Journal: What Is Patina?

What Is Patina?

By Yoav Gilad
January 29, 2015
23 comments

Photography by Jonny Shears and Afshin Behnia

There is no doubt that a car with a remarkable history is more interesting than a car that was driven every so often to the market or to drop the kids off at school. While truly harsh damage is obviously unattractive, some light scuffing, scratches, and evidence of a well-enjoyed life is welcome. These marks and blemishes are like battle scars that become sources of pride, demonstrating that a car is an original survivor.

Along those lines, lately there has been a lot of discussion in the car world of ‘patina’, that slightly dulled finish that speaks to a car’s age and wear. We’ve encountered many cars both on the web and at events that elicit people to comment about their wonderful patina. And frequently they’re right.

But sometimes, we see an old car that looks like it served as a chicken coop, not someone’s transportation. It looks awful. And yet, inevitably, someone will comment about the amazing patina. Patina?! It looks like it’s been treated with contempt, abused, and at best was the first ‘out’ at a demolition derby. Is this ‘patina’ really desirable?

What is patina and what is not patina?

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alicelove21
alicelove21
18 days ago

It looks like it’s been scorned, abused, and best of all ‘outlined’ for the first time at a destructive derby. I like the way you write. More experiences at bitlife.

Last edited 18 days ago by alicelove21
Chris Leighton
Chris Leighton
7 years ago

Patina is an indication of structural failings generated over time by rust OR art for concours events.

My 71 sedan has the former, not the latter.

Andrew TheBoss
Andrew TheBoss
7 years ago

Patina è un termine italiano per definire un oggetto che racconta tutta la sua storia, il suo fascino, le vicende trascorse.
La patina conserva l’anima delle persone che hanno posseduto un certo oggetto, senza curarsi del trascorrere del tempo.
Un misto di profumi, odori che non sono più comuni e dimenticati, parti consumate ma non trascurate che regalano una “patina” appunto che rende non solo bello qualcosa, ma unico.
La patina non si compra e non si restaura. Si acquisisce col tempo.
🙂
Patina is an Italian word to define an object that tells all its history, its charm, the story spent.
The patina preserves the soul of the people who have owned a certain object, regardless of the passage of time.
A mixture of scents and smells that are no longer common and forgotten, worn parts, but do not neglectful that offer a “patina” that just makes something not only beautiful, but unique.
The patina is not bought and not restored. Is acquired over time.
🙂

Sean Whelan
Sean Whelan
7 years ago

Flummoxed by this very question and dismayed by the fanatical devotion to rust and decay I blogged about this issue: http://automissive.blogspot.com/2012/07/gods-of-rust-and-corrosion-dance-on.html

Fanatically restored cars have their place, they allow me to see what cars looked like new that were normally destroyed before I came upon the age of auto awareness. But I’m a driver foremost and I don’t mind seeing the normal wear on a used and still loved classic.
The scratches on the hood from having sex with a rhinestone clad prostitute, however, may tell a good story but I’m likely to buff those out.

Bradley Price
Bradley Price
7 years ago

Also, as long as we are on this topic–Bugatti owners are the biggest fetishizers of patina and also the biggest fakers of it. Most Bugattis with all this amazing “wabi sabi” are made to look the way they do–not as an incidental by product of history and use. I find this to be rather distasteful and pretentious. Furthermore, I think people in our hobby have increasingly inverted the meanings of the words “preservation” and “neglect.” the cars that fetch big dollars at auction are the ones that are either over-restored or utterly f*cked while the ones that are original and slightly imperfect –the preserved ones–are “restoration candidates” that get resprayed and retrimmed, losing all their original surfaces. What a shame.

Bradley Price
Bradley Price
7 years ago

Patina is fetishized neglect.

Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey
7 years ago

At a Concours event, patina is what everyone is looking at while they ignore the other restorations

Highnumbers
Highnumbers
7 years ago

The patina that I don’t like is the stuff that VW guys are really into – panel-beating dents out, polishing up the worn paint job and then clear-coating over the paint.

