THE NUM­BERS GAME

New Zealand Classic Car - - Editorial - Ash­ley Webb Edi­tor

We’ve all heard the terms ‘ barn find’, ‘sur­vivor’, and ‘match­ing num­bers’ reg­u­larly bandied around in the clas­sic car world. But in re­al­ity, what do they mean? It’s of­ten a mat­ter of in­ter­pre­ta­tion, as this ter­mi­nol­ogy can mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

One of my favourites, and one I hear fairly reg­u­larly, is that a clas­sic car that has ‘match­ing num­bers’. To some, that may just mean that the front num­ber plate matches the rear num­ber plate. At the other end of the scale, it’s taken far more se­ri­ously, es­pe­cially for the purists among us, mean­ing, for ex­am­ple, that the driv­e­train is com­pletely orig­i­nal to the car and the en­gine block is cor­rectly stamped, in some cases, with sev­eral num­bers that match the ve­hi­cle’s VIN for easy cross-ref­er­enc­ing. Then there are other en­gine items, such as the cylin­der head, in­take man­i­fold, ex­haust man­i­fold, car­bu­ret­tor, and dis­trib­u­tor that, on some ve­hi­cles, wear a part num­ber, in­clud­ing a date code, that can be ref­er­enced against the build date of the ve­hi­cle and checked for cor­rect­ness. The same ap­plies to the trans­mis­sion, and so on, down to the last wheel nut.

Then there are ‘ barn finds’ and ‘sur­vivors’. A ‘ barn find’ is sim­ply that — a car that’s just been dragged out of an old barn and, in most cases, in need of a full restora­tion. How­ever, true ‘sur­vivors’ are a lit­tle harder to come by and are of­ten highly sought af­ter. Some of these cars can ap­pear scruffy — orig­i­nal paint show­ing signs of wear and tear with orig­i­nal patina, the in­te­rior in less-than-pris­tine con­di­tion; like­wise, an en­gine bay that has been left un­touched for decades but is val­ued be­cause it’s com­plete and orig­i­nal. There are also those very rare ve­hi­cles that have man­aged to sur­vive the test of time in pris­tine con­di­tion. They have been lov­ingly cared for by a num­ber of own­ers, de­spite be­ing used and dis­play­ing mileage com­men­su­rate with age. To find one with low mileage is in­deed a bonus, and to see one ad­ver­tised with vir­tu­ally no mileage def­i­nitely re­quires fur­ther in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

One such ve­hi­cle is this month’s cover car — a 1958 Studebaker Cham­pion, but we needn’t worry about any ques­tion­able his­tory with this ve­hi­cle. The cur­rent owner pur­chased the car in July 2016 with an un­be­liev­able 74.6 miles on the clock, and it cur­rently has just over 120 miles show­ing. I’ve seen many low-mileage, orig­i­nal clas­sic cars in my time but, to be hon­est, never a 60-yearold car that’s vir­tu­ally never been driven and still looks as good as the day it rolled off the show­room floor — un­doubt­edly, a once-ina-life­time op­por­tu­nity, and one with a story to match.

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