Classic Car Conversations with Don McLellan


Here at Velocity we are incredibly lucky to work with experts from all over the automobile world - whether it's racing, auctions, history or restorations we are fortunate to have a window into their worlds.

We are excited to bring you part one of a Q&A with Don McLellan from RM Restorations. When a classic car is entrusted to RM they are there for every step of a restoration. The team researches the history behind the car and can restore, repair or rebuild everything from the trim to the transmission of the special vehicles that cross their shop floor.

This week we asked Don about some classics that have stood out in his mind - you can read about the 1939 Bugatti Type 57 here and tune in to One of a Kind tonight at 9:30 pm E/P to see it happen.

There seem to be two types of classic car fans – those that want to enjoy the car that’s been restored and drive it and those who want museum pieces that remained garaged. Which seems to be the most common?

In the past, it was 50/50 for guys that wanted to drive and those that wanted to put their classic car in a polished collection. At this particular point in time, the trend seems to be moving towards cars for driving, even when it is an investment quality piece. Some of this shift towards driving comes from the show circuit, many of which have participant tours that are an important part of the judging. There is a lot involved in preparing for this component, we drive and thoroughly test the cars, including both open road driving as well as via a chassis dynomometer in our shop to test horsepower, vibrations, leaks, overheating and emissions in order to get the cars to turn-key condition.

 Note: Video should read 1939 Type 57 Bugatti

As you’ve researched into a vehicle’s history preparing for a restoration, have you uncovered any surprises and strange histories? 

Research is a huge part of the process. We spend a lot of time traveling, in libraries (including our own), talking to marque experts, tracking down past owners and scouring coachbuilder records to get the most complete and accurate picture of the car when it was new. Some surprises do come along the way. For example, when researching Mr. Patterson’s black 1939 Type 57 Bugatti that was recently featured on ‘One of a Kind Collection’, we discovered the original body had been removed from the chassis during WWII – the chassis fitted with a different body – and the original body stored in a hay loft in Europe. In the end, the original body and chassis were reunited after 60 years. The original, hand drilled holes lined up perfectly. It was a fun process with a great result. 

Is there a restoration that stands out in your mind?

A restoration that stands out in my mind is a white 1933 Delage, because of the story it has. Built originally as a show car, it was a collaboration between the Delage factory (chassis manufacturers) and the De Villars Factory (coach builders) with an aim to make the very best, no expense spared car possible. The end design was a study in the application of color, shape and material for graceful impact. It won the 1933 concours in Paris and, after the RM Auto Restoration, it won ‘Best of Show’ at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2010. A complete history of the car, as discovered by our research, was produced to accompany the car at Pebble Beach.  


What is big in the restoration world right now?

There is a push for authenticity. Judges are dictating a real desire for the restoration to be done to absolutely authentic standards. This means no unauthentic colors, leathers, or materials. When fully documented, these are the cars that win the shows – which, of course, adds to a car’s desirability. • What dream car have you yet to be asked to restore? Without hesitation, a type 41 Bugatti Royale – there were only six made in the early 30s, all of which all still exist and most of which have been restored in the distant past. Now, each is priceless.

Don't forget to tune in to One of a Kind at 9:30 pm E/P to see the some of RM's work. 

Next week we'll hear post some of Don's insights on restoration work under the hood. In the meantime be sure to stop by the RM website to see some of their amazing work!



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