From the Chicago Tribune, August 3rd, 2008:
By Rob Sass
Special to the Tribune
The Berkshire Green and Frost White 1961 Metropolitan owned by Gary and Rosey Bosselman of Roscoe, Ill., is a Survivor—and then some.
The paint and interior are original, along with such consumables as tires and headlights. Remarkable for a compact that arrvived at American Motors 47 years ago via Austin of England and has 10,133 miles on the clock.
What it takes Well known among collectors, Bosselman added it to his stable of four other Metropolitans– "one is unrestored but scruffy"—in 1994. He demurs when the talk turns to what he paid for it.
This is exactly what David Burroughs had in mind when he trademarked the name Survivor to bestow upon cars certified by Bloomington Gold, an organization best known for Corvette shows. At this year's gathering in St. Charles, Burroughs held the first Survivor Car Show.
More than 120 cars were shown and though no non-Corvette judging took place, seminars educated participants as to what makes a Survivor—a car that's nicely preserved and mostly unrestored, un-refinished and unaltered. Some 833 Survivors have been certified since 1990. At the 2010 Bloomington Gold Show such Survivors will be judged for the first time.
"Too many people were restoring otherwise well preserved original cars when they should have been leaving them alone," said Burroughs in explaining why he came up with the Survivor concept, originally for Corvettes. "In the process, a historic object is lost forever."
This goes against the grain of car collecting, a 60-year-old hobby that's been ruled stripping away original finishes and materials in pursuit of perfect—and often inauthentic—restorations generally at great expense in money and time.
The skill and craftsmanship of elite auto restorers is rewarded at high-end "concours d'elegance." There are signs that this is changing and that the hobby of automobile collecting, which goes back only about 60 years, is getting with the program of collectors of antiques, coins and stamps who value originality and authenticity above all else.
Ask Miles Collier, a Naples, Fla., collector and organizer of a biennial symposium on the hobby who says refinishing a collectible car works "a profound and irreversible change on it and severs its connection with history."
He says car collecting is on the path of other such pursuits, noting that in the 19th Century, it was not uncommon for owners of colonial-era American furniture to refinish it the same way people restore cars today.
But cars are a little trickier. "Automobiles are made up of disparate materials that often don't live happily together," Collier says. "Add to that the fact that they are technological objects that are subject to use and abuse that other collectible objects are not, and sometimes the owner is left with little choice but to attempt some form of intervention."
In such situations, Collier conserves what he can and sympathetically restores what he can't using period-correct materials.
"Knowledgeable people will say, 'new paint, nice job' but it's harmonious with the rest of the car."
Not unlike an art restorer repairing a chip in a sculpture. "You can see where the work was done, that's intentional, but it doesn't jump out at you" says Collier.
Adding "false patina" or explicit evidence of wear and time to a restoration, however, is intellectually dishonest to Collier and difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. He distinguishes this from the patina acquired "honestly" by a car restored years ago.
"It reminds me of the old Native American belief that when you take a photograph, you steal the soul of the subject," says Colin Comer, a classic car dealer in Milwaukee and the author of "Million Dollar Muscle Cars." "When a car is taken apart and restored, I think it loses part of its soul."
Comer also points out that the unrestored car conceals little about its past, making them more likely to be what they purport to be.
Comer has recently turned down offers for a stunningly original and very well-preserved 1964 Pontiac GTO that are fully a third more than the $100,000 or so a restored car would bring. Still, he says, a sizable number of people don't get it, some getting hostile at the notion that he would ask such a large sum for an obviously less-than-perfect car.
David Gooding, president of Gooding and Co., a collector car auction house based in Santa Monica, Calif., also sees the market moving toward well-preserved, unrestored cars. As opposed to five years ago, a well-preserved original car is now likely to draw higher bids than its freshly restored counterpart.
His company has consigned a 1932 Ford V-8 convertible sedan with original paint and upholstery to its August auction in Pebble Beach, Calif. Gooding expects the car to sell for a considerable premium over the six figures for a similar restored car.