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Is it really restored? [long post]

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Post by zucchi Tue Jan 04, 2022 1:20 pm

What I’m about to say will undoubtedly get most everyone riled up, but before you all unite in a campaign to flame my post into a pile of ashes and drown me in hate mail, let me throw out this disclaimer.

I genuinely appreciate a classic car that’s been lovingly redone with all the improvements that have been developed since it was first made. I’m of the opinion that if the technology and resources we have today were available at the time the car was originally made, the builders would likely have incorporated them. The time, passion, TLC and resources that goes into a full-on, frame-off, ground-up project is nothing short of miraculous. I take my 1968 hearse (considered a “survivor” in vintage car vernacular) to car shows and am always impressed with the effort put into the beautiful project cars some of the other guys bring. I also greatly admire the integrity of the owner of, say, a 1967 plain-Jane Camaro that retains its original 250ci straight-six with Powerglide transmission; I can’t begin to recall how many of those have been upgraded with a V8. For some, working on the project has more appeal than enjoying the finished product. Others prefer to spend the money to have a car that’s “done”.

With that said, I’d like to share a controversial lexicographic pet peeve with all of you. Within the classic car hobby, the verb “restore” is far too often misused and/or misapplied, be it due to simple ignorance or intentional deceit. Of all the car guys I know, there’s only one who uses the verb “restore” correctly when applied to automobiles. That guy is the world’s leading authority on all things Tucker; TACA historian, Martyn Donaldson.

A car is new only once. The moment its engine is started, it’s technically used. Even the Chevrolet service bulletin remarks that once a new fan belt is installed and has made just one revolution, it’s considered used.

The definition of “restore” is to bring back to, or put back into an original state like when new. As this applies to automobiles, it means how the car was when it rolled off the factory assembly line, including all of its inherent flaws, inadequacies and shortcomings. Most vintage car owners who want to preserve their car’s originality tend to fall into one of two categories;

  1. absolute assembly line build-sheet correct with numbers matching so as to travel back in time and sit in the front seat of history upon stepping into the car [restored],
  2. address design flaws and shortcomings so as to improve its drivability, reliability, and appearance [renovated].

Unless you have the original build sheet, you don’t know what the car actually came with from the factory. In that scenario, the best you could do would be to replicate what the factory would have originally built.

In many cases, restoration is an impossible undertaking. In today’s environmentally conscious world, you’d be really hard pressed to find anyone to apply a proper “Japan Black” finish using asphalt and benzene (a known carcinogen) or any kind of paint that uses VOCs for that matter, or an original chrome plating using hexavalent chromium (also a carcinogen). ANY body repair is just that, repair. Restore would be the installation of new-old-stock panels that’ve been stored indoors for the last several decades. Welding on a replacement front clip… well, you get the idea.

There are cases where restoration may hinder future maintenance and repairs. For instance, in fall of 1972, Chevrolet announced the discontinuation of drain cocks on all radiators for the 1973 model year. They went on to say that draining the cooling system could be accomplished by removing the lower radiator hose or by siphoning — and how is that better than using a drain cock? In March of 1973, they announced the reinstatement of drain cock installation beginning sometime that month; I guess they had seen the light, were born again, and found religion. So, if you have an early 1973 Chevrolet with a drain cock on the radiator, the car’s not “restored”, it’s been improved or retrofitted. Many 1974-1975 GM cars had upper control arm shaft nuts welded in place. To service that, you had to cut the shaft. Who at GM comes up with these ideas? Anyway, if you don’t weld factory correct nuts on to factory correct bushing shafts, it’s not “restored”, but it is easier and less expensive to do future repairs which is an improvement.

Restoring a car back to factory original may be unwise from a safety stand point. Consider the recall of 1959 Cadillacs to address a defective steering component. Who would find faulty steering more valuable or desirable?

