The Elusive Survivor



We've all seen beautifully restored classic automobiles. The body comes off, the engine comes out, the interior is redone and every part of the vehicle is evaluated, refurbished or replaced before reassembly. These efforts come with descriptions like "no expense spared" and "better than new". The end results can be visually stunning and financially staggering! 

Then there's that "other" genre of classic automobiles. They have the mystique and magic of objects that time has somehow forgotten. You won't hear about the extensive restoration, it hasn't occurred.  Like an enigma that has somehow turned back the hands of time, lovingly cared for or, in some cases, sparingly reserved for special occasions.


"Survivors" appear to be experiencing a new found appreciation among auto enthusiasts. Survivors may not be perfect, yet that is, in many cases, what makes them perfect. They have transcended the boundary of time and escaped an onslaught of use and abuse. Where the others have failed, they have somehow prevailed. Their owners may have taken them out of the game early or perhaps just had the wisdom to maintain, appreciate and protect what the manufacturer designed and built so many years ago. This is a rare occurrence, especially when it comes to rugged utilitarian vehicles that were meant for work!


What qualifies a vehicle as a survivor? Popular opinion says the vehicle must be all original in terms of paint, motor, chassis, drive train and interior. Not unlike original art, original vehicles have their own brushstroke and it can't be duplicated. It's not possible to duplicate what was originally built at the factory. The metalwork, seams, gaps, welds, paint, and all the nuances of how these vehicle were originally assembled are the result of the time, place, materials and methods used where the work occurred.

Survivors tell a story that is typically wiped clean with a restoration. Down to the items you may find under the seats or still resting in the glove box, a survivor retains the essence of it's owners and is the reflection of an era. Decades of registrations and insurance cards, owners manuals, window stickers and often hand written maintenance records combine to catapult you into the past.


The mantra of owners with vehicles in the survivor category is simple, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it". Can you live with a scratch, or would you prefer to paint that hood to get rid of it? Survivor fans say "leave it alone"! Survivors have a patina that covers them like a funk from the front bumper to the rear. Once you start replacing parts that flow is disrupted. In some cases, the need to replace items is unavoidable. Certainly, tires are the first thing that come to mind. While I've seen survivors still rolling on their original tires, it becomes a safety issue at some point. Replacing parts in the name of "maintenance" does not compromise your survivor tag.

Restoring that old classic is rewarding, enjoyable and certainly preferable to sending it to the bone yard. Let's face it however, anyone can write a check! If you're like a growing number of nostalgic gear-heads out there chasing classics, you may find yourself daydreaming about the alluring and mysterious appeal of the rare and somewhat enigmatic time capsules we call, "Survivors”.


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