I am happy hearing someone else make the same point I have when discussing original versus restomod. Sad to take a $30 or $40,000 GTO and cut it up when you can use a $3,000 Le Mans and end up with the same $60,000 restomod.
There may be another, more visceral reason that originality is important to some car guys and gals. In this age of artificial intelligence, deep fakes, digital enhancements, computer generated images and ‘fake news’ (regardless of which side of the political spectrum you lean), there is something to be said for authenticity. This is it. The real deal. Unmodified and true. It may lack the handling, reliability and conveniences of a modern car, but that’s ok. We all most likely own a modern vehicle. But then, we also bought this old thing, too.
A "barn find" '83 Chevy Scottsdale short box pickup has just turned up. Owned since new by a now 88 year old gent who can't drive anymore. A good #2 + truck with only 32000 miles on it. Equipped with factory rally wheels,side moldings, and those aluminum running boards that were so popular 20 years ago. It's a 305 automatic. It's a sweetheart. Already there's a guy looking at it with the idea of swapping in a Corvette mill, bla bla bla. I need another collectable like I need three eyes, but I might buy this one just to save it.
Original and real are a big deal, and paperwork is King. That said I have seen a car with all the right paperwork but rotted beyond saving dismantled, all of it's VIN tags removed and then moved over to a solid lesser model. That car was then upgraded with the correct parts to make it into the car the VIN tags said it was. We aren't talking dash tag only here, were talking ALL the VIN tags including the firewall, the ones welded to the underside of the car and from inside the seats. Not only is this unethical, it is also illegal, but we all know it happens and without an expert that can figure out what happened people will get ripped off by these fakes, this type of fake is a lot easier on a fully restored car where good bodywork and paint can hide the grafting work. This is also proof that paperwork can lie and a patinaed car might be more original than a perfect restoration. Just saying.
I never really considered rust and rot original, very few cars rolled out the factory that way and most history is with the first owner. Dings, dents, tears, and rips done by the third or fourth owner does not interest me. I completely understand preserving materials and craftsmanship that aren't available anymore or have some history to them. Damage that tells an important story are worth preserving, and I do like patina on military, police, or hired vehicles like cabs, as that is part of their story. On the modification theme I have to say if you pick up a drill to perforate a classic car's body work to fit running boards, a truck sun visor or a wing...please stop...and think about what you're doing.
Born and almost raised in Illinois. Many new cars of the 70s-80s came prerusted and rusted more on the showroom floor. So a restored Vega, Pinto, AMC wouldn't be original unless the rockers and most of the car has holes and brown jagged metal on it.
This idea isn't new by any standard, but if you have the room, and if you are "updating" a collector era vehicle, keep all the old parts so if and when you go to sell it, the next owner has the option of not only taking all the crap you ripped out to make it "original original" again, but you can appeal to more Buyers that way. I have a 1979 dodge power wagon, a macho wagon, for my most recent addition. On the dyno it pulled 150 hp with the original 360 2bbl in it. For a 4800lb rig that is simply not acceptable. The 440 block I found was from a '77 RV, and the resulting 500 hp 440 that just got dropped in (well, it took 8 months, and is almost done....) will be a huge improvement. When I sell it, the new buyer can take the 360 too, I have it on a stand and it is bagged up and waiting to come back, like Han Solo in the carbon.
Excellent, logical and well presented article. Some folks balk at the term “original”. They will say, “it didn’t look like that when it was new”. That misses the point. “Preserved” is a better way to describe it. You keep the history of the vehicle. If it’s too far gone for preservation; fine— restore it.
A few years ago I began collecting 60s & 70s Honda motorcycles. I wanted very nice original motorcycles with low mileage without modifications. If they had been modified or "repaired" with incorrect parts you would never know how well the work was done. Probably not very well. I would clean the bikes, replace deteriorated parts with original used parts whose patina matched the rest of the bike. Newly chromed parts stick out like a sore thumb. In the end I want as nice a bike that I was willing to ride but not abuse. For me I enjoy people seeing the bikes as they were ridden when nearly new. I once restored a 1958 Corvette that was too nice to drive. I restored the fun out of it! I will not do that again. In the end everyone should do what pleases them and enjoy the car or bike as they wish.
You know I really get the original think. I learned it when helping a neighbor with his 1981 4 speed Camaro. It was not just rare with a 4 speed but also because it had only 11k miles. He had Alzheimer’s and wanted to go fo4 rides as he no longer could drive so I drive him around.
We took the car to a Camaro show and there is I was reminded how bad the 1981 Camaro was built. We had a show room fresh car never saw rain but the paint had major orange peel. The carpet did not fit and the glove box was crooked.
I had judged this show for years and yet I forgot how bad most of these cars were originally.
Cars like Dennis had were the measure of what original was and needed to be compared.
Even my Pontiac has some mods but most are factory prototype parts. Even half the paint is original GM. I try to preserve much, my engine is as factory and we used it to put another similar car back to factory in wires and details.
