In a documentary video about Lord Montague and the Montague Motor Museum, the following narration was used:

And on this fine April day in 1959, hosts of strange vehicles are converging upon the peace and quiet of Beaulieu, to celebrate the opening of a new extension to the museum, housing over 200 historic exhibits. Feast your eyes on one of the largest gathering of veteran and vintage cars and motorcycles the world has ever seen.

Is there a particular distinction between vintage and veteran that denotes an age range, or does veteran denote some other specific quality pertaining to motor vehicles?

  • In 1959 "veteran" may well have meant simply a car which survived WWII.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 19 '15 at 2:23
  • As a note to new visitors, since this question has been bumped: questions about specialized terminology are best directed at subject matter experts, not language experts. While such questions are not off-topic here per se, a car collector with a weak command of English would almost certainly be a more reliable source on this question than an accomplished linguist or writer with no exposure to the world of motor enthusiasts.
    – choster
    Nov 29 '17 at 16:45

I think that the definitions are somewhat elastic and depend in part on who is defining them and for what purpose. For example the largest motor insurance company in my neck of the woods (NRMA) offers insurance for the various types of historic cars as defined in their booklet:

We offer insurance for:

  • veteran vehicles made before 1919

  • vintage vehicles made between 1919 and 1930, and

  • classic vehicles that are 15 years of age or more (and recognised by us as being a collectable vehicle)

It's worth noting that the NRMA's definition of "Veteran" is in accordance with the one that Stu W cited from the Collins dictionary. (Which also agrees with the OED's one.)

Also, NRMA's definition of "vintage" is in accordance with the OED's definition.

Although I can't find a reference to this at the moment my Mk I memory seems to recall that a similar distinction between vintage and veteran once existed with the motor registering authority as well, though it was based on how many years ago the cars had been manufactured relative to the registration date. However this was many, many years ago. This week's authority (the Roads and Maritime Service, who knows what it will be next week) just has an umbrella term "Historic Vehicles":

Historic vehicles may be registered under the Conditional Registration Scheme. The conditional registration of historic vehicles is referred to as the Historic Vehicle Scheme (HVS). The HVS was developed in consultation with industry.



Historic vehicles (including trailers) must be 30 years of age or older as from the year of manufacture.

Interestingly this would make a Chrysler Sigma historic which... er, yes, quite.

In any case my point is that you may well find that different insurance companies and motor traffic authorities use different definitions, but the NRMA / OED / CED ones seem to be be useful as a general guide.

  • Wow - I just realized that if it wasn't for the qualifier (and recognised by us as being a collectable vehicle), my Ford Focus would be a classic car!
    – Spratty
    Nov 29 '17 at 16:43

Collins English Dictionary defines "veteran car" [British] being built before 1919 and especially before 1905.

Compare with "vintage car": a general term for car enthusiasts such that the car is considered to be worth saving, despite it's age, usefulness, or durability, instead of turning to scrap

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