Standard versus Modified Classic Cars

I have just added a 1971 Morris Minor convertible to the Great Escape hire fleet and it will be very interesting to see how it goes. We already have a Morris Minor Traveller available for rental, which is a totally original, one-family-from-new 1957 car. The new Moggie is a little different. Like many Minor convertibles it started life as a two door saloon before being chopped. It was recovered from a barn in Devon in 2000 and then subjected to a meticulous 3 year renovation. The finished car, I think, is stunning. It’s painted in a deep red (an Audi colour) with retrimmed caramel vinyl seats, extra dashboard instruments, grey powder coated Minilites and matching radiator. While the finished result, to me, is better than anything Alec Issigonis dreamed up, the fact is of course that it isn’t original. In the USA and to a lesser extent the UK there has always been a strong custom car following and the Great Escape Moggie isn’t the first of its kind to be breathed upon – there are plenty of Minors with useful mechanical upgrades. It started me wondering about the relative merits of preserving or improving classic cars. Purists argue that original is best – their task in life is to recreate the factory specification. Concours events pander to this and personally I think it’s great that they do – we need to preserve our motoring heritage. But other enthusiasts prefer to improve and that generally means personalising the basic car to their own whims. I fall between the two camps I suppose. I want to keep my Jensen Interceptor standard because it’s a late model 1974 car and I think the factory got the specification right by then. But I have to use my cars every day so any upgrades that make them easier and more enjoyable to drive I’m all for. Personally this means mechanical and aesthetic improvements that don’t ruin the original character – and in this case the new Morris Minor convertible fits the bill. It drives like an original but looks better, bringing out the innate character of this most characterful of cars. Ultimately, though, what’s great about the classic car scene is that purists and improvers can exist alongside each other. The great thing about the classic car scene is that it’s all embracing – if you love old cars you can express it any way you like. And it’s part of the fun of it to endless debate whether originality or improvement is better or worse. Meanwhile I’m going to enjoy this Moggie rain or shine.

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