When Did Patina Become So Mainstream?

What some people may see as faded paint and dull chrome, others may see provenance and history—in short, patina. What exactly is patina? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Patina's effect on the collector market is also curious, as, on occasion, there have been worn examples of classics that sell for more than their restored counterpoints.

Read about our take on patina, and even how to spot the difference between faded provenance and flat-out rust, over on Classic Motorsports.

What's your take on patina, and how do you define it?

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Comments
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alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/7/20 9:21 a.m.

What I don't get is the fascination of "barn find" condition.  Where the condition is more about really poor storage than being a represneation of what the car would be if used a lot.

And much of those "barn find" conditions are borderline abusive- rust, worn paint, scratches, mouse holes. etc.  That's not patina, that's just crappy storage.

Tyler H (Forum Supporter)
Tyler H (Forum Supporter) UberDork
8/7/20 9:30 a.m.

When everyone has enough FU money to own anything in concours condition, you have to do something to stand out.  Patina is for billionaire hipsters in that context.  

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
8/7/20 9:53 a.m.

I don't like owning a perfect car, because it's no fun to drive, and you can't park it at the grocery store.

I really hate patina cars that have been clear coated to preserve the patina.

I hate rust.

I like not rusty, kinda dull, gently dented cars that are mechanically perfect that I can park at the mall by the front door.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
8/7/20 10:06 a.m.

Menards.  Morris, Illinois. Yesterday.  This patina/rust is acceptable 
 

Trent (Generally supportive dude)
Trent (Generally supportive dude) PowerDork
8/7/20 10:15 a.m.

In the world of restoration, I totally get it in the case of cars like that Aston pictured above.  If that rolled into the shop I would beg them not to restore it.

I think every high end collector has realized they have spent 90% of their time and money undoing the damage of bad restorations. The appeal of an honest, well kept original car that simply needs repair work is huge. 

 

Now this stuff

That is just riding on the coattails of that popularity.  It is the lowest eschelon of the functional original, non restored market, but if you want in that game and can't afford a stunner like the Aston this is where you end up.

 

I honestly feel that the low quality, looks good from 20 feet, quick flip builds for circus like, televised auctions has brought the level of most "restored" cars so low that car enthusiasts will pay a premium for something that hasn't had that treatment.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
8/7/20 10:18 a.m.

It became popular when people stopped enjoying their cars because they couldn't afford perfect Riddler quality paint or grey tweed interior. I'd like to think CarCraft under Frieberger  (or Frieberger in general) popularized it afyer he turned it into JunkyardCraft in the late 90s. 

Purple Frog (Forum Supporter)
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/7/20 10:21 a.m.

In my case 'patina' is when one can't afford a quality paint job.

When most women view my Outlaw Bug they ask, "what color are you going to paint it?"

When men view it they say, "Don't paint it. I love the look of the original 1963 paint."

Will
Will UltraDork
8/7/20 10:26 a.m.

I'm OK with honest patina. This is my dad's (and before that, my grandparents') T-Bird. It was parked in an open carport for decades with the rear end facing south. The original paint is battered, but there's no rust. The car is in great mechanical shape, and given what it would cost to repaint the car properly, I'm fine with the way it looks.

That said, I'm not into gaping rust holes or fake patina.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/7/20 10:27 a.m.

I think originally the appeal of patina had to do with making not being rich cooler in the car scene, but it was quickly coopted anyway by people who spent legit money trying to make faux patina. 

On this 71 Cuda my wife and i have been working on we did something silly that some people might call faux patina. She just wire wheeled the valve cover down to a very inconsistent bare semi-rusty metal finish and cleared over it. I threw the air cleaner in a fire which brought out a lot of weird visual stuff (galvanized maybe?) and i cleared over that. lol

I'll try to remember to take a pic and post it later.

Tom1200
Tom1200 Dork
8/7/20 10:29 a.m.

