Members Sound Off: Restore or Preserve?

Following last month’s point-counterpoint discussion of preservation versus restoration, we heard from members who were decidedly pro-preservation or pro-restoration. However, the majority of respondents were “on the fence,” believing that each car should be examined on a case-by-case basis. Here are some of the e-mails we received:


  • “They are only original once. Preserve the stuff that can be saved or beautified with effort, and replace/restore what is unsightly or nonfunctional. Each year there are fewer original cars left, as everyone “restores” them. One day, there won’t be original ones left with which to judge the authenticity of a restoration.”
  • “Once a car has been restored, it is no longer original. It is forever changed. The term “factory specs” means little when measuring a production-line car with one that has been meticulously restored. We all know that no assembly worker took the pains that we take in the restorative process.”
  • “I like to preserve a car as long as it’s drivable, road ready and has been taken care of. Make the minor/moderate repairs. Maintain. If it’s sick, been pieced together and puttied together, then restore it. Give it a new life. But I really prefer original.”
  • “Definitely preserved if in great condition. Otherwise restore to original condition.”
  • “They are only original once. Keep them that way as long as possible.”


  • “I think restoring as close to original is better for long term preservation of older classic cars.”
  • “Anything that is part of our past history from coins to buildings should be restored to at least its original condition, if not better. I have restored many things from old gas ranges to houses to cars. I am a firm believer in restoring. Restoring is putting it back in service.”


  • “Depends on condition. Preserve if at all possible, restore if too far gone.”
  •  “I think some old cars should be restored and others preserved. Some are so far gone that preservation is not a wise way to go. Also some of my friends like adding some of the new safety features to their classics for obvious reasons. My two cars are a mix of both and I enjoy them very much.”
  • “I think the choice is a personal one but it also depends on the condition of what you may be starting with. The only thing I am sure about is that old cars should not be destroyed. Many historic towns have ordinances against destroying old houses, perhaps the car industry needs similar legislation.”
  • “Old cars, as with any car, should be driven. This was the intended purpose. Replace parts that might cause the car to be unsafe. Add air conditioning for comfort, or swelter in the summer, if you don’t want to change anything. But remember that old cars do not stop, or go around corners as well as modern cars. So give yourself more time to get to your destination safely. I like to see them on the road, restored or unrestored.”
  • If an “original” vehicle is in good enough condition to be a fair representation of what it was like in its youth, a viable option is to require the replacement of some parts e.g. battery, tires. If the vehicle has deteriorated to the extent that it no longer is a reasonable representation of what was created by the manufacturer (either mechanically or cosmetically), restoration clearly makes more sense.”
  • “If it’s in nice condition, let it be, but by all means if it needs it, make it look new.”
  • “I’d like to see well preserved originals left that way. Others which show signs of wear should be restored back to original. For those who like to modify old designs (i.e. “hot-rodding”) let them use cars which are already damaged, since they will be modified anyway.”
  • “Original cars are only original once. I would restore a car only if it’s too late to preserve it.”
  • “Old cars, if in great original condition, should be preserved without modifications. Old cars with rust, faded paint, torn upholstery, and worn out mechanical components should be restored to STOCK CONDITION. Rodding or otherwise modifying these cars is an insult to the original designers, engineers, and factory laborers who put their hearts and minds into their creation.”
  • “I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. My hemi Cuda remains original, with a few cosmetic updates/repairs, etc. The only non original parts on the Cuda are belts/hoses/tires. The tires are reproduction Goodyear. On the other hand, if and when you need a part, you need companies like Year One as well as Chrysler to produce OEM replacements to keep the cars running. Therefore, I did not give you a definitive answer, except I lean towards keeping the car original as much as possible. My experience is that people at the car shows like to see the original cars more than the $100k frame off restorations. Also, for the most part, the original cars bring more at the auctions.”
  • “I think that depends on the car and how many cars were manufactured. If the car is rare then I would want to preserve the car.”
  •  “I think a lot depends on the condition; I like to leave mine as “original” as can be as long as it isn’t a total rust bucket. I try and find clean and rust free bodies, I can always repair the mechanical parts without altering too much, but once you get into major panel repairs or rust you have to sand and paint and it can snowball from there. I have an original model A with an original interior, yes it looks worn but a “new Interior” would not have the patina and fit in with the rest of the original look. This is a tough question though because a lot of people buy them just to restore and make them look brand new! I have one I restored like that and I’m a nervous wreck at shows when people look with zippers on their coats, hand prints or too many kids that they are not watching. You almost have to either rope it off or stand guard all day.”
  •  “Clearly, there is no “best” opinion. It could be compared to the opinion of beauty! It is in the eye of the beholder! I guess I am saying it is up to the owner of the car to determine if he wants to restore, keep original, modify, or whatever. I do not think any of them are bad choices. I do cringe when on a few occasions I have known of someone taking a really nice looking original and stripping it to chop, channel, section, etc. to modify or street rod … Now that is a shame to me; But, it was his money and auto!”
  • “Please don’t think that this is a cop out, but my opinion is you have to take it case by case. In the case of the 57 Belvedere, I would say restore it, using as many of the original parts as you can save. In addition, to save more of the originality of it, you need not restore to concours condition.”
  • Preservation versus restoration: all of my cars are good number 3 or at most 2- cars. Nothing any better than that. Partly this is a function of what I could afford, but it is also a function of my desire to have cars I can drive without being totally frantic the minute someone gets near me on the highway. I spend a lot more time and money on maintenance than I do on washing, waxing, detailing, etc. What I really want is that everything on them work the way it’s supposed to. So I have, for example, spent a lot of funds on getting old AC working on sixties MB cars, which didn’t have great AC to start with, because I don’t care to have equipment on my cars that doesn’t function.”
  • “I believe old cars should be kept on the road for all to enjoy including the owners. I do like to see them in as close to original condition as possible. We have a 56 MGA roadster that has been kept up in this manner.If I need to repair something I research the repair to keep the car as close to this standard as possible. It has really paid off, we enjoy driving the when ever we want without breakdowns, and showing the car with lots of people thanking us for keeping our car in condition.”
  • “It is my car and I will do what ever I want. I see so many people agonizing over the resale value of their cars or what the public will think. If someone is interested in cars as investments this makes sense. I love my car and I do not plan to sell it anytime soon. I decided to “restore it” to a very nice, drivable condition and enjoy it.”
  • “Why does it have to be one or the other? I am sure that NCRS is exactly the right thing for many Vette owners and I also feel that if a guy wants to do a Vette Rod it should be his prerogative to do that if he wants. It is THAT PERSON’S car! Some cars should certainly be preserved as examples of the way they were, but there are some examples that aren’t all that much fun to look at in the condition that they may have found (in that barn). Use them as the basis for a restoration or a rod. The owner’s decision. BUT DON’T CRUSH IT!!!”
  •  “I think that both should be considered depending on the present condition and what is the owner’s intent.”
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