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"Survivor" classification


trimacar

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I was about to post this on a car for sale thread, but didn't want to distract from his advertisment. This is in no way intended to criticize any seller or car, just curious.

A car is advertised as a "survivor". Said car has older repaint, newer interior, and of course the soft goods changed (belts, hoses, tires,etc.) which I understand.

Repainted, reupholstered, at some point, is this car still considered a "survivor"?

Somehow I picture a survivor as a car with original components, albeit possibly weathered or worn.

Thoughts?

For example, my Cord has never really been restored, has a bad 60's repaint, about 60% original interior, but I never have considered it a survivor, just an older "dust 'em off and paint 'em" car.

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There is a sliding scale at work here. I think a full repaint and interior but never dissembled gets you a partial survivor status. The operative word being partial. Of course, a few years ago this would have been called an older restoration :-).

This one doesn't bug me as much as "body off" restoration when referring to a uni-body. Or calling a 79 Chevette a "Classic".

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Yes, it doesn't really bother me, just curious.

I know that some terms get overused. When someone pulls out a car that's been in a garage since 1980 and calls it a "barn find", for example.

And I agree with you on the unibody, nothing worse than seeing a "frame off" restoration of a '66 Mustang. And, you state correctly, it's not a frame off, but rather a "body off...."

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Guest Klayfish

I agree it's kind of a sliding scale. The 1965 Olds Delta 88 sedan I just bought falls into that category. Original owner had it until 2008. It was repainted once, and some of the interior has been redone (seats recovered). Otherwise, beyond routine maintenance, it's all original. Sure, the chrome is really pitted, and the original parts of the interior aren't minty fresh anymore, but it's 46 years old. So what would you classify it as? To me, if an old car has had new belts and tires put on it, but nothing else, I'd call it a survivor. But when you start getting into repaints and new upholstery, etc...it starts to slide down that scale some.

And there will be a time when a '79 Chevette is a "classic". The Chevette may be an extreme example, but you get my point. Was a '55 Chevy always a "classic" car, even in 1963? At car shows, I'm starting to see things like an '84 Fiero or '82 Pontiac Safari wagon show up.

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David, the discussion on "survivor" can be found in other threads from the past. Whether it is "classic", Survivor, antique, etc. the words usually are open to a lot of interpretation and debate. Survivor, however, is actually a legal trademark that the Bloomington Gold management were able to get registered. Maybe, the next term will be a classic survivor:D!

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Last month's "Sports Car Market" magazine had a great discussion on this very topic, and I highly recommend reading it. A noteworthy 1953 Ferrari 212 in deteriorated shape came to auction and was presented in "as discovered" condition. The crowd went wild, since "survivors" are red hot right now, and someone paid top dollar for it. However, the point of the article was that the car was NOT a survivor. It had been painted AT LEAST twice and there were a bunch of non-stock modifications. There was visible filler in areas where the paint had been removed. So someone paid "survivor" money for a merely neglected, botched old car that had been stored in wet conditions. It wasn't a "clean it up and proudly present it" situation, it still needed a full restoration--there was no in-between choice. The current paint is neither historic nor in acceptable condition, and needs to be completely redone, and on a car of this stature, the only option is an expensive, body-off restoration.

I grow weary of cars presented at auctions covered with dirt in "as found" condition, to lure the foolish or eager into paying survivor money for a merely deteriorated car. True survivors are exceptionally rare--they're lovingly preserved, complete, with a known history. Dragging some busted-up '64 Valiant out of the garage after 20 years, leaving the drywall dust on it, and calling it a survivor is, in my opinion, fraud.

Merely existing decades after it was built does not a survivor make. I would argue that a complete repaint eliminates it from survivor status, as does an engine swap, new upholstery, or significant modifications (unless they were done in-period). I don't care what the trademark says, if it has been "restored" in any way, then it's restored, not a survivor.

From the SCM article: "It's ironic that in the past, cars in considerably better condition than today's "preservation" candidates were routinely hauled off to the restoration shop for the full treatment that transformed them into perfect and immaculate simulacra of their as-manufactured state.... As much as I revere original and unmolested cars, many of the cars that are being sold today as valuable historical documents from the past are really nothing more than lamentable examples of prior owners' neglect of--and indifference to--their own propery."

Maybe defining a survivor is like that chief justice who tried to define porn: I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it.

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Guest Kingoftheroad

With the exception of tires, belts, battery, maintenance, etc. Survivor cars are those that have survived the years with the original paint, original interior, etc.. Maybe fixed or replaced a ripped seat cover, something like that.

Edited by Kingoftheroad (see edit history)
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David I noticed this also and agree the term is getting a bit overused. Especially since seller appears to be a dealer. Seller could still portray the car in a very positive light but a little more accurately by saying something like "nice older car with known history from new that has been maintained and refurbished over the years". Like Alsancle said, an overall service of the mechanics like brakes, tires, major tune up, etc. along with paint and interior and maybe the top probaby was a "full restoration" at some point, and probably the ideal amount of effort to put into this particular car.

