According to Jonathan Ward, boss of California’s Icon Cars and mastermind of the “Derelict” idiom, these strangely alluring vehicles are all about Wabi-Sabi; a comprehensive Japanese aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience or impermanence. Or, in Top Gear English, celebrating some stuff that looks a bit knackered.
The interesting thing about these careworn old things isn’t that they look ratty. They’re actually a complete reverse of our usual Top Gear style of engineering (ie, take something functional and make it completely impractical). The cars have been entirely reengineered with a modern chassis - featuring 21st century suspension, brakes, drivetrain and technology - so they can be pressed into daily service as useful transport.