Placards: Fact or Fiction | Hemmings Daily

Richard Lentinello

One of the most entertaining parts of any concours is reading the placards placed at the front of each car on display. These snippets of information are supposed to inform spectators about the cars they are viewing, but oftentimes, the information shown is more historical generalization than the personal history of the actual car on display. A combination of the two would be ideal.

What’s most frustrating are the false assumptions that some car owners use to elevate the status, rarity, and value of their cars by stating details that are totally unfounded. It would be a labor-intensive task for concours organizations — most of which are short on staff—to verify and rewrite all the placard information provided by car owners. At the very least a little bit of editing is in order, so spectators are not misled.

The biggest falsehood often seen on placards is when a car owner states: “…of the 365 cars built, this is one of only four remaining.” Really? And how in the world does the car owner know that? Unless he checked every garage, barn, building, and field in every town and city, in every country, on every continent, there’s no way to accurately state how many survived. Although there are several very limited-production cars whose survival status can be verified, such as Ferrari 250 GTOs and Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles, for the vast majority of automobiles it’s simply impossible to know.

The phrase “known to exist” is the correct terminology that needs to be written down on these placards, and in magazines, club newsletters, websites, and auction catalogs, too. In other words, the above statement should be written as: “…of the 365 cars built, this is one of only four known to exist.” For the sake of history, we all need to do our part in being as truthful and forthright as possible.

Another misleading fact is when a car’s true production output is not mentioned, only that of the exact particular model on display. Using a 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge convertible as an example, instead of stating, “one of 17 built,” the truth is that Pontiac produced 661 GTO convertibles for the 1971 model year, therefore, the correct statistic should be written as: “Of the 661 GTO convertibles built this year, this car is one of only 17 equipped with the Judge option.” Without mentioning the 661-production figure, spectators will be misled into believing that only 17 1971 GTO convertibles were built.

Perhaps the most misleading word of all is “original.” It’s amazing how many times we’ve read placards that stated: “…completely original, new paint and interior.” What should have been written instead is: “…restored to original condition.” If a car has new paint and a reproduction interior, how can that be considered original? That shiny new paint and perfect upholstery is not original to the car and clearly wasn’t on the car when it first rolled off the assembly line, therefore it’s not original.

Although the least astute word in the collector-car hobby is “longroof”—that’s the so-called “cool” description of a station wagon— and using it only reinforces the dumbing down of our society, I cringe every time I read the phrase, “only 67,000 miles on the clock.” Last I checked, clocks don’t record a car’s mileage, only the odometer does. Speaking of mileage, I often wonder why people use the phrase “original miles”? What does that really mean? Rarely can a car’s mileage be proven, so what’s the point of saying those miles are original miles?

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