My Car Quest

February 7, 2023

Collector Car Clichés And Contradictions

by Mike Gulett –

The following are some common and irritating, at least to me, classic car clichés that are repeated by collector car luminaries over and over…and over.

Ferrari 275 GTB

Clichés always have a ring of truth to them but there are some inconsistencies and contradictions in these five clichés. Do these clichés pass the test of time?

1) It is original only once.

This is a truism but time takes it toll on all things and original cars eventually turn into original cars in bad condition. If they are properly cared for and stored properly they can remain in good condition for many years. But eventually they will deteriorate to the point of well, bad condition in need of a restoration.

2) Do not restore an original car – this always follows cliché 1.

At what point does this philosophy no longer make sense? The great paintings hanging in the museums of Europe are periodically restored as are the old buildings. If they are not then they would eventually fall into an unrecoverable state. The period between restorations may be a long time but it is still done to save the art or building from unrecoverable decay.

Cars also will reach a point where they will deteriorate to a point of non-functionality. Will this philosophy toward classic cars change then?

Will classic car restorations be accepted as well as originals?

Ferrari 275 GTB

3) It is being driven and used like it was meant to be.

Eventually this will wear out the car – maybe 50 years from now maybe 100 years but these cars will deteriorate to the point that they can only be placed in a museum and looked at by future generations as non-functioning relics. Especially race cars that are driven and used like they were meant to be. Some race cars will be destroyed in the process, which is part of the risk of using a race car as it was meant to be. It can be driven and used like it was meant to be only for so long, especially if it is to be kept original at all costs.

The old car that is being driven and used like it was meant to be will never win a best in show at a Pebble Beach like event. And only a very few people get to enjoy that classic car that was driven and used like it was meant to be.

4) Every nut and bolt has been removed and this car has been restored to a condition that is better than when it left the factory new.

Ferrari 275 GTB

We praise these cars because they are better than new and beautiful to look at. It takes a restoration like this to win a major award at a Concours d’Elegance. Yet this is inconsistent with clichés 1 and 2 above. And if this car is then driven and used like it was meant to be it will deteriorate rapidly so that it will never win a Concours.

5) The car is over restored.

This is a bad thing but it is the only way to win best in show at a Concours d’Elegance like Pebble Beach. We worship these winners but then at other moments we criticize the over restored car and we criticize the trailer queen that does not get driven and “used like it was meant to be”. But it is the trailer queen that wins best in show.

If these Pebble Beach winning cars were used like they were meant to be then they would not win Pebble Beach.

Which of the two cars pictured in this post is more valuable? The red one is a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 that is all original with only 11,500 miles but still looks to be in great condition.

This is not exactly a perfect comparison from a model point of view but it is reasonably close. The silver one is an alloy body Ferrari 275 GTB and the other is a Ferrari 275 GTB 4-cam. The 4-cam will command a higher price with everything else being equal but as you can tell from the photos everything else is not equal.

Ferrari 275 GTB

Will these clichés change over time to account for the age and condition of older collector cars? A classic car cannot be compared to art or furniture because the car is a functioning machine with moving parts that wear out from use unlike art and furniture, which wear out with age – much longer that the wear out age of a car that is driven and used like it was meant to be.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Ferrari Logo

A version of this article was originally published in September 2011. All photos by Mike Gulett.
Collector Car Clichés And Contradictions
Article Name
Collector Car Clichés And Contradictions
Common, and irritating, classic car clichés that are repeated by collector car luminaries over and over...and over.


  1. I think the collector car hobby involves valuable commodities, and that context has to be taken into consideration when weighing the validity of the above assertions. When money and potential value is involved, people will say just about anything to make sure their asset is considered more valuable.

    It's all contradictory, because people have different agendas based upon what their specific needs are. The poplular media picks up these trite expressions, and mindlessly repeats them to the point where they become truisisms. I say, buy what pleases uses you, and use it as it gives you pleasure, whether that's only showing it at concours, or driving it, or both if you can live with the reality of what it means to own a driver's car. It's all good.

  2. Gabriele Spangenberg says

    Such an interesting Post, Mike. There seem to be so many different schools of thought.
    In Europe when a painting is restored, the process must be reversible and recognisable. I wonder if you think in cars it would be tha same?

  3. Mike Gulett says


    I agree with what you say. Some people say what the situation calls for, if they are selling it is one position, if they are buying it is another position.

  4. Mike Gulett says


    I do not think that a car restoration can be reversible. Take the silver Ferrari that I use as an example here. Once someone takes that paint off it will be gone forever. However, it can be restored to look exactly like it did when new, or close to it. Some of the original materials many not be available, however.

    The point that I wanted to make in this article is the contradictions of these different opinions. I have heard these contradicting positions being spoken by the same person many times. Not just one person but many. You can see it on TV and in magazines and in blogs.

  5. Gabriele Spangenberg says

    So interesting. It probably depends also which cer is being restored and by whom. I have had my 2l 911 restored because I want to drive it safely.A friend of mine has just restored his (structurally very healthy and very fast)Alfa TZ1 by bringing back the original panels(which had been replaced by new ones). It shows it´s history with pride, carrying for example an original Targa Florio sticker. That car probably would have been restored to look "as new" a couple of years ago. Many people today would walk past the car and claim it to be in bad condition and in need of restoration.Where do you draw the line?

  6. Mike Gulett says


    I think that each owner has the right to do what pleases them with their car. But there are people who will criticize the various choices based on their biases.

    There is another whole discussion we can have on resto-mods and non-authentic restorations. Maybe this will be the subject of a future article.

