How Does Cars Become Designated Classic Car?

Is your car an antique or just old? Is it a classic or is it a muscle car? This debate can only be answered, depending on what source you are checking with. Each club has its own list of cars that they have designated to one of these categories. The Classic Car Club of America claims to have compiled the true list of cars that are designated as classics. Car owners and clubs alike tend to disagree with them.

Difference of Opinions

Even states and insurance companies have gotten into the confusion by having their own rules, guidelines and lists as to what is designated antique, classic or a muscle car. To be able to get antique designation on license plates, the car must be at least 25 years old. To be insured as antique or classic, the car must meet the individual insurance company’s requirements.

If one were to believe the Classic Car Club of America standards for designation then the car must have been manufactured between 1925 and 1948. It must also be a limited manufactured vehicle of extremely high quality. Other car buffs will state that this is the description of an antique vehicle.

Those who prefer the use of the term muscle car are referring to cars that sport a high performance engine. So what if you have an old car that has a high performance engine? Is it a muscle car or a classic car? That depends on what car club you ask, and to your own thoughts on the matter.

Trust Your Insurance

The only true designation you may get that your car is a classic may come through your insurance. If your car meets the guidelines that your agent specifies to insure it as a classic, then you entitled to the term. Though some insurance companies will follow their own guidelines, most adhere to a few basic rules to determine a classic.

The insurance company will require that the vehicle be at least 15 years old. The amount of mileage per year is limited as well. The vehicle must be in original condition, or has been restored to its original state. The car must have been a high quality vehicle when it was new, and will preferably have been manufactured on a limited basis. States may differ on some of these rules, but if your car meets the state insurance guidelines of a classic car, you will be able to insure it as such.

Ask your local insurance agency (here is what i use locally in oakland, california) what other guidelines they may have for a car to be insured as a classic. They may require it to be garaged when not in use. They may also require you to photograph the car, or bring it to them for an inspection. If your vehicle meets all of their guidelines and requirements, that will give it the designation of being a classic car, whether the local car club agrees or not.

American Icon: the Ford Mustang

In 1964 the Ford Motor Company introduced the Mustang, selling more than one million cars in it’s just over a year. The Mustang was the beginning of a new class of sports car that would become known as “pony cars.” Ford product manager Donald N. Frey and Ford Division general manager Lee Iacocca conceived the prototype of the now classic car.

The Mustang was introduced to the public at the New York’s World Fair in 1964 and had the most successful launching in automobile history. In its first year and a half of production more than 1 million Mustangs were sold. Because the Mustang was introduced several months before the regular beginning of the production year, early Mustangs are often called 1964 and ½ models. The Mustang’s original components were based on familiar and simple components to cut down on development and retail price. The chassis, suspension and drivetrain were developed from the Ford Falcon and Fairlane. Also gleaned from the 1964 Falcon were a unitized platform frame and welded box-section side rails. Read more about Mustang components in car magazines like Car and Driver magazine,Motor Trend magazine and Lowrider magazine.

The interior of the 1965 Mustang featured adjustable driver and passenger bucket seats, AM radio and a floor mounted gear shifter in a variety of colors. Throughout 1965 Ford added to the Mustang’s interior options like sun visors, mechanical remote-operated mirror and a bench seat. Ford’s Interior Décor Group became known as “Pony Interior” because they embossed running ponies seats and armrests. Ford’s competitors GM and Chrysler were unprepared for the astonishing success of the Mustang. Chrysler introduced the Plymouth Barracuda just before the Mustang but it would be a few more years before the car became a revered Muscle car. GM had the rear-engine Corvair Monza but it did not sell well. It would take GM two years to produce the Mustang’s biggest competitors: the Chevrolet Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. Lincoln-Mercury also hit the market with the successful “upmarket Mustang” Mercury Cougar. In later years the Mustang inspired coupes like the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri. Read more about the evolution of Ford Mustang and its competitors in popular magazines like Car and Driver magazine, Motor Trend magazine and Lowrider magazine.

The Mustang has seen many redesigns. Currently there are five generations of Mustangs. Ford also produced many performance models of the Mustang including the Boss 302 Mustang, Mach 1 and SVO. Independent car designers like Carroll Shelby, Roush Performance and Saleen have also produced special Mustang models including what is known as the Shelby Mustang. Mustangs have appeared in many movies—more than any other vehicle–helping along the iconic status. Classic movies like the James Bond movie Goldfinger, Bullit with Steve McQueen and The French Connection with Gene Hackman. More modern movies like Gone in 60 Seconds, Vanilla Sky and Runaway Bride. In the 1980s a futuristic fictional 2015 model was featured in Back to the Future II.