That said, while you do not get original paint and interior here, I have no qualms with his comments about an "unrestored feel" to ithe car on the road. It looks like a pretty square deal that can probably be bought somewhere between $15 - 17K. It presents nicely enough - I think Auburnseeker might like this one...

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Although the Ferrari is not a survivor it has been "untouched" for many years. I personally like those kinds of cars because of their honesty - mostly in the paint. If something was going to "pop" it would have done so many years ago. "Freshly Painted" will usually eliminate my interest in buying a car.

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I think "older restorations" can have a lot of cache also. In some ways that old "1936 Ford Roadster that Joe's grandfather restored around 1970" that was subsequently put away around 1990 is the next best thing to finding a true pre war "survivor"...

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I saw that one when it was listed on either ebay or craigslist before it landed here. Looks like a nice car but just not what I'm looking for. Besides with shipping to get the car here and possibly a repaint I'll just move onto something else. I've got a convertible sedan in the works now. I'll post photos and info when and if I become the proud new owner. Possibly this weekend. :D

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Seriously, in this day and age if a vehicle has avoided a trip through the crusher it is a survivor. Many vehicles and the parts on them have gone that way. I know we can't save all of them but it seems such a shame to have that happen. Once it does they are lost forever. :(

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I know of a very early car, very well known large make, that appears to be an original car that has had some decent storage for 100 years. Jus the right amount of patina and wear.

I found out through a friend who REALLY knows early cars (we walked by a random touring car at Hershey once, he proceeded to describe how Harrah found it without the rear seat, and had his craftsmen replicate it, you'd never have known), that the car had actually been restored around 1950, driven on many a brass car tour, and earned its patina in that manner.

I also agree, as mentioned, that there can be a "feel" to a car that's right, even if it's an older restoration, as is the case with the above described car.

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Guest Kingoftheroad
Seriously, in this day and age if a vehicle has avoided a trip through the crusher it is a survivor. Many vehicles and the parts on them have gone that way. I know we can't save all of them but it seems such a shame to have that happen. :(

Amen to that !

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It is a tough quality to put a finger on, but based on info in ad and pics alone, when comparing this car to the Ply Cvt. Auburnseeker describes elsewhere in his recent "trade Post" the 49, while not a surviver, this seems like the kind of "old restoration" you want to find.

the "trade" Plymouth may have had some work done at one point, but is now deteriorated to the point that it needs everything, even though it looks halfway decent in the non close up pics.

The one described somewhat erroneousely as a "surviver" certainly seems to offer a lot more for not too much more money. If I were to choose between the two, my guess is even at a 30% or more price differential you are getting like 50 - 75% more car. David, that "feel" is part of it assuming it is there... I just thought those two cars were begging to be compared here...

Other than the "surviver" term, seller does seem to describe the car nicely, offering a lot of detail which I would think would generate a lot more interest than the typical one or two liners we often see on this site.

BTW David, let me know if you ever want to part with "that dusty old Cord with the bad 60s repaint!" :)

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT
spelling and clarity (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...
Seriously, in this day and age if a vehicle has avoided a trip through the crusher it is a survivor. Many vehicles and the parts on them have gone that way. I know we can't save all of them but it seems such a shame to have that happen. Once it does they are lost forever. :(

With all due respect, Susan, I have to disagree here. Merely existing for several decades doesn't make a "survivor" in the sense that most collectors are talking about. Yes, it has managed to survive that long, but just like "numbers matching" there's a connotation to the term that implies something more than the dictionary definition of mere continued existence. I don't know if you can trademark the phrase, but when I hear "survivor" attached to an old car, I expect a low mileage, well-maintained piece with mostly original paint, trim, interior, and all its correct mechanical bits. "Original-style" parts don't cut it.

For example, we have a 1955 Buick Special for sale (Vintage Motor Cars :: 1955 Buick Special) with just under 17,000 original miles. It has 100% original paint, 100% original interior, the trunk is like new, and the chassis has merely been maintained, including a replacement muffler from back in the '60s. However, the engine compartment has been restored to show condition. I'd call it a survivor simply because it has all its original parts, although I would personally prefer an untouched engine bay as well to truly fit the textbook definition.

I like precision in my language, especially when dealing with assets like cars that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Mere existence after some period of time, while certainly satisfying the criteria for survival, doesn't make a car a survivor. It needs to be authentic and highly original in my opinion. I don't mind deteriorated in some ways, as long as it's original equipment.

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I agree with what you are saying, Matt. However, I might add that given the three, maybe four, major components to an automobile – engine compartment, chassis (could be lumped with engine compartment), body and interior – I would say that if only one of these areas have been "restored," the term survivor should still be okay.

