Car Corner
What Makes a Classic?

January 7, 2014
By Scott Lewis

It is 2014.

In the car world a car is considered a classic when it reaches 25 years old. That means cars from 1989 are now classics.

Does that really mean any car 25 years old is a classic?

I spent a little time each month over the last 6-7 months combing over AutoTrader Classic and eBay Motors. Looking for cars from 1989. I can tell you there are very few cars form 1989 I would consider a classic.

Let's start by eliminating a few "obvious" choices. Ferrari & Lamborghini! It is safe to assume that any old Ferrari or Lambo is going to be considered a classic. These cars depreciate, but at a completely different rate from cars that are bought (at least initially) for daily transportation. So it is impossible to lump them in with a Toyota Corolla of the same year. You will not see these exotics next to a 25 year old Accord at a concourse show.

Granted, some cars to get elevated to a classic status, just by getting old enough. The Corvette comes immediately to mind. Almost all old Corvettes sell for more now then when they were new. The key is... at what point do they turn around and start appreciating in value. In fact... wait one more year and a bona-fide classic Corvette is coming with the ZR-1. This is not like the current ZR1 (yes, they are spelled slightly different, the latest drops the hyphen). I am talking about the C4 Corvette with the Lotus-designed DOHC engine. These came out in 1990. So next year they could be listed here (no, I am not going to do this annually), and would be classics.

We are also just 3 years away from the first Dodge Vipers to become classics, by the age definition. Vipers seem to follow their own path similar to other exotic cars. Rarely are they purchased for daily transportation, so enjoy a different status from the day they roll out of the dealership.

Below are all 1989 cars that I found for sale within the last 6 months or so. A few may be considered a classic. Let's see. BTW... examples of all of these can be found in this month's Classic Car Watch. So check them out for yourself to see what these "old" cars are selling for.

Model Classic?
Mercedes 560SL Yes
Mercedes-Benz 300CE No
Mercedes-Benz 560SEC Maybe
BMW 635CSI Maybe
Porsche 928 Yes
Porsche 944 Maybe
Pontiac 6000 STE No
Alfa Romeo Spider No
Cadillac Allante No
BMW Z1 Yes
Volkswagen Cabriolet Maybe
Camaro Z28 IROC Yes
Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 No
Toyota Celica GT No
Chrysler Conquest No
Corvette Convertible Yes
Shelby Dakota Yes
Lotus Esprit Maybe
Pontiac Firebird Formula Eventually
Chrysler LeBaron Convertible No
Lincoln Mark VII LSC No
Mustang GT (or LX 5.0) Yes
Honda Prelude Si No
Buick Reatta No
Mazda RX-7 Maybe
Pontiac Sunbird No
Toyota Supra (and Turbo) Maybe
Pontiac Turbo Trans Am Yes
Chrysler TC by Maserati No
Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe Maybe

Noticeably absent from BMW is the 8-Series. Not that I don't think it will be a classic, with its unique styling. I just never came across one of the 1989 vintage to show you. Other BMWs just seemed like old used cars. Nothing special with super low mileage.

Food for thought... the Nissan 300ZX (the cool one) came out in 1990, and would definitely get a yes form me on the classic status. Also, the Miata came out in 1990. It is going to be a classic. It will heavily be covering that nostalgia for people that bought them in its early years, and want to relive their youth.


So... I count 8 cars that are (or will be considered) classics. 9 if you add the BMW 8-Series. Did I miss any. Let me know.