The Story

One of the more contentious subjects in the historic vehicle world, conservation versus restoration, has been debated at the latest International Symposium on Restoration. The global event was hosted by Retromobil Club Romania with the support of FIVA (the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens, or international federation of historic vehicles).

A series of international experts and influential speakers on the subject, including historians, restorers, engineers and collectors, gathered in Romania to give presentations to delegates as part of the one-day event in Sinaia. Under the topic heading ‘Quest for Authenticity: Conservation versus Restoration’, each shared their personal views and experience, then invited questions and debate.

What was agreed on at the symposium is that a vehicle is “original only once”. However, there is ongoing debate about the point at which preservation and repair tips over from conservation to restoration.

The Debate

First to share his views was Adolfo Orsi Jr., part of the Italian family that owned Maserati from the late 1930s to the late 1950s. Orsi is now a leading historian of Italian motorsport, a collector and car expert, and a top international judge at classic car shows. His view is that as much of the original vehicle as possible, including the paint, should always be retained in every historic vehicle.

Prithvi Nath Tagore from India is a writer and restoration advisor whose passion is restoring historic vehicles to be used on the road. His talk on his quest for authenticity in a homegrown restoration project spoke of putting a dilapidated Mercedes-Benz 180 Ponton back on the road using a combination of original parts and period-correct parts where possible.

Mexican restorer Enrique Villasenor gave a similar presentation, via Zoom, on his preservation of a Mercedes-Benz 230SL.

American automotive historian and award-winning restorer David Cooper is well known for his commitment to authenticity and research into the provenance and historical context of European pre-War cars. He spoke of the importance of preserving original parts where possible, but combined with the innovative use of period materials and techniques where necessary.

Difficult decisions about compromise and provenance were illustrated in talks by Romanian restorer Andrei Ciocarlan and English professional racing driver and classic car dealer Sam Hancock. Andrei spoke of a Citroën SM he worked on that had once belonged to Romanian tennis star Ilie Nastase. Nastase had changed the car’s colour during his ownership, so decisions in restoration had to be made about what was ‘original’. Sam spoke of how many historic racing machines had engine changes during their working life, so the definition of ‘original’ could be unclear.

All speakers agreed on the importance of recording the amount of restoration, replacement and rebuilding that has been carried out on any vehicle. German automotive engineer Laura Kukuk is a classic car evaluator who uses modern technology to analyse the extent of a vehicle’s originality. She spoke of using CAT scanners, x-rays, 3D mapping and other means to detect and accurately log all changes made to chassis parts, body sections and even interiors.

Delegates were also pleased to hear how both conservation and restoration were being used in The Netherlands and Iran to help young people and women facing challenges in their personal and professional lives. Dutch restorer Mike Kastrop helps a team of around 20 young boys and girls develop their skills and personal pride through the award-winning meticulous restoration of classic cars. Ramin Salehkhou and Maryam Talaie work together on a training course in historic vehicle detailing for young Iranian women.


President of Retromobil Club Romania, Gabriela Magureanu, says: “It has been a delight to meet and hear the views of so many passionate experts in the restoration and conservation of historic vehicles. It has also been good to hear how the work is attracting the interest of younger people and marginalised groups around the world.”

President of FIVA, Tiddo Bresters, says: “In this the European Year of Skills it is good to see that historic vehicle restoration is a universal passion, lived both by individual enthusiasts and professionals. In spite of the different interpretations of authenticity, all are driven by FIVA’s mission to keep yesterday’s cars and motorcycles running.”

If you didn’t manage to attend the Symposium, you can see it online on the FIVA Youtube Channel:

Note to Editors

FIVA (Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens) is the worldwide organisation dedicated to the protection, preservation and promotion of historic vehicles and related culture, as well as their safe use. Since 2017 FIVA has been a non-governmental partner of UNESCO.

For more press information, or to speak to a FIVA representative for a specific country, please contact Gautam Sen, FIVA’s Vice President Communications on, +33 (0)6 87 16 43 39 (mobile), or +33 9 66 12 44 64 (landline).

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