Now there’s a land yacht, the 1959 Ford Galaxie

The 1959 Ford Galaxie is not a common sight on Woodward these days, although it sold very well back in the day. 1959 was the first year for the Galaxie nameplate. It was actually a “pull ahead” body style change that took place in those competitive years with GM and Chrysler. In fact, the “Fin” era was at its peak, evidenced by some of the cars built that year. Remember those Cadillacs, Dodges, and Buicks?

It was the “Rocket” age that inspired those designs and you can see that influence in the “59” Ford Galaxie for sure. From the “gunsights” on the tops of the front fender to the “afterburner” tail lights, this model had it all. In fact, it was judged “The Most Beautifully Proportioned Car in the World” at the Brussels World Fair that year. Quite an honor and quite a car!

Our 1959 Ford Galaxie Club Victoria has the classic two-tone paint scheme that was so popular in the 50’s. With its Raven Black over Colonial White exterior, it only seems fitting that it should have a red and white interior, trimmed in silver and black. Wow, no lack of color in those days!

She’s decked out in practically all the available factory and dealer-installed options, from the front bumper guards to the Continental kit on the back. Twenty feet from bumper tip to bumper tip. Talk about land yachts!

Classic wide, white wall tires, Sunburst style hubcaps, chrome exhaust tips and miles of chrome and stainless trim set this car apart from the rest. It even has an ARC 2500 45 RPM record changer under the dash to play all of my favorite records from the past. Old school at its best.

We’ve had this car for a few years now and purchased it in a semi-restored state and it’s been a constant labor of love to keep it original and pristine. A couple of years ago, the engine died a slow death from “no-lead-itis.” Translated, it means that I was “told” it was set up to run unleaded and eventually the lack of leaded gas deteriorated the valve seats.

Initially, I thought of dropping in a big block 427, but that would have destroyed the originality, not to mention adding thousands of dollars to the repair bill for unforeseen extras needed to complete the swap. Undaunted, I made a decision to build the motor my way — just like I would have run it on Woodward in 1959 — thereby keeping some of its originality while having some fun in the process. Now, the ultimate test of appropriating parts that were period correct. Y-block parts are a bit more difficult to come by and what made it even harder was trying to find an engine builder who actually worked on these. You see, the Y-block is quite a bit different in design than the common Chevy small block.

I chose D&S Engines for the task and they were instructed to pull out the stops. Mill it here, polish it there, and bore it what?…and balance the whole thing when you’re through. I wanted the proverbial “Saturday Night Special.” I met some good guys on the Internet who custom made some parts for me, too — aluminum timing cover, aluminum water pump and thermostat housing to mention a few. Polish everything possible when you’re done…even the windshield wiper motor!

The engine was completed and finished to my expectations, dropped in the car and transported to my buddies at Motor City Steel for the finishing touches. It seems that we had too much “cam” for it to idle, so that necessitated “flashing” the converter just “this” much to get it to idle in gear. Dave, the master tuner and owner, built progressive linkage for the Tri Power and adjusted, massaged, and tuned it on the dyno for optimal performance and economy. A custom mandrel bent exhaust system, complete with “dumps,” finished the job and put me on the road.

I am a firm believer in keeping your neighbors working, so I had the hard working crew at Shelby Trim install some much-needed carpeting and weather seals and rework the original seats covers to look factory fresh. They even custom fabricated close-out panels in the trunk area.

We enjoy driving this car in the local cruises and attend most of Ford Motor Company’s exhibitions and shows. Out of the 5,000 classic cars on display at Ford’s 100 Year Anniversary Celebration in Dearborn a while back, we had the only 1959 Ford Galaxie Club Victoria. Our car was selected to be on display at the Concourse De Elegance that same year, but scheduling conflicts prevented that from happening.

Obviously, it’s a ball to drive and it sounds awesome with that lopey idle and raspy exhaust note emanating from those chrome exhaust tips. It never fails to transport us into Nostalgia Land every time we drive it.

Our favorite thing above all is the comments we get from the old and young. The Old Timers remember this car well, and often shake my hand for keeping it alive, along with the fond memories it brings back. I’ve heard it all from how many kids they fit in the back seat to their dating stories with their favorite girl! Some even approach the car with tears in their eyes as they reminisce.

The young hot-rodders simply ask when I lift the hood…How fast will it go? Or, What’ll it turn? Some things never change!

1963 Ford Falcon Sprint Convertible

This 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint convertible, Lot 50.2, sold for $30,800, including buyer’s premium, at the Barrett-Jackson Auction at Scottsdale, AZ, on January 15, 2012.

