Restoration and then some

We’ve talked before about the Ship of Theseus, rebuilt plank by plank by the Athenians, until it eventually contained no original parts; it was Hobbes who asked that if the old planks were gathered together and assembled, would that not be the Ship of Theseus?

I was not, you may be certain, expecting an example of this dilemma in my lifetime. As the phrase goes, imagine my surprise. Dave Kinney, who covers the major auto auctions for Automobile, tells the story of a single — maybe — Jaguar D-type in the December issue:

In the world of classic racing cars, engines, rear ends, transmissions, and other parts often got changed out. After the race cars were done with their careers, no one cared what happened when two or three major components — all claiming the same serial number — were separated. That’s what happened when this D-type’s ice-racing career in Finland ended. Two cars held a claim to the same serial number, which hurt the value of both vehicles because originality was in question.

In other news, they (used to, anyway) race Jaguars on the ice in Finland.

The solution was simple yet fiendishly complex:

“It seems difficult to rectify the situation,” wrote one D-Type collector to another in 1995, “unless some benevolent person should decide to purchase both cars, exchange the front subframes and the legal documents, resulting in only one single car claiming to be XKD 530.”

That’s essentially what happened. In 1998, a collector acquired one of the cars. In 2002, he acquired the other. Then he had both cars meticulously disassembled, and all the various parts and pieces identified and catalogued, and assigned to the correct chassis. In 2003, this amazing reconstruction was completed when the original, fully restored monocoque was lowered onto the original chassis frame; the bolt holes were a precise match.

The newly-rebuilt original brought $3.9 million.


  1. JT »

    6 November 2013 · 9:45 am

    Reminds me of people rebuilding MGs using British Motor Herritage Trust body shells but then claiming full originality.
    The joke I usually hear is “I’m rebuilding my car back to original specs using this wheel spoke as the basis for the rebuild.”
    I have a Bugeye Sprite from very late in the production run which doesn’t have the original engine. What the car has now is a factory rebuilt engine that the dealers were able to order and install. Is it original? No. Is it a correct part of the car? Yes.
    As Mr Kinney mentioned, most race cars would be the same.

  2. McGehee »

    6 November 2013 · 12:00 pm

    if the old planks were gathered together and assembled, would that not be the Ship of Theseus?

    Why reassemble it when you can auction the planks — or parts thereof — on Ebay?

  3. CGHill »

    6 November 2013 · 1:04 pm

    Then again, eBay did not exist when Thomas Hobbes was speculating.

  4. Francis W. Porretto »

    6 November 2013 · 3:31 pm

    Oh for heaven’s sake, haven’t we been here before?

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