  7. Gabriele Spangenberg says

    Yes, great idea. I shall be looking forward to reading that. Sorry to ask though: what are resto-mods?

  8. Gabriele,

    A resto-mod is an American term that refers to a car that has been restored but to a modern form. So, modern suspension, brakes, wheels and maybe a new modern engine. The idea is that the car looks old, sort of, but drives like a new car.

    This is done to American cars such as 1960s Camaros and Mustangs.

  9. A “well sorted” and “bespoke” article

  10. Rollie Langston says

    Jay Leno is reported to have said “restore it to 100 percent, then drive it to 60 percent, then restore it to 100 percent….” Easy for him to say, but it’s an interesting point. As you have said, do what you want and what pleases you. Interesting and useful discussion, thanks for the post!

  11. Fred Johansen says

    Original paint survivors are the cream of the crop; period. They serve as future reference. I love using my original, unrestored cars & bikes as often as I can. It’s easy; I don’t have to worry about keeping them immaculate, or gaining another scratch!
    True, I would like to do a resto-mod version of some of significant vehicles, but I wouldn’t butcher a good example; I would use something already wrecked.

    However, I fear that in the near future, only correct, original, or correctly restored examples will be allowed on the roads. It is boiling down to organizations like FIVA having to certify older vehicles for insurance, and/or registration purposes.

  12. Randy Cox says

    This is a point that I also hear over and over. “Its all original” except for the repaint that was done, and the partial interior replacement, etc As a concour judge and a restorer, I get to see and hear both sides. When I’m told a car is all original and its obviously been painted and has new carpet or whatever, it may be redone as original, but its not “all original ” in the true sense
    The barn find craze, has gone to far in many instances in my opinion. When someone pays dearly for a barn find that is rusty and really needs a restoration, I can only question the logic. Of course there are exceptions. A one off or very rare example may deserve to be left alone, rust holes and all..The final decision comes down to the owner and his pocketbook.

  13. Glenn Krasner says

    I think that all of us can agree on one thing: that a resto-mod ruins a classic car. I can understand upgrading items like brakes from drums to discs, or even changing from manual steering to power steering. But the whole 2019 Corvette engine in a 1962 Corvette, and other completely unoriginal modern modifications to a car is blasphemy to me. Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  14. Glenn, i for one don’t agree. Some people have started out with a rusted out pile of junk. Also the original total power train might be missing or beyond repair. The SEMA award winning Rivolta comes to mind.

    The value of the car being restored vs. cost of restoration is also a factor. At some point it might make more sense to resto mod an old car, make it drivable (good brakes, steering, and a/c), and have fun. To each his own.

    I believe a past article on this blog mentioned how the price of some resto mods were higher than an original car at auction.

  15. Glenn Krasner says

    I know that resto-mods do very well at auction, and add drivability to a car with respect to comfort, performance and handling. That being said, I have more respect for an owner’s car if he took a junk car, put in an engine available to the original car at that time,, even if it’s a new crate engine, as well as other factory upgrades available during the car’s era. I don’t need to see a ’62 Corvette with a 2019 Corvette engine, abs, traction control, and a touchscreen. But, hey, that’s just me. I guess I am more of a tradionalist. If I had the cash, I’d rather buy a decent original, but improved car, rather than a resto-mod. In addition, a $65,000 ’62 Corvette will hold it’s value or even appreciate, rather than the resto-mod, which I feel will never be actually worth the huge amount of money spent on it.
    Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  16. wallace wyss says

    It’s true the investor in a restomod might never get the money back he invested, but if he bought the car for the looks but gets modern performance, braking and handling from the replacement parts, he has the best of both worlds to make it a pleasing driving experience…

  17. Glenn Krasner says

    Then, that person should just buy a “modern” 2019 Corvette, instead of pretending he/she is driving a ’62 Corvette. In the words of “Seinfeld”, you can’t let two worlds collide. Besides, a 2019 Corvette will be about $150,000 cheaper than a resto-mod Corvette. You gotta forgive me on this – I’m a stubborn asshole traditionalist when it comes to this stuff. Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  18. wallace wyss says

    Wait a minute wait a minute, Glenn, Some people in the home renovation field love clients who don’t know about that Don’t Let Two Worlds Collide “rule.” Many homeowners want a 100-year or 200 year old house that , from the outside looks like it did in 1921 or 1821. Yet may have modern plumbing, heating, waste removal, etc. They take pride in the Olde look but want modern conveniences.

  19. Glenn Krasner says

    Comparing houses and cars is like comparing apples and oranges. I love and appreciate all your articles and observations. Let’s just agree to disagree on this. We can both agree that I am a stubborn traditionalist asshole!!!
    Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  20. Robb Northrup says

    Some good observations here! I think one factor that should be taken into consideration with restoration vs. resto-modification is RARITY. We’ve had a few Apollo GTs that have been restored to original specs. But a few, also, have been resto-modded. With Corvettes, MGs and Jags et al built in the many thousands, then there are enough original cars around to preserve their heritage and appearance. A resto-mod on a few cars is probably OK.

    But when we’re talking about a handful of cars left, then a resto-mod can easily cloud what these cars were like originally. It’s amazing what folks (including the media) think when examining one of the rare cars and thinking they are original, when they are not.

    Just use some common sense, please!

    Robb Northrup
    Apollo Owners Registry

  21. Glenn Krasner says

    To resto-mod a rare car like an Apollo GT is blasphemous butchering. It is NOT a ’57 Chevy or a ’65 Mustang. That is the equivalent of rest-modding a Ferrari 250 GT. Disgusting!!!

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