What is vehicle conservation?

A great deal has been written over the years about conservation. John Ruskin and William Morris are the two people who most likely come to mind. They , in their own way, viewed ancient buildings as historical artefacts. They understood that the character and authenticity of each building is composed of the many thousands of small details and to remove these, in any numbers, is to start to erode the authenticity of the whole building.

I think to impose onto vehicle conservation some of the principles of ancient building conservation is possible. However, I’m very aware that the vehicles we tend to deal with require a slightly different approach. One of the areas that is so often overlooked by the conservators of ancient buildings is costs. Buildings are often listed or have other forms of protection leaving the owner with little option other than to follow an expensive, but well trodden path, and do as the experts say. Vehicles are not subject to any form of control. The only issue relating to authenticity is registration. The requirement being that the vehicle must be composed from a small number of original but major components and this has nothing to do with conservation.

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With the conservation of vehicles we believe that a process of conservative repair is required. This will involve stabilising the structure/fabric of the vehicle to arrest the process of decay. This will leave the vehicle in an authentic but clean condition. In the event that components have to be repaired or re-made great care is needed to ensure that similar materials and manufacturing processes to that of the original are used. These repairs will be where possible, reversible, but in the event of having to weld repair sections into bodywork, for example, will be honest and fully documented. Here we tend to differ from the ideas of ancient building conservation; they would normally leave the repair entirely visible where as we would tend to over-paint and patinate to create a more harmonious effect whilst still leaving the new or repaired pieces modestly obvious. The mechanical workings of each project must be assessed with a clear view as to the intended use. On occasions, other than careful cleaning, this whole area can be left untouched if it was felt the vehicle was too delicate or important to use on the road, but was to become a static display. I’m aware that many may not agree with this approach, however, we are happy with such a decision if decided after lengthy discussion with the client.

In the event that the vehicle is to be used as intended, any mechanical changes would need to be justified and clearly defined and every attempt would need to be made not to affect the narrative of the machine.

It is not my intention to go into detail about the process of conservation or any particular projects we have been involved in as I feel this would compromise our services. However, I would be delighted to discuss any matter or questions you may have.

Julian Parker