Commentary: Over Restored?

I was reading an article recently in one of my favorite periodical…you know…from the best auto magazine publishing company, IMHO, Hemmings, specifically Muscle Machines. The article was entitled Lessons of Originality and written by Terry McGean.  I enjoy his pieces in HMM.

This article pointed out the importance of all original muscle car specimens, used as models for restoration and an understanding of how they were built, meaning exactly, how and why they were put together in the manner they were.  This is a very valid point.

Terry goes on to say that today’s restorations are often taken too far and lose some of their original character.  Again, another valid fact one can’t argue, but…..

For example, my 1970 Mustang coupe’s shock towers were stamped out and the car assembled without access to grease fittings. The towers had to be altered, in most cases just cut with a torch, so that the fittings could be reached. That is a known engineering/factory flaw and is a cool ( I think) characteristic that makes it unique. ‘Fixing’ that by replacing with re-manufactured parts with the cut out already there (I don’t believe these exist..but humor me here..ok..I know you usually do..and thanks for that!!) would be disappointing . It’s not like a safety hazard or something serious.


1970 Mustang Shock tower with cut out for grease fitting.



But there is just too much emphasis placed on some ‘original’ characteristics, like the correct paint mark or undercoating on parts. Irregular panel alignment or even one of the bigger deals, paint, specifically what is known as orange peel or that somewhat dimpled look to some factory paint jobs, are considered the epitome of originality and should re-create.   To me that is just nonsense.

If you were to look at the side of my 07 Corvette you’ll notice the orange peel effect which looks like the surface of …. yes…an orange.  This is said to be very important when judging a car in some levels of the business.  But back in the days when I worked in my father’s body shop businesses, orange peel was a product of sloppy work.  That is Terry’s point as well, that the cars were assembled with much less care, a lot less care than, of course we take with restoration. (More on that in a bit.)

Here is where I personally begin to draw the line about ‘caring’ whether a car is “restored” to original. First, if it’s restored, it’s not original or re-phrased – “It’s only original once!” (Don’t worry I’m going to drag you down that discussion path too far.)   Second, small things like the realignment of the doors or hood or other panels doesn’t make it any more unoriginal if it’s restored nor does it distract from the car at all.  The art of the restoration is what is really important and minor improvements are nearly unavoidable.

Let me use the restoration (we’ll call it “Part I”) of my 1970 Mustang coupe.  I intended to restore it to what was possible back in 1969-1970 then the cars were built.  Everything is period, not original to the car  (swapped a 1970 302 for the original 250) but available as a possible option. I love the feel of this car, it still performs as it did back then, even with the aligned hood.  At this point in its life span the car is as close to original as it’s going to get (it still has drum brakes). I’ve realigned the panels, I’ve replaced the motor mounts with polyurethane.  In the next round of restoration the car will enter its “restro-mod” phase. It will take the Mustang way past the line I drew the first time around.

And why not?  Hey…come…on, we project so much emotion in on our cars…’She’s just not running right’ or ‘That car just doesn’t like the cold’.  Why not project that they all wish to grow and to change to become more than they were?!??!   (Too much of a stretch…let me re-read it…..hang on…mmm….umm…………yeah too much…since I already typed it…I’ll leave it…no sense wasting bytes…pls tell me you got that?????)

Terry mentions that the folks building cars back in the 1960’s often cared little about what they were actually doing and of course none of them were as concerned as we are when we restore them.  Now I wasn’t at the factories back then, but I bet in general they took a lot of pride in their work.  Of course there were those that didn’t and those that did Monday – Thursday, but on Fridays, not so much.  This happens in every business. However, back then many things were done by hand and during long shifts, back-breaking work to be sure.  Not to mention that the engineering tolerances weren’t nearly as tight as they are today, it just wasn’t a concern.  My only experience with the manufacturing side was my visit to the Corvette assembly plant (I’m going back this year) and it’s hard to tell what everyone everyone was feeling that Tuesday,  but you could see the dedication to the overall process.  Union’s have made a huge impact and as has technology, they both have had negative and positive effects on the business – but that’s another article.

I worry (but not too much) that the purists will ruin the art of restoration.  Terry’s article reminds us that preserving original muscles car are important, as reminder of how it use to be done.  But I say they shouldn’t be the only measure of a restored car.  Restore it to enjoy it.

Thanks for reading.



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9 Responses to Commentary: Over Restored?

  1. timsweet says:

    Follow more of this conversation at

    Antique Automobile Club of America runs a great web site and forum.

  2. timsweet says:

    From: Restorer32
    Over on:

    Re: Commentary: Over Restored?
    Theoretically a particular car could have come from the factory with perfect panel alignment and beautiful paint. I say restore them as they were designed to be built but don’t overdo it. They were not intended to have orange peel and poorly aligned panels obviously.

  3. timsweet says:

    From: GrayCav56
    Over on:

    Re: Commentary: Over Restored?
    In my opinion there is a difference between “overly restored” and “properly built”. I would consider overly restored to use items of a quality not available during the original manufacture of the vehicle. I’m thinking stainless steel brake and fuel lines, laser cut parts instead of those stamped out and having the flashing cut off, etc. I guess we are all talking about paint, but it is darn near impossible to find a shop that can repaint a vehicle with the exact type coatings as done in the day. I suppose powdercoating the frame and such parts would fall into the overrestored category for me.

