This Classic Era is the greatest, in terms of automotive
design. Classic cars are typically very expensive and very stylish automobiles built to exacting standards of craftsmanship
and technology. The bodies were often "coach built", meaning the bodies were styled and crafted by specialists in auto body
design and craftsmanship. Typically Classic cars have highly styled bodies and fenders; the radiator shape is usually unique
and somewhat aerodynamic or streamlined. Usually, wide white sidewall tires and chrome wire spoke wheels adorn Classic cars.
The Blackhawk Automotive Museum uses the terminology
"Classic Car" as defined and listed by the Classic Car Club of America:
"...fine or unusual foreign or domestic
motor cars, built between and including the years 1925 and 1948, and distinguished for their respective fine design, high
engineering standards and superior workmanship..."
In every automotive era special and significant autos
have been produced for a variety of reasons. These very special one-off or limited edition automobiles can be defined as "classic"
or in the Museum's terminology, International Automotive Treasures. These great cars are a primary focus of the Blackhawk
Automobiles of the 1890s closely resembled the carriages,
buggies, phaetons and victorias being produced for the horse-drawn trade. As the mechanicals of the automobile were being
mastered, coachbuilders--who for years had plied their trade on the grand horse-drawn carriages of the wealthy--began to experiment
with coachwork for the automobile. Streamlining, to a degree, and boat-building techniques such as copper-riveted paneling
and v-shaped windshields, were tried on automobiles. These styling experiments and the demand for unusual and innovative vehicles
spawned a new industry--coach building for the automobile. Frequently, as much thought and care were lavished on a coach built
auto as on one's residence.
Elaborate bodies of all descriptions were mated with
the most innovative chassis and mechanicals of the era. Some American firms that moved to coach built automobiles were Cunningham,
McFarlan, Brewster, Fleetwood and Studebaker. Likewise, many European builders followed suit. In the Classic Era, nothing
more dramatically demonstrates the term "Classic" than the custom automobile. Often, automobile manufacturers such as Duesenberg
did not build bodies; they produced rolling chassis which were delivered to a coachbuilder to be bodied as specified by dealers
and distributors to their customers' individual tastes.
The Coach built Era in the U.S. ended after World
War II and soon thereafter in most foreign countries. Auto manufacturers' in-house body designers and fabricators were direct
descendants of the independent coachbuilders.