Why preservation classes feel like the elite acknowledging the everyday classic fans


Author: James ElliottPublished:

Anyone who has been an enthusiast any length of time will recognise how much the classic car world has changed in the past 20 years.

First, there are the events. From a few festivals and meets for the diehards, the calendar has exploded with a non-stop cascade of classic shows, meetings, festivals and race meetings.

You can't ignore the role of Goodwood in this because the Revival changed everything. Not only because so many others have followed suit, usually retaining their own personality thankfully, but also because it kicked open the doors to the wider public.

'Our' events are now attended and enjoyed by tens of thousands of casual or non-enthusiasts and such exposure can only be good for our hobby.

The same goes for media exposure. I always used to delight in the occasional spot of a classic in a print or TV ad, but now the airwaves are full of them. Great.

Then there is classic car usage, which has ballooned beyond comprehension. Having always owned classic (or in some cases just old) cars, they have always been my primary transport, but even when I joined C&SC and announced that I planned to commute every day in a classic and not even own a modern car, I was given some odd looks. 

In those early years I met loads of like-minded souls in the hobby, but we were still the minority. One of the things that makes me happiest, therefore, is to today gaze down on the C&SC parking spaces and see them packed with the team's daily driver classics whereas 17 years ago it would have been just mine amid some modern hatches.

Such usage has spread throughout the hobby, too. There has been an all-pervading change of mindset – again probably prompted by the events encouraging people to turn up in their classics, and then the people realising that there is nothing to be scared of – and both the cars and the hobby are better for it.

Forgive me for making it so cut and dried, I know there are thousands who carried the torch unrecognised for decades, but even they must accept the huge scale of current usage is a relatively recent phenomenon.

My absolute favourite thing though, is the introduction of preservation classes at concours. Even the hallowed fairways of Pebble Beach have embraced this principle of acknowledging and rewarding cars that have been preserved and whose souls have been retained alongside the money-no-object glitzy restorations.

OK, the preservation class may not yet be on an equal footing with the top awards, it may also be full of cars I couldn't dream of owning even in their oft-distressed states, plus fake patina is creeping in, as are the same big-time, big-wallet collectors for whom it is another trophy to acquire.

But the fundamental premise of saying that cars that are just kept running, just kept legal, can share the same space as the world's finest restorations somehow seems to welcome the rest of us, the vast majority of us who limp from one MoT to the next via the power of Oxy, into the classic car world's elite.

I have always adored the fact that to many in our hobby, the value of a car is irrelevant, that while crowds were cooing over a Lamborghini 350GT at a recent show, I spied the owner of the Lambo crawling all over a nearby Humber Super Snipe and enthusiastically quizzing its owner about it.

Likewise, though it may not be the intention, somehow the very existence of preservation classes is a great leveller. They make me, as the owner and user of classics that will never be invited to any concours – even in a preservation class – feel that those who can afford to own the finest, shiniest and most stunning cars in the world, are tipping a hat to the vast majority of us who don't, but love our classics just as much.

And for me that's what the classic car world is all about.




Very well put, James. I'll be adding a link to this column to my blog, "Behind the Steering Wheel." As an aside, all of my classic cars - the only ones I own and use daily - are of the "preservation class" only.

Keep up the great work!

Jeff Aronson,Vinalhaven, Maine, USA




Spot on James, the preserved cars are much more interesting to look at and wear their history with pride and are generally used and enjoyed as they were meant to be. Also it is far a more attainable state for the bulk of us with Classics of whatever vintage.
As an aside, you say your classic was parked alongside a bunch of modern hatches in the C&SC car park 17 years ago, how many of those could now be regarded as classics themselves? I personally was running a 'modern' 205 GTI at that point...
My current daily driver is a 2004 Mini (MINI?) Cooper S (The Supercharged one...), surely a bonafide classic of the future?


another well said old sprout!


Very well put and explained
Yes some of us do go back a way with classics
My first, a Frogeye was 1979.I can't claim to ever daily driving them but I did commute in summer before retirement 20 miles each way and still use the as often as I can but mostly in summer.
I do hope the current bubble in prices soon bursts before too many more speculators/investors are sucked in and the inevitable crash then setting the whole game back years as happened in 1989.Whilst there are many more real enthusiasts I believe the proportion of newbies drawn to classics based only value and profit (fed once again as in the late 80's by greedy dealers etc.) is of real concern to healthy future for classics.
Please keep up the good work at C&SC

Philippe Bertrand

Votre parole est d'argent James! And I do agree with you.
I must admit that all these wonderful concours interest me less and less. A classic car is first made for running and giving pleasure. Letting it in a show-room with somebody waxing it every week doesn't make sense. It is not more a car, it is an investment.

Barrie Robinson

I agree to the "Nth" degree. I have had several classics and drove them all - now an MGB GT V8. I started restoring a 1957 Aston Martin and then started the Aston Martin Feltham Club (www.AMFClub.com) which is a club focused on restoring Feltham built Astons and keeping them on the road. It is encouraging to see that many members actually drive their Feltham built Astons. While I deplore Pebble Beach tarts I do polish up parts of my driven-around classics such as the copper and brass - but chroming up - aaaauuuugh NO.

Barrie Robinson

Chris Martin

Well said James.
I think we should all be careful about what labels we apply to different classes though - your comment "the vast majority of us who limp from one MoT to the next " probably best sums up how most of us run our cars. Of course there will always be those who spend fortunes on over-restoring to attain their own idea of perfection. With that much invested, of course it then becomes impractical to use such a car for fear of a stone chip on the new paint.
The other side of the trend, and which is also pushing up prices, is the so-called 'barn find' claiming total originality with that well worn cliché we here at shows these days "it can only be original once'.
If that statement is true it can only be as applied to the day it left the showroom; as an extreme argument against those claims for example, does it still have the same air in the tyres as the day they were fitted on the production line? Of course not, so how about plugs, oil and filters? So where do we draw the 'originality' line?
No, forget all that, or at least let the mug punters pay for what they want to believe is original. The rest of us that actually use our cars know we have to replace worn parts, touch up paint, or replace rotten carpets, and most of the cars that fall into our group of daily driven classic cars will fit half way between the two extremes mentioned above.
Then there is the green issue where we can claim, even if our motors are not as fuel efficient as the computerised moderns, that by saving an existing car rather than using however much energy and resources it takes to make a new one we are doing the environment a big favour too.
The other benefit has been that the more of us using older cars, the better the support industry has become such that just about anything can be replaced or remade, and often at no greater cost than a main dealer price for a five-year-old.
Keep doing what you are doing and spreading the word!



I agree with the fact that the classic cars - this is an investment, buy it for fun. In the carriage must be very careful in the selection of the carrier so you have to be careful.

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