    To me, properly built means that the car is assembled in the manner envisioned by the designers and engineers. None of them designed in bad panel fit or sloppy wiring runs or orange peel. (Although it appears they designed inaccessible grease fittings, eh?). I don’t think that taking the extra time to properly shim a fender or a door, doing a timely wet sand in between coats or ensuring the window felts are “just so” is a bad thing.

    I personally don’t have any problem with adding any factory options that were available, if they are done as the factory would have done them. That being said, it is sad when decent, restorable vehicles with base or low option motors are constantly being rebuilt as clones with Hemi’s, 409s or loaded with Yenko cues. I really hope to see some original 6 cylinder AACA Senior Camaro outdraw a Yenko Clone at Barrett-Jackson some day.

  4. timsweet says:

    From: MCHinson
    Over on:

    Re: Commentary: Over Restored?

    For AACA Judging, any accessory that was available from the factory for a particular make and model or any factory authorized dealer installed accessory is OK. AACA does not attempt to determine exactly how a particular car came from the factory.

    While I am a purist, I realize that it is almost impossible to restore a car without some over-restoration. For example, basically any paint that you buy today is going to give a better paint job than the average antique car came from the factory with. I personally like to see my car and others as close to how they looked originally as possible, but I would not specifically try to do bad hood/door alignment, or poor quality paint trying to “more accurately” replicate the original fit and finish of an antique car as it came from the production line.

  5. timsweet says:

    From: bofusmosby
    Over on:

    Re: Commentary: Over Restored?
    Originally Posted by helfen View Post
    First, this is my opinion so bear with me. I consider cars that have been restored to what could have been ordered with a car when new still a resto mod.
    I find this interesting. My 37 did not come with a radio, even though it could have been ordered with one from the factory. It never entered my mind that this would be considered a modification. I had always thought that if anything were to be added, it would be perfectly fine, as long as the “addition” was the original item(s) that was offered from the factory at the time of manufacture (ie options).

    Are cars judged by what “originally” came with that particular car?

  6. timsweet says:

    From: ted sweet
    Over on:

    Re: Commentary: Over Restored?
    in my opinion over restored is in correctly restored.

    from: helfen
    Over on:

    Re: Commentary: Over Restored?
    First, this is my opinion so bear with me. I consider cars that have been restored to what could have been ordered with a car when new still a resto mod. Example; making a 61 Pontiac with standard brakes, three on the tree and a 2bbl 389 car into a 4speed on the floor 348 tri-power 389 with eight lug wheels. The build sheet says it all.
    Talk about cutting holes. I’m the original owner of a 69 H-O Pontiac LeMans, when the A/C evaporator oil drain back tube started leaking I went to Pontiac and bought a new Harrison unit and in the box was a template to drill a one inch hole in the rt. inner fender to get to the nut for the lower evaporator case. Because the factory supplied the know how and template I believe it can still be considered factory. What is not considered factory is I got a piece of sheet metal and drilled a larger hole to install the waste plug over the hole in the inner fender to keep water out.
    I’m the original owner of a 76 Olds. When I went to pick up the car (12 week wait on a special order) I was very disappointed and almost rejected it. This car came from the factory with bubbles and sand in the paint on the hood. The Rt. Ft. door, L-ft door both and cowl had dents. When I pointed this out to the salesman he said “what do you want a Rolls Royce?”. I carry a letter from the head judge of OCA explaining that this Olds had body and paint work done by the dealer prior to delivery ( acting as a rep. of the factory ) to explain why the paint in those areas does not match and why it is cracked. I’m in the middle of building a 62 Pontiac Catalina, after it’s done I will start on the Olds. I could never restore it the way it came from the factory.

  7. timsweet says:

    From: Konrad

    Over on

    Interesting reading. Personally I believe in improving things. Although I have appreciation and understanding of why someone would restore back to original it’s not a big deal to me. However if I was going to do it, I would have no hesitation in fixing things that were done sloppily, carelessly, or incorrectly. I am not under any impression that a classic mustang was built to the ultimate standard of perfection and if things were misaligned or badly painted, I’d do it better the second time around and I don’t think it would take away from the originality. Maybe a judge would think different but that is my opinion.

  8. timsweet says:

    From: car_dude427

    Over on

    Good read

    Purists wont ruin it, they’ll keep more examples of what they were while the rest of us will show what it can be with the aid of modern technology.
    car_dude427’s Avatar

  9. Steve Sears says:

    I think we all worry too much. If it’s not original anymore and can’t be maintained that way then “restore” to your heart’s content. I think only the owner has to be satisfied. Perfectly aligned doors and perfect paint is just fine. But, rules are rules and if you are participating in concours shows and being judged then those yellow inspectors marks matter. As do all the fasteners, stickers and correct materials and screws. Not to mention the proper amount of overspray on the chassis.

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