What makes a sports or classic car - what do you reckon #1

By: Glenn Torrens, Unique Cars magazine

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What makes it a sports or a classic car? GT gets out from under one of his Beetles for a moment to tackle life's big questions

What makes a sports or classic car - what do you reckon #1
Torrens and one of his Beetles - is it a sports car or a classic or both or neither?!

YEARS AGO, one of my mates from university, Macca, got into a spirited discussion (it wasn't quite an argument!) with my then girlfriend Lesley about the definition of a sports car.

You see, back then Macca had a nice high-performance car that he drove one or two days per week. Being a student, he (in fact, all of us) didn't have too much money to blow on cars but by being sensible with the cash and doing as much DIY as possible, Macca had managed to build his car into a nice thing with a modified motor and driveline, wider rubber over lowered suspension set-up for tidier-than-standard handling. It was all wrapped in an iconic two-door body wearing a subtle light blue hue.

At the time, I was bombing around in a similarly-coloured two-door, modified, good-handling road car, too. Like Macca, I'd built mine DIY on a modest budget by working Thursday nights and Saturdays in a menswear store, plus Friday and Saturday nights in a pizza shop and often backing-up for a Sunday shift in the sox-n-jox shop, too.

The trouble was, according to Lesley - and being 21, a bit of a smart-arse and not really a car enthusiast, she was quite vocal about her opinion - Maccas V8-powered pride and joy could never be considered a sports car because it was (pause for effect) an HJ Holden ute. And my little two-door, fast, rorty, tight-handling daily driver was similarly not a sports car because it was (insert Game Show thinking music here) a VW Beetle.

Macca and I didn't build our cars to be copies of an MX-5 or an MGB, but both our cars would have blown-away these two acknowledged sports cars when the lights turned green, or the road morphed into a few corners.

Macca's philosophy was that a sports car shouldn't be defined by its badge, body shape or seating configuration, but by its level of performance and handling with a big dollop of how it makes you feel.

I've never forgotten Macca's words. There's a similar grey area about the definition of a classic car, too. Lately, I've been party to a few conversations - both real chat at the pub over a cold beer and on-line on some Facebook pages - about what a classic car is.

One bloke on-line wrote that an early Holden Commodore could never be considered a classic car because it was never a classy car to begin with. Oh riiiight. I think he was serious because he backed up his argument with some word association worthy of a first-grade kid: old Jags and Mercedes are classy and therefore classic.

Uh-huh. His keyboard rattling stopped when someone pointed out that Mercedes are a popular taxi in Europe.

Ok, so my gal Lesley didn't think Macca's ute or my VW Beetle were sports cars but they're both classic cars now.

There are no real rules, but I reckon that if a car has survived long enough to outlast most of its factory produced brethren, and someone loves it, and it stands out in a crowd, then it deserves to be called a classic car. My personal guideline is 20 years - a 1989 Holden Calais is a classic car but a 2009 Calais isn't yet.

Classic cars - it is an age thing or a badge thing? What do you reckon?

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