Whenever I watch a movie or TV show set in an earlier era, all the cars look brand new. In fact, better than brand new; the paint is rich and deep, highly polished. They all look as though they completed a full restoration yesterday. Streets full of cars like this look ridiculous to my eye. Why don't the moviemakers throw a little dust on some of them? Or use some old cars that have not been perfectly restored. Using these perfect cars detracts from the movie, IMHO.

Is this deliberate un-realism or just sloppiness? Other aspects of set-in-the-past movies and TV also tend to look brand new or "better" than they actually did: Paint on buildings, wallpapers, shop signage, etc. I even saw this phenomenon in a scene set in a black section of town in the south before WW2. It was totally implausible that everybody would have had a brand new car.

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    Possibly some filmmakers like to make everything look good, so that film goers can spend a little time in a world where everything looks good instead of in a world where everything looks used. – M. A. Golding Aug 15 '19 at 21:10
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    @M. A. Golding I agree some movies are intended as an escape into a world that never actually existed, but many of these movies are intended to be realistic and are not intended to make the viewer feel good. – Flynn Aug 15 '19 at 21:29
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    I live in LA and used to sometimes park in a garage where a studio kept their movie cars. It was really weird to see a brand-new looking Chevette from the late 70s/ early 80s sitting next to a classic sports car or my relatively modern but beat up Toyota. – user1118321 Aug 16 '19 at 1:45
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    Depends on their goals. Doing a decent paint job that makes it look "better than new" is cheaper than trying to make them look used and weathered. Budget would get eaten up real quick. – DustinDavis Aug 16 '19 at 1:53
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    Many cars are actually borrowed from local or non local owners of people who restored the vehicles. As such they are just...new – morbo Aug 16 '19 at 6:59

Because the owners of the cars keep them like that. I will base my answer on three sources:

  • Barn Find Hunter series by Hagerty on YouTube. In one of the episodes, Tom Cotter visits a collector who has acres of old cars. He lives close to LA with a stash of cars that he take cares of because he rents them for movies, music videos, events, etc. I assume that, like any rental, the cars need to be returned in exactly the same state. It makes no sense to try to "wear" them for movies if that wear could result in real damage. Why they rent? There is a channel called Tavarish where he bought a Lamborghini Murcielago from Fate of the Furious. It was really, really, really, beaten - painted, beaten, painted, glued, painted, and so on - which lead to second source. They had three of them in the film, wrecked two of them, and sold the remaining one at loss.
  • Mighty Car Mods (also a YouTube channel) visited the shop that created some of the cars for Fast and Furious. The cars always appeared new, but were not. The body was created just for the movie if the car need to feature in movie; they usually rented ones appearing in the background. They are painted to order.
  • Third issue is movie continuity. Some scenes can take days, weeks, or even months to film. They are not filmed in "movie chronological order". There are many more things to pay attention to if the car is damaged. Is the dust in the same spot? Are the rust marks the same? With a brand new looking car your only care is that the look is always "pristine".

Also personal opinion. The only "beaten" car culture (especially in USA) is the rat rod which makes it useless to fake typical, if the movie is not about that particular culture. It would be unreasonably time consuming to find cars that are period specific but are not too good looking. Bill Burr said same thing in one of his interview with Conan O'Brian. That in F is for Family he wanted to avoid this fake look that if the time is 1971 everyone have brand new cars that came out in 1971.

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    The continuity argument makes a lot of sense. It would take time and effort to ensure the dust and dirt on a car looked the same in every shot. It's easier just to wash and polish the car regularly. – Flynn Aug 16 '19 at 19:14

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