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We, who have an interest in Vintage Vehicles, use a number of terms to describe our own vehicles and those which we see at shows, club meetings and elsewhere. Sellers also advertise their vehicles, using these same terms.
Often there is little thought about the terms which we use and what is implied when we use them.
The USA VW Community has always been pretty relaxed about our vintage vehicle society, including how we describe our cars. We have not been as “organized” and precise about how we evaluate our cars as has the “Big Car Community”. With classically preserved Volkswagens in the USA fetching into the 5 figures, and even higher, it is time that we paid more attention to how we look at our cars.
Having an inordinate interest in vintage Volkswagens, I read lots of for-sale ads and also listen to owners describing their cars. Mostly, there are three terms, or variations of them, used in these descriptions:
Let’s look at these three and how they should be used and how they are interrelated.
The definition of “Restored” always has to do with returning something to its original condition. While a vehicle may have been completely renewed, it has not necessarily been restored. I have seen and read about thousands of vehicles which are said to have been “restored” only to find that although they have been partially or even completely renewed it is not to factory specifications. This can be very misleading, especially to the would-be buyer. He may have a completely different idea about “restored”. It is not infrequently the case that once the car has been purchased, the new owner finds, to his dismay, that the car does not meet factory specifications. Although it is completely new throughout, there are variances. This changes the way judges, for instance, will look at that vehicle. It falls into a completely different class, somewhere within the “modified” class.
I am not too critical of a seller or owner who describes his car as having been refreshed or rebuilt. However, once I see an ad or description for a vehicle that says “restored”, I switch to a different gear. Now, I am judging that vehicle in a different light.
In the World of Vintage Vehicles, “restored” means just that—completely restored to original factory condition.
The term “Original”, when applied to vintage automobiles, refers to an automobile that has not been significantly altered since it left the factory. The vehicle may have had regular maintenance such as tune-ups, changes of tires, other mechanical parts and so forth, but these should be of the same sort as the original equipment if at all possible.
The point of having a car in original condition is history. History is everything at this point. An original vehicle is essential when judging other cars of the same make and model. One cannot judge cars based upon restored examples because a restored example no longer completely exemplifies what left the factory doors.
But wait…there’s more. Bloomington-Gold, Corvettes USA, divides originality into 5 categories:
- Deterioration or missing pieces
- Technical operation
Of these, Number 1., Originality, is further divided into 5 sub-categories which are called FDICC or Finish, Date Codes, Installation, Completeness and Configuration.
I am not going to give a complete paper on Bloomington-Gold’s judging process but rather a brief over-view so that you, the readers, can get the idea. Let’s look briefly at the FDICC, for example:
Finish refers to the color and coating. Although the coating may have become faded and rusted in spots, it still should be the same as when it left the factory. The vehicle cannot have been repainted, in other words. Points are lost for damage or deterioration but these may be off-set because of the originality of the finish.
Parts should have the correct relevant date codes even though a part might have been changed. The replacement part should bear a date code from the same period as the original factory part.
Parts should function as they did when the car was new.
Remembering that points for originality often help to off-set deterioration and non-functioning parts, the judging continues through the sub-list of FDICC proscribed for “originality”.
Bloomington-Gold says: “The question that you or the judge would be asking is, ‘Would the factory have allowed the part to leave the factory in this condition?’”
Thus, a car which is a functioning vehicle but shows some points of wear and so forth, may lose points for that deterioration but also may accrue points for originality of appearance, function, date stampings, completeness and configuration (correct assembly). However, the car that is original but non-functioning, will not make it to “the finals” because too many points for deterioration will have accrued which over-shadow its originality.
This rather divides “originality“ into two categories—an original vehicle which is non-functioning and an original vehicle which functions but is not necessarily perfect.
This 1967 Beetle is an example of an Original Vintage Vehicle. Although it has some deterioration, it would receive good marks for originality, assembly and function that possibly would over-shadow the blemishes. The car has original paint, pans, numbers-matching engine and transaxle, bumpers, interior, carburetor (now rebuilt), working radio, 12 volt working system, rims with correct color coding, keys, non-original tires but in the original style and a non-original fuel pump. It is missing some hose clamps. There is no rust on the car and the pans have no repairs. This car could be used when comparing for originality of factory condition.
