The Mystique of Concours Quality Classic Cars

Achieving a concours quality restoration amounts to a Holy Grail of sorts for many classic car collectors. While show quality cars can vary widely in terms of workmanship and original appearance, concours quality vehicles have been restored to the highest standards of accuracy and craftsmanship to the precise condition in which these vehicles left the assembly line or showroom floor. The term concours quality is sometimes accidentally or deliberately misused by dealers or restoration experts to refer to a show-quality vehicle that does not meet the exacting standards required for true concours condition.

Defining Concours Quality

To achieve true concours condition, a classic must have all the original equipment present and in pristine condition. No additions or deletions can be made to the original manufacturer’s equipment list. Even upgrading the original equipment to incorporate air conditioning, antilock brakes or other safety and comfort features can prevent a vehicle from living up to the standards of concours quality in the eyes of a restoration expert. Simply put, concours quality is defined as the optimal original condition of a classic or vintage vehicle. Nothing has been added or removed from the original vision of the designers and manufacturers of these cars.

The Restoration Process

To return a vintage car to its original condition can entail a large investment in time and money for dedicated car collectors. Upholstery, dashboards and other interior equipment must be replaced or restored to the original specifications used by the manufacturer at the time of production. In some cases, these items may not be available as replacement parts and must be fabricated or reconstructed by a professional craftsman. Exterior body panels can be repaired or replaced with machined parts created from the same materials and to the same specifications as the originals. No upgrades can be made to bumpers, lighting systems or other equipment on the vehicle. Even the paint color must be matched to the original hues to ensure real concours condition.

Show Quality vs. Concours Quality

Show quality cars may incorporate modern equipment as part of the restoration process. These vehicles often include air conditioning systems, seat belts, modern upholstery and enhanced bumpers to improve comfort, ensure safety and bring the car into compliance with current safety regulations. By contrast, concours quality vehicles may not be street legal and may not include safety equipment required by state and federal law. These vehicles may only be suitable for auto shows and expos; however, they represent the state of the art in restoration and offer a glimpse of the automotive past for true connoisseurs of classic cars.

Creating a true concours condition vehicle can take years and may cost many thousands of dollars. However, the end result is a real automotive work of art that can be worth many times the initial financial investment. In most cases, restoring a classic car to concours quality standards is a labor of love that justifies the hefty price tag and provides a true sense of accomplishment for the dedicated classic car collector.