The makings of 'classic cars' is often a source of debate. Oftentimes, a car is considered to be classic if the public deems it to be 'collectable.' Some, however, may seem to contend that there is only a certain period for classic cars--that the 'real classics' were only up to 1940's for example.
Still, some may even try to categorize car models into eras. Thus, we have the muscle car era, the bullet era, the box-type era, and so on. A more precise classification is one which sets up three categories according to which year the cars were manufactured. These are the antique cars, manufactured from 1880 up to the start of WWI; vintage cars, made between 1916 to 1924, and was the start of the real 'automobiles;' and classic cars, from 1925 up to the near past.
If you are confused on whether that old hunk o' junk in your dad's garage could be worth something, here are some easy guidelines which you can use.
1. Year Manufactured
This is the easiest measure of whether a car is classic or not. You can easily know what year the car is manufactured by checking the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Several sites on the Internet could produce all a car's details simply by entering its VIN.
If you are new to the concept of classic cars and would want to simply start your own collection, deal with the year loosely. What I mean is, don't listen to those uptight talks from car enthusiasts about the 'real' era for classics. If you find a sweet-looking 10-year old car, you might as well treat it as a vintage vehicle. The reason for this is simple: car values appreciate over time. Well, that is, if you find a right car.
2. Number of Units
An important measure of a car's "classic-ness" is the number of units that were manufactured and are still in existence. An 80's to 90's Corolla could hardly be defined as a classic, since it was mass produced and proliferated all over the globe. But a first-generation Corolla could have some value somehow, since very few people still have it.
A '55 T-bird is an example of a high-valued classic car, both for the year in which it is manufactured and the number of units released. Ford released only a little more than 10,000 models.
Not all old cars could be considered as vintage. I personally believe that the title of 'classic' could only be conferred to those cars that have represented a generation. A Volkswagen Beetle, though many people may have it, is a good classic car simply because it carries so much history with it. Along with the Type 2 (the VW Van), it represented the hippie generation. And in contrast to that, the Beetle was also the most popular car for the Nazi elite. Those two contradicting layers simply create a very historic vehicle.
Cars could also be considered relevant if they are seen in TV and movies, as they tend to carry some fond memories of a generation. An 80's Pontiac Trans-Am is not just another high-performance car--it will always be seen as KITT in Knight Rider.
If you have an old car in your garage, you might want to research a bit about its history. You might be holding a valuable gem, and you're just letting it rust away. And if you just love vehicles and automobiles, maybe you ought to go retro and collect classic cars. Not only do they appreciate in value, they also carry great pieces of history.