HVA Matters: Celebrating the Survivors

February 19, 2013

The popularity of preservation-class vehicles continues to gain momentum in show circles and among everyday historic vehicle owners across North America. President and Director of the Historic Vehicle Association, Mark Gessler, explains how the HVA is at the forefront of this exciting new movement and what it means for the future of the hobby.

Until recently, getting involved in the collector car hobby meant shopping around for a great deal on a classic and then working toward restoring all its imperfections. But more people are beginning to realize that old, untouched cars, like antique furniture and pieces of fine art, are an increasingly rare and romantic commodity.

Vehicles that survive the decades in a largely original state are drawing a lot of attention at club events and car shows. These preservation-class vehicles have stories to tell and perfectly illustrate original craftsmanship, materials, manufacturing techniques and finishes. Here’s what HVA’s Mark Gessler has to say about why “survivor cars” are important and what this new philosophy of preservation means for the future of the hobby.

1903 Knox

How does the Historic Vehicle Association define a "preservation class" vehicle?

Gessler: These are vehicles that retain much if not all of their original mechanical components, body, interior and finishes.

What is the HVA doing to support the preservation movement across North America?

Gessler: Several of the largest and most influential clubs and organizations in the collector car hobby — the Antique Car Club of America, the Classic Car Club of America, Bloomington Gold and The Survivor™ Car Show, to name a few — are all working to encourage old vehicle preservation.

The HVA has developed judging criteria and a preservation trophy for cars and, more recently, motorcycles. In 2013, the HVA will present the HVA Preservation Trophy at more than 15 nationally significant shows and concours, from Carlisle to the Amelia Island Concours.

No vehicle is completely original. But some cars do come captivatingly close. The HVA Preservation Trophy recognizes and celebrates these one-of-a-kind vehicles and the amazing stories they have to tell.

1927 Minerva

What is fueling the interest in preservation-class vehicles, and what kind of impact has this had on the hobby?

Gessler: For a long time, most old cars were restored, and club meets and shows provided an opportunity to display the finished product. But many times the fit, finish and craftsmanship on these cars actually exceeded the original condition of the vehicle.

By the late 1980s, many clubs and events began to recognize that original examples of the world’s most important vehicles were becoming lost. To encourage the preservation and display of vehicles that were largely unrestored, they began to introduce judging events designed to counter this trend. Thanks to the captivating stories behind every well-maintained original, these cars generate interest in the hobby from outside the classic car community.

1914 Cadillac

What kinds of resources does the Historic Vehicle Association provide members interested in learning more about vehicle preservation and how to get involved in preservation class judging events?

Gessler: We are committed to developing best-practice guidelines for care of preservation vehicles. These activities started in 2011 with an HVA Symposium at the Simeone Foundation Museum that resulted in a highly acclaimed book, The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles. We have also developed judging criteria for preservation now used extensively in the U.S. and around the world, which has encouraged organizers to create preservation classes and opportunities for these important artifacts of our automotive heritage to be seen.



  1. Wayne Graefen Under the X in Texas

    Let's also address the fact that the future survival of our hobby depends on new hobbyists. Very few owners take their $200,000, 7-year restorations out for a drive among non-hobbyists. Preservation cars are best preserved by being exercised and the public absolutely loves seeing them.

  2. Steve Hanegan Seattle Washington

    Wayne's comment is spot on. The future of our hobby and our cars rests with those who have not yet been introduced to the hobby. Preservation cars and survivor cars and local show quality owner restorations are the cars that get driven, driven cars get the exposure. Every one of us has a story of our introduction to what are now classic cars, our first sight, first seed story. It is up to us to create those moments for the next wave. It will be those enthusiasts that keep not only the cars that are now classic, but the current models that are tomorrow's classics out of the crusher and/or the recycling bin. Without new enthusiasts, original or "to original spec" won't really matter.

  3. Dean Derry, PA

    I am glad to hear this point of view. I aquired an "original" 1940 Ford 2 door deluxe last January. I am the third owner on this vehicle and have the names of both previous owners with the last owning it since February 1953, as her one and only car as long as she has driven. I have been in debating my Father, who wants to "restore" everything and make it look shiney and new, with my opinion of appreciating the cars age and character that brings. Thank you for this article I look forward to sharing it with him.