A car can never be considered restored as long as, during the “restoration” process, it’s been retrofitted with ANY kind of technology developed after the car’s manufacture date. GM didn’t offer clear coat (or “two-stage”) paint on cars until the mid-1980s and the results were crappy compared to today’s coatings. Same goes for POR-15 to treat rust; can’t use that. Forget installing headers, KYB shocks or urethane bushings in your vintage muscle car, brass freeze plugs in your engine block, or stainless steel fuel/brake/exhaust tubing anywhere in any vintage car. Sealing technology has made remarkable advances since these cars were originally built. Overhauling an engine with Fel-Pro gaskets and various application specific sealers makes it better than new which technically is betterfied or, as my Tucker friend calls it, over-restored. I have never met a gearhead building a small block Chevy engine who would insist on using original intake manifold end seals (which are notorious for leaking) rather than a bead of RTV. Even something as seemingly trivial as upgrading the GM clock movement from the solenoid actuated winder mechanism to a maintenance free quartz movement is just that; an upgrade. Conversely, it would be foolish not to use improved technology and parts during a rebuild project, thus subsequently enjoying the benefits derived therefrom; I know I do. But, then again, I’ve never declared my cars to be “restored”.

I understand and acknowledge that labeling a vintage car as “restored” despite it being built using modern technological advancements is simple and easy but it’s a bad habit which is misleading and could even be considered deceitful, especially to some wide-eyed enthusiastic newbie who wants to buy a “restored” 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air with the 327 and 4-barrel carb. As Mona Lisa Vito testified in the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny, “Chevy didn't make a 327 in '55. The 327 didn't come out til '62. And it wasn't offered in the Bel Air with the 4-barrel carburetor til '64.”

When mentioning this scenario to folks, some have reacted rather defensively (are they trying to hide something?) and responded surprisingly arrogantly saying things like, “the idiot buyer should have done their research first.” When newbies encounter distain like that from self-appointed narcissistic elitists, it’s no wonder they quickly form unflattering opinions about classic car hobbyists and get turned-off to the hobby. How many people can honestly say they did extensive in-depth research in sales literature, owner manuals, service manuals, parts manuals, service bulletins, and knew everything there was to know before taking possession of their very first vintage car? I’ve had mine since early 1984 and only recently learned that the vapor canister has an air filter that needs servicing every 24,000 miles.

As classic car enthusiasts, isn’t one of our responsibilities to inspire and encourage new people to become interested in the hobby? We don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Newbies look up to us as walking encyclopedias on all things pertaining to classic cars. Don’t we also have the responsibility to promulgate accurate information rather than perpetuate bad habits?

Instead of than saying “restored” when it actually isn’t — unless you’re intentionally being deceitful for personal gain —, one should say that the functionality and integrity of the drivetrain, systems, subsystems, assemblies, subassemblies, body and interior have all been redone to be better than original. Maybe that’s a bit too wordy. How about something like, the car’s better than original. Still too wordy? How about “remanufactured”, “refurbished”, “renovated”, or, better yet, “reimagined”? I’ve seen folks use “build” or “project”, for example, “…my Chevelle build…” or “… my Malibu project…”, so how about “completed build”. Those descriptors are quick, easy and, more importantly, accurate.

By the way, something is either restored or not restored. Saying the car is partially restored is like saying a woman is a little pregnant. It would be more accurate to say it’s partially rebuilt, partially repaired, partially upgraded, partially retrofitted, or even mostly original. For that matter, what’s the difference between “fully restored” and “restored”?

So, rather than misusing the verb “restore” when it isn’t, diluting its significance, validating a bad habit that’s been tolerated for far too long, and risk being accused of deception, why not be honest and call it what it is; repaired and upgraded for the sake of preservation and enjoyment.
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Post by Iggy Tue Jan 04, 2022 3:26 pm

A "restored" car would be Concourse Condition - every nut and bolt has the proper factory markings in the correct positions. You are correct that the term "restored" has morphed into something it is not. I personally prefer the term "resto-mod" implying that there are modifications added to the process of rebuilding the vehicle. Those "mods" could be as simple as new technology being added to the vehicle to the modern LS engine replacing the old mouse or rat engine. Unless your car is truly "restored" (the only true #1 vehicles by Hagerty evaluation) it will never be a #1 vehicle. Their #2 is what most consider a "restored" vehicle (rebuilt would be a better term).
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Post by Limey SE Tue Jan 04, 2022 8:52 pm

They Should have a Daily Class in the Hagerty Book for Mine it wont ever be close to 1 2 3 or even 9 condition LMAO

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Post by Keith Seymore Wed Jan 05, 2022 11:38 am

zucchi wrote:What I’m about to say will undoubtedly get most everyone riled up, but before you all unite in a campaign to flame my post into a pile of ashes and drown me in hate mail, let me throw out this disclaimer.

