Were you born with bad sense enough to wanna get a bunch of gear heads mad enough to fight? These two words will likely do the trick. The argument between the crowd that believes in the “institution of OEM” and holds it as sacred and the mob of creative thinkers, who think out of the box, has raged on every since the first Model-T had the muffler knocked off. The fact of the matter is that the vehicle frequently makes the choice for its owner. Hold on now, I ain’t talking about no hocus-pocus going on in the garage after dark (Christine-style), I am referring to the determining factors of the automobile in question:
What is the make and model of the vehicle? This information can determine what (if any) OEM-style aftermarket parts are available. You can find OEM restoration parts (new parts manufactured to vintage specifications) for the most popular makes and models such as the 1960s and 1970s Chevrolet Chevelle, Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette, and the Ford Mustang, very readily. However, OEM-style parts for a Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, Lincoln, Chrysler, or Mercury may be more difficult, if not impossible, to locate. Year One Muscle Car Parts is currently producing many items for GTOs, Barracudas, Cutlass, and Skylarks, and LMC Truck makes new OEM-style parts for nearly every pickup truck, but the same type of parts for a Catalina, Delta 88, Polara, or Electra 225 can be as difficult to find as chicken’s teeth. (They are just not out there).
What condition is the vehicle in? The next thing to consider is the condition of the vehicle in question. Is there a lot of rust — and has the structural integrity of the vehicle been compromised? If new body panels will be required, then you need to locate most or all of the parts before beginning the project. If you are attempting a factory restoration, you must locate nearly every piece of the vehicle in question, prior to beginning. There is a saying that goes, “To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail” and it has never been more applicable that it is when attempting to restore or modify a vehicle. I have seen vehicles that had the potential for becoming an extraordinary “resto-modification” end-up becoming a run of the mill project, because the project was begun as a restoration. If you plan to modify, then put your best creative ideas forth from beginning to end and you will get a satisfactory outcome. If you begin with OEM style ideas, chances are that you will always wish that you could go back and do some things differently. That is why it is so important to have all of your parts laid out before beginning an accurate factory restoration.
Another major consideration in vehicle condition is played in the “numbers game.” I assume that you check numbers before purchasing any classic or vintage automobile (and if you do not, then start). If the vehicle in question does not have matching numbers, in other words the factory engine, transmission, and differential serial numbers, that match the vehicle identification number (VIN), then a factory restoration is all but pointless (from a collector’s standpoint). If you wish to build a car that doesn’t have matching numbers for purely emotional nostalgic purposes, then hats off to you.
These are the two basic factors for choosing factory restoration or resto-modification. This is only a guide line and I am certainly not saying that cars which don’t meet them are any less desirable or beautiful. One of the things that makes car rebuilding so rewarding is the creativity and individuality of each project. Some vehicle owners are looking for that factory muscle car look and feel, with all of the modern conveniences of computerized engine controls and the performance of fuel injection. I happen to be one of those guys. However, there are projects that are so well preserved that it would almost be a sin even to upgrade them. On the other hand there are other automobiles that lend themselves to radical modification in nearly every way possible. Which ever way that you decide to go, plan ahead and you will be able to obtain results like you never dreamed possible.