Will modern cars be unrestorable someday?

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MakerBot 3D Scanner and Printer MakerBot

Is the modern automobile, with its less-durable-than-metal components and computer-controlled everything, even a candidate for restoration and collection? There’s plenty of doubt among our commenters on Facebook and the Hagerty Forums, however, overcoming these roadblocks may be simpler than originally anticipated.

The two major challenges facing modern car rejuvenation will involve management of computer-controlled engines and sourcing fragile plastic parts destined to crumble into tiny sun-baked bits. The good news is that if you’re up to the task, the prolific knowledge of the internet has already solved both of these would-be barriers. Rather than scouring junkyards as our mechanical forefathers did, restoration of these future classics will be more dependant upon sourcing the correct technological solutions.

Holley Terminator EFI
Holley Terminator EFI Holley
MegaSquirt MSPNP Pro controller
MegaSquirt MSPNP Pro controller MegaSquirt

Engine management used to be as simple as choosing between points and pertronix. While it’s no longer quite as straightforward, the knowledge base for computer-controlled engine management isn’t necessarily any less accessible. The popularity of engine swaps into mid-1990s platforms, such as Nissan’s 240SX, demonstrates that if you have the will (and financial means), there’s no shortage of know-how when it comes to making these modern powertrains rev-up once again.

In addition to the “backyard solutions” provided by forum members, OEMs have been jumping electronic-brain bandwagon, too. GM offers a line of plug-and-play E-rod crate engines, and companies such as Holly and MegaSquirt offer stand-alone options with the ability to adapt to nearly any OBD-II equipped powerplant out there. At this rate, it wouldn’t be shocking to see low-cost, plug-and-play solutions the size of a thumb drive and available on Amazon.com by the end of the decade.

Now that sourcing computers and the correct sequence of ones and zeros has been handled, how about the physical pieces of this plastic puzzle? No surprise, the internet has a solution for this too: 3D printing. Systems have seen incredible gains in their accuracy and quality within just the last 3 years; enough so that Jay Leno has even been utilizing the tech to create non-existent parts for his 1916 Owens Magnetic.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon FCA

Basic printers are already less than $1000 and able to create complex shapes and designs. Couple that with open-source blueprint sites such as Thingiverse and you’re on your way to printing anything from shower heads to giant LEGO bulldozers. It isn’t far-fetched to imagine a world where you download a schematic file created by a forum member—perhaps even updated to increase durability or change aesthetics—then print the part, install it, and enjoy a drive within hours.

The future is bright for the car collecting hobby. These advancements—along with countless others we’re unable to fathom at this moment—will not only help out modern rides but the old-school crowd as well. Just don’t forget to stock up on your 3D printer cartridges.

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