My Car Quest

December 4, 2023

Is The Dirt As Patina Sales Strategy Falling Out Of Favor In The Collector Car Market?

by Mike –

We may be seeing signs that the “dirt as patina” sales strategy, used successfully by some collector car auction companies, may be slipping out of favor – and not too soon as far as I am concerned.

Remember the dirty Jaguar did not make a profit for the seller at the Bonhams auction recently in Carmel Valley?

There were two Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider Americas that I previously wrote about at auction recently in Monterey.

The red one was set up with the “dirt as patina” sales strategy favored by Gooding.

The white one was at the RM auction who reported that it was “beautifully restored by Italian marque specialists”

1955 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America by Pinin Farina – at RM

Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America For Sale

This beauty was a no sale with a high bid of $1,025,000.

1956 Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America – at Gooding

Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America

Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America

Even the interior was very dirty

The estimate was $900,000 – $1,100,000 and this dirty Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America sold for $880,000 (including the buyers commission).

The red dirty example sold at the Gooding auction below the expected range and it sold for less than the high bid of the white “beautifully restored” example at the RM auction. This could be a indication that buyers did not place much value on the red Lancia’s dirt.

Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America

How did they transport and move around this dirty car and keep it so dirty?

Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America

This is real dirt as you can see by the finger test

Let us know in the Comments – is the “dirt as patina” fad slipping into history or is this just an anomaly?

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Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America

The photos of the dirty red Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America are mine from the Gooding preview. The photo of the white Lancia Aurelia B24S Spider America is from RM.

Is The Dirt As Patina Sales Strategy Falling Out Of Favor In The Collector Car Market?
Article Name
Is The Dirt As Patina Sales Strategy Falling Out Of Favor In The Collector Car Market?
Is dirt really valuable patina on a collector car?


  1. Rich Truesdell says


    You and I are on the same page on this topic. And I’m writing a feature for a major magazine of a 1970 Ford Torino Sportsroof. It doesn’t qualify as a filthy dirty barn find, rather it was lightly used — less than 100,000 miles over its 44 year lifetime. An example of the true patina of the car, was the thin paint where the previous owner apparently rested his bottom on the deck lid while he filled the tank.

    What the new owner did was to completely clean the car, preserving it and removing things like the original belts that were still on the car so that he can safely drive it to events like the concours being held today at the LeMay Museum. He’s obsessive about removing the the dirt, using a toothbrush on the engine compartment, letting the real car “shine” through.

    Isn’t this the way we should approach this? I have no problem with documenting the dirt on the car when it’s “discovered” (as I believe in some instances the “dirt as patina” is a fraud) then cleaning the car up for presentation, either at a concours or at auction?

    I saw the Lancia at the Greystone Mansion and like my friend with the Torino, I felt that displaying it that way shows a lack of respect for the car. This is just my opinion but I suspect that it’s shared by many other readers of this blog.

    Oh, by the way, this Torino was owned by a NASA engineer who worked his whole career for the space agency and was was one of the engineers that developed the scrubbing system that allowed the Apollo 13 astronauts to return home safely after their fuel cells exploded on the way to the moon. To me, that aspect of the car’s story is much more important than any dirt that might have found its way to the surface of the car.

    Here’s a link to a few photos of the car as I photographed it back in April including the original owner’s NASA Apollo key chain, helping to document the car.

  2. andy manganaro says

    Dirt is not patina. Nor does sitting in a barn or under a tarp in someone’s back yard convey any additional value on a car. What IS patina and DOES convey value and desirability are the cosmetic blemishes on a race car earned on the track, the faded original (but clean!) paint on an unmolested and well loved car, all the things that communicate the life the car has lived. These things should be considered like the wrinkles we all earn with age. They tell the stories of our lives. Sure, we can get them fixed up and there’s nothing wrong with that. I have both: original 50 year old sports cars that have never been apart, wear their original paint and interiors and which I care for as though they were new as well as cars that have been restored to 100pts. And they all get driven. So, I guess the bottom line is this – Car as with people: Wrinkles — good. Cosmetic surgery –good. Unwashed dirt — not so much. Just my opinion.

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