Pe­riod per­fec­tion or prag­matic con­ces­sion? As long as the car is ap­pre­ci­ated and used, that’s fine with me, says Phil

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Phil Bell, editor

Steve Coogan – comic ge­nius, but fe­ro­ciously se­ri­ous about cars. The ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail that cre­ates his on­screen char­ac­ters spills over into the clas­sics he en­joys for re­lax­ation. So when Quentin Will­son joined him for a day out in his lat­est ac­qui­si­tion, an early Jaguar E-type open two-seater (p42), con­ver­sa­tion ex­plored his in­flu­ences and tastes, but in­evitably it swirled around the de­tail of this car. What he has is a fine ex­am­ple that’s a plea­sure to drive as is, but one that’s strayed from the ex­act state in which it left the Browns Lane fac­tory in 1961. He has to de­cide whether to sim­ply en­joy what he has, or spend a lot of time and money chas­ing a pe­riod-per­fect ideal.

For Cor­rado Lo­presto the de­ci­sion about his 1935 Lan­cia Au­gusta (p94) seemed more straight­for­ward. Af­ter all, this se­rial buyer of Ital­ian one-offs chose the car be­cause it has suc­cess­fully dodged the hand of the re­fin­isher, re­pairer, mod­i­fier and re­storer through its long, charmed life. But even then, Lo­presto’s de­sire to get it run­ning and take it to con­cours events has forced him to wres­tle dozens of sub­tle com­pro­mises be­tween mu­seum-men­tal­ity preser­va­tion and the prag­ma­tism of use.

There were no philo­soph­i­cal dilem­mas around the re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of the Tri­umph Italia (p62). It had suf­fered so much trauma from ac­ci­dent dam­age and bodged re­pairs that com­pre­hen­sive re­newal was the only route to a sat­is­fy­ing re­sult.

With so much well-in­formed and per­fec­tion­ist restora­tion afoot it’s tempt­ing to as­sume that too many clas­sic cars th­ese days are be­ing turned into mu­seum pieces, too pre­cious to drive. I cer­tainly hear that view of­ten enough, so it was re­as­sur­ing to trip over ECD 400 at the Royal Wind­sor Jaguar Fes­ti­val in May. The fifth E-type built and the first to win a race, it was show­ing all of the signs of an au­then­tic restora­tion, then lots of miles since.

I love see­ing un­re­stored orig­i­nals, mel­lowed softly by road miles, but I also de­light in cars re­stored with ob­ses­sive lev­els of pe­riod de­tail. My own E-type is a blend of orig­i­nal spec and prag­matic con­ces­sions. As long as the cars aren’t stashed away, never to be ap­pre­ci­ated, th­ese var­i­ous philoso­phies on clas­sic own­er­ship con­trib­ute in­ter­est­ing tex­tures to our world. En­joy the is­sue.

To re­store and ad­mire, or drive and en­joy? This is Steve Coogan’s new co­nun­drum

Fa­rina-bod­ied Lan­cia has lay­ers of fas­ci­nat­ing de­tail

Faith­fully re­stored; well used

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