Classic Car Terms: What are Old Cars Called?

March 15th, 2024 by

Updated: March 15, 2024

To many, being ambitious is what pushes them to achieve their goals. To others, it is a trait that comes naturally. For classic car enthusiasts, ambition is often what drives them to pursue their passion for collecting and restoring classic automobiles.

Whether you are a classic car collector enthusiast or a seasoned pro who champions classic shows, competition or enjoys the camaraderie of like-minded individuals, you will likely find a unique language being spoken. Here is a quick glossary of classic car terms you need to know to help you understand some of the key terms used in the classic car world.

Collector Car Glossary

This section will explore car restoration terms, classic car terminology, car slags, muscle cars, and vintage and antique cars.

Aeromobile: A term coined by Henry Ford to describe his first cars. Early cars were often referred to as horseless carriages.

Antique: Despite not having a specific legal definition, most classic car collectors and enthusiast groups agree that an antique car is a vehicle that is at least 45 years old.

Automobile: A vehicle with four wheels propelled by an engine, specifically designed for road travel.

A-Pillars: It is the first roof support located at the front of a car, typically where the windshield is located.

Aftermarket: Any replacement part or accessory not made by the original manufacturer.

Air-Cooling: A cooling method that uses air to cool internal engine components instead of water and a radiator.

Aluminum Block: A block made of aluminum, typically used in high-performance engines.

Assemblage: A term used to describe the process of putting a car together.

B Pillar: The roof support is located between the front and rear doors on a four-door sedan or between the front and rear windows on a two-door coupe/hardtop.

Balancer: A device mounted on the end of the crankshaft and is used to counterbalance the weight of the reciprocating parts in an engine.

Barn Find: A term used to describe a classic car that has been sitting in a garage, shed, or barn for many years, often without being driven.

Bitumen: A type of asphalt that is used to make roads.

Body on Frame: A construction method where the chassis and body of a car are built separately and then joined

Brass Era Cars: A term used to describe cars manufactured between 1890 and 1915. These cars are typically made out of brass and wood.

Camber: The inward or outward tilt of the wheels when viewed from the front or rear of the car.

Chassis: The frame of a car that supports the body, engine, suspension, and other components.

Classic: A term used to describe a car at least 25 years old and is considered timeless in design.

Collector Car: A classic car is often collected and maintained as a hobby or investment.

Coupe: A two-door car with a fixed roof.

Cross-member: A structural component that reinforces the chassis of a car.

Custom Car: A car that has been modified from its original state, often with aftermarket parts.

Displacement: The total volume of air/fuel mixture an engine can draw in during one complete cycle.

Exotic Cars: A term used to describe a scarce, luxurious, and expensive car.

Economic Obsolescence: A term used to describe a car no longer economically viable to repair or maintain.

Engine Block: The part of the engine that contains the cylinders, pistons, and other moving parts.

Exhaust System: The system removes exhaust gasses from the engine and vents them out of the car.

Frame-off Restoration: A restoration where the car’s body is removed from the chassis, and both are restored separately.

Frame-on Restoration: A restoration where the body and chassis of a car are restored together.

Final Drive: The gear reduction system transmits power from the engine to the drive wheels.

Gasket: A seal used to prevent oil, coolant, or other fluids from leaking.

Ground Up Restoration: A restoration where the focus is mainly cosmetic and paint-focused.

Hardtop: A two-door car with a fixed roof.

Horsepower: A unit of measurement that indicates the power output of an engine.

Independent Suspension: A suspension system where each wheel can move independently of the others.

Jack stands: Sturdy stands used to support a car when lifted off the ground.

Luxury Tax: A tax levied on luxury items, such as cars, in the United States from 1990 to 1993.

MacPherson Strut: An type of independent suspension that uses a strut instead of a shock absorber.

Manifold: A casting containing the passages for the intake and exhaust gasses in an engine.

Muscle Cars: A term used to describe a high-performance car from 1960

Matching Numbers: A term used to describe a vehicle whose engine, transmission, and other significant components match the numbers originally assigned to the car.

Mileage: The total distance that a car has been driven.

Model T: The first mass-produced car Ford manufactured from 1908 to 1927.

Monocoque: A type of construction where the car’s body is used as a structural element.

Odometer: A device that measures the distance a car has been driven.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM): A term used to describe parts made by the same company that manufactured the car.

Paint Codes: Numbers that identify the paint color of a car.

Piston: A cylindrical piece connected to the crankshaft that makes up the engine block.

Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI): An inspection performed on a car before purchase.

Short Block Engine: A replacement engine that does not include the cylinder heads.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN): A 17-digit number used to identify a car.

Vintage Car: A classic car at least 50 years old.

Wheelbase: The distance between the front and rear wheels of a car.

Yenko: A high-performance car manufactured by Chevrolet in the 1960s and 1970s.

Your Key to the Best Classic Cars & Trucks

It’s essential to know the lingo if you’re in the market for a classic car or truck. Sometimes it helps to learn some Classic Car Slang or Car Slang Words to understand what you want when buying a classic car. When you walk into our showroom, you can hold your own during a conversation with our knowledgeable staff and be confident that you’re getting the best deal on a beautiful classic car or truck. At LaFontaine Classic Cars, we hope this collector car glossary was helpful! If you have any questions about the terms we used or want more information on a particular make or model, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to help you find your dream classic car or truck.

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I recently purchased a 1965 GTO from Lafontaine Classic Cars. I thought Zach represented the car accurately and he answered all of my questions thoroughly. This was important to me being from out of state. Zach assisted in every step along the way and I had the car home within a week. When it arrived it was even nicer than I had thought! Thanks to Zach and the team at Lafontaine!

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Posted in Classic Cars