Up to now, I have been speaking mostly about cars that have been restored from their original condition. In other words, vehicles that for whatever reason, were taken apart and recommissioned with new parts, fixed old parts, or fabricated parts. While they would often emerge looking fantastic, they had forever lost that element of originality, the simple fact that the last workers to really touch the car were the workers that built it.
It is far easier to restore a car than get an original one. The reason, of course, is because a car is only original once. You can't make a car untouched, you can only restore it back to its original condition. Of course, for a car to be unrestored and still be viable as a piece of operating machinery, the vehicle has to be lucky enough to enjoyed most of the following things:
1. It wasn't used much, but was well kept during its useful life.
2. The vehicle was stored in a covered, indoor location.
3. The vehicle was properly stored and drained of its fluids
4. The vehicle and its storage facility are subject to dry, warm climates year round.
That fourth point is the most important. Many a great car has been spoiled by metal, wood, and fabric's worst enemy: moisture. In the event that all three of those elements are present, the results can be stunning. Vehicles have been pulled out of storage after sitting for decades and have been started after minor mechanical refreshening. Some didn't even need to have their engines opened, the just needed to be filled up, set up with a new battery, and turned over.
The look and smell of an original car is simply something money can't buy. The paint is usually deteriorated, showing the cracks, flakes, and dulling of age, but it still has a nice, warm character to it. The leather and fabrics mellow with age as do the woods. Chrome and brass take on a rich patina that is unmatched. And most importantly, the car represents a time capsule that transport you back to when it was built.
So next time you see an original car, take a moment to savor the sight. Look closely at the craftsmanship and the details--elements that were fashioned by their original craftsman using the original tools, dies, stampings, and parts. And if you think the car looks old, imagine how you'd look after sitting for 50 years and rethink that previous statement!
Pictures, clockwise from lower left are of a 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Landualette by Barker, a 1967 Jaguar XK-SS, a 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK, a 1924 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Sedan, and a 1911 Austin Tourer.