Jim’s Blog: When Was the Last Classic Built?

I hear a lot of car people lament that the last classic car was built in 1973. I don’t agree.

“Classic” is technically defined as “Serving as a standard of excellence: of recognized value.” There’s nothing there to limit production years on cars. I think that comes from the definition of “antique” as it relates to state DMV definitions, which vary depending on where you live. But to me, sticking a year cutoff on the term misses the point completely. All old cars are special in some way, and I think dismissing later examples as somehow lesser because of when they were built is short-sighted.

The Beaches Cruise-in at PIR is a weekly event here in PDX that draws in hundreds of cars on Wednesday afternoons. It’s only open to cars and trucks from 1973 and older. On one level, I understand that, as they only have so much room for old cars to gather. On the other hand, though, if the event isn’t completely packed full, why not let in newer cars and trucks?

They do, to their credit, have special weeks on the calendar that are open to later-model cars, which is a reflection of the changing interests of old car people. I think the date cutoff will eventually change to allow in later vehicles. That will probably happen at other events as well, as they start to realize that a younger demographic needs to be served, too.

As for the cars themselves, do you think a 1973 Challenger is a classic? How about a 1979 Trans Am? Maybe a ZR-1 Corvette? Is the cutoff sitting right at the dawn of electronic fuel injection in the mid-1980s? Maybe for you it hovers right around crash bumpers. 

I’d like to know what you think. Let’s talk about it in the comments below.


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  1. The new classics will be determined the same way as many of the old classics. The car or cars you lusted for as a 16+ year old.

  2. Of course there are old cars which are classics and old cars which are just that, old cars. The term classic has and is often misused! A classic, irrespectice of age, will always stand out in terms of style, performance, rarity, elegance and historical significance. An F40 was an instant classic, back in 1987. Not all Ferraris deserve the term classic in my opinion. The Volkswagen Beetle is a classic, its successor definitely not. Yes, there are loads of cars post 1973 which deserve classic status and admission to any event.

    1. Well, that New Beetle maybe isn’t a classic TODAY… How about in 30 years when most are gone?

  3. I think that what makes a classic is how it represents the time and impact when it rolled the streets. I have a 77 Y82 Trans Am and everyone thought I was a fool for buying it and over the last few years have eaten humble pie. My buddy showed me a 77 Cobra II with T-Tops that he found the other day and I told him to pull the trigger, for all we know one of the Angels could have sat in that drivers seat. I can tell you that I believe that the IROC, Fox Body and some of the Imports of the 80s will start taking the stage away from what we consider the top dog classics today.