My Car Quest

February 23, 2024

The Times They Are A Changing – Collector Car Originality And Preservation Are Becoming More Important Than Over The Top Restoration

by Mike –

I wrote about this subject in January 2014 when an original and very shabby Mercedes 300SL Gullwing sold at auction for a lot more than an very well restored model of the same year and color combination!

I also wrote in February 2012 about a similar situation with two 1965 Shelby GT350 Mustangs.

Concours d’Elegance events are slow to adopt to change

This is a trend that has been developing for a while. The Concours d’Elegance events, like Pebble Beach, seem to be the last to get on board with this important trend. Sure, they now have a preservation class but when an over the top restoration car comes up against a car that is original, or partially original (like new paint but original interior), in the same class the fully restored car seems to always win.

Certainly the Best in Show must be the shiniest car on the field with no visible flaws.

Bridgette Bardot in car

Quote from Dr. Fred A. Simeone

Contemporary concours are frequently organized by committee assigned to find the most attractive car to put on the lawn. The committee may be encouraged to solicit the loan of the vehicle. Another may scour concours records to see who won “Best of Show.” Still others make a decision from photographs, the shinier the better.

A concours with unrestored cars may appear shabby to these individuals. In fact they are shabby. A Hepplewhite sideboard with its original crazed shellac and dull brasses may appear tacky compared to a recently polyurethaned restoration done by the local furniture shop. As we have learned, the latter has lost its value. This realization has not yet reached some in the automotive historical world.


The above is quoted from The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles (Simeone Automotive Foundation, 2012) on page 9.

Beautiful woman with car

Auction companies love the new trend

The auction companies, on the other hand, are all over this trend because of the profit potential. Imagine a totally unrestored car that sells for much more than a car with a very expensive restoration! This is a car sellers dream! The cost basis for the unrestored car is so much lower and the selling price is much higher!

Let’s all go dig through those barns and garages and find that untouched survivor or time warp or which ever term one wants to use and bring it to market and make a fortune! You don’t even need to worry about how it is transported because it is already scratched, dented and dirty – so who will know, or care, what happened on the way to the auction? Heck, you could even drive it to the auction!

However, if you are transporting the future Best of Show winner to Pebble Beach you cannot let any dust, dirt or blades of grass get on the car and no one is allowed to touch it, naturally.

There is also the potential to exaggerate the meaning of “concours quality” and all buyers need to pay close attention to this as it does effect the price today and may have a negative effect on the price of the same car in the future.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

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Beautiful girl with car

The Times They Are A Changing - Collector Car Originality And Preservation Are Becoming More Important Than Over The Top Restoration
Article Name
The Times They Are A Changing - Collector Car Originality And Preservation Are Becoming More Important Than Over The Top Restoration
An important new realization has not yet reached some in the automotive historical world.


  1. This new trend, as you imply, is a total scam, for the owners and auction houses to make tons of undeserved money. When I was at the Concours d’Elegance show and auction in Greenwich, Ct. three years ago, an early 1950’s, an unrestored Jaguar XK120 was for auction. By unrestored, I mean it had suffered a severe and total fire and crash damage, what was left of the interior had been invaded by rodents, the car had rusted from being left in the elements, and the car really should not have sold for more than $1500 based on what it was and the condition it was in. I later read that it had sold for $30,000, and the money required to restore it would probably be another $80K, based on the fact that almost every single piece would have to be replaced. As P.T. Barnum once said, “Nobody has ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public”. Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

  2. optimader says

    Given the option, I’ll take restored to OEM condition, then drive it like it’s (an again) restorable durable good rather than a static display “investment”, thank you.

  3. Trends tend to be just that – temporary insanity. I would agree that a well preserved, all original car is more desirable that an over done restoration, but a rotted out wreck bringing more money than a properly restored car is just ridiculous. Suckers and their money are soon parted!

  4. Paul Harvey says

    You can’t have it both ways.
    Recognition of preserved vehicles by auction houses will increase their value and appeal leading to auctioneers hyping the good and bad examples alike.
    This is still preferable to claims that only totally restored vehicles are to be admired and valued on the Show Field.

  5. Roy Roberson says

    I do not think preservation of originality is a trend.

    The shabby ancient ruins of Rome are THE main attraction.

    The US Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines for historic preservation of buildings call for retaining all original elements that can be saved.

    Authentic worn materials that can withstand additional heavy use are highly desirable features even in new homes.

    When we select a tree to save and feature in a real estate project, the older and more twisted the better.

    Original un-restored furniture and artworks bring much more than restored specimens.

    When my friend restored an old military fort on his property, his approach was not to move a single stone from the position the original master placed it unless absolutely necessary.

    The key is serviceability.

    If your old car is rotted out and unusable, then keeping it original is silly. It is not a car, it is a grave marker.

    If you fully restore a car, all of its signs of use are removed and it becomes merely a collection of expensive new replacement parts.

    If a car still functions as intended, but shows its true age with cracks and wrinkles, leaving it original lets everyone see that it has been, and is still being, used and loved.

    I restored my Porsche to full concourse conditions and it scored 290 points in Monterrey. I have since driven it aggressively and now it has a new series of “busage” marks. That makes it once again a used car, but with no trace of originality.

    Now I am “Resurrecting” (the most accurate word I can think of) my late father’s 67 230 SL by replacing only the parts that no longer function. It still will cost quite a bit. The finished product will be a driver that shows its true age and perhaps still has a bit of Dad’s spirit living inside it.

    This car has led a full life, spent many years neglected, and now I will be bringing it back to life. Not to sit on display, but to re-enter the world of the living.

    I suspect that when both the fully restored and the “resurrected” cars are sitting in the garage saying “please pick me” the later may get chosen more often.

    I will get back to you after the project progresses and let you know if the ownership experience meets my current expectations.

  6. Norman Reyome says

    I believe that this trend has merit, as there is no better car than an all original, as built from the factory car. That being said, there are not alot of these cars out there. The toll that time and the elements will exact makes an original rarer than a restored, and still retains all factory markings, assembly line procedures, and other significant historical features. However I would never value a trashed out barn find as being more valuable than a driveable example.

  7. It’s all in the promotion, attendance of who’s at the auction, how drunk they are and how desperate they are for something that is rare or what they think will be rare. They get caught up in the atmosphere of the auction and get carried away.

    The key is restoring the car in such a way that you think its an original specimen. Even zero mile new condition barn finds have dust and “patina”.

    I had the same attitude as Roy Robertson. I have an original car that was well driven, it sat for many years and I got it on the road again and I made it my daily driver. It was however a limited production car.

    I took the risk of driving the car just like Roy want’s to and after a few years of a few bumps and bruises and some close calls, someone finally hit me, then ran. I am now in a situation that forces me into a body off frame restoration to “save the car”.

    But how original do I really want do get? As close as possible but I will change some things that are not quite right or plain wrong. The issues associated with early limited production coupes.

    Would you something original if it had unforeseen issues in design and or production that were found during usage? No, nor do the new car companies with recalls. Originality is not really all that important is it? Drive-ability is more important that originality to me unless the car is going to be a trailer queen all its life.

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