It’s only original once. That’s the mantra I’m hearing more and more often as news of classic cars found in barns spreads across the Internet. The eyes of collectors start welling up as they talk about the patina of time and how that can never be recaptured once a car is repainted. A classic car proudly displaying the effects of time is guaranteed to draw a crowd at any car show. Owners that have preserved a car through the decades have every right to be proud because it requires foresight and hard work to prevent the elements from taking their toll. There are a number of books available that focus entirely on unrestored cars.
Earlier this month I talked about Rachel Veitch’s 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente. It’s fun to talk about a car that outlasted 3 marriages and survived almost 50 years of daily use. Her records of regular maintenance over the decades are clearly reflected in the fantastic condition of the car and she’s earned the right to be proud of her car. I’m happy to say that Rachel has decided to give the car to her grandson and the two of them plan on taking the car out for car shows and cruise nights together. From bottom to top, this is a happy story that is worth telling.
Last month, I reported the recovery of a 1967 Shelby GT500 that had been left to suffer the elements in Death Valley. The owner chose to rebuild the engine and suspension to make it road worthy but wanted to leave the body alone. I agree that 25 years of sun and sand has left this car with a great look that can only be achieved through abuse.
Bonhams has announced they will be auctioning an unrestored 1959 Austin Mini Se7en De Luxe Saloon. This was the eighth Mini to roll off the assembly line and oldest one known to have not been restored. It’s expected to fetch between $19,000 and $24,000 when it crosses the block on Monday but I won’t be surprised if it sells for more with all of the press it’s received during the past week.
Like Big Ben, The Beatles, the Union Jack or mushy peas, the Mini helps to define Great Britain. Millions of Minis rolled off the assembly lines in the UK and they are famous around the world. When people look at the modern, German engineered Mini they can’t help but associate it with the original and all of the history associated with it. The idea of having one of the first Minis still wearing the original paint is a compelling thought.
Sadly, the tales told by the paint of this car don’t reflect decades of careful maintenance or the impact of desert heat. What I see looking at these pictures is a tale of neglect. The engine bay is a mess and the integrity of the frame is questionable. On the up side of things, the shell is mostly intact and the exterior rust does have an attractive pattern to it.
To leave the car in its current state would be a crime. The question is, how far should the buyer go when rebuilding it? I wonder what a company like Howard Auto Preservation could do with a car this far gone. My hope is that they clean up and rebuild the engine and reinforce the chassis to make it safe for the road again. I would certainly go out of my way at a car show to see the pit marks and cracks accumulated over the years. It will be nice to see someone treating this car with the respect it deserves after so much neglect.
For collectors that would like to add a few Minis to their own collection for the price of a few sheets of paper and a little time, the Vancouver Mini Club has these fun paper models of the Mini that are free to download. If you have a bit more time and want more detail then grab a paper model of the Mini from Legendary Cars to assemble. Once built, it’s okay with me if you leave them to suffer the ravages of time. They’re only paper.