Sometimes they even “replicate” a worn finish on a replacement bumper or hood etc. If it’s not honest wear all-around, paint the thing and properly restore it. Saving the patina should only be about preserving the original history.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
7 years ago

I agree it ‘s all about preservation and proper maintenance. Objects that have aged gracefully have their beauty enhanced by the aging process and patina is the record of a life well lived. It’s irreplaceable and not restoreable, once it’s gone it’s gone. Restoration has to maintain an objects patina otherwise it loses it’s soul.

This D Type had a bit of a knock in a race at Silverstone a few years, I took a quick picture and didn’t expect to see it again for a few months. The following week I saw it again bearing it’s scars very gracefully and looking all the better for it. To strip and rebuild that car and erase all that history would be criminal.

Paul Varjak
Paul Varjak
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

That’s a C-Type, not a D-Type.

Paul Steel
Paul Steel
7 years ago

Patina is the result of regular use, regular maintenance and ongoing repair, not the result of an older bad restoration, poor paint job or use of poor quality materials. You see ads claiming full restoration 2 years ago, now wears a nice patina! No, car badly restored 2 years ago, now looks shit and needs doing again properly.

John Roth
John Roth
7 years ago

The car described in the following link defines patina. In my view, gentle wear and repair over an extended period. I wish I would have bought this one. http://bringatrailer.com/2015/01/17/nicely-preserved-31k-mile-1933-plymouth-pd-coupe/

Andrew Salt
Andrew Salt
7 years ago

I agree with what has been said about patina so far, but I think it is fair to say that what would be patina to one person would be neglect to another….and vice-versa.

Personally, I much prefer to see a well used,loved and cared for car with some corners knocked off it than an immaculate showroom condition as-new (or better than new) car.

Sid Widmer
Sid Widmer
7 years ago

I have always felt like a good patina on a vehicle is reminiscent of a broken in pair of blue jeans. Character acquired by use. Worn but cared for. There are different levels of desirability in my eyes. Daily driver patina on one end object d’art patina of the other. The later being visually interesting enough that it no longer needs to function to be beautiful.

Alexander Shaghoury
Alexander Shaghoury
7 years ago

I keep it simple to myself – patina is everything that bears signs of proper (!) use and interesting stories or great deeds. My seats are worn, dashboard buttons are shabby, some stone chips on the paint – that’s patina to me, I like it and I won’t replace it. But when I’ve scratched my car with a motorcycle clutch lever while parking – that’s me being idiot, not patina. I’ll fix that. Ill-kept cars, cars stored on the open air, crashed or stupidly-modified – to me that’s not an object for enthusiasm or preservation.

The fun thing is that actually Images of racing bugatties bearing original faded paint brought me to classic vehicles hobby years ago.

Martin James
Martin James
7 years ago

Jim ; Actually that Bugatti was placed in the lake in order to hide it [ if I remember correctly it was either to evade taxes due or because of the war ] But yeah I agree ….. that Ain’t Patina ! That is blatant abuse thats being over romanticized by its current owner … Mr Mullin *

( * FYI ; There are many positive things that can be said about Mr Mullin and his museum/collection …. but in reality there’s more than a fair amount of criticism that can be leveled at the man and his venture as well Like the excessive price of his books … the overall accuracy of some of the historical details he makes claim to … a certain attitudinal stance he insists on maintaining .. etc )

Alexander Shaghoury
Alexander Shaghoury
7 years ago
Reply to  Martin James

Martin, let’s be honest – most of the museums and collections are literally barns. No rules of museums exhibitions are applied there. I think Mullin museum might be in the top 10 automotive museums round the world. Not only because of the collection itself, but for the exposition organization level and the overall atmosphere and elegancy. I also like that those French cars are mostly not over restored, the balance is good. And your points even persuaded me further – if the only thing that can be said about the museum is price of the books and attitude stance – the man is doing okay. In no way Peter Mullin can compensate by the books, the museum is selling, expenses on acquiring and keeping such a collection. And mistakes – we all make them, right?

