Official: 30-year-old cars are classic

What exactly is a classic? It's now thought that 30 years of age is a safe bet to call your car historic, but it has to be in good condition

Cars are classic at 30 years old

What makes a car a classic? Go too new and you run the risk of looking like you’re trying to up-sell your old snotter that’s at the bottom of its depreciation curve. Conversely, go too old and the declaration of a car as a classic becomes sort of redundant. If it’s carbureted, and didn’t come with seatbelts at first, that ship probably sailed years ago. So when does true classic car status begin?

The Federation Internationale de Vehicules Anciens, otherwise known as the international federation of historic vehicles (FIVA) reckons you can’t go far wrong at 30, given the right make and model. You don’t get much more official than that.

Cars are classic at 30 years old

“There’s no magic rule to say when a vehicle becomes a ‘classic’,” says Tiddo Bresters, president of FIVA, “but reaching 30 years of age is one of FIVA’s clear criteria.”

“So in 2020 we’re delighted to welcome a whole new raft of 1990 classics to the fold, as they celebrate their 30th birthday, thanks to their caring owners. Historic vehicles don’t have to be hugely rare or valuable; the ‘new classics’ range from supercars to city cars to motorcycles – but all are important milestones in the story of our motoring heritage.”

Defining a ‘historic’ vehicleCars are classic at 30 years old

‘Clear criteria’ is no joke either. FIVA has four boxes for you to tick if you want to declare your vehicle is historic. Firstly, it must be at least 30 years old. The second is that it’s “preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition”. That means no modifications, and preferably no rust. Thirdly, and curiously, it mustn’t be a means of daily transport. We’re not sure on that one, given that technically one could use a Ferrari 250 GTO daily.

Fourthly, it has to be “part of our technical and cultural heritage”. It’s 30, clean, unmodified and used sparingly, but does it have its place in the history of the motorcar? Is it a worthy note on the great motoring tapestry? If not, not all is lost. You’ll almost certainly get a spot at the Festival of the Unexceptional. We’d be curious to know what the FIVA makes of that event.

Class of 1990Cars are classic at 30 years old

So what cars have secured true classic status? Entries range from the humble Renault Clio supermini, to the rip-snorting Lamborghini Diablo supercar. The Honda NSX also gets a mention, as does the boisterous 177mph Lotus Carlton. In the case of the latter, infamy plays as much a part in classic status as age.

Indeed, all are remarkable cars in their own way, whether that’s because you’re deliciously French (Clio) or are chasing 200mph (Diablo). So perhaps the FIVA is right on that fourth point about technical and cultural heritage.

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Ethan Jupp
I'm Content Editor at MR. Road trips music and movies are my vices. Perennially stuck between French hot hatches and Australian muscle cars.


  1. While I am glad that modern classics are getting more attention, I don’t like the tick box approach. I think it is too easily opinionated that “part of our technical and cultural heritage” – what’s that going to mean for the often forgotten classics and kit cars such as the Ginetta G26? and likewise not allowing a car to be a classic because it is used daily is quite down-putting to all the enthusiasts who love to drive their passion cars every day, either as a rejection of modern expectations or because they like the drive, while still looking after it.

    All in All, in my opinion at least, and I am sure in others as well, a classic is any vehicle that is OOP, but someone cares for and is worth preserving (important to note that having someone caring for it is a reason to preserve it)


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