I've been getting pretty sick of reading auction results for some time. Mainly because each auction further cements the fact that I won't be getting any amazing classic cars for quite some time. Or maybe never, the way prices of even odd cars like the Jensen Interceptor have been going lately. But this latest Bonhams result really pissed me off in ways that surprise even me.The car in question is the "oldest unrestored mini in the world" and supposedly the 8th car off the assembly line. The car has sat since 1985, and is in "barn find" condition --an original and unmolested car, as they say. Other than a replaced drivers door, the car is just as it left the factory on July 31st, 1959-- other than the fact that it's a rusty, immobile piece of shit.The car may be "unmolested" but it was undeniably neglected, and terribly so. And the person who paid a mind-bending 65,000 USD (!) for one of the most common cars on the planet is buying into what has become a sickening fetish for neglect, driven by auction houses, that really has started to get under my skin. For a while, I enjoyed the idea of cars being found in original condition and nourished back to driveable condition without being overrestored, as with the famous barn find Bugatti T57 Atalante sold at Greenwich a few years back. That car is now roadworthy, but mostly unrestored, and kudos to its owner. But lately, between Peter Mullin's lake-bottom, lightly crushed Bugatti artifact and this utterly ruined Mini I feel like some car collectors have forgotten what the point of originality is. And whatever constituted the definition of "unmolested" as been tossed to the four winds.
Unmolested, to any reasonable person, means that the car has been maintained regularly, kept in stock specification, and still has matching numbers. Original paint and interior are icing on that cake. But let me ask my fair-minded readers: Which is preferable? Rotten and torn original upholstery, or reupholstered seats replaced with original style material? Which is preferable: a quality respray from a 10 year old rolling restoration, or "original paint" intermingled with with rust all over the place because the previous owner was a hoarder who didnt give a fuck about his car for multiple decades while it sat and decomposed under a tarp? We give these hoarders far too much praise for "preserving history" when we should be asking them why the hell they couldn't bother to be better custodians of the historical artifacts they owned for so long. These high auction prices are just sanctioning this abuse and neglect, and frankly, I reject that idea. It was one thing when this "patina fetish" was confined to very rare cars like Bugattis and Delahayes that were usually neglected due to being hidden during the war, and due to the scarcity of parts in the following decades. It became more debatable when less rare classics like Gullwing 300SLs were on the block in this condition.
But no Mini owner has any excuse for not fixing their car and keeping it running. There was never a scarcity of OEM parts for these cars. They made millions of Minis! About 10,700 of them were made in 1959 alone! So enough with the barn finds. Enough with the auction house Kool-Aid! How about some garaged, frequently driven, lovingly maintained cars in a decent state? Shouldn't that be worth more than an immobile rust bucket, no matter what chassis number it has?
Also read about the car's discovery by an Autoblog UK editor HERE