Governors and gull wings? Phaetons and power parkers? If you’ve ever walked away from a conversation between vintage auto enthusiasts feeling confused, you’re not alone. Classic car terminology involves a dialect all its own — and can leave you needing a dictionary.
Fortunately, we’ve put together some classic car terms to know. While we only have space to include some of them, this guide to classic car terminology will help you communicate with other collector car aficionados.
Classic Car Terms You Should Know
3-window: Two-door coupe with a rear window and a window in each door.
5-window: Two-door coupe with a rear window, a door, and a quarter window on each side.
A-bomb: Modified Model-A Ford.
Aftermarket: Accessory or part that a car’s original manufacturer didn’t make.
Antique: (Usually) refers to a car over 25 to 45 years old, but may also mean cars manufactured before 1916.
A-Pillar: Structural posts supporting the windshield and roof at the front of the car.
Barn finds: Vehicles that have sat unused for many years, such as in a barn or garage.
Basket case: A car wholly disassembled during the modification or rebuilding process.
B-Pillar: Structural posts between the front and back seats.
Bone Stock: Original, unmodified vehicle.
Bonnet: Front hood (usually a European term)
Brougham: Car with an open driver’s seat and a closed passenger compartment.
C-Pillar: Structural support post at the back of the car.
Cabriolet: French term for the convertible or folding top.
Club Coupe: Car with two doors, a hard roof, and a small rear seat shorter than a sedan.
Coach: Sedan with two doors.
Concours: An auto show featuring high-quality vehicles.
Crate Engine: The engine is built in the factory and ready for installation.
Custom: A stock car that’s been modified.
Dig Out: Speed up quickly.
Displacement: Amount of air and fuel an engine draws in a cycle.
Donor Car: Vehicle that’s used for parts when restoring another car.
Drag Plates: Metal plates signify a vehicle or driver’s membership in an auto club.
Dropped: Car that’s been lowered.
E.F.I.: Electronic fuel injection.
Estate Car: Old nickname for a station wagon.
Exotic: Luxurious, rare, or pricey cars.
Fixed Head Coupe: Coupe with a hard top.
Floor Pan: Car floor.
Four Banger: Engine with four cylinders.
Four on the Floor: Four-speed manual transmission with the shifter mounted to the floor.
Frame-On and -Off Restorations: Refers to the disassembly required when restoring or modifying a car.
Gear Box: Transmission.
Governor: Mechanism that attaches to the carburetor to limit speed.
Ground-up Restoration: Restoration project that’s focused on cosmetic changes.
Gull Wings: Car doors that open vertically rather than horizontally.
Gutted: Removing a car’s interior.
Hard Top: A car that looks like a convertible but has a fixed roof and no B-pillar.
Header: Exhaust manifolds that provide a power boost.
Horsepower: Measure of engine output.
Hot Rod: A car that’s been modified in both performance and appearance.
Igniter: Ignition system.
Independent Suspension: Modification that allows each wheel to move independently.
In the Weeds: Extremely lowered.
Jack Stands: Stands that hold a car when lifted off the floor.
Juice: Refers to gas, hydraulic fluid, or electricity.
Juice Brakes: Hydraulic brakes.
Kemp: Highly customized hot rod.
Kit Car: The car is sold in a kit, so buyers can put it together and modify it as they wish.
Land Yacht: Large, luxurious cars from the 1950s and 60s.
Laughing Gas: Nitrous oxide.
Loud Pedal: Accelerator pedal.
Louie: Turning left.
Lowered: Car with suspension or frame modifications that allow it to sit lower than stock height.
Mag: Wheels made with magnesium alloy or a self-contained ignitor.
Mother-in-Law: Single seat attached to the back of a two-seat car.
Muscle Car: Cars with displacement engines built in North America from 1964 to 1972.
NOS: Nitrous oxide system.
Original Equipment Manufacturer: Parts made by a car manufacturer.
Paint Codes: Numbers that identify specific paint colours used on a car.
Pancaked: Lowered hood.
Phaeton: Open-topped sedan without windows, often used in parades.
Power Parker: Car show attendees who arrive early and score great parking places.
Reacher: Reliable hot rod.
Roadster: Two-seater convertible without side windows.
Roscoe: Turning right.
Scoop: Mechanism installed on a hood to force air into the engine.
Slushbox: Automatic transmission.
Street Rod: Pre-1948 vehicle that’s modified but still street-legal.
Trailer Queen: A modified car transported on a trailer rather than driving.
Vintage: Vehicle that’s more than five decades old.
Now that you’ve reviewed our list of classic car terms, it’s time to review your insurance policy. A Wayfarer Insurance broker can help review your existing policy to ensure you have the right coverage or provide a quote for a new one.