Classic, Vintage & Muscle Car Inspections

When it comes to classic car inspections you’ll find our inspectors particularly passionate about these types of cars as most of our mobile mechanics have been involved with a restoration or two and in fact the majority still own or have owned a classic car. At the last stateroads training event it was realised that between the inspectors present there was seven classics that they possessed and restored.   These included muscle cars from the sixties the likes of Camaro, Gto, Chevelle, Elcamino, mustangs, corvette, hq Monaro coupe, sandman panelvan, bronco. So when it comes to classics you can be assured that our guys understand terms like big block, small block, LS conversions, stroker, bird cage, body filler, panel gaps, rust repairs, restomods etc, also left to right hand drive conversion inspections.

Why are classic cars so popular? well the answer is easy, they have increased in price and in many cases have proven to be a better investment than property or the share market, in fact I have heard of people buying classic cars with their superannuation funds.

 

A lot of people have an appreciation for classic vehicles, and the muscle car era, spanning from around 1964 to 1973, is of special interest to many car enthusiasts.There were cars that might’ve fit the basic description of a “muscle car” manufactured before the ’60s and after the early ’70s, but those years are generally accepted as the pek for those types of cars. It certainly was a period when a design philosophy was unleashed that saw manufacturers putting overpowered engines into small- to medium-size cars, with an emphasis placed on raw horsepower. For many people, the cars from that golden age are among the most highly prized production cars ever made, and a lot of those people would like to own one or more of them at some point during their lives.
I can certainly relate, and have owned several classics myself, but there are a few things people should keep in mind before buying an older car.

 

  1. Open the doors. Look at the door jams. Door Jams give you a quick preview of the extra time and detail put into the car since it is not something you can see from the outside of the vehicle with the doors closed. If the body man has taken the time to do the door jams correctly, then they probably have taken that time with the whole vehicle. It is an area that gets quickly avoided and can show the secrets of the body.

 

  1. Crawl underneath the car. This will save you lots of headache. Many lower priced classic and muscle cars may look ok on the outside, yet the underside shows a different story. The condition of the underside is very important to not only look good visually, but to ensure the car will be safe to operate. Major underside rust is something you must avoid if you are looking into purchasing a high quality Muscle Car you look to enjoy and drive.

 

  1. Look down the side of the car. Look to see how straight the body is. If there are waves in the metal this is a sign of poor bodywork. Wavy Metal not only looks bad visually but it will hurt the value of the vehicle. It is very easy to see when standing next to the car. You should expect to see nice clean straight metal. One place you should really pay close attention to is the rear quarter panels. This is a common spot for body waves.

 

NUMBERS MATCHING CARS

Some buyers will always looks for what are known as “numbers-matching” cars: That is, cars where the engine, transmission, and rear axle all link up to the vehicle’s VIN number. “True investment cars are going to be numbers-matching cars. How do you know if the numbers add up? This can be tricky however depending on vehicle make and era some engines have the vin number or the last six digits of the VIN number stamped on them, which makes that an easy check. The transmission and rear end are a bit trickier. Usually they’ll be stamped with date codes, which you can look up to determine if the dates sync correctly. “It’s not a problem [if not everything matches],” “It’s just not going to bring the bigger money that an all-matching car will. You can never lose if you find an all-numbers-matching car. It’s a way safer bet.”

mustang car

WHAT IS A SURVIVOR CAR?

A survivor car is a pretty narrow category in my opinion. It means that a vehicle has come through the years with all of the originality that made it highly desirable car. Lately, the definition of a survivor car has been diluted down to a wishy-washy.

So let’s re-establish a set of basic ground rules about what makes the grade as a survivor car.

The first rule of survivor cars is their original paint job.

The paint job has to be the original finish, complete with orange peel and a thin layer of actual paint in many cases from the factories of the past. The car will be measured by its ability to have survived decades with nothing more than a wax job on its paint surface.

The survivor vehicle will usually have enjoyed a pampered life inside a garage, or it was owned by a quirky guy with a few bucks who decided to park it early and buy another vehicle. The car was stored for a long time under dry and ideal conditions by the quirky guy.

The old car was then be discovered by the next of kin when they do an estate inventory on the now-dead quirky guy and find the survivor vehicle parked in a garage. We have talked to people who bought estate vehicles that were parked in the 50s and discovered in the 21st century by the relatives.

The cars were frozen in time by storage, These are survivor cars with survivor paint that had not battled traffic, parking lots and the sun, snow and rain since Baby Boomers were really babies. Plus, the survivors got pulled out of the game early in life.

The interior also has to be original to qualify as a survivor car. This presents a problem when mice get involved in the vehicles because they can wreak unholy hell on an interior.

It is well worth the effort to professionally clean the interior to hold onto the survivor tag. The net result is that your car will still be a charter member of the elite survivor club.

The rest of the survivor car rules are pretty simple: it should have its factory power-train front to back and it should have all of its original equipment like spare tire (some guys even claim these have their original air in the tires), jack and lug wrench. Some cars even have their original tires, but who really wants to put a lot of faith in degenerated rubber at highway speeds?

This is a basic look at what it takes to be survivor car. Don’t let some guy on a TV show tell you that a car with a pretty new paint job is a survivor car because the rules are pretty simple and very rigid in my opinion.

RESTORATION REFURBISH

The words “restoration” and “refurbish” are two of the most often misunderstood and misused words in the collector-car hobby. Be it car owners, collectors or dealers, it seems everyone has their own interpretation of what these words really mean. The misunderstanding of their true implication continues to cause problems when a car is being sold, which sometimes results in rightful lawsuits. So let’s clear the air and define what each word means as applied to collectible automobiles.

