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Now on my latest trip in Japan in spring 2019 I've noticed many more classic cars around than I expected.

In English "classic car" is a somewhat vague term but is often used for old cars that have been preserved or restored from the 1950s to about the 1980s, especially rarer or more desirable or performance models of production cars. They would contrast with older vintage and veteran cars and also sometimes from much more expensive collectible exotic cars like old Ferraris and Porsches.

Notable Japanese classic cars would be the Toyota 2000GT, Mazda Cosmo Sport, "ハコスカ" Nissan GT-R, and "ハチロク" Toyota AE86.

Two Japanese classic cars
Two Japanese classic cars

Definitions out of the way, I've looked up Japanese terms for "classic car" and there are a couple of loanwords from English written in katakana but the main term used on the Japanese Wikipedia is 旧車.

When I look up "旧車" in a translator etc though, it returns simply "old car". Then again if I look up "old car" in a translator to Japanese, that returns "古い車".

So my question is: Is 旧車 relatively well understood to mean "classic car", or would most Japanese people think I'm just talking about old cars / used cars generally?

  • Certainly after all your time learning Japanese you must have realized that relying on an automated translation service will only lead you awry...? – Darius Jahandarie May 15 at 19:01
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IMO, 旧車 refers to classic (or vintage) cars. You can check Google images. Some people spells 旧車 Q車.

Referring to old cars, I use 古い車 instead.

Reffering to used cars, I use 中古車.

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