I consider my Honda 90 to be patina, it's unrestored and there are various small bits not right but this is the way it's been for the last 45 years/ the pinstripes were added sometime in the 70s. I am also not a fan of clear coating rust . Note the 87 Novakar in the background is not patina it's scruffy.

.

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
8/7/20 10:29 a.m.

I look at an old car as I would a book. The story of its time is writ on the surface and sum of its parts. If you can preserve what is there, the  ownership experience is of appreciating what has been and adding to the story rather than erasing  what is on the pages and starting your own story as you would by doing a restoration.

Rat rods are a story unto themselves.

 

As an unsolicited thought, I believe that the word "restoration" is used incorrectly in the car hobby.  "restoration" seeks to preserve what can be saved from the original . Most of what I see in the automotive world is re-building and recreating.

 

 

 

Pete

MrFancypants
MrFancypants Reader
8/7/20 10:47 a.m.
Trent (Generally supportive dude) said:

In the world of restoration, I totally get it in the case of cars like that Aston pictured above.  If that rolled into the shop I would beg them not to restore it.

I think every high end collector has realized they have spent 90% of their time and money undoing the damage of bad restorations. The appeal of an honest, well kept original car that simply needs repair work is huge. 

 

Now this stuff

That is just riding on the coattails of that popularity.  It is the lowest eschelon of the functional original, non restored market, but if you want in that game and can't afford a stunner like the Aston this is where you end up.

 

I honestly feel that the low quality, looks good from 20 feet, quick flip builds for circus like, televised auctions has brought the level of most "restored" cars so low that car enthusiasts will pay a premium for something that hasn't had that treatment.

I disagree about the Jag, that's the one I'd enjoy driving with zero concern. Spend the money on keeping it running and driving well, clean up the interior, and just enjoy it.

SkinnyG (Forum Supporter)
SkinnyG (Forum Supporter) UberDork
8/7/20 11:16 a.m.

Part of me wants to save the "patina" on my '61 Apache (Original Omaha Orange, with Forest Service green lacquer on top), but I can't stand rust, and I have to fix the holes, and I don't want to baby this truck and keep it out of the elements. 

I hate rust.  I hate holes. If I don't deal with the existing rust proper, and prevent the original rust-access from doing its dastardly deed again, it's just going to continue to rust. I hate rust.

In order to blast out the affected areas, and properly seal them, I'd have to fake a significant amount of patina, which seems like more work than just doing the whole thing.

It's it's just faded paint and dents and stuff, I can do patina.  If it's got rust and holes, I can't.

When I painted my '77 Silverado with Tremclad (Alkyd Enamel) and a roller, I knew it was going to oxidize and fade and go chalky, and I wasn't worried because over time it would just look like an old truck (which it is), and I was NOT interested in fixing all the rust properly beforehand.  I didn't love the truck enough.

I love the '61 enough to do it proper.

And if I keep it long enough - the patina will come back.

You want Patina? Spray a contrasting lacquer over it, and then just wait.  It will come.

Patrick (Forum Supporter)
Patrick (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/7/20 11:31 a.m.

My 57 can have "patina" from being a "garage find" aka "E36 M3ty storage practices" because i want to enjoy it for what it is and not spend a fortune making it so nice i freak out every time i want to drive it.  
 

 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
8/7/20 11:34 a.m.

I keep thinking of the HGTV home decorating shows where they would artificially distress things for a "country home" look.

 

Which, to be honest, is kind of insulting.  Kind of like the $200 jeans that look like you owned them for ten years after buying them at Goodwill, because you're broke as hell, times the idea that anybody rural is too poor to own nice things.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
8/7/20 12:27 p.m.

Patina seems like a very pretentious word for my stuff, which is just well used.  I would never suggest the drivers seat of my pickup truck has patina.  It's just worn out.

I'm good with patina.

Everybody should do what they like.

alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/7/20 1:59 p.m.