I genuinely appreciate a classic car that’s been lovingly redone with all the improvements that have been developed since it was first made. I’m of the opinion that if the technology and resources we have today were available at the time the car was originally made, the builders would likely have incorporated them. The time, passion, TLC and resources that goes into a full-on, frame-off, ground-up project is nothing short of miraculous. I take my 1968 hearse (considered a “survivor” in vintage car vernacular) to car shows and am always impressed with the effort put into the beautiful project cars some of the other guys bring. I also greatly admire the integrity of the owner of, say, a 1967 plain-Jane Camaro that retains its original 250ci straight-six with Powerglide transmission; I can’t begin to recall how many of those have been upgraded with a V8. For some, working on the project has more appeal than enjoying the finished product. Others prefer to spend the money to have a car that’s “done”.

With that said, I’d like to share a controversial lexicographic pet peeve with all of you. Within the classic car hobby, the verb “restore” is far too often misused and/or misapplied, be it due to simple ignorance or intentional deceit. Of all the car guys I know, there’s only one who uses the verb “restore” correctly when applied to automobiles. That guy is the world’s leading authority on all things Tucker; TACA historian, Martyn Donaldson.

A car is new only once. The moment its engine is started, it’s technically used. Even the Chevrolet service bulletin remarks that once a new fan belt is installed and has made just one revolution, it’s considered used.

The definition of “restore” is to bring back to, or put back into an original state like when new. As this applies to automobiles, it means how the car was when it rolled off the factory assembly line, including all of its inherent flaws, inadequacies and shortcomings. Most vintage car owners who want to preserve their car’s originality tend to fall into one of two categories;

  1. absolute assembly line build-sheet correct with numbers matching so as to travel back in time and sit in the front seat of history upon stepping into the car [restored],
  2. address design flaws and shortcomings so as to improve its drivability, reliability, and appearance [renovated].

Unless you have the original build sheet, you don’t know what the car actually came with from the factory. In that scenario, the best you could do would be to replicate what the factory would have originally built.

In many cases, restoration is an impossible undertaking. In today’s environmentally conscious world, you’d be really hard pressed to find anyone to apply a proper “Japan Black” finish using asphalt and benzene (a known carcinogen) or any kind of paint that uses VOCs for that matter, or an original chrome plating using hexavalent chromium (also a carcinogen). ANY body repair is just that, repair. Restore would be the installation of new-old-stock panels that’ve been stored indoors for the last several decades. Welding on a replacement front clip… well, you get the idea.

There are cases where restoration may hinder future maintenance and repairs. For instance, in fall of 1972, Chevrolet announced the discontinuation of drain cocks on all radiators for the 1973 model year. They went on to say that draining the cooling system could be accomplished by removing the lower radiator hose or by siphoning — and how is that better than using a drain cock? In March of 1973, they announced the reinstatement of drain cock installation beginning sometime that month; I guess they had seen the light, were born again, and found religion. So, if you have an early 1973 Chevrolet with a drain cock on the radiator, the car’s not “restored”, it’s been improved or retrofitted. Many 1974-1975 GM cars had upper control arm shaft nuts welded in place. To service that, you had to cut the shaft. Who at GM comes up with these ideas? Anyway, if you don’t weld factory correct nuts on to factory correct bushing shafts, it’s not “restored”, but it is easier and less expensive to do future repairs which is an improvement.

Restoring a car back to factory original may be unwise from a safety stand point. Consider the recall of 1959 Cadillacs to address a defective steering component. Who would find faulty steering more valuable or desirable?

A car can never be considered restored as long as, during the “restoration” process, it’s been retrofitted with ANY kind of technology developed after the car’s manufacture date. GM didn’t offer clear coat (or “two-stage”) paint on cars until the mid-1980s and the results were crappy compared to today’s coatings. Same goes for POR-15 to treat rust; can’t use that. Forget installing headers, KYB shocks or urethane bushings in your vintage muscle car, brass freeze plugs in your engine block, or stainless steel fuel/brake/exhaust tubing anywhere in any vintage car. Sealing technology has made remarkable advances since these cars were originally built. Overhauling an engine with Fel-Pro gaskets and various application specific sealers makes it better than new which technically is betterfied or, as my Tucker friend calls it, over-restored. I have never met a gearhead building a small block Chevy engine who would insist on using original intake manifold end seals (which are notorious for leaking) rather than a bead of RTV. Even something as seemingly trivial as upgrading the GM clock movement from the solenoid actuated winder mechanism to a maintenance free quartz movement is just that; an upgrade. Conversely, it would be foolish not to use improved technology and parts during a rebuild project, thus subsequently enjoying the benefits derived therefrom; I know I do. But, then again, I’ve never declared my cars to be “restored”.

