Restoration is an interesting art. It quickly stops being about anything as trivial as money or value. The restorer strips back the years and brings back the glory days. It connects us to the past and denies time its victory.
Like the car that recently came in to be fixed at my friend’s restoration company. A guy brings in his dad’s car. It’s stripped down to reveal filler and all sorts of bodges. Rebuilding it to the quality he desires isn’t really economic - but it’s about bringing a family heirloom back into its own.
Gorgeous shot of the Jaguar E Type from G R Automotive Photography
And it’s a painstaking job. There’s the research - some of it forensic (what colour was this under the rust?) and then there are records (the colours and shapes produced each year are usually on record).
Piecing together the original spec of the car can be quite a task. It’s a combination of forensic research and desk work. You can look at the wreck in hand and try and work out what colour the paint was under the rust. Are there clues to the original finish lurking under years of dirt? Are those shreds of coloured leather? Then you can refer to books. The colours and shapes produced each year are usually on record and often published either by the manufacturer or enthusiasts (car clubs can be a brilliant source). Occasionally there will be logs and other documentation from the owner. Sometimes you can even track a car from the showroom to the present - from proud purchase to forgotten wreck and back again to gleaming show piece. All this gives you an idea of what you’re aiming for.
Even once you have an idea of what you are restoring the vehicle to, there is the matter of finding the parts and materials which will turn the sorry chassis into a purring automobile.
There are still parts you can source - and the internet will help you find them. From classic car ‘scrap’ dealers selling original parts from broken vehicles to small manufacturers making replacement parts in small batches, some things can be found. For instance you can buy new rubber seals made by a specialist extruder using the standard dies from classic cars. There’s a niche business! But sometimes you just have to be handy. Sometimes parts can’t be found so they have to be fabricated. It can mean creating a shape from scratch, welding and panel beating until the original is replicated.
I had the privilege of taking a few snaps in the Tennyson James workshop:
Sure, that'll polish out...
Fabricated pieces like these take days to make and insert:
Even once you have bodywork and an engine, there’s a huge amount of finishing to do. From polished dashboards to upholstery, these are the things that are both most likely to have been destroyed and damaged over time - but also the touches that restore the cars to their status as luxuries of a former age.
So that car that came in? A cool £45,000 to restore the body work - hours, days and months of loving and careful research, perfectionist re-making, fixing and putting together. Is it worth it? The accountant might not think so, but it’s not about the ultimate value, it’s about something much deeper, a sense of loyalty and continuity, caring for a piece of living history that joins the past with the present.
By Beate Kubitz at 15 Nov 2017, 00:00 AM