Jim’s Blog: Is Patina Just a Fad?

When “barn finds” took off in popularity back around 2010, so too did cars wearing worn, thin paint.

Evidence of wear all of a sudden became cool, at least among a certain segment of buyers in the market. To those buyers — the “it’s only original once” crowd, there’s nothing cooler than original paint that shows its age.

That said, the car world is built on fads, and patina may just be another one. Is it really all that different from the 18-inch wheel Pro-Touring look of the 1990s, the tubbed Pro-Stock look of the 1980s, the fiberglass hood scoop and high-stance Street Machine look of the 1970s, or the Day Two muscle car look from the 1960s?

You can break patina into two categories — Original and Fabricated — and I think the key to whether or not it’s going to stay in style really comes down to how it was created.

To me, fabricated patina never really looks right regardless of how it’s done, and as such it tends to stand out. You may think that showing off spots of primer under that new top-coat is cool now, but the car world is always changing, and I think that visibly added-on wear is going to look about as dated as an airbrushed viking on the side of a van in short order.

The flip side here is wear caused by legit use and time. How long will that stay relevant? That’s a harder question, as there is serious value behind originality — just look at the premiums that Bloomington Gold Survivor Corvettes bring at auction. People will pay for untouched cars, even if heavily weathered.

I think it all boils down to this: Original paint cars, regardless of their condition, will do best to stay as original paint cars in most cases. Bumps, bruises, thin spots, and all are just evidence of a car’s life, and we’ve seen that the money is still there to justify leaving that originality alone.

But if a car’s already been painted once, go ahead and add that patina (or that viking). After all, it’s your car, and it’s only paint. When tastes change, so too can your car.

What do you think of patina? Fad or not? Let’s start the discussion in the comments below.

5 comments

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  1. 5-6 years ago I sold an extremely tired but very original 1959 Corvette on eBay. It had a great ownership story back to new but was a base engine power glide car with a color change paint job in 1961. The black repaint was flaking off showing the original white underneath. It was a very cool barn find. How cool was it?
    After selling it on eBay I took the money plus $100 and bought a professionally ground up restored 1958 290horse Fuelie in near perfect condition.
    Although the 59 had the cool patina barn find vibe I got tired of it rather quickly. The 58 is like driving a new car.

  2. I’d say creating patina is a fad that’s rapidly reaching the 15 minute of fame mark. Genuine vehicles with wear and a story behind it fall into a different category. You can only discuss the mechanical vitals of a car so many times. What makes a car unique is the life and wear they acquire. In short, the owners are what makes the cars special and that’s where genuine patina comes in. You don’t get the wear without a story, but you need to hear the story to appreciate the wear. Otherwise, a whole bunch of tired muscle cars wouldn’t have been restored during the 1990s.

  3. I think it could be a long living fad. It has gained a life of it’s own and having had a few cars that had that great AZ sun baked look I can see why. Of course the strongest reason is the cost and time to get paint done on cars now a days has really created a group of guys to embrace what they have. I had a 67 SS Chevelle that sat in a back yard in So AZ for 12 years the roof, trunk, and hood showed just that too. But the one thing that also showed was me almost anywhere since I had no fear of driving it is since it was not perfect. So, I think more and more of us want to drive these cars and that will only grow the numbers of patina cars.

  4. Patina is a fad. I don’t understand why anyone would want to be seen in a smoky beater, unless that’s all he can afford.

    I’m the fortunate caretaker of a fully restored 1967 Jaguar E-Type roadster, which I’ve owned since 1971, and driven as both used beater in college, and concours champ today. Its condition when I restored it was fully “patina-ed” to the point it was an unpleasant and barely drive-able 62,000 mile “car-cass.”

    I am much happier with my concours queen dressed out in British Racing Green lacquer. She is, essentially, a new car with just under 6,000 miles. I covet both her history as a vehicle that made two cross country trips in her first life as an overworked concubine, and her current life as a gorgeous diva who only entertains when she can be topless in the sun.

    What’s not to like?

  5. Other than for maybe Jerry Seinfeld, It’s a fad. I have tried to get into a mindset of how patenia can be pretty but most often it just isn’t to me, sorry, but I prefer “respectfully restored”.