cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Know these 4 common muscle car restoration gaffes to save yourself a costly mistake

Do you find yourself lost when trying to learn concours-caliber details about cars? Are you filled with self-doubt when checking out a car for purchase, especially from afar? You're not alone, fellow enthusiast! But rather than focus on the nitty gritty that's out of your league, why don't we hone on the things that are easy to discern and go from there?
https://www.hagerty.com/media/buying-and-selling/common-muscle-car-restoration-gaffes-noticing-these...
96 REPLIES 96
hyperv6
Racer

There is no excuse for any mistakes on most of these cars with all the documentation or information available today.

No matter what if you are restoring do the homework.
Tyroma77
New Driver

I agree with this comment. I have restored a bunch of cars over the years, and I always do a ton of homework on a little details. Not everybody notices them, but guys like me do.
My very first classic car was a 1968 GTO. It was painted carrousel red, and sported “the judge” decals. When I got it home, the engine wasn’t even cold before I was peeling off the judge decals, as that model did not appear until 1969. Couldn’t bear the thought of somebody thinking I was responsible for that goof up!!
Snailish
Instructor

Not muscle car per se, but that part of the article headline isn't really the gist of the point of the article (to me) anyways...

-Just saw a 59 Pontiac for sale with the inside of the headlight portion of the grill painted body colour (red). These were a satin-ish grey/silver from what I have seen.

You see it a lot on older trucks where things are chrome that weren't, body colour that should be white and so on.

Often see squarebody era dog dish hubcaps on older trucks. Not a problem, but funny when the ads say "all original". (true of the above examples too).

Squarebody boxes are all the same... but not really (gas doors vary in style, location and number depending on year/spec). Multiple tailgate stampings. There is the one year with yellow lines inside the trim and so on.

I'm not into restoring things to the point of having the regionally correct rad cap (or whatever), but if you are that serious then you need to really research. Mustangs from the 60s can have different tags on various parts depending on which plant/area it came from --not a problem on a true "all original" car but you can find yourself tricked if you have a car from across the country with different tags or markings than the local examples.
hyperv6
Racer

To be fair many are not going for 100% accurate  restorations either.

 

Some will take liberty with parts from various years to get the look they like. Then there is resterods and customs. Along with clones. 

It is only those going for the 100% perfect factory cars that need to match the standard.

Snailish
Instructor

Yeah, I am a great believer in do whatever you want to/with your car.

 

But don't misrepresent when selling it down the line. More of an issue with the clones, though the recent years increase in hype on survivors does mean knowing actually original vs. faked might matter too.

 

How much it matters probably depends on how much you are paying for that originality too.

 

The auction TV world confuses some that # matching engine is a thing for everything. It's not. Most older collector cars you have a date range on the engine and no real proof it is the factory installed engine. Even if it is... for most cars that is just a fun fact and not a big value changer.

 

Totally different for the high end musclecars where there is paperwork proving provenance. 

Tinkerah
Engineer

Yes and yes. If it were so valuable I'd auction it off and get a base model to change to the way I like and be $$ ahead. I'd resent not being "allowed" to use a stripe that I preferred just because it was "incorrect".
77GL
Detailer

Common attitude and exactly why correct vehicles command premiums.
DUB6
Specialist

   Although I'd never get so involved in these levels of "restoration", I do enjoy reading articles about the arcane details that can mean "is it real, or is it Memorex"...  And even more fun to me is the thought that some restorers and collectors can keep reams of this type of information in their heads.

   Personally though, I don't really care about most of this crap.  As I remember it, most people I knew who were buying new muscle cars in that era were changing stuff on them almost immediately.  Nobody I knew who showed up on the streets on a Friday night in a new Road Runner or Chevelle was worrying about decals on the air cleaners.  In fact, most factory air cleaners we replaced with aftermarket stuff on the way home from the dealership.  We were Restomodders before the term was even invented!

