My Car Quest

July 20, 2024

Classic Car Icons – An Overused Term?

by Mike –

The word icon has become very popular in the classic car world especially by anyone selling a car or writing a classic car auction catalog.

When a word is used too much it can lose its meaning and its power. This has happened to other words in the English language and it may be happening to the word icon when used as an adjective for a classic car.

Mercedes 300SL Roadster - Classic Car Icons

Mercedes 300SL Roadster

The Mercedes 300SL Roadster is surely a classic car icon. Some pundits would say that the Ferrari 250 GTO is very iconic. I say it is just an icon without any degree of iconic strength.

If one says that one classic car is very iconic then that means that another is merely iconic or barely iconic. Where is the boundary between iconic and not iconic or iconic and very iconic?

It gets confusing when we make up words or try to change their meaning.

Ferrari 250 GTO - Classic Car Icons

Ferrari 250 GTO

This video is 1:36 long. How would you have answered these questions if you were Billy in this video?

Icon could have been included in Car Collector Clichés And Contradictions.

Let us know what you think about classic car icons in the Comments.



This animation was originally published in December 2011.

Classic Car Icons - An Overused Term?
Article Name
Classic Car Icons - An Overused Term?
When a word is used too much it can lose its power. This has happened to other words in the English language and it may be happening to the word icon when used as an adjective for a classic car.


  1. Wayne Watkins says

    The word icon is a noun and the word iconic is an adjective . If you say a car is very iconic then you are trying to push the point that it is a very iconic car , maybe meaning very special . However I think very or most should be omitted . Many people say that something or even a car is very unique or most unique which is impossible as if something is unique it is a one off , or single or sole or having no equal . At least that was what I was taught at school 60 odd years ago . These days the English language has been twisted and turned for modern usage . English meanings and spelling in English speaking countries has varied a lot over time to suit each particular country’s situation . In early American days a guy called Webster wrote his version of English for the new English speaking mainly farming illiterate arrivals and many words were shortened or simplified . One is the English spelling , jewellery being shortened to jewelry . Canadians have another spelling for that word .

    I guess a dirt covered 250GTO in a car park at a race meeting all those years ago can be called VERY DUSTY …. but these days it is an icon .

  2. Rollie Langston says

    Terrific video to make your point, Mike. There may be as many as a million words in the English language and most adults know about 20,000-30,000. That should be enough to accurately express an idea or description. As in most endeavors, the key is to artfully select and assemble the component parts (words) to create something extraordinary and memorable….sort of like building or restoring an automotive masterpiece! One of my favorite examples is to describe sleet or freezing rain as “coagulated precipitation”!

  3. Anthony Olissoff says

    This is a tough one and a bit of a teaser in the morning. For me, maybe the Ford Pinto is more worthy of ‘icon’ than the 250GTO. An icon has to be so strongly representative of something (IMHO) that it conjures an association. Not sure that the GTO does that as most people have never seen, heard or touched one, but a Pinto! Swinging seventies, an age where a new generation took control. I dunno, but I think icons are more common and more associative; black and white TV, Andy Griffith, Mayberry. Those are icons for an age of America that was illusory, but desirable. A perfect life.
    The Beach Boys, dune buggies and the ever sunny, palm tree lines streets of Sthn California the same. I feel that the Ferrari GTO is among the epitome of desirability for classic cars, but maybe the Pontiac GTO is more iconic.

  4. Awesome! (not).

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