"Kensington Crumpet"

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Sir,

Now that the sale price of Veteran, Edwardian, and Vintage as well as Classic cars has been inflated by a number of factors which have forced the genuine user to the sideline, I feel that it is time to take stock of the situation yet again. There is little that can be done to save fools from themselves but there might be a chance of depreciating the so-called investments to the speculators’ detriment.

There is no point trying to interfere with “market forces” in the case of unmodified original classics, as they have become investments in the same way as chateau vintage wines or rare postage stamps. The owners are free to store or use them as they may wish, and do little to deprive the would-be owners of earlier thoroughbred vehicles.

I am concerned with the deliberate dismantling of good vintage cars which reappear as replicas of their famous stablemates after what is termed a restoration. My dictionary defines “restoration” as “bringing back a person or thing to a former place or condition” or “work of art as nearly as may be to its original state”.

Photographs both contemporary and documentary, together with a close examination of “restored” vehicles can easily show if they are not original in any respect, such as having fuel tanks the wrong shape with wrong fillercaps, the wrong gauge of wire mesh for stone guards, aero screens incorrectly mounted, wrong twin shock-absorber brackets, radiators with the wrong stone-guards, wings and wing brackets which would make the old factory mechanics turn in their graves, headlamps of the wrong style, make, and mounting, and exhausts which are so ugly as to be instantly rejected. But there are many other items which can be fortunately concealed by the machinery, such as modern rev-counter drives. Worst of all is the kind of tarted-up finish an old friend of mine, John Lander, used to describe as “Kensington Crumpet”.

Well, what can be done about it?

The one-make car clubs have a lot to answer for, but on the other hand they could make amends by taking some real action to improve matters. In works of art, and due to the enormous value of such things as pictures and ceramics, certain respected bodies give certificates of originality. If certificates of authenticity were to be given, in much the same way as the Veteran Car Club does at present, it would be a guarantee for the owner of the genuine article, and lack of it would be a caveat emptor for the would-be purchaser. I would propose four classes of certificate:

A1. For an original team-car built at the date in which it was supposed to have competed and still in original specification.

A2. A works replica built at the correct time for the public to use in competition or on the road or track, still in original specification and possibly supported by a catalogue.

B. Any Vintage or Edwardian vehicle with its original coachwork and mechanical specification unaltered except to comply with the road traffic regulations of the country in which it is kept. Repanelling or refabricing allowed, to cope with fair wear and tear, but no restyling.

C. Modified Vintage and Edwardian cars, which may have had their chassis or frame cut to reduce wheelbase and which may have had the coachwork changed for racing, trials or sporting appearance, but which retain their original mechanical components in every respect (axle and gearbox ratios excepted). Engine and chassis numbers should be as built.

Specials need not come into the picture, as they have their own sphere of operation which leads to a very happy atmosphere. The onus should be on the owner to prove his right to one of the above certificates through the club concerned; that proof could be endorsed on the reverse of the certificate, the original evidence to remain with the club. A fee would be charged for the certificate which would be high enough to cover the cost of administration and storage of data. Enquiries to the club at later date would have to be accompanied by a fee. Class B and C might cost a little less than A1 and A2, whose owners can afford it.

If something on these lines were adopted I feel it would soon get the support from overseas, and many fine old cars would be saved from becoming “Kensington Crumpet”.

Marcus Chambers,  Charlton, Oxfordshire

 

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