   It's fun to read about, but for the 99% of us who just want nice looking, fun-to-drive cars, it's pretty irrelevant in the big scheme.  Just like we did in the day, I'm more into "do what you want to make the car more fun, more drivable, more 'you'".

Smilodon
Instructor

Agree 100%. I think the problem lies with those looking for Barrett Jackson money for their "frame off restoration" (often claimed for unibody cars- arrrrgh) home built, throw every option salad cars. If it's one- ONE!- spec different from the as born build sheet, it's a restomod. Put front discs on that all drum Mopar? Restomod. Put Rally 2 wheels on that '66 GTO? Restomod. Yeah, picky. But when you're asking close to or over six figures for cars that sold for under $6k, and were made to be used up, picky will save your bank account.
BUQUICK
New Driver

Great article Mr. Rosenberg.
A common mistake in the GTO world is reproduction raised white letter tires, usually Good Year Polyglas GTs, on an otherwise concours restored ‘69 GTO. Only redline (.350”), white stripe (.350”), or black wall tires were factory installed on a ‘69 GTO. The raised white letters were not offered on a GTO until 1970.
MoparMarq
Advanced Driver

I don't know how GM or Ford handled this, but Chrysler performance vehicles had blackout paint applied on the radiator yoke for cars that were light-colored. Dark colored cars didn't have the treatment, as the color generally couldn't be seen through the grille. I personally find it quite distracting, and a subtraction from the look of the car, to see body-colored paint on the yoke through the grille of the car. Richard Ehrenberg, a technical editor of Mopar Action magazine, and pretty much a guru of knowledge about Mopars, never fails to mention this on any car featured in the magazine that has this oversight. On white cars, the oversight looks particularly hideous.
merlebalke
Advanced Driver

My favorite are cars supposedly restored to factory specs that feature fit and finish far superior to anything the factories ever turned out. A few years back I was visiting a shop in the Phoenix area that was doing a Pontiac for a customer. The paint job was just average and the shop told us that the owner wanted it that way, so it would look more authentic.
autowriter
Detailer

Unless the car is a genuine survivor, as a general rule concours judges will not detract from a higher quality paint job than the original car had. Modern paint is simply better and gives a better finish.
Snailish
Instructor

Well getting factory-correct orange peel and overspray is an art form not all would pay for. 

Rider79
Technician

That's funny. Let's dumb down the paint so it looks original. Wonder if the shop charged less because of that? ;<)
77GL
Detailer

Good point. There is not a single Mopar of the era that did not have paint runs on the firewall. Today they would never waste that much paint but originality after 50 years still rules. Deviations are largely just excuses.
Jimboriffic
Intermediate Driver

We are all adults here. Can we please quit using phrases like “would be a no-no” in our adult conversations and writings? We’re not four years old.
JBBearcat
Detailer

Have you ever written for a magazine?
There is nothing wrong with writing in a conversational style.
(I try to avoid too common of phrases or cliches).
Good writers try to make their pieces read like something other than a technical or assembly manual.
Tinkerah
Engineer

I'm gonna hafta give that thought a once-over.
jasper4247
Pit Crew

I agree with Bearcat in that I like a conversational style of writing in articles that I read, but I completely understand your sentiment. As a baseball fan, I cringe every time I hear a sportscaster refer to a no-hitter as a no-no, or a strikeout as a punch out. Please stop.
Rider79
Technician

To me, a "punch out" is an ejection from a plane. When I was working by the hour, many people said they were "punching out". Oftentimes, phrases end up with many meanings, I guess.
Diego
Advanced Driver

I believe there's some cultural history of baseball and the term. Witness this documentary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUpTpTDYNko
Smasher
Intermediate Driver

