Gerardo Cammarata of Classic Car Hunter SA has restored nearly 50 classic cars over the years. He feels strongly about maintaining originality of classic cars as he explains in his first column titled Don’t Butcher The Classics.

Remember the days when a Ford 3,0-litre V6 ‘Essex’ motor was being shoehorned into anything with four wheels? Back then, what we now deem classics were cheap, undesirable models that ended up in the hands of people seeking a project to, for want of a word, butcher.

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Changing times

However, times have changed along with the automotive landscape. The combustion engine is singing its swansong and cars are becoming ever more complicated and uninvolving to drive. Classic cars have become increasingly desirable and a serious investment over the past decade, with some models yielding increases in value that resemble, or better, traditional investments or even art works for that matter.

Check out our gallery and video from a classic car drive event arranged by Double Apex at this link.

As the era of electric motoring dawns upon us old cars will become even more desirable, not just from an investment point of view but also for petrolheads who seek the thrill of an analogue driving experience. Many youngsters who have grown up with modern cars might not understand the thrill of driving a proper manual sports car without any electronic driving aids, it is an experience that, as times change, will become even rarer.

Realised vs unrealised values

To the point of this article. The last ten years have proven that in two of the world’s biggest classic car markets, namely the USA and Europe, there are a few factors that contribute to the preservation and growth in the value of classic cars. Those people who shoved Essex motors into, what have now become sought after and, valuable cars have learned the hard way.

The most important factors that contribute to a classic car’s value are:

  • Originality: low mileage well preserved vehicles with documented history
  • Factory nut and bolt restorations: this is basically taking a tired or dilapidated car and taking it back to its original glory, as it left the factory.
  • Restomods: upgrading a classic by increasing performance and improving comfort while keeping it true to its heritage. But even here, a fine line needs to be walked. Manufacturers such as Singer and Alfaholics are prime examples of modern restomods that command huge prices. Click here to check out our Top 5 Restomods of 2020.

Local is not always lekker

The huge problem we face in South Africa is that many people, spurred by reality TV shows, dived into the car restoration and modification industry without having a clue about the classic car market or even the cars themselves. The result is that valuable cars were, and still are, being  butchered with poor restorations, terrible paint jobs (blow-over in some horrendous metallic colour shade), engine conversions (a Lexus V8 is not an acceptable replacement for a classic car engine), patched together interiors, checker plate used as door panels and floors and other unspeakable atrocities.

Read why we no longer get road-going racecars by clicking here.

These cars are then advertised on social media platforms with unrealistic asking prices, and when the seller is taken to task the usual response is “these are the values in the USA/Europe”. While those may be the values reached at auctions abroad, these are more often than not commanded by pristine original or restored examples that cannot even be compared to the local standard backyard hack jobs that we have become so accustomed to see.

No long-term view

While the commonly used reply: “It’s my car, I can do whatever I like to it” is valid, one also needs to think carefully about preserving examples of automotive history in a respectable manner. While you may think that you’re building it for yourself and you will never want to sell it, circumstances in people’s lives change. 

We get old, we don’t like how the car turned out, or we may grow bored of it and want something else, and the person who will take a financial beating when trying to sell it, as opposed to those who rebuilt or preserved  a car true to its heritage, will be those that butchered it with an incorrect or sub-standard restoration, or the sin of sins, changing the powertrain to something that doesn’t belong.

Keep it real guys

We also owe it to our children, and grandchildren, to be able to experience what some of the best cars that were ever produced, feel like to drive, and to be able to look at them, cherish them and keep them as an investment for the decades to come. Do your research, find a reputable restorer, and if you plan on doing it yourself, try to honour the people that designed and built these motoring masterpieces.