This is why AACA's stand in the HPOF Class (historical preservation of original features) allows for "some" restoration. Without that, many car owners would simply say, "well, it doesn't fit in any category, so I might as well restore the whole thing." In the case of the '55 Buick, it would be a shame to restore the whole thing just because the engine compartment's been detailed. There are many, many other cars out there just like that. Not 100% original – or survivor – but enough original features so that it could be looked at carefully by someone restoring another example.

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Reminds me of a mid-50's Cadillac that was in a local show, belongs to a local AACA member. Very nice original car, just the right amount of patina.

Walked around to the front of the car, and the front bumper and grill were new chrome. Also, the valve covers (on an otherwise untouched engine) had been removed and newly painted.

To me, the car had gone from a very nice survivor to a partially restored car. I know that sounds extreme, but once you restore one thing on a car there's no stopping point.

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The trick to keep it looking like a survivor is to use slightly worn or NOS Chrome to replace the really trashed stuff. It's hard to tell the difference. The NOS stuff usually has flaws and casting issues so it tends to look old and not completely fresh. If you are dealing with Korean war chrome and you car has been taken care of but not pamperred the chrome is probably almost all gone and rusted. That stuff falls off just looking at it. So you could have a car with Nice paint and interior that has never been redone and chrome that looks as if it spent 10 years in the ocean.

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We attended a local show a couple weeks ago where we saw a '56 olds with slightly less than 5,000 miles on the clock. The extensive documentation and overall condition with wear only age gives you seems to support the claimed miles. Info mentioned that one door had old paintwork from slight parking lot damage, and bumpers had been rechromed. Given the same situation, on such a nice car I would have opted to do both repairs as well, actually I think the bumpers were more recent, and the door repair was a long time ago. What would you have done?? Is the door work "maintenance" given the age and bumpers "restoration" or "repair/maintenance"? Something to ponder...

Is the car a "survivor" - it is available, BTW, $24K I don't know why but I did take the flier on it which is home.

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I plan on showing my '33 Continental as a "Survivor" at the Concours of America next week. While the body had to have been touched up at some point it appears that it was nearly 40 years ago. The interior was done at about the same time. However, none of the mechanicals were touched in its 77 year life. I took great care to leave the patina when I made it roadworthy.

The only nod to modernity is an electric fuel pump and a high-beam warning light installed by the PO. I did hide a 6-volt relay under the dash to handle the load of the 50-watt high beams.

On my "scale" it's a 75% "Survivor".

IMG_4148.jpg

These are my two survivors.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Kattosha

I have a 1940 oldsmobile Series 60, everything is still original except the paint job which was redone in early 70's at that point they leaded a few holes in the trunk, the first owner also put in a heater assembly from another 1940's (Haven't pinned it down yet) oldsmobile. Would this be considered a survivor?

On the same note...the front end needs some serious work tighten the steering up. If I replace essential components does that still qualify for survivor status?

The engine has two bolts broken off in it that I would also like to get drilled out and maybe clean the engine up while I am in there. The engine has a blue/green paint on it, but I am not certain if that is the original motor paint colour.

If it is still a survivor, how far can I go before I loose that status?

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[quote name=trimacar;906234

Somehow I picture a survivor as a car with original components' date=' albeit possibly weathered or worn.

.

This is what I thought a "Survivor" was too.

An original car, no repaints, or LB interior, that survived the years.

PP

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Guest Kattosha

Thanks for all the info guys, its been a lot of help and hopefully I make good decisions regarding the maintenance and upkeep of my car without over restoring her. I crawled underneath after work and I definately need to do some front end work before something breaks. So that part will probably be modernized at least to a point. But overall she is still and will hopefully always be original.

From what I can tell Bloomington Gold has trademarked "Survivor" but that may only be because noone has bothered to challenge or fight it. I think their definition might be a little too tight (even though my car does seem to fit) but just as many peoples definitions may be a little too loose as well. I think I will just stick with Original as her label for now.

This will be an interesting journey for me, until now I have been a mechanic only because I buy cheap junkers that I needed to keep running. I have never done anything like tie rod ends but it is definitely in the near future.

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Doesn't this classification depend on which club/organization you belong to?? One of the clubs I belonged to says; at least 25 years or older, have retained original features as manufactured such as paint, upholstery, engine compartment, etc., essentially as delivered. Allowable exceptions such as seat-belts, tires.

If ANY paint work, re-chroming, or upholstery changes are made to the vehicle, the vehicle would be classified in the proper Stock/Restored Class.

To me that is the best way in all honesty to describe a survivor.

Don

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In my opinion, the word "survivor" could be applied to a car that has been re-upholstered and repainted depending on when this work was done. If it is an original 1928 car that was repainted and re-upholstered in 1940s or 1950s during its active life as a used car and has been in storage or kept as-is since then, to me that is still a survivor car, assuming everything else is largely original. If the same original 1928 car was repainted and re-uphlolstered last year, I would probably not call it a survivor. To say that a car that is 80+ years old has survived all this time with just one repaint, to me, is still a pretty original car. Of course, it all depends on the particular car, its age and its condition. And, at the end of the day, it is all still very subjective!

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