THE NUMBERS GAME
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.