Vintage Cars, a term used generally to refer to historical collectable cars. It more strictly refers to cars manufactured between 1919 and 1930, as defined by the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC), founded in 1934. Although the world’s first old car club, the Veteran Car Club (VCC) of Great Britain, was founded in 1930, it then only embraced cars manufactured before 1917 (now 1919), such as the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Mercedes, Napier, Benz, and Panhard. The VSCC was formed in protest against the poor design and performance of the vehicles of the 1930s, compared with the more glamorous cars of the 1920s, such as the sporting Bentley, Bugatti, Alfa-Romeo, Mercedes, and Hispano-Suiza. The VSCC especially encouraged members to use their cars and organized racing, hill climbs, and rallies.
Since 1945 the VSCC has grown in prestige, and now has about 6,000 members representing over 9,000 vehicles. It is a major organizer of sporting events and publishes a monthly newsletter and quarterly magazine. The club has been a model for many others elsewhere in the world, for example, in Australia, South Africa, India, and the United States. In 1946 the Vintage Motorcycle Club was founded. The terms associated with historical cars vary from country to country; in the United States vintage cars are known as “classic”, and in other countries as “collectors” or simply “historic”. The VSCC extended the definition of vintage to certain other marques made in the vintage tradition up to 1945 and beyond, calling them “post-vintage thoroughbreds”.
Over the past 40 years, the greatest expansion of interest has been in the post-1945 classic car, and many clubs now specialize in that era. There are now about 500 clubs in the United Kingdom devoted to historical vehicles, whose total membership is over 300,000. In addition to the VCC and VSCC, the best known are the Bentley Drivers’ Club, Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club, Aston Martin Owners’ Club, MG Car Club, and Jaguar Drivers’ Club. Commercial vehicles are provided for by the Historic Commercial Vehicle Society, which was founded in 1958. The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs is a federation of 307 clubs and is dedicated to defending car owners’ interests and opposing any legislation emanating from either the British or European parliaments that might adversely affect the use of their vehicles on the road.
The most famous historical car event is the annual London to Brighton Run for pre-1905 cars, which commemorates the emancipation of motoring in November 1896, when vehicles were first allowed on the road. Motorcycles and commercial vehicles hold their own Brighton runs each year in March and May, and the RAC organizes a run for classic cars in June.
There are now over 70 motor museums, the most famous being the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, and historical vehicles of British manufacture are also displayed at Gaydon and Coventry. Additionally, there are many special classic car shows and international autojumbles, such as those at Beaulieu, which are the highlights of the enthusiast’s year.
The value of vintage cars has increased dramatically: a vintage Bentley purchased for £300 in the 1950s is now worth over £30,000. The first-ever auction for historical cars was at Beaulieu in 1960, since then all major auction houses hold regular sales all over the world. The most expensive vintage car sold at auction was a Bugatti Royale for £5.5 million in 1989. Over the years, a vast industry of small firms has grown up to supply parts and accessories and restore historical cars, for example, Vintage Tyre Supplies. In 1996 all cars over 25 years old were exempted from Road Tax, but all have to pass a test for road-worthiness conducted by the Ministry of Transport under special conditions for historical cars.
Interest in historical vehicles has spread worldwide, embracing nearly all countries, and their numbers are increasing annually as cars become collectors’ pieces.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu