I’ll admit that I have quite a blind spot when it comes to Volkswagens – it’s a huge part of the UK’s overall scene that I know very little about. I also don’t really understand much of the ‘rat look’ – as someone who has spent the last 30-odd years battling the ravages of rust, I can’t understand why someone would open the door and invite it in. This book was quite an eye-opener for me.
Let’s start by saying that ‘rat’ and ‘Patina’ are very different. Although all aspects are covered, the author’s holy grail seems to be a totally original vehicle, complete with wear and tear, ideally with beautifully sun-baked paint, that is preserved at that point so it won’t actually get any worse. You can completely restore the underside, detail or modify the motor, drop it in the weeds, whatever you like, as long as the body has that original, unique, unrepeatable Patina. For maximum scene points, it should still be in its original paint, too, and if a bus or van has period company signwriting, then jackpot!
There’s a brief potted history of air-cooled VWs (he doesn’t need to say much – it’s not like the VW story hasn’t been covered in depth before) and a little timeline from the hippie buses and buggies of the Sixties, via Cal-Look and whatnot, to where the scene is today. This explains the differences between rat-look, barn finds, Patina, ‘fauxtina,’ original paint, burned-off paint, burned-off repaint and so on.
It’s not a how-to book; it couldn’t be, as the whole point of these Patina cars and buses is that they’re unique. It does, however, contain sections on how to preserve that Patina via wax, Linseed oil or clearcoat, and sections on how to lower the vehicle and keep it safe and driveable.
The author clearly has a great deal of knowledge on the subject, and, more importantly, a great deal of love for it. He’s bestowed a capital letter on Patina, for heaven’s sake. And, despite my VW blind spot, I really agree with him. I love to see a beautifully restored, concours machine, or a mega modified custom, but each car is only original once; once you restore or modify it, that originality is gone and can never return. Preserving these cars as-found, wearing their life story on the outside and their battle scars with pride, is a beautiful way of ensuring their future without destroying their past.
The book is packed with photos, many of which seem to have been crowd-sourced from all over the world, and the text is readable, enjoyable and enlightening. I’d recommend it to anyone, whether you’re into VWs or not. It does, however, contain that most dangerous of things: opinions. If you’re going to get all triggered by the author’s suggestion that cheap’n’nasty rats are dangerous, then you should get off at the next stop.
Patina Volkswagens, by Mark Walker, is published in hardback by Veloce (www.veloce.co.uk), with a RRP of £30.