“The pussy cat is now a tiger.” That’s what Jim Whipple, writing in the June 1963 issue of Popular Mechanics, said of the 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint. “We got a clue when we drove the new 164-hp Falcon Sprint V8 with 4-speed stick… More of the message came through as we listened to eyewitness reports of Swedish rally driver Bo Ljungfeldt’s record-breaking drives over Alpine black ice in the special sections of the Monte Carlo Rally at the wheel of the more powerful 235-hp Falcon V8.”

Win in Monte Carlo, sell in Detroit?

What was Ford’s popular-but-dull family-mover doing in the famous Monte Carlo Rally? Winning, actually — eight Falcons started, eight fi nished, with Ljungfeldt earning a class victory, setting some records along the way. Ford was busy moving its “Total Performance” message beyond stock car and drag racing, and the new Falcon Sprint in the showrooms and the Holman-Moody-prepared cars in the Monte Carlo Rally were a big part of that program.

While the concept of an American-made compact car had been around for a few years, the concept of a performance compact was new. The turbocharged Corvair Monza Spyder and Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfi re started it in 1962, and Ford jumped in with the introduction of the Sprint in February 1963. The introduction coincided with the Sprint’s Monte Carlo exploits. “The Falcon Sprint, brilliantly designed to bring a new level of Rally-proven V8 performance to the compact field” modestly proclaimed a full-page ad in the April 5, 1963, issue of Life magazine.

Ford had hinted at the direction it was going to take when it allowed Car Life magazine to test an upscale Falcon Futura prototype, powered by the 260-ci V8 out of the mid-sized Fairlane, at Ford’s Romeo proving ground in the fall of 1962. They wrote: “With the appealing performance offered by the Fairlane V8 and the luxurious appointments of the Futura body style, the car becomes an aesthetically satisfying entity. Comparatively small yet spacious enough for four adults and their paraphernalia, it’s a nearly-ideal specialty vehicle.”

Car and Driver later tested a production Sprint convertible with a 4-speed and saw “0-to-60 mph in less than 11 seconds consistently, and quarter-mile times were right in the high seventeens and low eighteens.” Pretty good for a pre-muscle car in 1963.

Small block makes the car

The key to transforming the Falcon into the Sprint was Ford’s 260-ci V8. New to the Fairlane in 1962, it would be the basis of not only the Falcon Sprint, but highly modifi ed versions also powered the Ford GT prototypes in their fi rst attempt at Le Mans in ’63 and the revolutionary Lotus-Ford Indy 500 cars that almost won that year. Also, the British AC Ace sports cars that a Texan named Carroll Shelby began importing were fi tted with the Ford 260 after Chevrolet turned him down. The engine weighed 50 lbs less than Chevrolet’s legendary small-block and delivered almost as much power. History was in the making, and Ford’s 260 was the start of much of it.

Although introduced mid-model, the Sprint coupe sold well at 10,479 units. The Sprint convertible, however, is much more rare, with 4,602 built out of a total of 35,794 ragtops that year.

Trampled by a Mustang

While it is certainly a unique and appealing car, one look at our featured Sprint convertible reveals possibly its biggest fl aw — it’s just a little too cute to be taken seriously. The 1964 models rectifi ed that, with bolder styling and an optional 289-ci engine, but sales actually dropped a bit. The fate of the Falcon Sprint was sealed on April 17, 1964 — that’s the day the top-secret Falcon-based Mustang was revealed to the world. The Mustang, of course, ranks as one of the greatest automotive success stories ever, leaving the Falcon, and the sporty Sprint, nearly forgotten and forever devalued.

I’ve driven both early Mustangs and Falcon Sprints, and blindfolded, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. But a Mustang is, well, a Mustang, and a Sprint just isn’t.

Expensive, even with celeb status

So why would someone pay 30 large for a Falcon? Sometimes emotion trumps logic. A ’63 Sprint convertible that was owned at one time by singer Jimmy Buffett sold for $26,460 in 2007. We said of that sale: “Expensive for condition, but worth it for its history. Celebrity cars bring from zero to many times their retail value depending on who they were attached to and what the circumstances were. Buffett is not known for Falcon ownership, but he is known for the Florida free-spirit lifestyle. Well bought.”

No other Sprint convertible this side of Margaritaville has come close to this price. In fact, an early Mustang V8 convertible in excellent condition would cost only a few thousand more than this Falcon. I can only assume the buyer had some emotional or nostalgic attachment to this car, or got into a spirited bidding war and ended up paying more than market. Or maybe the buyer was tired of the ubiquitous early Mustangs and just wanted something different.

Whatever the reason, the buyer got a sporty ’60s convertible compact — at a premium price. Very well sold.