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General Definitions of Auto Classifications

October 26, 2009

When attending car shows you may realize there are many different classifications of automobiles.  While organizers will often allow multiple classifications to participate in their show, many car shows are disignated for specific classes of automobiles. Open shows will allow most to participate, but may segregate cars for the sake of judging or display.  Some of the most common classifications include:

Antique, Historic and Classic cars are older cars, usually kept true to the way they were manufactured, or with only slight modifications. The state of Maryland defines antique cars as being twenty years and older.  Within this category you can find subsets such as Brass Era Cars generally manufactured between 1890 and 1918, i.e. Ford Model T.

Custom and Modified cars are similar to the antique and classic cars, but customized and modified to match the owner’s taste and vision. Modifications may include specialized body work, suspension, interior and engine/transmission.

Hot Rods are automobiles that have been rebuilt or modified to increase its speed and acceleration. In many cases people use the term in relation to Roadsters produced in the 1930’s and 1940’s where the engine is replaced or reworked for greater speed and performance and body panels removed or altered for appearance. Many Hot Rods were painted with flame designs around the engine area and behind the front wheels to give the impression the vehicle was “hot” – therefore the name Hot Rods. (Rods may refer to the rods and cams in the engine which were changed to increase engine performance, to the open frame rails and rods exposed when the builder removed the body panels, or to the fact the cars were originally roadsters. All are acceptable explanations for the name.)

Street Rods are generally older well-maintained cars which have been slightly modified with new interiors and a modern (more powerful) engine and drive train. These alterations still allow good performance for day-to-day street driving.  Street Rods can be a sub-class of Custom or Modified.

Exotic cars are those not seen on a regular basis, generally cars with lower production numbers characterized by their ‘striking’ appearance featuring definitive body styling, shape and size. Specialized composites used in the frame and body of many ‘exotic’ cars help delineate them from daily commuters. Exotics usually feature performance engines, often installed as mid-engine or rear-engine models. Autos which generally qualify as ‘exotics’ are generally two-seaters (with a rare token back seat), with a very low profile. Exotics are not limited to cars costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or German or Italian built models – Lotus is an American built ‘exotic’ sports car, costing around $50,000. By true definition of ‘exotic’ the car should be of a limited production, not seen on a regular basis and has features that are not common to the auto industry.

Micro Cars fully licensed and road legal vehicles which are uncommonly small.  The earliest were often refered to as ‘cyclecars’ with their highest production in the 1910s and 1920s.  Throughout the 1950s and 1960 another prominent generation of microcars produced were nicknamed ‘bubble cars’.  Many of the earlier cars and some in the latter were three wheeled vehicles.  Microcars are widely accepted to be characterized by a gas engine of 700cc (in some areas 1000cc) or smaller with one or two doors.

Tuners are often Japanese, Asian, and European automobiles which are manufactured with comfort, practicality and high gas mileage in mind, as well as the ability to “Tune” the car to the owner’s own taste.  They are generally nimble, good-handling vehicles because of their light weight and well designed suspensions.  Tuners are personalized through customization of interiors, exterior trim, body kits, window tints, sound systems, engine and performance systems.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2009 9:31 pm

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. December 13, 2009 4:15 am

    The info was interesting and I would like to read your desciption for , rat rod or unfinished class.

  3. December 14, 2009 9:38 pm

    I have posted a description of Rat Rods in a new entry.

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