Survivor and Preservation Class Cars

Chevrolet Truck Barn Find
Classic Chevrolet Truck Barn Find. Photo by Mark Gittelman

Classic car owners face a lot of tough decisions. As an example, should they restore an automobile or leave it in original condition. With the rising value of preservation class vehicles, these decisions become critical. A 200-year-old silver plate is worth more in original condition. In fact, it's respected for the gentle signs of aging.

Now many believe the same rules should apply to vintage cars and trucks.

Here we'll walk through the differences between a barn find and a survivor. I'll also provide my thoughts about restoring, preserving and retro modifying vintage automobiles.

What is a Preservation Class Event

A preservation class car is sometimes referred to as a survivor. These automobiles are original and untouched since the day it rolled off of the assembly line. Judges place emphasis on original paint and the patina it has acquired over the years. It's okay if the exterior finish shows wear and tear. However, it still must accurately portray the color shade and remain somewhat reflective. Original drive train components, wiring harnesses and wheels are also required in this class.

Survivor cars strike a delicate balance between restoration and originality. Still, maintaining the functional mechanical operation is just as important. The contestants must complete a 20 mile journey before judging begins.

The road test is daunting for these older automobiles. Judges often apply leniency for safety items such as tires and brakes. However, when upgrading these areas owners use, reproduction parts close to the original equipment.

Barn Find or a Survivor Car

Any vehicle discovered inside a storage facility, garage or barn is a barn find.

Just because it lived in covered storage for twenty years doesn't make it a survivor car. They evaluate the automobiles on a case-by-case basis.

Only a true survivor is eligible to enter a preservation class competition. Here are some examples. If rodents ate the interior, the dashboard chopped to accept an aftermarket radio, the engine compartment dressed up with a Moroso chrome kit and a high-performance aluminum intake manifold, then this is a barn find not a survivor.

Unfortunately, the classic automobile is only original one time. Once owners discard and replace items it's no longer a preservation candidate. With that said, it can still enjoy popularity at car shows along with a sharp rise in value when restored.

Prewar and Postwar Preservation

Prewar and Postwar preservation classes began at the Pebble Beach concours d'Elegance in 2001. The class has earned respect and grown in popularity throughout the years. Now other major events such as Amelia Island and Scottsdale have followed suit.

In the summer of 2014 a 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 SSZ Zagato Coupe received top honors in the Postwar preservation class. At the same show a 1922 Packard Twin Six Brunn Cape Top Touring Sedan took first place in the Prewar class.

Thoughts about Restoring or Preserving

When you own an automobile you have the right to do what you want with it. However, some classic car owners aren't sure what's best for the future value. Cars eligible for preservation classes can hold their value more than one with a complete restoration. Untouched examples are becoming rare.

Other contributing factors are age and the number of total units produced. As an example, a fifty year old automobile with a total build of 1,000 units will only have about 10 survivor cars. A rule of thumb I use is if it's original I try to keep it that way. This is hard for me, because I'm a mechanic that likes to fix things. This is why I have never owned a survivor.

With muscle cars of the 60s and 70s being my main focus I've never come across a preserved example in my price range.

I love the idea of preservation classes and it's one of my favorite events at shows. I'm more focused on owning a year, make and model I find exciting. With my 1979 Anniversary Edition Trans Am the percentage of originality isn't important to me.

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Gittelman, Mark. "Survivor and Preservation Class Cars." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2015, thoughtco.com/survivor-and-preservation-class-cars-726349. Gittelman, Mark. (2015, September 7). Survivor and Preservation Class Cars. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/survivor-and-preservation-class-cars-726349 Gittelman, Mark. "Survivor and Preservation Class Cars." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/survivor-and-preservation-class-cars-726349 (accessed November 24, 2017).