The real deal? – part 2

In the sec­ond and con­clud­ing col­umn on the thorny sub­ject of au­then­tic­ity in His­toric rac­ing, motorsport great Fred Gib­son dis­cusses how Gib­son Motorsport is pro­tect­ing its name.

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Mail -

In the last few years, seek­ing out orig­i­nal Gib­son Motorsport race­cars and restor­ing them for on-sale to new clients – ei­ther peo­ple who want to race in their own right or en­thu­si­asts who want another ad­di­tion to their col­lec­tion – has be­come one of the cor­ner­stones of what we do at GMS.

Pick­ing up on my last col­umn, I want to help you un­der­stand what we do to pro­tect the in­tegrity of our orig­i­nal cars, and there­fore our own name, and the guar­an­tees we of­fer to prospec­tive buy­ers and col­lec­tors.

There was one found­ing prin­ci­ple of this part of the busi­ness. We wanted to work, as far as pos­si­ble, with the peo­ple we worked with in the first place: orig­i­nal em­ploy­ees of GMS, orig­i­nal sup­pli­ers and so on.

If you work with the peo­ple who were there, you have a ready-made source of in­for­ma­tion on what went on in the first place. You will say to me, ‘Ah, FG, but you can’t al­ways rely on peo­ple’s mem­ory’, and you would be right. But I have two answers to that.

One is that the peo­ple who have worked in motorsport have re­mark­able pow­ers of re­ten­tion about the de­tailed work they used to do, or in some cases are still do­ing, on the cars they were re­spon­si­ble for.

The other is that at GMS we back up what our peo­ple say with the doc­u­mented records we kept, quite re­li­giously, when we were in the busi­ness of build­ing and run­ning race­cars. Per­sonal knowl­edge and proper pa­per­work: that’s the twin foun­da­tion of what we are do­ing now in our restora­tion busi­ness.

So if you come to me ask­ing me to au­then­ti­cate a car, I will ask you a num­ber of ques­tions. Has the car been re­paired in any way? Have you done any restora­tion work on it? If so, how deep did it go?

What I mean is that the ques­tion of au­then­tic­ity can ap­ply both to su­per­fi­cials and to essen­tials. Take the paint­work: you may have de­cided it was right and proper to fix up the paint job on your car, and I would agree – that falls into the cat­e­gory of care­ful main­te­nance, after all.

But here, right away, I would raise a lit­tle prob­lem, and it’s one that’s been re­ferred to right here in your favourite mag­a­zine. Have a look back at the ex­cel­lent story in #87 about Jim Richards’ BMW 635CSi, and you’ll see that there was one quib­ble about the restora­tion job: the paint­work was far better than it would have been on the orig­i­nal car!

And if you’ve changed any­thing else, I will ask if you used ma­te­ri­als or parts that you ob­tained from the orig­i­nal sup­pli­ers? That’s one of the most cru­cial is­sues in this whole busi­ness of ‘au­then­tic­ity’, and some­times it’s im­pos­si­ble to get around.

For in­stance, when we is­sue a Cer­tifi­cate of Au­then­tic­ity to the owner of an orig­i­nal GMS race­car, we point out any changes from the orig­i­nal car. One ex­am­ple is en­gine man­age­ment sys­tems: our cars no longer run with the same sys­tem as in their orig­i­nal era. There’s a good rea­son for that: it’s no longer avail­able.

The Nis­san Blue­bird tur­bos, for in­stance, aren’t as raced; they have to use an equiv­a­lent turbo, so strictly speak­ing such a car is not ‘as it was raced’. But just how ‘strictly’ you are speak­ing when au­then­tic race­cars are be­ing dis­cussed is the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion, isn’t it?

There seem to be as many opin­ions as there are own­ers or buy­ers out there, so let me ex­plain, briefly, what we at GMS un­der­stand when we use the var­i­ous terms that crop up.

Cars built and raced by GMS are ‘fac­tory-built’ race­cars, which would have car­ried an FIA/CAMS log book and a build num­ber. Wher­ever pos­si­ble they are to be left as built by the fac­tory.

Replica cars are built by com­pa­nies try­ing to make ‘their’ car as close to the orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble; they may well put a dif­fer­ent en­gine and sus­pen­sion in, and use dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als to take the place of steel or alu­minium.

Con­tin­u­a­tion cars – in which GMS is very in­ter­ested – are built by or built un­der li­cence from the orig­i­nal man­u­fac­turer. They will re­ceive a unique chas­sis num­ber iden­ti­fy­ing them as ‘fac­tory’ cars; that num­ber may be in se­ries, as a ‘con­tin­u­a­tion’ of the orig­i­nal fac­tory build num­bers. Such cars are made to the ex­act­ing stan­dards of their pre­de­ces­sors us­ing orig­i­nal parts, or parts made with ref­er­ence to the orig­i­nal draw­ings.

So let’s close this sub­ject with a look at what we might be do­ing next at GMS. We have been very busy with restora­tion and au­then­ti­ca­tion of the Nis­sans that we ran, of which a to­tal of 16 are cur­rently avail­able.

The very best of them – the most au­then­tic – is the Olof­s­son/Cromp­ton Win­field car that fin­ished third at Bathurst in 1992. It was sold when Nis­san closed their Clay­ton plant, and it now sits in the Fox Col­lec­tion. When we got our hands on it at GMS, it had the orig­i­nal tyres from that race – and they were rooted! The car is, lit­er­ally, as it fin­ished that race, so it is the most au­then­tic GMS Nis­san out there.

I should also point out that own­ers of his­toric tour­ing cars of­ten want ‘their’ car to be au­then­ti­cated to a spe­cific race – and Bathurst is the one they in­vari­ably tar­get.

Now I feel it’s time to go through a sim­i­lar ex­er­cise with the GMS Com­modores, as the ear­li­est 5.0-litre V8 tour­ing cars and V8 Su­per­cars are in­creas­ingly be­ing re­turned to their most fa­mous colours from the 1990s.

It won’t be long be­fore this era of­fi­cially be­comes His­toric. And when that hap­pens... boom, de­sir­abil­ity and val­ues will sky­rocket.

As I said ear­lier, these were race­cars which evolved dra­mat­i­cally even dur­ing the time that we were build­ing and pre­par­ing them. And the last Com­modore we ever built was with­out the ques­tion the best Com­modore we ever built. Isn’t that the way it should be when you are talk­ing about such an im­prov­able beast as a race­car?

So I am on the look-out for peo­ple who be­lieve they own or know of the orig­i­nal, GMS-built rac­ing Com­modores. I will be more than happy to help any­one who comes for­ward and asks me to check one of those cars out from an au­then­tic­ity point of view.

But let me just fin­ish with a lit­tle word of warn­ing. I don’t ex­pect 50 phone calls or emails about GMS Com­modores – after all, we only ever built 10 of the bloody things!


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