When you think about it, it is really a wonder that we have as many old cars left as we do. Imagine the work, effort, expense and luck that had to go into keeping around a 3000 lb hunk of out-dated metal? While many of these cars are worth oodles of money today, 50 years ago (or even 20 years ago, in some cases) those very same cars languished on used car lots as outdated hunks taking up space on the lot. Why use up valuable lot space on a Figoni et Falaschi bodied Delahaye that was worth maybe $3000 when you could replace it with a new Chevy worth $4000? No that Chevy is worth $40,000 and the Delahaye is worth millions--but hindsight is always 20/20 and if we knew then what we know now, my college fund that was set aside when I was a baby would have all been in Microsoft stock.
Today, we have a field of 200 completely different and unique marvels show up at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance every year. That is 200 unique cars that manage to survive anywhere from 120 to 30 years. Quite a feat, really.
But many of these cars survived only just. Some of them were nothing more than a box or parts or a rusted out old chassis lying in a field or in a barn. They had to be brought back to life by a team of skilled craftsmen and someone with the will and wallet to wait and pay for the resurrection to happen. The restored results often look fabulous, better than the factory could have produced in many cases (paint, leather, metal crafting, and just about everything else has advanced quite a bit in the last century), but on the same note, they are not longer the original car. They have elements, core ingredients really, that were crafted by the original assembly workers, but the vehicle has been worked over by modern hands.
Beyond the rarefied air of restored cars, however, there is something that can largely be considered a diamond in the rough. I am talking about original, unrestored survivors. Cars that have managed to avoid any form of appreciable destruction, deterioration, or wear since they left the factory however many years ago. These vehicles are something more, a step above their less fortunate brethren that were not cared for as long, loved as long, or simply unlucky enough to have been bought and driven in an inhospitable environment (which is pretty much anywhere but desert areas).
Next time I'll delve into the wonderful world of unrestored, original cars. I hold a special place in my heart for these vehicles since they represent the cream of the crop. They are cars that are not only still around, but are still (largely) the product of the people that original built them.
Pictures, clockwise from lower left, are of Ralph Lauren's restored 1934 Bugatti Type 59 (one of 6 or 7), JB Nethercutt's restored 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Dubos Coupe (1 of 1), Raulph Lauren's highly restored (by Paul Russell) 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic-Elektron Coupe (one of two built), Arturo Keller's 1938 Bentley 4 1/4 Liter Pourtout Coupe (1 of 1), and Joseph Cassini's 1938 Horch 853 Erdmann and Rossi Sport Cabriolet (one of two).