Classic Car Club Of America Wants You To Know Proper Classic Car Terms

Jun 19, 2019 2 min read
Classic Car Club Of America Wants You To Know Proper Classic Car Terms

Just knowing what things are called on newer cars isn’t enough.

One of the quickest ways to let gearheads know your naïve about cars is to call a specific part a “thing” or even worse, the wrong name. Car culture is full of shibboleths or anachronisms that the average person either doesn’t understand or is completely unaware exist. This is especially true when talking about classic cars. You need to know the lingo, or you’ll be pegged as a poser in no time. Fortunately, Classic Car Club of America has produced a guide for speaking the language of CCCA.

This CCCA guide is loaded with classic car terms so you don’t make a fool of yourself and not even know it. The problem is if you want to use modern names for components, that’s not what everything was called when these cars were made. Way back when automobiles were first coming into prominence, car designers and automakers will still using terms from coachbuilding. They also made up terms for marketing purposes.

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One term you probably get wrong is “cabriolet.” They actually aren’t necessarily two-door cars, but instead are a convertible with windows. That means a four-door could be a cabriolet as long as it has a convertible top and windows.

You probably already know a “boot” is the car’s trunk, and that the “bonnet” is the hood. Both terms are still actively used in Britain. But, were you aware that when it comes to the classics, a “station wagon” is built of wood and is a utility model? Usually station wagons have four doors, but that’s not necessary. Some people think any wagon is a station wagon, but if it’s not built out of wood, technically it’s not one.

When you talk about a tonneau today, it’s usually referring to a cover for a pickup truck’s payload. When it comes to classics, the tonneau is the rear compartment in a car’s body and is normally used for an open touring model. This shows how terms shift and change over time.

If you want to learn more classic car terms, check out the CCCA glossary here.

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