No one alive today will have owned a vintage-era car from brand new and very few would remember even riding in a new car built before 1930.
That’s the internationally acknowledged cut-off year for a vehicle to be designated ‘Vintage’. Even more exclusive are Veteran models which need to have been built before 1 January 1919.
Vintage cars look quite incongruous in modern traffic. They are much taller than modern cars, ride on big spoked wheels, move slowly and take a long distance to stop. Most would have folding ‘Tourer’ tops with open sides and while self-starting was by the late 1920s being adopted, earlier models and cheaper brands need to be started with a crank handle.
With all of those anomalies and inconveniences pitted against them it’s hard to see Vintage cars having much 21st century appeal yet millions are still lovingly maintained and keenly sought throughout the world.
Vintage cars provide a working connection to the very origins of motoring. They were also built to contend with road conditions that would stop any of today’s conventional cars and maybe a few ‘soft roader’ 4WDs as well.
Most vintage cars apply simple design principles and were engineered to be maintained by the owner or workshops with very basic equipment. Even during the 1950s and 60s it was common to see owners of regularly-used older vehicles on a weekend cleaning the cylinder head (known as de-coking), adjusting cable brakes or greasing the many parts that required regular maintenance.
Safety is an issue if you’re considering owning a vehicle from the Vintage era. There is no possibility of fitting conventional seat belts to these cars and you can forget niceties like the collapsible steering column or burst-proof door locks. Some don’t have doors at all.
To avoid the need for a fuel pump, some models placed the fuel tank just below the windscreen where it could ‘gravity feed’ the engine. In a crash where the tank was split, occupants were quite likely to be showered in fuel.
Today’s Vintage cars and their owners enjoy vastly improved access to parts and service support than was the case 90-100 years ago. Parts to keep common models running are being remanufactured and the Internet allows restorers to make contact with others across the world.
Expanded use of 3D printing has immense implications for Vintage vehicle longevity. Parts that previously had to be painstakingly machined or cast can today be exactly and cheaply reproduced on a printer, even from a badly corroded sample.
Vintage cars are generally inexpensive to insure. They rarely cover big annual distances and have owners who are very aware of their cars’ limitations. An experienced driver will try to leave plenty of stopping distance between themselves and the vehicle in front and crashes that do occur are usually caused by thoughtless drivers of later-model cars.
Enthusiast Insurance also includes at no charge automatic Salvage Retention for all vehicles more than 30 years old. This feature ensures that even a car that isn’t economically repairable can be returned to its owner who may be able to fix the damage or at least use parts to build another car.