The Automotive Hippocratic Oath

DO NO HARM TO HISTORICALLY ACCURATE ARTIFACTS (AKA: AUTOMOBILES)


While researching various automobile museum "mission statements" for a future article, one particular museum's statement stood out as an incredibly important statement of purpose for us all to consider.
The famed Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, located in Philadelphia, PA, represents the 50 year collective effort of renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Frederick Simeone. And while the primary focus of the Simeone Collection represents more than 65 historically significant racing cars, we found Simeone's following statement most impressive.

Simeone: The Automotive Hippocratic Oath
"DO NO HARM TO HISTORICALLY ACCURATE ARTIFACTS"

"A paradigm shift. This overused term refers to a different way of thinking which, significantly in this case, can alter one's behavior. If we accept the fact that as human beings acknowledgement, recognition, praise, rewards or even adulation govern our lives (the spirit of competition) then the shift might be to reward the car owner for preservation, not perfection.

Up until recently, recognition was awarded for cosmetic perfection, sometimes destroying originality in the process. Why not reward the stewardship for preserving a car; for finding just the right car, for going the extra lengths to keep as much of it intact as possible; to make it a benchmark item rather than a quest for 100 points.


The balance between originality and perfection could be attained if one realizes that while cosmetic perfection is very difficult to achieve, historic perfection is even more elusive and, therefore, the latter is more desirable." Dr. Frederick Simeone
1927 Bentley 3-liter, With Unrestored Serial Number Dash Board
This is certainly not the first time Garagistry has gone on the record urging Caretakers, collectors and hobbyists of all years, makes and models to put the spray paint down and think for a moment about what is being done. One article we featured from well-known automotive preservationist, David Burroughs described the need to consider a vehicle's status as a bona-fide Survivor®. Another Burroughs article answered the question, "What Would You Do?", and challenged classic car owners to consider the preservation importance of a vehicle first and foremost.

Without question, seeing any classic car in a condition representing how it appeared as delivered new from the factory is a great and rewarding experience. The combination of design and workmanship to produce beautiful vehicles is what makes those cars the treasure they are today. But, as one gentleman at a recent car show commented "Not everything has to be spit & polish new looking. Look at the pyramids of Egypt - have they been restored or resurfaced? Not hardly - and they are are impressive today as I believe they were when new!" The gentleman may have a point...

An Example of the Value of an Unrestored Vehicle
1921 Vauxhall 30/98 - Chassis Number E385
From the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

Our Car

Sometime in 1988, I got a call from Dave Brownell, vintage automotive expert, sleuth, author and a great friend. He told me of a Vauxhall available in Canada, but there were very few specifics. I contacted the attorney who represented the estate of Hugh Hansard, senior partner of Montreal's largest law firm and former president of the Canadian Bar Association. I was told that Mr. Hansard had been dead for many year and that the car had been laid up for about two decades, put away in excellent condition.

My interest was particularly piqued as the condition was described. Original upholstery throughout. The body as all aluminum with tatty paint on the wings. Everything seemed to be intact, according to the representative. However, it was a very tight shed where it has been put up decades ago, and pictures were almost impossible to take. It was simply a matter of trust.

The representatives of the estate were unable to tell me exactly what model number the car represented, although they did give a fair description of its condition. I directed them to the serial number plate and learned, in fact, that thus was the desirable E-type 30/98. At the time Vauxhall made lesser cars, with unimpressive performance, which has little value then and even now. The 30/98, however, was the leading British sports car prior to the advent of the 3-liter Bentleys and the choice of the wealthy, young sportsman.

Previously, I had a letter from a family relative, Welsford MacArthur. He reported to me "I enclose a picture of it, a photocopy of what appears to be part of a Christmas card sent out in 1957. The driver is the son of one of the co-owners. (They inherited the car from their father.) The co-owners, as I call them, are twins, the only children of Mr. Hansford. Scant other information available indicated that the barn was on Mr. Hansford's vacation property in Quebec, where he would drive it during his holiday, occasionally  taking it into parades.  This is all we know."

My research at the time indicated that there were only 34 E-types in existence of the 275 E-types which were built. This is in contrast to the 133 OE-types from a series of 312. To many people, me in particular, the less refined more Edwardian E-type was the preferable car because it stood alone as the great British competitor, whereas the 3-liter Bentley soon supervened the OE in just about every way.

You can't imagine the excitement waiting for the car to arrive, a mystery on the basis of one cramped front snapshot, with Dave George there excitedly waiting for the delivery truck. We were absolutely delighted.  

The car was indeed a totally intact 30/98, virtually untouched, with the aluminum body in excellent condition, though the black fenders had spots of paint loss.  Our immediate decision was that this car should be preserved. We did remove the seat covers, with revealed excellent intact leather on the seats and door panels. The dash was complete and fascinating to look at. The huge gas tank pressure pump on the passenger side gave the whole fascia plate a vintage airplane feel. 
Today the car is exhibited in a dirt-covered hill climb diorama. The caked mud under the fenders has not been removed, and its condition, to say the least, suggests it needs a good washing.  We have had to do very little to this car to make it is top shape.

OUR CONCLUSION:

The evidence a vehicle has been well cared for and reliably presents itself as representative of its glory-new days is priceless. Think about that the next time you are considering to improve the appearance of your classic without a real plan in mind.

Consider taking the pledge to adhere to The Automotive Hippocratic Oath, and put a copy of it with your classic's other important documents. We have.

Drive safe and enjoy your classic...

To visit the Simeone Museum website, just select the below photo.

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