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.
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.