 

In simple terms, a restored car is an automobile that has been rebuilt exactly the way its manufacturer first assembled it at the factory. Even though it has become commonplace today to restore old cars to conditions that far exceed what the car was like when it first rolled off the assembly line, a restored car, whether its restoration is of an above average level of quality or not, is far different from a refurbished car.

 

As we all know, there are several different types and quality levels of restoration: amateur and professional, partial or full, bare-metal or quick repaint, street or concours, body-on and body-off. Yet, in each case, the whole point of restoring old cars, trucks and motorcycles is to bring them back to the same exact condition they were in when originally produced, and to preserve them as rolling showcases of their own particular place in automotive history. And, more importantly, to derive enjoyment from driving them.

 

Just because a car has been restored doesn’t mean that it has been restored correctly, and accurately. In fact, many “restored” cars have not been restored at all. Truth is, repainting a car doesn’t validate that car as being restored. Neither does reupholstering its interior mean it has been restored. Rebuilding a car’s mechanical systems, be it the engine, transmission or suspension, doesn’t mean that car has been restored either. In fact, even if all of the above mentioned work has been done to a car, that still doesn’t mean that it has been restored. The words “refurbished” or “redecorated” would be far more accurate descriptions.

 

So, just what makes a restored car worthy of being labeled “restored?”

Well, truth be told, quite a bit.

 

For a car to be considered having had a concours-quality, factory-correct restoration, the process by which the car was restored will have had to incorporate several important steps. Let’s start with the car as a whole: The entire vehicle must be stripped down to the last nut and bolt and the entire body completely removed from the chassis, unless, of course, you are restoring an MGB or Porsche, in which case its unitized body is stripped down to a bare shell.

 

The Body: All the windows and every single piece of exterior trim are to be removed, the previous paint finish must be stripped off and the entire body rendered bare. All the rusted-out metal must be repaired with metal patches welded in, not bog or Gorilla hair. Body filler is only to be used minimally, usually to fill in hard-to-see lows in the sheetmetal.

 

The Paint: The exterior color should be the exact same shade that the car was first painted or be a color that its manufacturer offered that year for similar models. A change of color or even lightening or darkening its shade renders a restoration an inaccurate restoration, regardless of the quality of the paint finish.

 

The Interior: More than just slipping on an upholstery kit and new door panels, a properly restored interior includes a dashboard that has been disassembled so all the instruments can be cleaned and rebuilt if necessary. Same with the chrome trim and chrome knobs and handles; they must be replated if needed. All new weatherstripping must be installed as well.

 

The Mechanicals: Every suspension, brake and steering component that wears must be replaced with new OE-correct parts. Those that don’t have to be replaced, such as the steering box, need to be rebuilt back to factory tolerances; this includes the steering box’s proper exterior finish.

 

The Engine: Original specifications are the key here. Internal upgrades, such as lightweight pistons, higher-lift camshafts, forged connecting rods or a three-angle valve cut, are acceptable only because these modifications cannot be seen once the engine is assembled. However, aftermarket intake manifolds, exhaust headers, carburetors, chrome alternators and open-element chrome air cleaners are not acceptable for a factory-correct restoration.

 

The Electrics: No retaping of the existing wiring harness or ribbed plastic coverings. Whether it’s braided fabric or vinyl covering, the wiring must have the correct exterior material as originally equipped, and all electrical components and connections must be OE-correct. And no alternator conversions are permissible if the car was originally equipped with a generator.

 

Replacement Parts: Wherever possible, original equipment, new-old-stock or just good quality second-hand parts should be used. The difference in value between a car restored with N.O. S. parts and a reproduction parts car can sometimes be two, or even three times higher when N.O.S. parts are used.

 

Restomod vs Restore

What is the difference between restomod and restoration? And which is the better option for your automotive? It is true that the two terms often cause confusion, but the explanation is fairly straightforward.

  • Restoration essentially refers to taking a great classic car and bringing it back to life with all (or most) of the original factory parts. The process involves repair of the visible parts (e.g., body trim, interior, etc.), as well as the parts not easily seen (e.g., electrical, suspension, brakes, etc.). The result is a beautifully preserved automobile in factory-new condition with authentic parts – just like it came off the showroom floor decades ago.
  • Restomod (restoration + modern parts/technology) draws from all the amazing advancements in automobile technology over the past 40+ years to enhance the performance, comfort and safety of the classic car. A restomod car has the timeless appearance of the original, but the outdated guts of the car have been replaced with the more modern, high-performance parts of today. You achieve the same great look, but your vintage car will be revved up with all the latest bells and whistles to create a much better ride for the owner.

Value appears to be the main argument over which option is better than the other. The fully restored classic is most often going to be worth more financially. But you also will spend significantly more time and money finding all the necessary, yet virtually extinct, parts to get the car back to its original form. The restomod car might not be quite as valuable, but will have a much better, smoother performance, brought about by the latest technologies. With the same beautiful outward appearance as the original or fully restored model, the restomod will also give you a more comfortable, enjoyable driving experience.

Both options are appealing for different reasons, so the decision between the two primarily rests on two critical factors: budget for the project and the desired outcome or purpose for the car. Should you have an unlimited budget and the yearning for a fully restored, collectible show car, then restoration might be the way to go. If you want a restored vintage car, but with all the power and modern conveniences of current models, then the restomod would be the better choice.

Whichever option you choose, the project promises to be an exciting and personally rewarding experience for you, as the car owner.

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