17 August 2016

Judging the one group at Pebble Beach where restoration is discouraged

Judging for Preservation at Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach judging conjures images of trios clad in navy-blazer-and-Panama-hat uniforms. Their heads solemnly bowed, thoughtful frowns affixed, they scrutinize lavishly restored, million-dollar cars gauging elegance and searching for flaws. The paint, the chrome and the wheels gleam, the glass sparkles and the carpets, leather, fabric, panels and instruments look immaculate.

These teams analyze classes typically consisting of six to ten cars. Occasionally an unrestored or older restoration is found in a class, but those cars rarely figure in the top three, which are the cars that parade across the ramp and take home most of the silverware.

There’s an entirely different kind of judging that takes place at Pebble Beach with its own set of criteria set by the Fedération Internationale des Véhicles Anciens (International Federation of Old Vehicles). The European-based FIVA, as it is known, is an organization dedicated to supporting and preserving antique, classic and special interest vehicles around the world. Instead of targeting elegance, FIVA supports a series of awards that recognize the best-preserved original automobiles with the condition and provenance to support their originality, for some years.

While the judges may appear similar outwardly, they work to a different set of standards. Instead of looking for style, presence and gleaming paint, they seek evidence of the original craftsmanship and finishes. For the exterior alone there are seven different categories covering everything from coachwork to glass and tires.

Inside the car, the judges are once again looking for as many of the original materials and workmanship as possible as they check five categories. They’d rather see a seat or door panel repaired than replaced in order to retain the original look and feel.

The judges also pay close attention to the engine, drivetrain and chassis, which covers seven additional categories. These include chassis and engine numbering, both of which help confirm a car’s identity. While under the hood, the team checks all major systems for authenticity and original condition. Examining the wheel wells, chassis, suspension, axles and brakes (where visible) also helps determine whether the car is original or has undergone restoration.

As with traditional Pebble Beach judging, the car is also started and checked for noise, leaks and smoke. Just as standard class judging deducts points for over-restoration, FIVA judging penalizes for excessive polishing and disassembly. But FIVA also considers age, giving older cars a small bonus allowing them to compete with newer vehicles. A great history also helps. If two cars are tied for an award and one car is fully documented as having circumnavigated the world in 1915, that car will gain an advantage.

There’s no real mystery to FIVA judging. It just encourages preservation of the original workmanship now 80, 90 or 100 years old. It’s considered important enough that one of the two FIVA preservation awards (pre- and post-war) offered at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2016 will be presented as “The FIVA award under the Patronage of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) for the Best Preserved Car.” The winner will be invited to exhibit at the UNESCO World headquarters in Paris, which is a pretty good incentive not to restore a car.

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