Galvayne’s Groove and Integrity

From Our Motoring Correspondent

There is a saying that “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it is a duck”. This does not seem to apply to with veteran cars.

Clearly the number of original veteran cars is few. Many of those that have survived were modified or changed before the intrinsic values of these cars were appreciated. However, other things are rare too such as Victorian furniture but this has not resulted in the standards of valuation including dating to be debased. No reputable antique dealer or auctioneer would sell a Victorian extension table as a genuine original antique if only most of it is original. Similarly, if 10 Victorian Chairs were made out of 9 originals and one new, dated all to 1891 and sold as such, the dealer would soon loose his reputation. In addition to reputation, this approach avoids potential litigation and leads to the preservation of antiques and if necessary their sensitive restoration. There are some who want to create something of value out of discarded components and represent it as a genuine car.

The definition of veteran as stated in the VicRoads Club Permit application form seems unambiguous: “manufactured before January 1919”. However, that description has been redefined to enable cars, manufactured in say 2005, to classify as veterans. They only need an originality of components of in the order of say 70% or less in “exceptional circumstances”, from an unspecified number of donor vehicles. The “veteran” can also to be accorded a manufacturer’s date a hundred years earlier. It is a case of veterans being manufactured by definition.

There have always been problems in establishing integrity. In 1880, not long before the time the first automobile was about to start replacing the horse, Sydney Galvayne travelled through Europe making a living ageing horses at sales and for buyers by examining their teeth. Chinese drawings as early as 700 BC show horses mouths’ being examined to determine their age and perhaps that is where the saying “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” came from. There are many telltale signs of a horse’s age: his eyes; his jaw; the angle of, and the shape of the top of his teeth. Some traders pulled the milk teeth of young horses to make the horse look older whilst others practiced “bishoping”, that is drilling new cups in the top of old teeth and filling them with a new looking material. However, the one telltale sign that has proved to be reliable, although it has been challenged recently, is Galvayne’s Groove which is located on the lateral surface of the third upper incisor. It appears first near the gum at 10 years, extends halfway down the incisor at 15 years, right down at 20 years and by 30 years it has disappeared altogether. Better horse registration has now reduced reliance on Galvayne’s Groove but it seems that there is no equivalent for either when assessing vintage cars.

Replicas can have great appeal. There is the replica Barque “Endeavour” which we enjoy when it sails to our shores and takes part in re-enactments, and of course the famous “Genevieve” of the film which took its name. People only became upset when it was discovered that the only thing original in her was her chassis.

It is all an issue of integrity, a matter that we hold so dear to our hearts.