In reply to MrFancypants :

This whole patina thing isn't about using it and enjoying it- it's that somehow having a patina adds value to the car as it sits.  

As if years of neglect in a barn makes a car special and more valuable.  

Or years and years of sun bleaching makes it more valuable.  

Which I see as very different than an original car, loved and regularly used, with a lot of miles on it- but all original.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa Dork
8/7/20 2:00 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) (Forum Supporter) :

Or, Trigger

 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/7/20 2:09 p.m.

In reply to wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) (Forum Supporter) & Mr_Asa :

Ugh, that whole "relic'd" guitar thing is something else now too. I certainly appreciate the well-used original examples above, but to take a brand-new guitar/parts, artificially wear/age/damage them, and then somehow that adds value to the instrument - I just don't get it. 

ebelements
ebelements Reader
8/7/20 2:59 p.m.

I think the late 90s/early 00s aircooled VW scene did a lot to popularize the patina phenomenon. As far as I know they're still going strong with the look.

That was definitely one of the driving forces of the patina movement moving into the watercooled VW crowd, which is about the time I built a faux-patina car. Clearly I'm a fan of the look, but it has to be either original or employed with a deft hand.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
8/7/20 3:11 p.m.

Rust holes are not patina.

Rust holes are neglect. 

j_tso
j_tso Reader
8/7/20 3:26 p.m.

At the Scrooge McDuck levels of money, they want something no one else has.  "Anyone" can pay for an immaculate restoration, so the next step is having a car that's never been restored.

At the other end of the spectrum, for new cars it's having coachbuilders or special one offs made for them.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
8/7/20 3:35 p.m.
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to MrFancypants :

This whole patina thing isn't about using it and enjoying it- it's that somehow having a patina adds value to the car as it sits.  

As if years of neglect in a barn makes a car special and more valuable.  

Or years and years of sun bleaching makes it more valuable.  

Which I see as very different than an original car, loved and regularly used, with a lot of miles on it- but all original.

'scuse me while I rust the hood on my Jetta

Patrick (Forum Supporter)
Patrick (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/7/20 3:37 p.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

Rust holes are a sign of actual use here in the salt belt.  Not much you can do but prolong the inevitable if you're going to drive something year round, and most cars we consider classic or collectible now were just cars when they were new

MrFancypants
MrFancypants Reader
8/7/20 4:13 p.m.
Patrick (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to Appleseed :

Rust holes are a sign of actual use here in the salt belt.  Not much you can do but prolong the inevitable if you're going to drive something year round, and most cars we consider classic or collectible now were just cars when they were new

Our '85 Toyota Celica had a whole lot of "patina holes" after a few years of normal use in Illinois.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
8/7/20 5:13 p.m.

In reply to Pete. (l33t FS) :

Scuse me, while me while I rust STi.

AaronT
AaronT New Reader
8/7/20 5:52 p.m.

In reply to j_tso :

Or there's the absurdity of the Singer Porsches. Some people do have too much money.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
8/7/20 6:55 p.m.

 

BG chassis is always the relative alternative to the answer. 

alfadriver (Forum Supporter)
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/7/20 7:10 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to MrFancypants :

This whole patina thing isn't about using it and enjoying it- it's that somehow having a patina adds value to the car as it sits.  

As if years of neglect in a barn makes a car special and more valuable.  

Or years and years of sun bleaching makes it more valuable.  

Which I see as very different than an original car, loved and regularly used, with a lot of miles on it- but all original.

'scuse me while I rust the hood on my Jetta

As long as it's appied to the car with love...  

To each his own, but I won't buy an forotten and neglected car for more money than a decent one is worth, that's for sure.

tremm
tremm Reader
8/7/20 7:26 p.m.

My memory only dates back to the mid-to-late 00's. At that time it was vw guys who were clear coating hoods they purposefully rusted. That transferred to Honda guys.

