Driving condition, show quality and concours restoration explained

There are three main recognised categories for classic car restoration. The titles may change but most workshops would recognise these terms and definitions. We are often asked by our clients for a definition of the three types of restoration and in our experience, many people refer to ‘concours’ restoration when in fact they mean a show quality restoration.

The majority of classic car restorations carried out by us (and by most classic car restorers) are show quality for the simple reason that the high costs associated with concours mean that few people can afford to commission them. This high restoration price also naturally limits the types of cars that will allow the restoration costs to be returned or bettered by a finished sale price.

Driving condition:

The vehicle is fully operational but can contain replacement parts and some minor cosmetic differences to a stock vehicle. It may have parts fitted from a later car. Original parts may show their age and could benefit from re-chroming or polishing. Interior fitments like seats and carpets might not be original to the car or the age of the vehicle.

Driving quality cars might well have been restored by a committed hobbyist, rather than a professional restoration business. They may need further work carrying out on them to bring them up to show quality.

Show quality:

This level is only really obtained by hiring professionals rather than relying on hobbyist tools and equipment. In a restoration of this type original or accurate reproduction parts have been used. The car is fitted with components that are correct for the vehicle type and the manufacturing year.

The car will likely have been restored in one phase of work benefitting from new paint, exterior re-chroming and interior restoration.

Concours condition:

This is highest and most professional level of restoration possible. This work is the most expensive type of restoration, and is usually reserved for cars destined for private collections. Body work will have been restored with little or no filler – instead relying on pain staking hand crafted panel restoration and fabrication.

The car will have been stripped to a bare metal shell and a complete restoration of all parts undertaken. Original parts will have been carefully restored and perfect modern replacement parts will have been selected to present a car that is accurate to the day it left the factory. These finished vehicles are typically not driven. The level of cost involved in concours work should not be underestimated but neither should the investment in money and time involved in keeping a concours restored car in that condition. The bills for valeting and transporting concours cars to shows can quickly exceed the initial restoration investment.