  4. Alvin Shier Alberta Canada

    Amen to Wayne Graefens' comment. Most Vintage anything deteriorates much faster sitting than when used with the respect old things deserve. He's also got it right when he says the public loves seeing them. May the preservation class thrive and have a long life.

  5. Emory Aspinwall Rincon, Ga

    I have a 1970 Ford Mustang Mach I with 110,000 original miles. I traded for this vehicle 3 years ago and the best I can tell I am the third owner. It has had the engine gone through and rebuilt, It has had one paint job in its lifetime, with minor body work, the brakes amd steering reworked recently. The vehicle is Concous/ driven, matching numbers, orginal body panels and glass and is 98% original. Would it qualifi\y for preservation class? Only non-factory options are Magnum 500 Wheels.

  6. Ken Rowland Dallas

    Glad to see this trend continuing to grow. I have two vehicles I retained from my parent's estate that fit this class even though most car people deem them too young to be significant. Dad's car is a 1974 Cadillac Coupe DeVille that he purchased new. It was the only car he ever bought that was literally on the showroom floor when at the time of purchase. He was always a Chevy and Olds man and this was his only Caddy. He was very proud of it the rest of his life. It currently has 65K original miles on it and is in excellent condition. The only things that are not factory installed are the battery, tires, shocks, and the exhaust system. 100% of the paint, vinyl roof, interior, glass, etc., etc. are as they left the factory and in beautiful condition. The original spare tire is in the trunk and has never been uncovered let alone ever touched the ground. Heck, it still has the factory spark plugs and brakes! His other vehicle that I have is his 1978 Chevy half ton pickup. It has 97K original miles. He bought it with only a few miles on it in 1980. It is not in quite as good condition as the Caddy but it too is 99.9% factory original and has some rare factory options. It is the Big10 heavy duty half ton with a 350 V8. They're not worth much in the market but they are true survivors.

  7. terry rainwater Rockford Al.

    i am like the others making comments about these type of cars but really have not seen as much interest as i had hoped. i own a 1961 buick le sabre that is 95 % orginal i carried it to the 2010 survivor it recieved a finger print award. I tried selling it and everyone wants to paint it. i try to explain why you would not want to paint a car like this, but most people don't understand and most have never heard of survivor. it does draw a lot of attention when i drive but i don't due to keeing the mileage low.before i would sell it and let someone paint it i will keep it , it does not eat a thing.

  8. Dean Pallas St Augustine Florida

    A few years ago I invited David Boroughs to Huntington Beach Cal. to check out some old Corvettes for NCRS and their originalty. We learned a manyy interesting things on preservation. I must agree David is on the right track. Preservation is the most rewarding and very difficult to do. So many restore and it too has it's challenges but the value will always be in the original. Original rules and still does. No matte what your doing, keeping it original well retain it's value. Anybody can restore these days, it's all about money, but preservation is the best it will ever be. Dean

  9. Jim Lustig United States

    I love this !

  10. Bob Falleur Milwaukie, Oregon

    I have a 1926 Pontiac (1st year of production) with the original paint, pinstripeing, interior and roof covering. Most of the windows are original as well. You can wash the car without leaks. There are no tears in the interior. One or two of the tires are original.The car came from Butte, Montana some years ago yet still has " Montana" straw in the metal trunk on the back of the car. The running gear is as it came from the factory. There was a lot of sludge in the bottom of the oil pan so the motor was flushed and the original babbitt and bearing were used when the motor went back together. The car is a two-tone sage green with black fenders. The body is near perfect but the fenders have been dented on the outer edges. The car is a two door sedan and runs an Oregon 1926 license plate with the same patina as the car. I drive the car a small amount to date but plan on getting a few miles on it in the neighborhood this spring. With only two-wheel mechanical brakes one must be cautious in traffic. I intend to keep the car as original as I can.

