When it comes to old cars, what’s the point of originality? I like my vintage machinery to possess a bit of what the blokes in the trade call ‘patina’ – a dent here, a bubble there, some underlay from Carpetland in the rear footwell.
Yet among people who take classics seriously, originality and the maintenance thereof is the first commandment. Merely suggesting the transplant of non-period parts gets you the sort of opprobrium normally reserved for those found peeing on the bowls club green.
Which is why I know I’m not going to win any concours prizes for my decision to stick a Metro-spec ‘A-plus’ engine into my 1960s Mini Cooper. My excuse is that it was the only way to get the old girl running at the time.
Anyway, as I’m now sorting out my cluttered life, I thought a proper rebuild of the original lump was in order. Only to find, once the thing was reduced to its individual components, that it was no more ‘original’ than the A-plus I’d bunged in.
According to my engine rebuild guru the conrods were all different lengths, the manifold was wrong and it seemed to have swapped various oily bits with a Mini van at some point in the early ‘70s. No wonder it ran rough, then.
Sorting it out is already turning into a fantastically expensive business. Indeed, it’s starting to cost more than I’ve ever spent on a used car before. And now I’m trapped: I don’t know how ‘original’ I really want it to be.
That artificial showroom finish that the Concours mob go for isn’t originality for me, I want the car like I remember them looking in the early ‘80s, shabby and well-used. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but a gearlever gaiter that looks like an octogenarian’s scrotum is a thing of beauty to me.
The best story I ever wrote (before The British Car Industry, Our Part in its Downfall) was about my day out with the concours nutters, and I still have nightmares about it. That sort of behaviour is neither normal or natural.
My campaign for real old cars starts here.