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It’s Not Old, It’s Vintage! A Newbie’s Guide to the Best Classic Cars

posted by Chris Valentine

It’s never too late to become a car enthusiast.

After all, you probably spend a lot of your time driving one. And you probably also have no idea about the evolution of engineering and sheer physics that went into creating it.

While technology and airbags are great conveniences, there’s nothing like driving around in a classic car that has quite literally seen some sh** throughout history.

If there’s one thing uniquely universal about classic cars, it’s that they are timeless. No matter how many up-to-date models are made in their name, the best classic cars just can’t be replicated.

If you’re new to the game then it’s time to appreciate the cars that came before. Read on to learn more about the basics of classic cars, which ones are the greatest and why.

The Best Classic Cars

All old cars are considered classics, or “vintage”. At least that’s what all the used car salesmen will tell you. While age is the most agreed upon determinate of what constitutes as classic, don’t get your hopes up—your old Ford Aspire will never be worth anything.

The experts on classic cars more or less agree on the terms of age:

  • 20 plus years characterizes a classic
  • 45 plus years denotes an antique
  • Cars built between the years of 1919 and 1930 are vintage cars

Of course, different states and insurance companies have different guidelines, but those are the basic timelines.

If you ask any car enthusiast about what makes a car classic or collectible, they’ll all tell you the same thing—it comes down to desirability.

If you ask anyone from the baby boomer generation, they’ll explain that desirability. It has nothing to do with status or money, and everything to do with symbolism. Classic cars are like time capsules; they’re a connection to the past—the good times and the bad, iconic of the rebel without a cause youth—before technology took over.

(If you’re having trouble understanding that kind of nostalgia, just google a picture of James Dean sitting in his Porsche and you’ll see what we mean).

To get a better idea of what we’re talking about, here’s a list of some of the best classic cars across the board:

The 1973 Corvette Stingray

Everyone remembers the start of the Watergate scandal and Elvis’ last great performance in Hawaii. But people tend to forget about Chevrolet’s 1973 Stingray.

The Corvette is synonymous with everything that is good in America. There were and continue to be many great years for this make—and arguably better years for the Stingray itself. But what makes this one a notable classic is that it was one of the first cars to get a 454 big block engine.

Not to mention that this was the year that brought out an ultra-sleek design that just makes your mouth water.

The 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350

The 65′ Shelby GT350 was a legendary beast. Just like the Corvette, there were many great years for the Ford Mustang, but this one was iconic for the fact that it was built for speed—not pleasure. These Mustangs were instantly recognizable for their specific color scheme: Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue rocker stripes.

In 1965 America was in the midst of the Vietnam war. Martin Luther King Jr. along with 700 other people was arrested during a protest in Selma, Alabama; and Carroll Shelby’s 65′ Mustang Shelby won the B-Production Championship three years in a row under SCCA rules.

The 1961 Jaguar E-Type

Enzo Ferrari claimed that this was one of the most beautiful cars he had ever seen. The E-Type evolved into the trademark design for generations of Jaguars to come. The car just oozes with the British sophistication of the 1960s.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion may not have been a success, but we did send a guy into space. Oh, and the world gained one of the most beautiful classic sports cars known to man.

With only about 3,600 of these kittens left on the road, it’s going to take more than just selling your car to get one.

The 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T

We know what you’re thinking—what about the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T? Listen, both of these classic sports cars hold a special place in our hearts. But there was a reason that the Challenger was chosen to be Kowalski’s ticket to ride, man.

In terms of specs, the 440 Six Pack Magnum and the 426 Hemi makes these cars nearly equal. Only the Challenger was built with a lighter body, making it a more agile 6-second car.

Love, peace, hope, and politics—along with the rest of the 1960’s—crashed and burned. Young men were sent off to fight an old man’s war. And the vanishing Point Challenger became the symbol of raw angst and the desire for freedom among the youth.

The 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Every other car manufacturer in the late ’70s was scaling back due to emissions control, rising gas prices and insane insurance costs.

But not this one. While everyone else dialed back on the horsepower, Pontaic revved it up. They also threw in a new W26 handling package which upgraded the tires, steering, and suspension. This resulted in better and faster handling than the Corvette.

It’s also one of the most reliable classic cars, which is probably what made it the top pick for Smokey and the Bandit.

The 1970 Chevy Chevelle LS6 SS

All roads lead to Chevrolet. Okay, maybe we’re a bit biased here but can you blame us? This was the year that Charles Manson got the death penalty and GM loosened their grip on their “big engine” rule. For a moment, the sun was shining.

The LS6 is the top contender for the highest factory horsepower rating—out of all the other muscle cars. Remember the 454 that Chevy put in its ’73 Stingray? well, imagine that same engine, spruced up with a high compression ratio.

5.4-second car. At the factory level. Enough said.

So Many Classics, so Little Time

The list of classics that you should own, drive, or at least learn about goes on forever. Young and old, car enthusiast all over the world will forever hold debates on the best classic cars.

One thing is for certain—despite our biases, we can appreciate them all—as well as hope to drive them someday.

If you enjoyed reading about our favorite classic cars, you’ll enjoy everything else we talk about. Feel free to explore more on the site.

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