  11. Bruce Caswell Beverly, Ma.

    I also agree with Wayne's Comment. In the past I have I have restored cars because my budget has allowed me to buy Cars and Cycles so rough that they leave my friends and family shaking their heads in disbelief . My motto is Push them in Drive them out. But last fall I was able to pick up an almost totally original (except one older repaint ).,A 1954 Rover Series 90 4 door sedan RHD. I think I am the 4'th owner as it was given to a local women in 1974 by her Brother in Queensland Australia who at some point sold it to another local person who registered it and used it occasionally yearly until his passing last year. It is totally complete and runs well but I plan on only doing all the major maintenance and registering it in the spring . It is totally complete minus a couple of hand tools from the under Dash tool Drawer. The leather is mostly gone from the front seat so I may put a seat cover over it ,other than that I plan to keep it in its original cond. as it is a great piece of History and it is in very good cond. for its age as I know it was Barn kept at least by its last owner.

  12. Richard P. Melrose MA

    I'm a believer too. Bought a 1990 Miata and it just turned 92K mi. It's had tires, fuel filter and two tune ups. Otherwise it's just as I got it. My real love is the 1978 Eldorado I acquired from an in-law; I'm the third owner of a 35 y.o. car with 39K original miles. Practically showroom - AC and power antenna don't work but I'm good with that. It's a 20 foot long head turner. I only drive it about 200 miles a year but people applaud and thumbs up when they see it go by. Last year of the Detroit iron monsters unfettered by electronics.

  13. Chuck D. Waxhaw, NC

    I own an unrestored 1937 Buick Roadmaster that won an Archival award at last year's Buick National Meet in Charlotte. I drive the car periodically. It just turned 65,000 original miles. In the car we found the hand-written note that the original owner gave to the dealer when he took the car in for its first service in '37. Car still has WWII ration sticker in windshield and a "Vote for FDR" sticker on a rear wind wing. The wonderful 320 cu. in. straight eight pulls like a team of racehorses. I can cruise comfortably at 65 on the freeway. I keep everything functional but do not plan to do any restoration on the car. I have a set of 1937 California year-of-manufacture plates that go on the car for shows.

  14. kevin Williamson Airdrie,Alberta

    I purchased a 1976 Honda Civic CVCC last year which is a survivor.Parked since early 80's.It has 50000 miles and looks like a 2 year old car.Drove it to shows and was it a hit! It's a keeper just the way it is. So many sold,very few left in this condition, everybody knows someone who had one or had one themselves.For me it's seeing the peoples faces &reactions when they see it! There can be a very expensive restoration beside it,but it's a persons memories that open up up when they see the Honda and read that it is a original survivor!

  15. Bo B Alabama

    Fresh out of college, I purchased my first new car, a triple black Pontiac Firebird. The car has had a very easy/charmed life, always garaged and only driven on long trips. Today it has traveled just over 48000 miles and is original except for tires and battery. The black acrylic lacquer still gleams and only has the flaws from the factory. After decades of storage the car was prepared and it started quickly and drove away as if it had been parked a few days. After an extensive total cleaning I started showing the car not in survivor class, but choose to compete against restored cars. It's most notable wins to date have been AACA First Junior, Senior, and Grand National awards and the POCI Concours d'Elegance award, scoring 399 out of 400 points. I believe it is the only survivor to ever win that award. I have two other cars that have been restored, but it's better to be original.

  16. John Mereness Cincinnati, OH

    Driving my unrestored 1941 Cadillac 60 Special Fleetwood - it had 17,000 miles on in in July 1979 (I was age 14 when I bought it) and has quite a few more miles on it today (one engine rebuld, two exhausts, several sets of tires, three or four waterpump and fuel pumps, and .... later. Did some paint touch up for the first time last spring. Friends love how it has paint that you can see every line in your hand from 20 feet away and how it reflects on all the street and highway signs. Plus, they have not made many arm chairs that are more comfortable.

  17. Jim Nickerson Bonita Springs, Fl

    I have a 1929 1 1/2 Ton Chevy Canopy Express that I purchased off of a front lawn in Prinston, NJ in 1997. I have been restoring it and aging it in my barn in Natick, Ma for the last 16 years. It is now finished and I have had it shipped to Florida and am enjoying the fruits of my (and others) labor!!

  18. leonard california

    You can restore a car a thousand times but it's only original once!