Original or Authentic?

Image: From The Hemmings article – The Bugatti from the Lake – 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia

So here it is, the first ever The Motor Chain article – something I only was able to produce after defeating the twin fears of “writer’s block” and “first time ever blog.”

Welcome, and please enjoy. All yours, Julio Saiz

What is an original?

Whether you’re in the classic vehicle scene or not, you’ve probably heard “This car has been restored to its original condition” or “it remains authentic to last detail” or “ it is a time capsule” or “it is a survivor.” Inspiring words, but what is the owner or dealer really saying? What do they really mean in practical terms, and how do they affect the value of the vehicle?  

I’ve discussed this topic in depth with collectors, restoration garages and classic car authors and journalists, and this is the consensus on what we can consider as standard for our community

Original. 

Original components are exactly that – identical in every way to those of the vehicle when it rolled out of the factory, to the most basic level. This means an original vehicle retains all the components today that it had when it left the production line.  

In the case of a racing car, it will be original if it still has all the original parts from when it finished a specific race. 

Authentic. 

Unlike an original part, which must be contemporaneous to the vehicle’s stock parts, an authentic component is merely identical. It is a reproduction or replacement part, made with the same tools, materials and guidelines as used during the original period of production. This means that while original parts are always authentic, authentic parts are not necessarily original. 

Another important factor in evaluating a vehicle is its condition – what is the level of deterioration from its original, stock condition caused by time, the elements, usage, etc.

How this works in the real world

  • The Bugatti T22 Brescia rescued from the bottom of Lago Maggiore in Ascona is 100% original but has a 0% condition due to its almost 100 years under the water
  • An extremely low mileage, never driven, never registered vehicle properly stored or in a museum will be 100% original and 100% condition. These are the vehicles known as “Time Capsules”
  • A classic car raced and sadly crashed, which had some aluminum panels replaced would be 80% original and 100% authentic, assuming they had to replace 20% of the car’s bodywork
  • A vehicle which retains original engine and chassis but got her transmission replaced with a period correct one we could say is 66% original and 100% authentic

My Ferrari 308 GTB retains original bodywork, chassis, engine, transmission, paint and interior. However some elements like the spare wheel are not the original but period correct. The fuse box, dashboard bezels and trunk strut are reproductions, so we could say that today it is 80% original and 95% authentic.

Of course, the line between authentic and original is determined by documentation – after all, without the papers to prove it one way or the other, how can we tell? That brings the final factor into the valuation equation – trust. It’s a big question, and one that I’ll return to at a later date. Until then, I hope this helps in better understanding classic vehicles and with making better decisions when buying, maintaining, restoring selling or driving your car or motorbike

Until next time, happy driving!

Julio Saiz

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