It’s been occasionally suggested that philosophers are able to talk more shite than the disciples of other less esoteric subjects. I have to say that despite having no training or expertise in this field I often quite like the shite they talk. One famous philosopher who grabbed my attention was Plutarch. One of his well known essays concerns the “Ship of Theseus”. Plutarch wondered if each piece of wood on a ship was replaced as it decayed would it remain essentially the same ship? Various minds over the years have tackled this subject and there have been very convincing arguments put forward on either side of the debate. This idea has surfaced time and time again over the centuries in different forms such as the antique dagger which has had it’s blade and handle replaced or Trigger’s broom in Only Fools and Horses.
Sometimes, while online looking at ludicrously expensive, carefully restored classic cars that I will probably never see, never mind drive or own I start to think. Actually many things whirl through my mind at this point but one of these disparate strands forms the basis for this post. At what point does a restored car stop being the car it was when it left the factory and start being something that looks like the car that left the factory? Of course things get replaced and changed over the years and I’m certainly not talking about consumables that have worn out-although I’m not sure where Plutarch stands on this. However when we see a barn find that has housed various species of wildlife over a couple of decades more than a new oil filter and brake pads might be required. Does a car that carries over most of a chassis, two body panels and a number plate really deserve to be called a “classic”? Surely it’s a new car cobbled together with various patent parts, panels rescued from donor cars and perhaps a few bespoke components manufactured by a local craftsman. It’s pretty much a new car but is it any worse for that? I think not actually…
Last year Jaguar caught my (and plenty of other’s) attention when they resurrected the road going version of the D-Type. (They did have a little form here with something similar done with the E-Type back in 2014.) The history of the XKSS is very interesting and equally well documented. The D-Type proved asymmetrical could really be beautiful and the bits and bobs (such as a proper windscreen) added to make it street legal only improved this curvaceous little gems appearance. 25 XKSSs were pencilled in for sale and delivery to private owners. The rumour was there were 25 D-Types leftover when Jaguar retired it from racing. This would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Expediency aside, it seems though that sales weren’t quite what the bosses at Brown’s Lane had hoped for. Adding insult to injury the tooling and the final 9 incomplete cars were completely destroyed in a fire on the 12th February 1957. That was supposed to be that. Not so. Resurrection doesn’t come cheap though and at cool £1 million a pop the first of those nine cars is being delivered just about now. It is so faithful to the original it’s not even street legal in the UK.
So which would I prefer, Steve McQueen’s second hand BRG XKSS or a brand new one built exactly as it would have been 60 years ago? That’s easy. I’d take the new one. I do get that a whiff of association with a celebrity can turn something worthless into an “artefact”. The 19th century Irish statesman Daniel O’Connell is (according to my decesased Grandmother) a distant relation of mine. While visiting his home in Cahirciveen (which is now a museum) you are invited to gaze in awe at such articles as a hankerchief that may or may not have been used during his baptism in 1775. Really? If a car looks and drives the way it’s engineers and designers wanted that’s exactly what I would want. I heard Ralph Lauren might be tempted to sell his….no thanks,
I’m with Plutarch on this one, can I have a brand new old one instead please?