im familiar with vintage racing and vintage cars that ive seen locally and nationally, but was curious, what is the definition of a vintage car? does it have to be european and a certain age? does it have to have a notable history? what does 'vintage' actually mean? thanks for your ideas and opinions, all are welcome.

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It's all over the map.
At the most liberal end, a vintage car is defined as being over 25 years old.
My English friends will go to great lengths to define Vintage, Historic and Classic.
I agree with our SCCA CFR friend below, pre 1972 is generally accepted as "Vintage" for vintage racing events in the USA.
Lord March takes that back to 1966 when the cars actually raced at Goodwood.
For all general purposes, pre 1972 works for all the vintage clubs I know :-))
A true vintage car is one with a birth date after 1.1.1919 and before 31.12.1929. Prior to that they are veteran, and prior to that Edwardian. Quality & rare cars after 1929 are classics. Those dates will not change.
OK, 1972 sounds like a reasonable cut off date. How about the next step to determine if it is vintage. The example I put forth is the Porsche 908/2 that was driven by Steve McQueen and Peter Revson to a second place finish at the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring. The restored car was supposed to go up for auction at Pebble Beach in August but was withdrawn over concerns about its authenticity. What percentage of original parts must be in the restored version to qualify as the original vintage car? If the percentage is low can more than one restored car call itself the "McQueen" car just because they have an original side mirror or door panel on the restored version?
generally an unmolested car that has owner/driver history back to it's origin. If restored it should be period restored with as many period parts as possible.. ie a production based Corvette from 1964 would not have a dry sump system or MSD box for ignition etc. .
No doubt this issue has come up before in restored vintage race cars and I was wondering if there is a governing body for vintage racers that can make a definitive determination as to the authenticity of a vintage racer and can be registered as such.
Thanks for the response Sean. It seems that there is really nothing definitive yet to determine vintage status. Thus the clone or "continuation" cars now appearing at vintage races. A person could buy a "continuation" Lola T70 from Lola and race it against the 1969 Lola T70 that was driven by Mark Donohue at Daytona in 1969. Doesn't seem fair that the very valuable antique would have to race against a new and much less expensive clone. Then again there is the problem I mentioned before about the McQueen car. That car raced five times at Le Mans and no doubt the owners back then had plenty of spare parts. Probably enough spares to assemble two or three 908/2 cars. If you did this, how is someone to know which one is or can be certified the "McQueen Car"? And, who does the certification?
Hi Louis and Sean
Very thought provoking insights by both of you.
I know of (and race in he same Club with) a continuation T70 that gives great joy to the owner and fans alike.
The car is authentic in every detail.
Our Club certifies the car as "technically sound and period correct".
Not all continuation cars are allowed to race with a majority of the not for profit Vintage Racing Clubs in the US.
The rules are uneven and the Vintage Motorsports Council sees fit to let the individual Clubs create and maintain their own rules.
There's no solution here because it is unlikely that there will ever be a Global and/or US "governing body" for the sport.
This is a very good discussion, guys, and one which we need to keep expanding in order to come to some sort of consensus. I believe this is the central problem in vintage racing today. Just a few thoughts about it:

1. The joy of vintage racing is to experience the cars raced in another era as they were raced then. Overcoming the same problems experienced by the original drivers like imprecise handling (by modern standards) or peaky power bands is part of the allure of the cars. Original parts for the cars are sometimes impossible to find, such as identical tires used in Trans Am of the late 60s. Other parts are now available which make the cars far more reliable like Tilton starters instead of Lucas. The substitution of these replacements does not detract from the experience of driving and racing the cars and we should all embrace them. Parts or modification which vastly improve performance or deviate from the original concept should not be accepted.

2. As time marches on, other race cars which were once the current crop become old and uncompetitive. Shops, garages and warehouses are littered with old race cars which are no longer useful. We as vintage racers tend to identify with the cars of our youth. The younger generation which did not get to experience the cars of the 60s and 70s do the same. To bring in younger members and to keep vintage racing alive, we must begin to allow cars from the 80s to be raced under the umbrella of vintage racing. 'Vintage' is usually defined as through 1972 with the period of the 70s designated as 'Historic'. Perhaps we should come up with another name for cars of the 80s and allow them to race to attract new participants to our sport.

