Restore Or Preserve The Patina? A Discussion With Steve Natale
By Steve Natale.
Does an old car need to be perfectly restored to be enjoyed, or can an original car preserved in its current condition provide the same enjoyment to its owner. It depends who you ask. For many, only a near perfect restoration will do, and their passion is that goal. But recently, an increasing number of collectors are starting to re-think the entire restoration process. Rather than performing a restoration, more owners are choosing preservation, as opposed to restoration. I am seeing more and more cars with their original “patina” intact at car shows and cruise nights, and drawing a lot of attention in the process. In past, I have seen some tragic restorations done to beautiful, but not perfect, low mileage original cars. They are only original once, and after they are repainted and reupholstered, a historical artifact is gone forever. The trend is catching on, and un-restored, or “survivor” car prices are going up at auctions and shows.
The appreciation for original cars is a fairly new trend here in the US, but in Europe, an original car with the right patina has been admired for many years, especially with vintage sports and racing cars. Original paint cars have character, with each area of wear a document of the cars past and a piece of its history. It is like watching an episode of the Antiques Road Show, when the anxious owner of a chair made in 1825 asks “how much is it worth?” The expert replies “One like this with the original patina intact is worth easily $50,000, but since you had it refinished……only $5,000.”
Besides preserving automotive history, the un-restored original is cheaper to own. Of course a super low mileage, beautiful original car will command a premium, but well-worn cars with thin paint and surface rust can be a lot of fun. With paint costing north of $10,000, not mention chrome plating and reproduction parts costs rising, it makes economic sense as well. Plus you don’t have to worry as much about people touching the paint, or getting caught in the rain. Dial it in mechanically, and start driving. Sometimes it is just nice to get back to having fun, care-free driving, without all the fussing over making everything perfect. Back to the original car, having fun like you did originally, when you had your first not so perfect car.