic', overpriced Franklin Mint models, 'classic' disco music, Classic Coke, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Give me a break!

It seemed like every time I used to drive into a gas station to fill up my old Continental Mark II, some attendant would walk up and say, "Hey, man, that's a real classic." And, if I nodded my head or otherwise gave him any encouragement, he'd continue: "Yeah, I like these classic cars; got one of 'em myself."

automobile blogAnd, inevitably, he'd point to some sorry-looking mess parked in the back.

Usually it was something like 1975 Plymouth Fury four-door sedan in a five-color paint scheme (Bondo, primer, rust, caked mud and moss).

The last one I observed had two flat tires - one whitewall and one blackwall. And the trunk was propped open with a couple of two-by-fours with chicken wire stapled to them. The guy was raising ferrets in the trunk! "Them '75 Furies are real classics, ya know. Lots better than the '74s. And rarer, too."

Sure. Every state trooper had a four-door one with a light bar and Hertz Rental Car had six zillion brown ones.

There should be a law that no one can use the word 'classic' more than twice a month. (posted 7/1/05)

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