My Car Quest

December 14, 2018

The Search For Authenticity

As we approach Monterey Car Week we will see a serious number of cars cross the auction block at the many auctions resulting in a serious amount of money changing hands. I thought the subject of this post, updated from September 2015, would be of interest to many of you, especially those looking to add to your garage.

by Mike –

Authentic – of undisputed origin; genuine.

How do we ensure that perceived authenticity is real? We can’t ensure authenticity, we can only assume that authenticity exists or does not exist.

The search for authenticity can be elusive. Yet most of us continue the search for authentic things, which maybe aids in the search for an authentic life (or maybe that’s just me).

When it comes to buying old cars authenticity can be an unknown because we depend upon other people to help determine authenticity with documents, photographs, books and the car itself under scrutiny.


The Scottish journalist Charles Mackay wrote about the tulip bubble of the 17th century in “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”,

Rich people sent for the bulbs direct to Constantinople, and paid the most extravagant prices for them. Until the year 1634 the tulip annually increased in reputation, until it was deemed a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be without a collection of them.

I think that “increased in reputation” means that tulip bulbs were considered authentic and that it was “a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be without a collection of them” means that any person without tulip bulbs was not an authentic person in the minds of his peers.

Ferrari 250 GTE

Authenticity has become very valuable in the collector car world much like the art world or the antiques world. And when something becomes valuable enough there are those who try to fake it. Fake authenticity will become a bigger problem in the collector car world than it has been in the past.

Aston Martin DB5

As buyers of collector cars we not only need to be concerned with the possibility that the car is a total fake but we also need to be concerned with how much is authentic and how much is not authentic.

Below are some questions that I asked in a previous article about the value of originality.

Porsche 911

A shortened list is worth re-publishing here on the subject of the increased value of authenticity in the collector car world.

1) Will there be an increase in fake originality and fake patina on classic cars for sale?

2) Will there be a specialty business in restoration work such that it does not look like a restoration has been done?

3) Will the Concours d’Elegance events modify their love for over the top restorations? In other words, will an un-restored car ever win best in show at Pebble Beach?

4) Will the classic car price guides add an “original” category? The way they are structured now original cars are valued less than restored cars because they have suffered the wear of time and miles.

5) If a classic car has an older restoration that is showing it’s age should the owner restore it again or is the older restoration more valuable?

6) If parts of the original car are deteriorating beyond use or aesthetics how does the owner make the best decision as what to restore or not?

7) Is a partial restoration better than a full restoration, where some parts of the car are left original and other parts are restored to as new?

Jaguar XK120 Drophead Coupe

Porsche 911

Let us know what you think in the Comments. Are the cars shown above authentic or just neglected, dirty and rusty?



Below is a photo of an expensive, yet non-authentic, Iso Grifo that sold for a lot of money at auction in Amelia Island in 2014. As beautiful as it is, it is not an original 7-Liter, not an original series 1 Grifo and is not really chassis No. 250223.

The value of this Iso Grifo is in its beauty not its authenticity. But will that be enough to create value appreciation?

Iso Grifo for sale

The Search For Authenticity
Article Name
The Search For Authenticity
The search for classic car authenticity is elusive and potentially valuable.


  1. Wayne Graefen says:

    One thing I am certain of relevant to this subject. Dirt and bird droppings were not part of any car when new and I am very tired of presentations of barn finds being shown and offered in that condition. New class: ANTI-concours.

  2. There is in the FIVA (Federation Internationale Vehicules Ancien) the Technical Code .
    look for the Technical code.

    The “Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens” (FIVA) was founded in 1966 in response to an idea formulated by a handful of organisations representing .

    I am one of the Scrutineers.

    • wallace wyss says:

      I was thinking about authenticity the other day when I remembered this Shelby racer who smashed his Shelby GT350R model in front of a crowd (including moi) at Willow Springs. He spirited the car off to his garage and a few months later I was driving down the alley behind his house and I saw a Mustang floorpan in the garbage, way too big to fit in the garbage cans. including some cowl pieces. I figure he had the repair work done in his own garage so the racing mavens wouldn’t know the extent of the damage.Later he sold the car but I wonder if the new owner ever knew how much of his sacred Shelby was at one time replaced by chassis sections from an ordinary Mustang? I think, in a unitized car, you can only go so far replacing the floor and inner panels before it becomes a re-creation. On the other hand in a tube-framed car I think you can take the body off and put another body on, as one D-type Jag had happen to it, and then rebody it with a newly created D type body and its still a D-type. Like I always say “Marilyn Monroe in a blue dress is the same as Marilyn Monroe in a red dress…”

  3. Thanks for sharing. This makes an interesting read.

  4. CJ Madson says:

    Authenticity only has value when we trust what we see, what we’re told and what the supporting information says (and each of those requires additional verification). One path is to have “sympathetic” restorations done by trusted authorities, and I hope that includes each of the shops run by Mercedes, Ferrari, etc.

    It would seem like a full set of documents and photos — especially of any work done and parts used — would add a lot of value to any special car, and I see that mentioned after some auction results have gone well, but there’s no clear metric for the value added this way. I asked the head of one auction house and he acknowledged that documents add considerable value — and may bring more willing buyers to a particular item — but had no rules of thumb for actual monetary value. I’ve shot a number of full restorations, revisiting the work being done on a given car a few times per week for over a year and gathering thousands of images, but closing a business deal at any fee that makes it worth my time is still a major challenge.

    Perhaps an independent and respected certification authority could bring some consistency here, but that would have to be built up over time. And I would hope that my histories would gain in value over time as more people came to appreciate their completeness and consistency, but I’ll never get there if the business case doesn’t support it.

  5. CJ Madson says:

    (And I completely agree with Wayne about bird poop. The dirt and such should only stay if you’re doing a full diorama of the cars as they were found and a section of the barn, or have the Bugatti from the lake. Otherwise you’re celebrating neglect. Take a bunch of photos of the car as found, check with experts about what to do & not, and then do a careful cleanup.)

  6. wallace wyss says:

    About the poop. I have met many owners of rare cars who, in telling me their restoration stories, have lines like
    “The painter couldn’t find that exact color of the original but he found one that was close.”Same with upholstery stories, yadda yadda. So those who are buying the Bird Poop cars are lulled into thinking that “Hey, here’s a car with the original paint that was never repainted, so I can repaint it the proper color,” So they are thinking it’s better to buy an unmolested one owner car than one that has been mistakenly repainted and reupholstered incorrectly. Of course who knows if back in ’55 the owner didn’t take it to Earl Scheib for a $99 paint job….

    And besides, there’s a little show biz there with the Bird Poop cars, the guys that buy them for heavy bread are too busy being doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs, so in buying one that’s a fresh found (“fresh kill?) they get in a little bit on the glamor of the hunt, similar to when I grew up in Michigan, on opening day of deer season I’d see an endless line of cars coming South form the UP with a dead deer on each fender, bleeding as they drove along. They were showing: “Me Great Hunter. Me Kill. You eat.”

  7. Randy Cox says:

    Very nice read
    As someone who restores cars, I find it interesting how many clients will bring an “untouched original paint car” in only to have us look at it for five minutes and explain that the overspray on the chrome, etc. was not put there by the factory. ……..Due diligence is the operative word….

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