Two Springs ago I was strolling around Puerto Banus in Marbella, Spain when I encountered a nice memory from my childhood. Parked besides those big often elegant yachts was a mint humble white Seat 600.
I must say it did not surprise me at all, as there is a growing community taking care of these mighty machines which I’m incredibly grateful about. What really opened my eyes was that this car had a special children’s seat, the same kind I travelled in for thousands of kilometers in my childhood.
Of course, I approached the car and peaked in as much as possible to admire this time machine. The window was slightly down which is a good thing if you don’t want the car to become an oven in Spain. It was exactly in that moment that I received a wave of so many memories from a simple smell! The car smelt exactly like my mother’s 600. A mix of overheated plastic and foam hit my senses so strong opening memories I had forgotten. Scientists call this a Proustian moment – when a particular scent conjures up a certain experience, time or a place.
Suddenly, I was a 4-year-old kid again in the back of that car, on that seat which was not really attached because the security system was just a crossing bar with some cushion just like you’d find on a roller coaster (which allowed it to move up and down freely). I recalled how with time I managed to open a hole in that cushion made of plastic and filled with foam, I could even recall the taste of that foam! 😊
At that moment I realized that car could not have been restored as it had retained the original interior with original components and smell. What a wonderful thing it was and how much grateful I was for the owner who had decided to preserve instead of restoring it.
It won’t be a surprise to anyone if I say I am a strong supporter of preservation vs restoration. Experiences like the one I had with this 600 only strengthened my position. My ’77 GTB has an ashtray which I can tell had been used often during its 44 years of life. It is empty, but if you run a finger over it, you can smell the faint scent of cigars of years gone by. Will I take the ashtray and polish it till I see the metal shining? Not a chance.
There are of course situations and conditions when a restoration cannot be avoided. How to identify those and how to proceed with them is a topic we’ll highlight in future articles.
A classic car is living history; they can tell us so much if we pay close attention. Drive them, look at them, listen to all their noises, smell their leather, oil, and unburnt gas. Test your classic car senses.