In Defense of the Garage Queen

If there is one perpetual whipping boy in the automotive world, it is the “garage queen.” These are the vehicles that are restored to conditions better than was even possible when they were first built, and then locked away inside climate controlled garages, brought into the light of day perhaps once or twice a year. They are never, ever driven but instead are trailered about the country in the quest for a piece of blue ribbon. They can range from $10,000 Datsuns to stratospheric $30 million Ferraris and Bugattis. You’ll find no love lost for these white-glove-coddled machines amongst us enthusiasts – but what if that is all wrong?

Garage queens might run against the values and priorities of those who wish to drive the past, but they clearly have their own fans. For some, the allure of classic motoring is more about the sculpture and history of the vehicle than it is about the actual driving experience. You can’t very well fault a person for his interest in that.

More importantly, they also serve a very vital purpose, even to those who turn up their noses at the site of a pristine vehicle being gingerly unloaded from an enclosed trailer. Despite the snickering and muttered curses, garage queens never fail to attract a crowd at events. This is because they are essentially a museum piece that has come to you. These pampered cars and motorcycles preserve history while the rest of us mercilessly throw all kinds of new technology into our rides just to keep them on the road.

Garage queens are the standard by which all others are judged. We as a community truly do need these perfect examples against which we can base our restorations and repairs. Without these pristine specimens, we would be slaves to ancient manuals and rotting books. Trailered motors bring these obscure and hard to find facts to life before our very eyes. This is why they always draw a mob at events. Many of us simply want to see what our cars were like before the previous owner – or indeed we ourselves – started fiddling with everything. Having a reference point is invaluable, and as such a perfect example of a vehicle should not be mocked or derided.

Garage queens may indeed be the antithesis to much that the vintage devotee holds dear, but without them we are worse off as a community. We need them, and should welcome them amongst us. Embrace them at the next event, and enjoy them for what they are – a moment in time captured and preserved for us enthusiasts to gawk at. They may not be the cup of tea for many of us, but without them we will have lost something important. We will have lost the history of the very vehicles that we hold so dear.

Photography by Ken Brown and James Haefner

Click the following links for their interviews with Petrolicious: Security Guard Steps Into the Light of Automotive Photography and Photographer Celebrates Automobile Design Through Film.