Our Cars – Are They Vintage or Just Old?

Did you ever think about the vintage of the cars you collect? Do they fall into a particular time frame? I was thinking about this today as I was cursing a job that I have done innumerable times before on different cars – refitting the plastic steering cowl.

Vintage Triumph Spitfire and MG in Ohio
My Triumph Spitfire with Gene Gillenwater’s MGB in Ohio, June 2016

I realized that I had cursed this same job many times before. Then I realized that I had done so because most of my British car purchases fall within the time period of the 1970s – when British Leyland had a plastic fetish. During this same period, engineers had a preference for putting things in with screws where you would have to have three hands and stand on your head to replace them. Such were the 70s.

As I was telling my wife about this, we realized that the vintage travel trailer she recently bought to restore is of exactly the same vintage. And it has unique screws for which she had to special order a special set of screwdriver bits. Sound familiar? I tell you, we go down the same roads in this family no matter what the project.

She surmised that we buy this vintage of vehicle because they are old enough to be considered vintage if you squint a bit, and not just thought of as “used”. She also postulated that this is the period that we can afford. In that period where something is transitioning from old and just used to older and “vintage” is where it reaches the bottom of the price curve. A few years newer and the car would cost more. On the other hand, look at the car a few years from now and it will have moved into the vintage category thereby making the price go back up.

That is the theory at least. If we go by that theory then everything I buy should be going up in value soon after I buy it. Strange, it never seems to work out that way. I would be buying a lot more cars if that were the case. And my wife would be far more amenable to it.

Vintage 1977 MGB Ad
MGB Ad from 1977

Not to disagree with my wife, but I think it may have more to do with the time period when we grew up. I was born in the early ‘60s, so the cars that were on the road during my teen years were of the mid to late 70s. Interesting that I have a 1977 MGB and a 1978 Triumph Spitfire. I have had earlier cars, but I can count the 1950s and 60s cars on one hand. And I have had only 2 newer British cars. I bought a MINI Cooper S new from the dealer, and then there is my current Discovery. So only two post-1980s British cars out of the dozens of cars I have owned. That can’t be a coincidence.

Do we gravitate towards the cars that first caught our eye during those formative years? Are the folks who were teens in the 60s more interested in the cars from that period? Does that mean that my son will be one day looking to collect the ’02 MINI and ’02 Discovery that his dad once had?

Is there a group of adults who now seek to collect Chevrolet Chevettes, Chrysler K-Cars, and Yugos? Actually, there are people who collect Yugos. I have read about them, though I try to keep my distance. I always feared that such a collecting addiction might be the sign of some contagious disease.

Perhaps it is actually just an indication of the times in which they grew up.

Michael Carnell
Editor at Just British

Michael Carnell is the editor and founder of the Just British Online Motoring Magazine. As a lifelong British car enthusiast, he has owned or driven British cars of all ages from Austins and MGs to Jaguars and Triumphs. He currently owns a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 and a 1977 MGB. But there is always room for more - no matter what his wife says.


  1. Graduated from High School 1955, Drove an MG TC in college, lusted after what was then the new MG. NOW have both an MGA and a TF in the garage.

  2. First plastic car model I put together was an MG TD. Plastic was white so I left it white so I did not have to paint it. Now have an MG TD that I fully restored. Had it painted creamy white.

  3. In 1972, I was 14 and came to own a 1961 MGA 1600. It was kinda rough but it cost me $100. I’ve had MGA’s off & on ever since.

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