Now, we come to Survivor vehicles. A survivor vehicle is all original, but not all original vehicles are survivors. Here’s how this works.
We all read about “barn finds”—cars which have been stored and not used for decades. Maybe a person bought the car, or inherited it, but for reasons all his own, or perhaps due to health or his demise, the car has remained stored and unused.
Or perhaps a car was purchased but used only for special occasions.
Such a vehicle may be a “survivor”.
Again, in order to bring some semblance of order to the industry, Bloomington-Gold experts have drawn up a set of standards by which to judge whether a car is a survivor or not. (Bloomington-Gold holds the copyright to the definition of “Survivor”)
A survivor vehicle is a special vehicle. It holds the secrets from the factory by which all other cars of its make and model may be judged with finality. It is the standard, much as are the weights and measurement standards which are housed in the Smithsonian, for example. It represents what no restored model can. It also surpasses cars which are all original functioning vehicles but which cannot be said to be true survivors.
So, what is a “survivor vehicle”?
According to the Bloomington-Gold Standards, a survivor is a vehicle which, never having been restored, has survived “…intentional or unintentional loss of original markings, paint or components…. remaining over 50% unrestored or unmodified….may qualify…if it remains in a condition that would serve well as an historic guide for others who want to restore (a car) of that vintage and type.”
Bloomington-Gold goes on to say that such a vehicle is “worn in but not worn out.” It is a vehicle which “…is significantly unrestored, unrepaired or unmodified and useful as an historic reference”.
Furthermore…it is a vehicle which, in the best interest of research, should not be restored or improved upon. This is the short of it.
The Klintworth Beetle is an unmolested example of a 1967 Beetle Sedan, with only some repairs, as necessary, to keep it road-worthy. To do this, Rees installed new correct fuel lines, a new fuel pump, new spark plugs and ignition coil. He rebuilt the original carburetor. He installed new tires, master cylinder and wheel cylinders. The car was cleaned and the paint buffed—the paint looks good with few blemishes. He also installed an up-dated radio and speakers and larger tail pipe tubes. This car would have some points deducted for the radio and speakers and the larger tail pipes. There might be some question about the fuel pump. It would appear that this car should qualify as a Survivor.
Bloomington-Gold goes one step further with a sub-category of Survivor which it calls “Benchmark” (also copyrighted by Bloomington-Gold).
This category is for “those very rare, select (vehicles) that represent the ultimate in factory originality and condition”. A Benchmark vehicle not only is NOT restored—it is in showroom condition. These cars serve an ultimate purpose of being the perfect representation of a factory delivery vehicle.
Not finding an example of a 1967 Beetle, I have chosen to illustrate this Category using a 1957 Beetle Sedan which certainly seems to exemplify all of the characteristics of a Benchmark Survivor.
First, the vehicle has extremely low mileage—just over 13,000 documented miles. The owner has photographically documented the car from the time he obtained it until the present. He has documented anything which he has found necessary to keep the car road-worthy—only a new coil, battery, tires and fuel tap. Everything else about this car is as it left the factory assembly line. It is without blemish. This vehicle, therefore, can be used to judge all other 1957 Beetle Sedans meant for USA consumption. There is no guesswork involved. It truly is a magnificent example—a museum specimen.
What can we, as owners of vintage Volkswagens, do to be more realistic about our cars ? For one thing, we can reassess our own vehicles and describe them correctly. Also, we can encourage others in the VW Community to follow suit. Those who organize and manage clubs, shows and sales can suggest and encourage correct descriptions. Gentle nudging will work with most people but some may need further explanation before they see the benefits of correctness.
When all is said and done—what we want is for the Volkswagen Community to stay abreast of up-to-date information so that it can make its mark in the Vintage Automotive Community. We have come of age—let’s act our age!