I remember billet-proof, but I don't remember if it was a forum, car show, or what. I'm guessing that was related to rockabilly stuff, which is probably where patina of varying levels will always have a home

 

I like seeing the level of patina originally posted- or at least seeing a variety of conditions at car shows that isn't just polished & stored. I'm not much into seeing fauxtina. 

When I see local car shows of... Like 56 Chevy's that are all identically shining, it bores me and kind of creeps me out. Kinda like seeing a display at a toy convention with all the toys in their original packaging & people obsessing over the condition/rarity/price rather than the other avenues the object can represent.

I have no problem with Pebble Beach/Monterey though; I'm glad they exist.

msterbeau
msterbeau New Reader
8/10/20 8:42 a.m.

You can equate this to things like gentrifying a neighborhood or certain other kinds of trendy behavior.  There are always people who, because of a few things - individualism, creativity... lack of money... (Usually all of those and more) see the possibilities and beauty in things that the vast majority of people don't. These people are the artists and weirdos and eccentrics of society. (I'm sure there is a car culture version of this type of person) And rather than cover it up or "improve" it they celebrate it as it is. 

Sooner or later a few astute people with money notice what these people are doing and deliberately set out to pay hommage to it, in their way.  Slowly the masses see what's going on and copy as well, but usually they do so because it's trendy, not really because of an authentic appreciation. At some point it becomes a distorted reflection of itself and the trend collapses.

Even the use of the word "patina" is trendy.  Patina used to apply to the oxidation of copper and brass.  Then some clever person decided to use it to describe some well-worn object they saw.  Others picked up on that.  Now people use it for anything with a little dust and a few scratches on it.

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe PowerDork
8/10/20 9:31 a.m.

Thew high end market is not chasing patina. It is chasing originality.  Just look at what some of the vintage Porsche race cars are bringing in as raced condition. 

The middle market is chasing trends and Patina will die out. Just like flat black will and just like in some ways over restored riddler cars will as well.

The bottom end is just rust with better marketing. 

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
8/10/20 10:08 a.m.

There's a fine line between "Patina" and "Pile of Rusty Crap". Both my project vehicles are drunkenly stumbling on that line every day.





I dig actual patina and love "barn finds", not the fake, manufactured BS. People right now will pay a severe premium for originality, and sometimes that comes with patina and rust. One thing I really love is the new trend of people buying old, terrible trash that hasn't run in years, getting it running, and driving it home. There are a few YouTube channels that cater to that, and I find it fascinating. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
8/10/20 6:22 p.m.

In reply to wearymicrobe :

As long as people have stolen pickup cabs/beds to swap onto their trucks, flat black (and camo) will never die.

BlueInGreen - Jon (Forum Supporter)
BlueInGreen - Jon (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
8/10/20 6:48 p.m.

I was done when I heard someone, not jokingly, refer to an exhaust leak as, “mechanical patina.” I think it was in a YouTube video.

No, exhaust is just broken.

I do sometimes like the way faded paint looks on an old car.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/10/20 8:10 p.m.

IMO "patina" cars look like crap unless it's some kind of totally-original paint on a well-used car (not a rusty barn find that's clearcoated, or even worse the "man made patina"

Then again, I also don't get the people who spend $20k making their paint so perfect they're afraid to even drive the car. ESPECIALLY people with "off-roaded-out" vehicles with perfect paint lol...

I'd rather have a $500 home-garage paint job that looks good from 10 feet and has a few scuffs and scratches here and there from use. Basically, my Porsche. Paint is there to keep the metal from rusting, basically. Beyond that as long as it looks decent at a glance, that's good enough for me. 

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe PowerDork
8/10/20 8:17 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:

In reply to wearymicrobe :

As long as people have stolen pickup cabs/beds to swap onto their trucks, flat black (and camo) will never die.

People still paint mini trucks in tribal. The folly of man, or a sucker born every second. Not sure which applies here. 

Torkel
Torkel Reader
8/11/20 2:41 a.m.