But it is not a sin to modify cars, it is a choice. There is no right or wrong here. It is the owners prerogative just as making the choice Ford or Chevy VW or Ferrari. These choices must be respected.
I admire cars of all makes and all states of modification or stock condition. I respect the owners for their choice. While some may not be my taste it is some one else pride and joy so we need to protect this sacred choice.
It takes all of us to make up this hobby and we need to stick together moving forward as being an auto enthusiast is becoming more difficult than it once was.
I really respect a owner of an unrestored car. It takes real strength not to do a frame off full resto. It is something I admire but may never own as I am not sure I have the strength to not bring it back to like new condition. There are enough restored cars needing more restored again that are available.
We have already learned that you can assemble a 69 camaro from the ground up from mail order parts. What makes a real 69 camaro special is that it is a real 69 camaro There are always cases where the condition of an old car is such that the drivetrain is not salvageable and the cost of replacement with original exceeds the value of the car, but every time someone pulls an original drivetrain out of a functional car and replaces it with a Vortec because they don't want to have to pump the pedal before they start the car, it is a bell that cannot be unrung. I think the collectors of the next generation are going to be disappointed with what a lot of the collectors of this generation have done with old cars in the name of convenience
Sometimes it's about the memory, not the money. My current, and last, project is that kind of car. It is The car I bought the night before I went to Viet Nam the second time. The addition of a power top didn't improve it. The addition of a turbo engine didn't improve it. I just wanted it as it was. Same color, same equipment, same sound, same everything. I was willing, and fortunately, able to pay to get it Precisely as it was. NOS or good reproduction parts. Original pattern vinyl inside and on the top. Correct color and sheen. It took six years, but I got that memory back two months ago. Somehow it closes a circle. My previous car I owned for 39 years, and finally sold it because there was Nothing I could do to make it better. Still, I didn't do anything drastic. Didn't put a SBC into it -- the motor is in the original configuration, but from the same manufacturer throughout. I always wondered just how good an S30 280Z Black Pearl coupe could be. Now I know. The Z purists have looked askance at it, but it has lost nothing in looks or provenance and has gained much in performance. Different cars, different purposes, different outcomes. Both good.
I think you have "hit the nail on the head" so to speak for many of us. Do what makes you happy. I have owned over 50 cars in my lifetime(makes me old) but the only one I miss is my first new car which was a 1968 Plymouth Road Runner. I was 20 at the time and the car represents one of the best periods of my life, although I did not understand it then.
I attended a car show in the Dallas, TX. area. I walked and walked--meeting good folks but carefully cataloging the cars which I saw. I decided to stay until the judging was done. It soon became apparent that the cars which were "tricked-out", sitting on stands with mirrors revealing all of the chromed undersides, and those which had been modified greatly., were winning the prizes and trophies. I waited patiently to see if any of those really original cars would be mentioned. Know what--they weren't! Later, I spoke to one of the show's organizers. I related what I had seen. Then, I said, "If we do not recognize those cars which are original--t here soon will be none which illustrate what a real (name the brand-model) should be! He told me that he had not thought of this. Then, I told him that car collectors aren't stupid. They see what's happening. For next year's show, they will be sure to have their cars tricked-out and modified so that THEY can win a prize. Hummmmm!
I have a 1955 Chevy handman 2-dr wagon restomod. At car events it was put in the 55-57 Chevy groups. Most often a red or black '57 Convertible would win. I started putting it in "special interest" and got trophies. All my life I've seen factory original and restored original older cars completely overlooked by judges and viewers while a new Vette, Camaro, or Mustang gets the attention. I can see those a Walmart any day.
I am restoring a K car. Don't laugh. My 1983 Town and Country Mark Cross convertible speaks to me. Literally. Finding parts or anyone to assist in working on these cars is difficult. I'm looking for original or as close as I can get. the wood wrap is impossible to find and no body shop want to mess with it for anything short of a kings ransom. The a struggle is real. Any help is appreciated.
To me originality matters to a point. I'm all for safety mods or reliability mods, they make the vehicle more reliable and safer. Restomods can be fun too but the ones I see these days make my eyes water with their pricing. If you like it go for it I say.
Great article! “Originality” really is a subjective term in the automotive world. This thought exercise may be stupid but I think it’s fun. Once a car gets its first oil change, is it still truly original? What about when it needs a new set of tires or brake pads? Most would reasonably argue that as long as you put on OEM-replacement parts, it’s still original, but you could also argue it is not original as it no longer has the exact parts and fluids it left the factory with. Apply this logic to the art world. If you “replaced” the paint on a piece of art with the exact same paint used by the artist, is the painting still original?
Take this in jest though. I’m the last person to get caught up in strict originality. My opinion is that cars were meant to be driven and enjoyed - even if that means needing to touch up chips in paint or replace broken windshields.