Jim, not sure you're reading the room very well
Diego
Advanced Driver

I'm sorry you don't appreciate my prose, Daddy-O.
autowriter
Detailer

Some years back, I was on a concours judging team looking at Triple Nickle Chevrolets. It came down to two -- a 57 Bel Air 2-door hardtop and a black 57 FI convertible. Both were done extremely well. Given the judging criteria, we could have handed the Best In Class win to the convertible, given its rarity. But.... In the restoration, the owner had repainted the engine compartment in the same sheen as the body. Quite clearly, it should have been done in 60 sheen -- a sort of semi-gloss instead. The four-person team discussed that for about 20 minutes. It came down to this -- the convertible was owned by another judge at the same event. (He didn't judge this class.) As a judge, he should have known he was doing the wrong sheen even though he had the correct color. It didn't look bad -- in fact the paintwork was quite well done. But it was still wrong as a concours restoration. So we gave the class win to the hardtop. It wasn't as rare, but was done correctly throughout, including the sheen on the engine compartment color. This may seem like a small thing to some, but it's important not only to do the correct color according to the build plate, but also to apply the correct sheen. I ran into this with my own Corvair restoration. I have seen the engine compartment done in high gloss on several restorations, but it's simply Not correct. Details matter.
Snailish
Instructor

You give an interesting point of view... insight into a world I am not part of (not sure how to say it).

 

-On one hand I am fascinated by the minutia but have no aspirations to live that life.

 

-I find it bizarre that rarity of the vehicle would matter at all. If the best 67 Camaro in the world is the most common spec on record so what? Counting rarity actually discourages people from taking a really great car to concours level because if it is not going to be judged on its merits as a quality example (rather than some imposed pedigree of rarity) take a pass and only do the rarest things.*

 

Besides... some things that were common are rare survivors. Personally, seeing 5 red 57 Bel Air convertibles done up to superb quality isn't that interesting after the first one.

 

*I get that a 1 of 1 handbuilt body full classic era car restoration to concours level there is some logic in "that is harder to pull off" than a Model T in theory, but the post I am responding to is talking about regular factory production tri-five Chevs.

autowriter
Detailer

Rarity is given only a slight small bonus, more as a tie-breaker than anything else.  In a restoration, doing a rarer car properly is somewhat more difficult than doing a more common variant of the same car.  (If for no other good reason than finding and fitting the correct parts for the rarer car is more difficult, more expensive and takes more work to do it properly.)  But the bonus isn't much, and as was our case, it was the more common but better-done car that took the BiC trophy.  Not that the FI convertible wouldn't also have been deserving of it.  Had the hardtop been anything less than perfectly done, the win would have gone to the convertible.  But that's the whole point of concours judging in the first place.  At non-concours shows, I suspect the convertible would have won every time.  In your example of 5 red 57 Bel Air convertibles all lined up, the challenge of differentiation would have to come down to minutiae in order to make the final BiC determination.  For a spectator, they may all appear the same.  To someone with the responsibility of judging, it's a different sort of challenge entirely.  

Snailish
Instructor

Good response, thank you.

Smilodon
Instructor

Thank you. If you claim restoration, it HAS to be as born. Otherwise, restomod.
abingdon
Pit Crew

Having owned a Firebird 400 from new, I can attest it did not have an HO stripe. I can also attest that the car had terrific acceleration and very dangerous handling. It was an imminent rollover in the corners and a beast to maneuver. But then, you know that.
Smilodon
Instructor

Had a close '70's highschool friend who's Porsche owning oral surgeon father, on hearing son's complaints that his 400/auto '68 Firebird "couldn't keep up" had a B&M shift kit and performance converter put behind a pro built, cammed, intake/exhaust modified 455 HO in said Firebird, which incidentally was painted a gorgeous aftermarket pearl white. With the obligatory '70's airshock rake, traction bars, and Ansen slots with fat & skinny bias plys, it was, in a word, lethal. On the plus side, the 3.?? series posi axle would deliver forest fire level burnouts, and at halfway to redline held in second it would spin donuts (cookies) until the tires popped or it ran out of gas. I believe it is a credit to my friend's maturity (fear?) that he survived to attend college. Squirrelly on pavement, it was *fun* in the rain- and in Indianapolis it got driven in snow as well. I believe that it was 40 years ahead of time- with a modified steering system and modern tires, it would have been a brilliant drift car.
Jstollf1
Pit Crew