3. It is my opinion that we should allow continuation cars although I in no way include "kit cars" in this group. I once worked on the Lola T-70 mentioned by Louis in which Donohue won Daytona. (for photos go to http://metcalfracing.com/live_pages/fabrication.php) It has not been raced since Sebring of 69 and I would love to see the owner get it out again! If he were to do so, however, I do not believe he would be upset in the least to run against another T-70 just because it carried less value. I once vintage raced a Gulf-Mirage prototype for which the owner had been offered a sum that would buy the grid at many vintage races. We even wrecked it at Lime Rock once but repaired it and continued with the season. We ran against many lesser valued cars and everyone had a great time. In addition to the newly built Lola T-70s, the continuation cars currently being built by Carroll Shelby, Bill Thomas and Jim Hall are wonderful additions to vintage racing. Many of us would never have been able to see such cars run if not for the efforts of these men and the vintage associations which allow their cars to run. Other continuation cars such as the Caterham add to the vintage racing experience as well.

4. Having restored quite a few vintage race cars, a question which always comes up is, "How much should be replaced?" It is tempting to replace any part which shows any wear, corrosion, scratches and scrapes, etc. in order to have the closest thing we can get to a 100 point race car. In doing so we are over restoring the cars and eliminating parts which made history. When every panel of a moncoque tub is replaced, new fiberglass added, a different gearbox installed because of internal updates and other such modifications, are we really racing the same car? Another way to look at it, though, is that we have built our own continuation car. It's a tough question which it will take all of us to answer.

What are your thoughts?
Robert: Could you respond to my question about how you can determine if the McQueen car, that was to be auctioned last August, was the actual car driven at Sebring in 1970. When you consider how many times race cars (especially this one) change hands over the years and how many times they may have been rebuilt I would assume that it might not be too hard to "create" a vintage celebrity racer or two from spares. (p.s. I am a rank amateur when it comes to this subject.) If I had been at that auction, what would I have insisted on to prove authenticity?
Robert
Thank you for your expert insights.
I agree with everything you stated.
I am in favor of implementing the rolling "25 Year Rule" for vintage race car eligability.
For example, cars built up to 1983 would be eligable to race in 2008 season events.
Should the VMC adopt such a recommendation for the 27 VMC Member Clubs?
I don't want to start something but.... So if I were to find my old SCCA B Production Sting Ray and restored it to FIA GTO homogation specs like I raced in IMSA GT series in the early '70s, that wouldn't be considered "vintage"? We were allowed to run quite a number of items that were not legal for SCCA as long as it was allowed by the FIA papers. We ran different carb,intake, electronic ignition, rear battery mount, angle plug heads, etc. So it would be true to the series. But would it still be considered "vintage"?
To Louis and Stephen, I'll do the best I can.

Louis first. Authenticity of a vintage car is extremely difficult to prove unless it is very clear cut. I know of someone overseas who built a business of recreating Ferraris from little more than chassis tags. Sometimes he would start with a car which had been crashed badly or even burned and build a new car from steel tubes and parts and add the original tag.

During the 80s I raced a Ferrari 512M for which we tried, in vain, to determine the history. It seems Ferrari shuffled paperwork a lot to get cars across international borders to and from races. Even though some parts were numbered, we discovered our car had parts from other cars. They were race cars, after all, and Ferrari traded parts among cars as needed. Our shifter, for example, should have gone on Nick Mason's 512. This makes it difficult to trace a particular history. Sometimes it takes a great deal of work to track down a car's history and it is even possible that you can never know with certainty.

Other times it is easy. The history of the Donohue T-70 was unknown to the owner until I wrote Lola and asked who the car was originally sold to. They told me it went to Penske in December of 68. The present owner now has the letter from Lola giving chassis number and original buyer. As far as the McQueen car is concerned, I would play automotive archeologist and do whatever digging was required in magazines from the period, books, log books, etc. Talk to previous owners. Find out who did what modifications or rebuilds. I think that's your best bet but it may be a difficult path. A letter of authenticity from McQueen's family might go a long way. Don't know if that exists though.

Stephen, I agree with you about have a rolling eligibility date for vintage cars. 25 years seems to be as good a number as any. As we all get older and, more importantly, as the cars themselves get older we need to allow more of them to compete. I would be in favor of VMC sponsoring a recommendation to all vintage clubs to adopt a constantly updated cutoff date.

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