Book Review: The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles
The book: The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles
Author: Fred Simeone & various contributors
Purchase: Click here
Say you just purchased an original Van Gogh, or a fine piece of George Nakashima furniture. Would you repaint it simply because it looked old? This, in essence, the question that Fred Simeone and his co-authors ask in The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles.
In our recent review of The Spirit of Competition, a book which profiles the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, we touched upon Simeone’s guiding principles concerning the cars in his collection. Simply stated, Simeone believes that important automobiles should be maintained rather than, as he sees it, destroyed through the process of preservation.
With an all-star cast of contributing authors, The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles, lays out Simeone’s convictions in even greater detail. Automobiles, the author believes, especially significant models from the great marques, or ones driven by famed drivers, should be handled with a matter of some delicacy when contemplating their preservation or restoration. Simeone’s tome is not a rule book per se, but rather a set of guidelines, classifications, and essays by Fred Simeone and his co-authors–among them judges, restorers, and collectors–on the “stewardship” of classic automobiles.
So, how should one decide between restoration and preservation? Simeone & Co. will almost always fall in favor of the latter, but this is not to say that restoration is always a mistake. Unlike art and furniture, cars were designed to be in motion. They have parts that are often exposed to the elements and which eventually wear out. At times, then, restoration and preservation go hand in hand.
Simeone understands this reality but he makes the case that well-preserved, original examples of significant and rare cars can sell for a large premium over the best restored examples of the same car. To the extent possible, Simeone thus favors “stewardship,” which emphasizes planning, managing, and maintenance, and which Simeone believes applies to automobiles in much the same way as it applies to an antique table and fine art.
To the authors’ credit, and despite what you might think, The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles, hardly comes across as scolding in its tone. Rather, it opens the reader’s mind to new ways of thinking about the classic car ownership experience, and the insights will be valuable whether that reader’s car is “significant” or not.
Ultimately, if this book achieves its goal, it will save historically important cars from “over-restoration,” thereby by preserving tangible and intangible history in the process.
And now, Petrolisti, we want to hear from you: What should happen to your car, either while in your care or through its future owners?