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ask joanne

I have two vehicles: 1) 1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham, 69,000 km (yes, 69,000 km), under cover (garage) all the time except when in use. My fair-weather car – it doesn't know what snow looks like – is in storage from October through May. It has a 400-cubic-inch engine, four-door hardtop, leather seats front and back, automatic and air conditioning. With no exaggeration, it's still in showroom condition.

My second car is a 1995 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 3.1 engine, automatic, leather seats front and back, just past 309,000 km. It, too, is in showroom condition. It's my all-purpose vehicle year-round, oil and filter changes every 5,000 km from new, have never had to add oil between changes and always at the "full" mark immediately prior to dropping the oil.

It's the most mileage I have ever put on a vehicle, but I am thinking of shooting for 400,000 km based on its reliability and ease of handling. I still love it as much as the day I bought it. My question: what category – i.e. classic, antique, etc. – would either of these vehicles possibly fall into? – Hartley in Winnipeg

When it comes to any vintage vehicle, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The classifications and descriptions also vary between different clubs and organizations.

One of the premier classic judging events is the annual Concours d'Elegance, now in its 50th year, of the Antique and Classic Car Club of Canada (ACCCC). Club member and concours chief judge Doug Greer helps explain the "antique" and "classic" monikers.

"The word 'classic' car gets misused a lot," says Greer. "Classic cars are defined by the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) and there's a list of those cars that are considered classics. Most cars that are defined as classics are 1948 and earlier.

"The '55, '56 and '57 Chevrolets get the word classic assigned to them by some groups, and so do the early Mustangs," says Greer. "In our organization, we call them milestone cars, because they were a significant influence into the market at the time when they were introduced, but they're not really classics. So it depends which organization you're talking to and how they use the terminology."

According to the CCCA, classic cars were typically expensive to begin with, and produced in limited quantities.

An antique vehicle, adds Greer, is generally at least 30 years old, which is the minimum age for historic or vintage plates in many provinces. "If it's between 30 and 20 years old – which most clubs recognize those cars, the class they fall into is called late-model production," says Greer.

A "collector" car isn't necessarily old. "One of the most glaring examples of a modern-day collector car is the Ford GT, which was 2006 era. Ford made it to pay homage to their '60s GT sporty race cars, and they're very, very collectable," says Jeff Hill, president of Okotoks Collector Car Auction. "There's also a Porsche Carrera GT, made in the same '04-to-'06 timeline, and they're also extremely collectable cars."

So, what about the vehicles you own and describe above?

Greer and Hill agree that the 1995 Monte Carlo does not fall into a special category.

"It's just a used car. It has too many miles and it wasn't particularly special when it was new. So there's nothing that differentiates it from the other five million Monte Carlos, or however many were made. If it was a two-door – they did a special edition when they were new, but even those cars are not necessarily collector cars at this point," says Hill.

1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham Chrysler Chrysler

Your 1978 New Yorker, however, is distinguished by its exceptional condition.

"Four-door cars are not really sought after, because they were the Toyota Camrys of their day. It was a run-of-the-mill, standard show room car when it was new," says Hill. "But being so low-mile and in such good condition, this vehicle would certainly have an appeal to somebody looking for a vintage car. What makes it desirable is the condition it's in."

If they weren't special new, what makes them special old?

"The thing that does is he's got a car with very little miles in exceptional condition, so somebody would get excited about that car," says Hill.

Greer echoes this. "The '78 New Yorker, if it's never winter-driven and really nice, is something of interest to someone as a late-model production, but not high value. It could be a collector to someone, but it's not considered one of those high-priority cars that everyone must own. It may just be a great car."

Your vehicles sound like gems, and continue to provide excellent service under your care. The obvious pleasure you get from them may be priceless.

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