Learn About: Classic Cars

For most of us in the developed world today, cars are a relatively mundane part of everyday life, but they have a rich history and classic car collectors try to capture some of the last 100 years of automotive history through their collections. Today, collectors and enthusiasts find space for racing cars, luxury cars, small cars, family cars, innovative cars and cars that were barely put into production.

For most of us in the developed world today, cars are a relatively mundane part of everyday life, but they have a rich history and classic car collectors try to capture some of the last 100 years of automotive history through their collections. Today, collectors and enthusiasts find space for racing cars, luxury cars, small cars, family cars, innovative cars and cars that were barely put into production.

Early Cars

It is hard to put your finger on exactly when the first “car” as we know it was built. The first self-propelled vehicles were 18th century steam-tractors but most credit Karl Benz’s first Motorwagen as the first modern car, built 100 years later in 1885. This is complicated by the fact that steam cars were still being produced into the 1930s. Benz’s car and its engine certainly marked a turning point as many of today’s oldest manufacturers produced their first cars soon after such as Peugeot and Daimler. The next major innovation in the form of the moving production-line would, however, come from the other side of the Atlantic, developed by the factories of Oldsmobile and Ford.

Racing Pedigree

Some of the most sought-after classic cars have been racing cars and, as you might imagine, cars have been raced against one another since their inception. The first racetracks were simply horseracing tracks, but Brooklands in Surrey, England marked a new era as the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, opened in 1907. Many of the first truly purpose built racing cars didn’t come until the 1930s, but they came from the great manufacturers of the day such as Alfa-Romeo and Bugatti. 24-hour racing at Le Mans, France began in 1923 and was the first race of its type. The Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500, also very old events, make up the other races of the motorsport ‘triple crown’ – an achievement only reached by British driver Graham Hill.

After the Second World War Formula One racing came to the fore as the driver’s world championship was introduced in 1950. Each decade of F1 has since had its own famous names including Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Hunt & Lauda, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Racing cars are very desirable amongst collectors and are very rare, but road-going versions of many racing cars, especially rally-cars, are more common.

Cars of the People

Classic cars are not always about elite racing or early examples, many cars are notable for their roles in bringing motoring to the masses. These cars often come with a great social, and sometimes political, history and none more so than the Volkswagen Beetle. The Beetle was first produced in 1938 under Hitler’s German Labour Front and was designed to be affordable to the average German family with an accompanying savings plan. This era also saw the development of small family cars more broadly and tradesmen’s vans in Europe with the Austin 7, Citroen 2CV and Renault 4. Soviet car production is also a major part of the 20th century history of the car with the biggest names being AMO, GAZ and Moskvitch and was initially very reliant on parts and manufacturing expertise from the West. Lada was equally tied to European manufacturer Fiat when it was formed in the mid-1960s, adapting its first car from the Fiat 124. While ex-racing cars achieve the highest prices in the saleroom, many collectors and enthusiasts value more affordable era-defining classic cars many of which have popularity across the world.

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