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Ask a Hemmings Editor – What constitutes a survivor?

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Recently, Howard Shaw bought himself a 1948 Buick Roadmaster convertible that he discovered through Hemmings. Congrats, Howard! He plans to pick it up in the near future, so, just like many of us do when we’ve bought an old car, his thoughts are occupied with what he can do with it once he takes possession of it. Howard writes:

The car has never had any bodywork done, and is 100-percent original, including paint, carpets, and running gear. The top was replaced many years ago, and the engine and transmission were overhauled at some time as well. Tires are now radials and are wide whitewalls of vintage wide whites.

My question, after having the top and tires replaced with new, and the engine and transmission rebuilt to factory specs, would you consider the car to be a survivor? I expect to show this car as an original survivor, am I right or wrong?”

To begin with, we’re going to differentiate between “original” and “survivor.” When it comes to categorization of old cars, the latter term generally is a good deal more lenient, while the former really sticks in a lot of people’s craws.

As far as calling it a survivor, that all depends where the car will be shown. It’s not a Corvette, but Bloomington Gold does have a Survivor standard that requires the car must be more than 20 years old; able to pass a 10-mile road test; remain “over 50 percent unrestored, un-refinished, or unaltered;” and “retain finishes good enough to use as a color guide for restoration of a car just like it.”

Perhaps the closest equivalent in AACA judging is the Historic Preservation of Original Features certification class, which is not point judged and applies to vehicles 25 years or older. From the AACA judging guidelines regarding HPOF: “A vehicle may be entirely ‘original’ or it may have certain original features such as paint, chassis, upholstery, engine compartment, etc. that are essentially as delivered.”

Other clubs undoubtedly have their own classes and guidelines for original or semi-original cars shown at their meets. The Buick Club of America, for instance, has an Unrestored class “judged solely on originality, and not on workmanship or condition,” subject to a 400-point form in which

All original (as delivered from the factory) components, including finish, shall receive no deduction, regardless of condition, so long as the original can be observed. Original components which have received spot repair, but with original areas visible, will be considered as original.

All authentic replacements which are not original shall receive a deduction of 50 percent of the points assigned to that category. This deduction would also apply to surfaces or components which are obscured by rust, dirt, grease, new paint, or under-coating, to the extent that the original features are not visible. All ? point scores resulting from this deduction shall be rounded up to the next whole-point score. Otherwise, all non-original replacements receive the maximum deduction.

For non-club and non-competitive shows like cruise-ins or cars and coffee events, it matters more that you can have a conversation about the car with bystanders than what category it falls under. When unsure about the big spectrum between “completely original” and “restored,” catchall terms like “unrestored,” “preserved,” or “refurbished” work well. This is one big reason why Lentinello coined the term “Driveable Dream” — to avoid all the nitpicking and focus on what a car oughta do, which is drive.

But that’s our take on it. Howard said he’d like to hear from the Hemmings readership as well. How would you describe his Roadmaster?