Many people cannot differentiate between a classic and a vintage car. To them any old vehicle can be called either name, however, as Joseph Lagen found out, there are reasons why these categories exist.
For all intents and purposes, antique, vintage, and classic cars may look the same, but they have subtle yet important differences, making it criminal for the terms to be used interchangeably. At least once every year (since 2011), urban car pundits in Uganda have gathered for a “visual feast” as they showcase their well-kept machines. There was one such show recently.
I approached some of the vintage car owners, like Dr Ben Khingi, who also owns a garage and travel agency, Kings Agency based in Bukasa, Muyenga, a city suburb, and Sabiiti Kiwanuka, a car collector and owner of Dream Motors, a vintage car hire agency. They got to tell me all about the world of old cars.
Could we start by explaining what exactly vintage means. Does it mean just “old”?
“Before you think of defining what vintage is, you have to understand that it is just but one of the three classifications of old cars. Not every old car is a vintage, yet every vintage is an old car,” Khingi reasoned. Old cars, according to Dr Khingi are divided into Vintage, Classic and Antique. “Vintage, as you asked, refers to a car made during and after the First World War, in that case, between 1919 and 1930.” Most notable among such cars in Uganda is John Adam’s Ford (1925) automobile.
Please define classic and antique cars too…
“The moniker that we know as classic varies from country to country. Say in America initially, cars that are only considered classics are those that were made in 1948 but not earlier than 1925. However, overtime, and with the emergence of other countries into the car industry in the previous century, caused this definition to be liberalised.”
According to him, a more recent definition
has it that a classic car is one that is 20 years old, but not more than 40 years old. It must have been repaired and maintained in a way that keeps it true to its original design and specifications. Simply put, it is a car of between 20 to 40 years that has not undergone any alterations or modifications during repairs and maintenance. It must be maintained with its manufacturer’s spare parts.
“As for the antiques, these are cars that date before World War I (1919). It is not just their age that makes them special, but just like the classics, the antique cars are expected to be maintained in the state they were manufactured and also must be repaired with the manufacturer’s spare parts.” Another school of thought, Dr Khingi adds, has it that antiques are cars dated 100 years or more. For that fact, they are very rare, and to the effect, there was none in sight during the show.
The line between a classic and an old car
As I said earlier, while it was easy to single out classic cars at such shows, one could be fooled into calling a plainly old car, a classic. Mr Kiwanuka Sabiiti, a two time winner of the three year vintage car shows, helped open my eyes to the peculiarities that set apart a classic car. “With the general yardstick being age,” he reasoned, “It is no surprise that one may call a 20 plus year-old car, a classic, even when it may not be so. A classic car has specifications that make it so.”
“First, for a car to be considered classic, it must have been, at the time of its manufacture, been prized and or rare. It must have been as it is, a car of class,” he stated. Using his explanation, it would be logically sound to say 20 or more years from now, a Range Rover Evoque or Mercedes Benz made in 2012 would be considered classics while the Toyota Ipsums and Harriers would be, just old. Toyota’s classic cars, in essence, are the Land Cruiser brands. A 2012 Land Cruiser make will sure turn your head as it drives by, and so it will be, as a classic, 20 to 40 years later.
Mr Kiwanuka also reasons that a classic car should have not undergone any alterations under its ownership. “It must stay the way it was made by its manufacturer,” he insists adding that “if any repairs are to be made, one has to be careful only to use the spare parts as provided for that car make by the very same manufacturers.”
This means any replacements of the car parts with modern spare parts makes it cease to be classic. It goes without saying that of course these old spare parts are rare and to that effect, very expensive. What else can be said? It is a hobby for the well to do.
Is that the same for vintage?
“Yes it is. A vintage car stays so because it and all that came with it was post World War I (1919-1930). Even in the light of the more liberal definition of vintage, which I would like to term the early makes of all prestigious car brands; Mercedes Benz, Rolls-Royce, Ford, Chevrolet, Jeep among others, the parts should be reserved in the year of the car’s manufacture,” he explains.
What is the fuss about the old number plates?
All through such car shows, there is always a buzz about these old cars and their numbers. What piqued my curiosity was the fact that most of these cars, the vintage pundits, are not that visually appealing. I wondered loudly about Beetles with the UXB registration. I asked Mr. Kiwanuka who explained,
“These plates serve both as proof and a yardstick for the car’s age.
They, by virtue of the years they were issued, show the year they were purchased by the current holder, as at the time, a formal car sale implied change of the plates,” he reasoned. Cars with the UXB and other such registrations were cars purchased in the 1980s. It is in that light that car pundits adore such cars that appear new yet have such old plates. “It shows that the owner did a fantastic job of maintaining the car,” he adds.
Is that all there is to these plates?
“That’s not all,” Mr Kiwanuka tells me, “these plates, being attached to years of purchase, are what actuaries in insurance companies use to value the price redeemable of such cars and the premium for them. Cars with older registration plates collect a greater insurance cover and of course, demand a higher premium,” he reasons.