Martin James
Martin James
7 years ago

Well to a certain extent I’m going to have to disagree . The overall theme and the collection itself of the Mullin is in my opinion … superb . I also love those Art Deco French cars and enjoy seeing everything else the Bugatti family had their hands into . But ! The wretched excess pretense and blatant bs that surrounds both the museum as well as Mr Mullin I personally cannot and will not tolerate . Suffice it to say I do not countenance fools … even extremely wealthy ones … and there is never any excuse for lack of research and especially over romanticizing . Not to mention an extreme lack of civility on Mr M’s part .

As to the book prices …. Mr Mullin’s name is on the entry way … he owns and runs it lock stock and barrel .as well as the Museum store . He publishes the books … he handles all the licensing [ including those for MiniChamps diecasts etc ] …. and he sets the prices …. so who else you gonna blame ? Garden Gnomes ?

But ……Do we all make mistakes ? Damn right we do . As I say constantly … you cannot avoid making mistakes . The true test of ones character comes when seeing how you deal with said mistakes once you’ve made them . Suffice it to say Mr Mullin’s dealings with the many mistakes he’s made over the last five years leaves much to be desired on many fronts . And though I can say no more …. don’t be too surprised down the road if a [ virtual ] land mine or two gets uncovered in regards to Mr Mullin and/or his museum

By the way . The whole ” …..expenses on acquiring and keeping …… ” argument when it comes to what is for all practical purposes a PRIVATE vanity collection occasionally made accessible to the general public …. for a substantial fee I might add …. is pretty much a moot point , a bit irrelevant not to mention inappropriate … don’t you agree ? Or are you one of those that enjoys ‘ financing’ others egomaniacal hobbies ?

Martin James
Martin James
7 years ago

A most excellent question indeed ! What is ‘ patina ‘ in my never ever humble opinion ? Genuine patina is that which is the normal wear and tear a car is subjected to over the years when reasonably well taken care of rather than pampered … ‘ Trailer ‘ Queened …. or restored/over restored

In other words … the car has been well loved , but also well used over the years by someone not obsessed by perfection but concerned enough to take care of the vehicle

and/
What is not ‘ patina ‘ ? Excess wear due to blatant and obvious neglect or abuse . As well as that which has been simulated and/or faked by a professional in order to deceive

Neglect and/or Abuse [ as in the case of that recent ‘ parking garage ‘ find 365 GTB/4 ] should never be confused with patina .

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
7 years ago

Good question and I think Yoav’s piece and Jim’s response cover my thoughts quite well. I would only add that patina comes from use but also the car being maintained and cared for. Paint fades over time that is natural, but rust occurs because the car has not been maintained properly.

Martin James
Martin James
7 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Lange

Actually … thinking about your comment for a bit … I’d disagree … albeit ever so slightly . A little bit of surface rust I find to be completely acceptable as ‘ patina ‘ That is … assuming the surface rust hasn’t been allowed to degrade into rot and as long as the surface rust is being attended to regularly … e.g. sanded down/off .. chemically treated and/or at least primered over on a regular basis if not touched up with a bit of paint now and again . Mainly because … especially with certain makes and years [ such as 1950’s – mid 70’s Alfa’s ] rust is imminent and unavoidable .

Jim Valcarcel
Jim Valcarcel
7 years ago

Excellent question! I have wondered long and hard about this issue. My two cents……..
If a cars seats are worn due to years of use, then that is patina. If a car has been left in a lake for the last 40 years (like a certain Bugatti) that is NOT patina. That is some poor soul who ran his car off into a lake and now the car is useless. If you have 483,457 miles on your car and the front of the car is pocked with rock chips then I can accept that as patina. If on the other hand someone has beat the front of their car with a ball peen hammer then that is NOT patina. I guess what I am trying to say is that any (wear and tear) that a car has due to driving it is patina. Just treating a car like a piece of junk for the last 40 years and letting it sit out in the elements is NOT patina. That’s just abuse.
I am most interested to see what people say on this issue and what their thoughts are. I could not agree more with what Yoav said. He had it dead on!