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.
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!