What constitutes an original car? Decipher the following advertisement: "Completely original except for new paint, fresh interior and redone engine." Exactly what is original about this car? Is the new paint enamel when the original was lacquer? Have the seats been upgraded from vinyl to leather? Has a higher-performance camshaft been fitted when the engine was redone?
It is SCM's position that originality falls into two categories. The first is "true originality," which indicates that a car is wearing the same paint and fitted with the same interior it had when it left the factory. The engine and transmission have not been molested or updated, and the car overall has a patina that only comes with graceful aging. If running properly, and without body damage or corrosion, these cars tend to claim the highest amount when they come up for sale.
The second category is "faithful refurbishment." In this case, a car has been maintained over time, with elements that have fallen into disrepair renewed as necessary. The car may have a new paint job, but in the original color and medium if possible, and with the window rubbers and chrome removed before the paint was applied. The seats may be reupholstered, but in the original materials stitched in the original pattern. A "faithfully refurbished car" may represent a mix of old and new; a fresh paint job may reside next to properly worn seats and instruments, and slightly tired chrome. If all the work on the car has been done in the spirit of maintaining originality, then the value of a car in this condition may only be slightly less than one that is completely original.
Where do ground-up restorations to better-than-new condition fit in this panoply of prices? This is a highly personal question. In general, a "put mirrors under the car" restoration, accurately performed, will bring a price just below that of an original car, and above that of a "faithful refurbishment." While SCM acknowledges the time and effort that goes into remanufacturing a car to international Concours standards, our favorite cars are those that have been used and that show some evidence of wear and tear.
For us, oil and grease on the surfaces of the engine compartment represent the times an engine was been taken to redline, the fury of thousands of combustion cycles per minute occurring inside a 25-year-old hunk of cast iron forcing lubricating fluids to seep past imperfect gasket seals. Slight discoloration of a chromed rear bumper from a hot exhaust can be evidence that an old car has being exercised vigorously, to the delight of the driver, passenger and passers-by.
It is the fate of some cars to end up in static collections, permanently immobile, like creatures in a wax museum. But fortunately, we live in a time when most classic cars are still treated, if gently, like the mechanical contraptions they were conceived as, confounding and delighting us as they emit sounds and smells to go along with their visual beauty. The best vintage car is a well-used and lovingly maintained one.
BACK YARD HOBBYIST
Since most of the cars we call collectible are at least 20, if not 30 or more years old today, it stands to reason that they have had attention of one kind or another. Cars built in the '50s and '60s were lucky to travel 100,000 miles without engine overhauls; I seemed to have the cylinder heads off on a monthly basis of the Alfas, MGs and Austin-Healeys I owned as a teen-ager. Of course, if we hadn't kept reusing the same head gaskets, teen-age budgets being what they were, our engine oil and water might not have commingled so often.
I've drilled holes in bumpers for driving lights, and perforated trunk lids for Ammco luggage racks. I shot a hole in the floorboard of my '62 Giulietta Veloce one Oregon winter with a .22 caliber rifle when the water wouldn't drain fast enough and I got tired of my feet slipping on the resultant frozen puddle beneath the pedals. (I understand Elvis copied my technique with his Pantera, and enhanced the value of his car by $100,000.)
If I were to see one of the cars from my teen-age years at an auction today, the classification of "backyard restoration" or "highly personalized with questionable taste" would probably fit. In 1968, I liked the way the red color of the deep dish, metal-flake-rimmed Kraco steering wheel clashed with the dashboard of my MGA; it was unfortunate that the 4-inch dish put the wheel directly against my chest, making autocrossing a challenge.
Personalizing a car, any car, is the right of the owner. Consider the number of Bentleys that have been rebodied over and over again, or the different paint schemes that show up on Auburns, Duesenbergs and Cords as tastes change. However, the marketplace does not often look kindly on excessive customization. Just be aware that when you place your 308 GT4 on the market, the fact that you have slapped huge Prancing Horse decals on every flat surface, have added a rear wing from a Lamborghini Countach, and a set of neon lights to illuminate the road beneath your car, the market may not reward you for your efforts.
ON THE COVER
It was four years ago that I first saw SCM's cover art, the painting, "Roller-Cam," by William Motta, Art Editor of Road & Track magazine. Mr. Motta writes, "The little girl in the painting, "Roller-Cam" is my daughter Cameron when she was about six. She is now a wonderful young lady of 24 who recently graduated from Arizona State and now lives and works in New York City. The original painting was bought by Fred Tycher of Dallas, Texas." To create space for our mailing label, we've added the background pattern at the bottom of the painting.
Mr. Motta, as one of American's preeminent automotive artists, has been selected to produce the theme paintings for various prestigious auto shows and concours over the years, including the New York auto show, the Meadow Brook and the Pebble Beach annual Concours. Prints of his work are available; there is more information on page 35 of this issue. He may be contacted by writing to Wm. A. Motta, 2700 Cliff Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92633.