There is nothing quick, easy, or inexpensive about an automotive restoration. Returning any car back to factory-new condition is a Herculean task, especially without the resources, materials, and processes of the original manufacturer. If the ultimate goal of a restoration is a car that appears less restored and more like a brand-new original, turning to the company that built the car in the first place, is sound strategy. The good news is that several manufacturers have established dedicated restoration and parts programs, albeit they generally don’t come cheap.
We've put together a compendium of five manufacturer restoration programs from the past, present, and possible future. These programs either accept prospects or offer already restored classics built from vetted candidates—the latter saves you the heartbreak of watching what the seller said was a minor rust hole open up to reveal a body and subframe that looks like it was salvaged from a tide pool on the Caspian Sea.
Read on for more information on a factory restorations using original equipment parts.
The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Heritage department began in 2015, and this past February the company announced its Reloaded by Creators program dedicated to the curation, procurement, restoration, and sales of historic Alfa Romeos, Fiats, Lancias, and Abarths. Finished Reloaded by Creators representatives rolled out at Rétromobile in Paris in a display of five factory restored classics spanning three decades from a 1959 Lancia Appia Coupe to a 1989 Alfa Romeo SZ.
FCA Heritage offers an array of services, from Certificates of Origin documentation and evaluation to offering restored cars for sale. Proceeds are invested back into the program to fund the search for more restoration candidates and potential additions to the FCA permanent collection. There’s no word yet on whether FCA will extend its Heritage program to the United States and the company’s global panoply of automotive marques (including those from the former Chrysler Corporation).
When and if those old Chrysler cars do appear, we'll take a green-on-green police-spec 1969 Dodge Polara with a 700-plus horsepower Hellcrate powertrain and optional Super-Lite.
Land Rover Classic
Land Rover has been in the Sport Utility Vehicle business for 70 years, long enough to witness rugged utility and luxurious appointments join forces as the Land Rover evolved into the well-appointed, yet no less capable, Range Rover.
The Land Rover Reborn restoration program launched in 2016 at the Techno Classica show in Germany with the goal of building and selling factory restored Series 1 Land Rovers. Special Operations and Land Rover Classic sourced restoration candidates, took them into the Classic Workshop, and completed the restorations to customer requirements using genuine Land Rover parts and traditional craftsmanship.
Range Rover Reborn followed suit in 2017 when the company rolled out a renewed Bahama Gold 1978 three-door Range Rover at the Rétromobile show in Paris. Both Rover restoration initiatives are currently underway to give the classic customer a choice between field serviceability and the ability to clean the interior with a hose or luxurious all-terrain capability in handcrafted comfort.
Jaguar Classic Works
Hinging on the eminently classic E-type, Jaguar Classic Works was established with a two-pronged approach to continuing the original Jaguar experience with both restored and recreated cars.
The Jaguar Reborn restoration program launched with similar methodology to its Land Rover marque mate. The Jaguar Classic team procured a select group of E-type candidates that were renewed using genuine Jaguar parts and authentic craftsmanship. In 2015 Jaguar moved beyond restoration and into recreation with the construction of six factory reproductions of never built all-aluminum Lightweight E-type GT cars to fulfill the intended 18-car production run.
Classic Works restarted its time machine again in 2016 for production of nine hand-built 1957 specification Jaguar XKSS cars dubbed New Originals, and recently announced its third continuation series with the construction of 25 D-type racers to finish out the intended 100-car production run. The first D-type in the series made its debut at Rétromobile in February 2018. Keep an eye out for more D-type roaring around historic and vintage races.
That the oldest automotive manufacturer maintains a comprehensive heritage and classic program comes as no surprise. The museum and archive ensure the company’s history is enshrined, while the restoration, parts, and sales programs keep the genuine driving experience moving into the future.
The restoration and sales program are backed up by a genuine parts catalog stretching back more than 50 years with everything from new 300 SL body stampings to reproduction tartan upholsteries sourced from the original supplier. Because who better to put your Pagoda back to showroom-stock condition than Mercedes-Benz?
Nissan NISMO Heritage, and maybe more to come?
In late 2017 Nissan announced availability of genuine 1989–94 R32 Skyline GT-R parts through its NISMO Heritage program. This was good news to Japanese classic car fans even if the parts, like from the R32, are not technically available for the U.S. market just yet. It remains to be seen if Nissan extends reproduction parts into a full restoration program.
About the same time the final R32 rolled off the line Nissan Motor Company USA launched a certified used and restored classic program remarkably similar to current manufacturer heritage efforts. A selection of Nissan dealerships or Z-stores offered certified used Classic Z cars from the 1970s 240Z to the ’90s 300SX.
For the second Vintage Z phase, Nissan worked with with Pierre Z Car to source and restore 240Z to original condition with genuine parts. Whether the Vintage Z program was ahead of its time or late ‘90s American vintage enthusiasts were not ready for factory restored Japanese classics is open to interpretation. According to the Vintage Z Car Register a total of 37 cars were completed. We're hoping a rollout of classic Skylines at the 2016 New York Auto Show was a sign of restored things to come.
Heritage drives forward with the Porsche Classic program that offers comprehensive factory restorations, repair and maintenance, original equipment parts, certified sales, and extensive documentation from current vintage summer and winter tire recommendations to historical information.
More than 70 percent of the total Porsche production run are still motoring down the road, and Stuttgart wants to keep it that way. Porsche is celebrating 70 years of sports car heritage and 30 years of 911 achievement with factory-restored and recreated Classic representatives. A fully restored 959 and 356 body shell were rolled out at Techno Classica 2018 and Porsche recently announced completion of its No.1 356, recreated to its archetypal form for historical display at events around the world.
Traditional craftsmanship and modern technology intersect in the Porsche Classic Parts Explorer for access to over 50,000 Porsche Classic Genuine Parts and accessories from the original suppliers. Select extremely rare parts have been returned to production reality through a Porsche-approved laser melted and sintered 3D printing process. Eight parts are available for on-demand production and 20 components are currently in the testing pipeline. And even though a purist might shudder at the thought of digital technology ruining a factory-perfect mechanical analog experience, the Porsche Classic Vehicle Tracking system brings GPS tracking and smartphones together for real time monitoring of vintage Porsches against theft or other unwanted scenarios.
Avoid paint jail and parts parole
1959 Lancia Appia coupe Reloaded by Creators
Teutonic tartan perfection and Range Rover recreations don't come at bargain prices, but factory restorations might help sidestep the unfortunate experience of a restoration stretching from months into years of paint jail sentencing and parts parole requests.
The original manufacturing process is at best difficult to reverse and easy to subvert. An army of designers, engineers, suppliers, craftsmen, and even robots combined powers to make a finished automobile created with a process unique to its creators. Many have tried to recreate Da Vinci’s robust texture and expressive color techniques, and few have succeeded. Every Fierorrari suffers from the same, very steep, learning curve.