Car Terms to Know

Collector car enthusiasts who are new to the car world, or seasoned pros alike may find themselves in situations where faced with a barrage of specialty car terms that are unfamiliar. It can make looking for that perfect ride overwhelming! It always helps to have the lingo down so one can “talk the talk” when enjoying a car show, attending a car auction, or searching to buy or sell a collector vehicle. Here, The Vault shares some of the most common specialty car terminology to help you learn more about what it means to buy, sell, or trade in your specialty vehicle

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Collector Car Glossary

Here, we’ll explore classic car terminology, muscle car terms, car slang, vintage and antique automotive terms, car restoration terms, car definitions, and much more! 

A, B, C Pillars: The A pillars on your car hold the windshield in place. B pillars start at the end of the driver and passenger-side windows. C pillars hold the rear window in place. 

glossary of car terms

Aftermarket: A part, addition, or upgrade to any given vehicle’s systems or structure post production (may or may not originate from the manufacturer).

Antique Vehicles: The definition varies but typically describes a car that is 45 years or older, manufactured in 1975 or earlier.

Basket Case: Any older vehicle that has been or needs to be disassembled for restoration or modifications.

Brass Era Cars: Vehicles built in 1896-1915 that featured brass fittings, also called horseless carriages

Camaro: Iconic Chevrolet Muscle Car Era, starting production in the 60s.

Concept Car: A vehicle created to test new designs or prototype features.

Corvettes: A Chevrolet 2-door sports car, built starting in the 50s. 

Coupe: A vehicle body style designed with only two doors.

Classic Car: While this definition is highly debated, some say they are distinctive American cars built between 1915 and 1948. Others define classics as specific models that are at least 20 years old but no older than 40 years old. 

Crate Engine: A fully built, ready to install engine. Usually shipped to the buyer in a crate, hence the term.

Drag Coefficient: How much air resistance a vehicle faces while moving. 

EFI: Electronic Fuel Injection.

Elapsed Time: The time it takes a vehicle to run a quarter mile drag.

Exotic Cars: Exclusive sports cars, sometimes known as Supercars. Examples: Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Frame-off Restoration: When a vehicle is entirely disassembled to meet original factory specifications closely by cleaning or replacing parts as necessary. 

Frame-on Restoration: When a vehicle is restored without removing the body from the frame.

Frame-up Restoration: When a vehicle’s paint, chrome, interior, and mechanicals are restored without disassembling the car. 

Hemi: A high performance Chrysler engine with hemispherical heads.

Hot Rod: A vehicle modified to improve the look and/or performance. 

Kit Car: A “kit” of complete car parts and pieces sold so someone can reproduce/build, and customize the vehicle themselves.

Locker: A differential designed to prevent tire spin and distribute torque evenly to the rear wheels.

Long Block Engine: A replacement engine that usually includes the crankshaft, rods, pistons, heads, and head gaskets.

Matching Numbers: When the VIN, engine, body, transmission, and rear end serial numbers on a restored vehicle or original vehicle all match (identifying that specific vehicle and its production installed powertrain and drivetrain).

MOPAR: A merging of “motor” and “parts”, referring to Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth vehicles and parts. 

Muscle Car: A high performance American car, usually from the 60s and 70s, typically with a large displacement engine and an intermediate-size body. 

Mustang: Ford “pony cars” produced since 1964.

NOM: Non Original Motor.

NOS/New Old Stock: Original parts supplied by the vehicle’s manufacturer, unused and in pristine condition, often used to restore collector cars

Original: A vehicle that only contains parts originally installed on the car (or NOS parts from the manufacturer).

OEM: An original equipment manufacturer, refers to the company that originally manufactured the car product.

Phaeton: A two or four door sedan with no roll up windows, from the late 20’s to the late 30’s.

Pony Car: A compact performance-based vehicle, such as Mustangs or Camaros.

Pre-War Vehicles: The definition varies, some say any vehicles manufactured before the start of WWI, while others say anything built before 1939.

Project Car: A collector vehicle in restorable condition.

Rare Collector Cars: High-priced, limited production vehicles like the Auburn or the 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom York.

Resto-Mod: A vehicle that is close to stock that has a late-model chassis, drivetrain, and modern conveniences.

Restored: Refurbishing a vehicle to original (like-new) showroom condition.

Roadster: A two-seater with a removable or convertible top

Rotisserie Restoration: A restoration style where the vehicle is put on a rotisserie so it can be worked on at all angles.

Short Block Engine: An replacement engine block with the crank, connecting rods and pistons, (no heads, manifolds or external components).

Street Rod: A 1948 (or earlier) street-legal modified car or truck.

Turnkey: Hot rod built/restored by a professional with no additional work needed.

VIN/Vehicle Identification Number: A vehicle’s identifying serial number (usually found under the windshield post, the driver’s door post,and/or on the firewall as well as other marker locations).

Vintage Cars: Usually defined as built between 1919 and 1930 and still in stock or unmodified condition.

Woody: A wagon with naturally finished wood faced body panels.

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