When most people think of a classic car, they picture a vintage Rolls Royce or a 1970s American muscle machine. But the experts know better. The classic car market is ever-evolving, and what may have once been thought of as a standard everyday car could well be an emerging classic today.

A good example of this trend is the rise of 1980s Japanese sports cars, such as Nissan Skylines and Honda Civics, which are now considered modern classics, says Tom Hall, senior technical underwriter at Dawes Motor Insurance. Also on the rise are M-series BMWs, and late model Holdens like HDT and HSV Commodores.

“Of course, they have to be in good condition, well cared for and maintained,” he adds.

Defining a classic car

Desirability is another feature that differentiates a classic car from an old one. “These were the cars that today’s 30- and 40-year-olds wanted but couldn’t afford when they were younger,” he explains. “Tapping into that nostalgia, they have collectability status among those people today.”

However, age is also a factor, as anything less than 25 years old is unlikely to be considered classic. Availability also comes into play, and while many of these makes and models were mass produced in their day, the fewer well looked after or restored vehicles that remain, the more desirable they are considered.

The quirk factor

Mr Hall says some cars are classic due to factors beyond their performance, such as an interesting or quirky feature.

He cites the example of air-cooled Porsche 911s from the 1980s and 1990s, which are now worth three times what they were new, while Mazda’s range of rotary engine powered cars from the 1970s are another example of quirky classic cars with a cult following.

Future classics?

With the rise of electrification, hybrid vehicles and driver assist technology, Mr Hall says a lot of the purity of the driving experience has been lost.

“We're really getting towards the end of pure cars, and petrol cars in general, we're about to have a very transformative change in cars over the next 10 to 15 years.”

With most car enthusiasts and collectors looking for a pure driving experience, Mr Hall says it will be interesting to see whether new classic cars continue to emerge.

“The beauty of today’s modern classics is that they are new enough to be reliable and have most of the mod-cons we’re used to these days, but they are old enough that they don’t have driver assists, aids and electronics. People are starting to buy cars and hold on to them if they think that they’ll never be able to buy something like this again.”

Examples of such cars are HSV Commodores, particularly GTSRs and W1s, which are still considered brand new, but are now appreciating in value.

The risk of underinsurance

Given the complexity of this market, the risk of underinsurance is a very real one.

“If you’re not an expert, it can be difficult to know whether a client’s vehicle is classic or simply old,” Mr Hall says. “If you try to insure them with a mainstream motor insurer they may not understand that these cars are significant.”

With many modern classics worth more today than when they were originally released, if a vehicle isn’t identified as a classic and cover is placed on a market value or book value basis it’s likely to be underinsured.

“To make sure your client’s vehicle is covered for what it’s worth you need specialty insurers who keep up with market developments. Choice of approved repairer also matters in the event of a claim, as these cars may require a specialty repairer to ensure they maintain their value.”
While many owners are aware of their car’s value, Mr Hall says Dawes sees cases where an owner has hung onto a car from new, maintained it and driven it on weekends for the last twenty or thirty years and may not be aware that it’s now an emerging modern classic.

First class insurance with Dawes

Mr Hall says if a broker is ever in doubt, they’re welcome to tap into the expertise at Dawes to find out if a vehicle is a classic. “If they send us through a few details and some images, we can tell them pretty quickly if it’s a classic or not,” he says.

Visit the Dawes website or call us on 1300 188 299 to learn more about our first class insurance for first class vehicles.


Dawes Underwriting Australia Pty Ltd trading as Dawes Motor Insurance acts for the insurer, Allianz Australia Insurance Limited. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement, Target Market Determination available by contacting Dawes or visiting dawes.com.au.