I understand and acknowledge that labeling a vintage car as “restored” despite it being built using modern technological advancements is simple and easy but it’s a bad habit which is misleading and could even be considered deceitful, especially to some wide-eyed enthusiastic newbie who wants to buy a “restored” 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air with the 327 and 4-barrel carb. As Mona Lisa Vito testified in the 1992 movie My Cousin Vinny, “Chevy didn't make a 327 in '55. The 327 didn't come out til '62. And it wasn't offered in the Bel Air with the 4-barrel carburetor til '64.”

When mentioning this scenario to folks, some have reacted rather defensively (are they trying to hide something?) and responded surprisingly arrogantly saying things like, “the idiot buyer should have done their research first.” When newbies encounter distain like that from self-appointed narcissistic elitists, it’s no wonder they quickly form unflattering opinions about classic car hobbyists and get turned-off to the hobby. How many people can honestly say they did extensive in-depth research in sales literature, owner manuals, service manuals, parts manuals, service bulletins, and knew everything there was to know before taking possession of their very first vintage car? I’ve had mine since early 1984 and only recently learned that the vapor canister has an air filter that needs servicing every 24,000 miles.

As classic car enthusiasts, isn’t one of our responsibilities to inspire and encourage new people to become interested in the hobby? We don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Newbies look up to us as walking encyclopedias on all things pertaining to classic cars. Don’t we also have the responsibility to promulgate accurate information rather than perpetuate bad habits?

Instead of than saying “restored” when it actually isn’t — unless you’re intentionally being deceitful for personal gain —, one should say that the functionality and integrity of the drivetrain, systems, subsystems, assemblies, subassemblies, body and interior have all been redone to be better than original. Maybe that’s a bit too wordy. How about something like, the car’s better than original. Still too wordy? How about “remanufactured”, “refurbished”, “renovated”, or, better yet, “reimagined”? I’ve seen folks use “build” or “project”, for example, “…my Chevelle build…” or “… my Malibu project…”, so how about “completed build”. Those descriptors are quick, easy and, more importantly, accurate.

By the way, something is either restored or not restored. Saying the car is partially restored is like saying a woman is a little pregnant. It would be more accurate to say it’s partially rebuilt, partially repaired, partially upgraded, partially retrofitted, or even mostly original. For that matter, what’s the difference between “fully restored” and “restored”?

So, rather than misusing the verb “restore” when it isn’t, diluting its significance, validating a bad habit that’s been tolerated for far too long, and risk being accused of deception, why not be honest and call it what it is; repaired and upgraded for the sake of preservation and enjoyment.

Wow.

I can't wait until you turn your attention to the use of the word "survivor".

Wink

K
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Post by fasrnur Wed Jan 05, 2022 10:59 pm

"As classic car enthusiasts, isn’t one of our responsibilities to inspire and encourage new people to become interested in the hobby? We don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Newbies look up to us as walking encyclopedias on all things pertaining to classic cars. Don’t we also have the responsibility to promulgate accurate information rather than perpetuate bad habits?"

I like this comment. We have to be the ones to help the younger, or of any age person that get's interested in this hobby. If they want to ask you a question or two, don't brush them off. They approached you to do so and we need to answer their questions. They'll look up to you for doing so.
My look has been, and has been for about 55-60 years now, "How can I make it go faster?" I appreciate the heck out of a nicely done car. "Done" in this context, is about the build, not if it's original or not in my opinion.
This is why I will never say my car is finished. I love tweaking it from time to time. I drive mine like there is no tomorrow.
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Post by relic7680 Thu Jan 20, 2022 2:22 am

As a McPherson College Restoration program grad, and also a guy who can't enjoy most car shows anymore, I wholeheartedly agree with the OP. But try to explain any of this nuance to a run of the mill "car guy" or someone who just had their vehicle "restored" by the local body shop....and either get the deer in the headlights look or some comment like "well your car isn't perfect so you can't say anything about anyone else's".

Just as badly misused are the terms "original", "survivor", "barn find" etc.

I swear people around where I live think a #3 car is a #1 car.....and price them as such. It's like we're all at the bar drinking fives up to eights.
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