Mopar engine bays in the muscle care era are painted body color. I see engine bays painted black on Mopar's while trying to be passed off as a "restorations".
JBBearcat
Detailer

Even more to the point...
Take care to properly undo all the silly "day two", high school kid and "bubba" mods.
If you leave those in, even minor ones, or even have upgrades you like (modern sound systems, K&N filters, color), don't come to me complaining when your car doesn't bring the big bucks at auction.
Snailish
Instructor

Everything I have done to my 69 Mustang has been in the spirit of "Day 2".

 

Fun for me, and way better looking than the "day 3 rotting in a driveway not moving or able to" look I bought it with.

 

I won't complain about what it sells for though, proper restoration is the timeless safe thing. People that know what they are doing can make money on some things resto-modded. Most people shouldn't even think about vehicles as an investment.

MustangJim
Technician

I prefer day 2 cars and I think that they are coming up in value. Day two is as they we're back when new. All of these muscle cars with dog dish hubcaps, etc... The only reason they came with povery caps is because the person who bought it did not want to pay for the "full hub caps" or the "magnum 500's" because the Cragers or Tourque Thrusts we're already home and waiting....headers, manifold and carb we're next! Then, youd' loose a few races..time for a cam..etc... the never ending battle. But I am all in on day 2. I'm for a special class just for them.
Smilodon
Instructor

Even though you have fallen to Ford, as a lifelong GM/GTO guy I live and love your comment. I didn't buy it to bank it, I bought it because I love it, and I'm going to make it exactly as I want. IMO, the dog dish caps only belong on those evil Hemi or 440+6 Mopars with police steelies. And yes, I've seen those taillights a couple of times. Curses.
Smilodon
Instructor

Yes! This!
tobaccokid
New Driver

Very simple - pick a restorer who is one the best, and who has a judging (only national organization) and customer judging records to substantiate their "reputation". As someone who has owned different makes here is a very general rule - there are absolutely no more than five on the very best list in the whole US for any make/model. If you are in doubt, ask me how I know.
Smilodon
Instructor

You must have Elon Musk's own budget. Congratulations, but most of us don't.
MJO911
New Driver

I am not a Muscle Car guy, but have the utmost respect for the looks and performance of this rolling American history. As a concours guy, I really enjoyed the detail contained in this article...well done!
DUB6
Specialist

And I enjoyed reading a comment from someone who knows how to spell concours.

Diego
Advanced Driver

Versus concourse?
DUB6
Specialist

yeah... you know, that long hall-like passageway at the airport, leading to the boarding gates...  😁

Diego
Advanced Driver

My Francais is not good but I do have that je ne sais quoi at times. 😄
DUB6
Specialist

Tre bon!

Smilodon
Instructor

Um, not to put too fine a point on it, but it's: "Tres bon".
DUB6
Specialist

You are so right.  I apologize!  😊

wickedace
Pit Crew

Restoration is either of two camps (maybe three) "make it my way" to get the look/style or "how it should have been ". Total OCD where every nut bolt piece & part needs be just as it was off the factory floor in 19**. The third I mention is more in the "make it my way" camp. The person restoring but may be budget or even safety conscious., borrowing from different years or models to get his project done. I have done this with my '64 T-bird convertible. I like the lines and small differences of the '64 T-bird it is why I sought it out. The brakes are another matter. I just wasn't comfortable with the drum brakes in front for a few reasons. The '65 model year had front disc brakes and if you dug a bit dual piston calipers could be had.

DUB6
Specialist

Well, I think most of us don't call the third way "Restoration" - rather, it's known as "Restomodding".  And it's what a TON of people have decided to do - for safety, driveability, reliability, efficiency - lots of reasons.  We used to do it back in the '60s and '70s - we just didn't know what to call it!  😀