I like the patina look, if it is done right. A -50s or -60s car with the paint burned off by the sun and a light layer of surface rust here and there can look really cool - And yes, I'd clear coat it. A car with rotten wheel arches and holes in the floor is not cool, it is just rusty. 

Just as there is beauty in well-engineered mechanical components, there is a certain beauty in a machine that has aged naturally from use (not abuse) and the elements. In a sort of "Function before form" kind of way. 

Also: Anyone with the cash can go and buy a restored car... but few can show up with their grandfathers car and say "I'm keeping it looking just the same as when he lived". It's still running strong, it has been maintained, loved and cared for, but also used - respect!

 

The problem over here is the same as in the rust belt area: The cars don't rust or age in a romantic and elegant kind of way, at all. We get rust in the sills and wheel arches, subframes, fenders, the bottom of the doors and so on. The sun is not strong enough to burn away the clear coat, so the roofs, bonnet and quarters stay good, while the car rot from underneath: very, very unsexy. 

TIGMOTORSPORTS
TIGMOTORSPORTS Dork
8/11/20 5:04 a.m.

Run watcha brung.

In other words, drive what you have rather than look at what you are not.

Clean it, tune it, drive it, enjoy it. 

It's also like art to many. There are many different types of patina, whether it is natural or man made or modified or a combination of all the above.

jerrysarcastic (Forum Supporter)
jerrysarcastic (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/11/20 5:56 a.m.

I’m 70/30 where it come to patina  Most of the time I think it looks somewhere between pretty good and totally bad ass, but sometimes it’s downright hideous. I can also honestly admit I’m 70/30 about shiny paint jobs too, so I guess it’s totally subjective.

After years of driving sketchy projects, these days it matters more to me if my car is mechanical sound and functional first. I’d have a shiny paint job if the budget allowed, but its not a requirement.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
8/11/20 6:52 a.m.

Patina as a trend is a purely cosmetic thing. While I really love an unrestored car that wears it's years well leaving something looking like crap to be part of the latest trend isn't the same thing.

I've owned a restored car and it was a giant PITA, frankly. Keeping it mint and antiseptically clean at all times plus the constant worry that something would befall it (and in my case, a falling clothes tree in the garage did) sucked a lot of fun out of the ownership experience.

I think Freiburger has it right, though living in California and having access to the American west for cars is much different than the garbage I encounter where I live. I wrote about this on my blog awhile ago:  Is Roadkill Saving The Old Car Hobby?

When I had my '65 F100 some of the most appealing aspects of that truck (repainted exterior once in it's life) was the worn paint on the steering wheel and driver door interior. It told a story. Like others have mentioned however is that I couldn't tolerate the rust holes. The expense of fixing them (roof gutters) or replacing parts (hood) with the accompanying necessity of painting caused me to eventually sell it. If it had just been worn paint it wouldn't have grated on me.

These days I'm seeking out the no-rust-through example of a car or truck but don't care if the paint is shiny or not. I like the freedom of having something that it won't matter if someone's jacket zipper scratches it. A good ten foot, amateur level repaint is also okay provided it isn't hiding sins. One thing I can't abide though is a flat black primer paint job. That has always screamed "I did all the body work but was too cheap to finish it with actual paint".

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
8/11/20 2:51 p.m.
alfadriver (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to MrFancypants :

This whole patina thing isn't about using it and enjoying it- it's that somehow having a patina adds value to the car as it sits.  

As if years of neglect in a barn makes a car special and more valuable.  

Or years and years of sun bleaching makes it more valuable.  

Which I see as very different than an original car, loved and regularly used, with a lot of miles on it- but all original.

I agree.  I was thinking that the whole patina thing had gone away and died in a corner of a barn but I guess I was wrong.  Sounds like it is alive and well.  In my opinion rust in any form does not add value to anything.  Then again I have lived in the rust belt for a long time so I have a bit of a bias when it comes to rust.  

 

 

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