Something Old and Something New: Should I Use Original Parts When Restoring My Muscle Car?

If you have recently started rebuilding a muscle car, you may have found that your new hobby provides a great invitation for obsessiveness. You started out by planning on just replacing the cracked leather in the seats, but the wear marks on the steering wheel seem to be bothering you more than they did last week. Just how far should your restoration go? Conceivably, every part of the car that is in less than mint condition could be replaced.

Whether it’s acceptable to use new parts instead of original parts for rebuilding a muscle car is a point of contention between different people in the classic car community. There are a huge range of different opinions on the subject. To some, using anything but the original parts to restore a car means that the vehicle is no longer original, but just party original with some new parts.

Other camps focus on restoring the interior and exterior of the car, but have a lot of leeway for the engine and internal parts. This group tends to believe that the look of the car is what is most important, and if less expensive new parts for the carburetor or engine help the car run better, then that is just money saved for new seats and a headliner.

If you have available an infinite amount of money, by all means make it your mission to buy nothing but the original parts for your restoration. But, since most of us are have to work within a budget, we have to be realistic on the amount of money and time that can be put into a restoration project. But how do you decide where to spend the money? Start with a restoration budget worksheet.

A good worksheet for your muscle car restoration project not only helps you keep a budget, it keeps an organized list of every aspect of the project in sequential order, so you can prioritize tasks and set individual dollar amounts for each aspect of the project. Once you have this list in order, you can decide what parts you absolutely need to have original replacements for, and which parts you can compromise on in order to keep your budget in check.

While it’s entirely up to you to decide what is important to have original parts for, here are a few areas to consider. Original trim and molding for your classic car will give it the instantly recognizable look of the way the make and model was meant to look. Don’t skimp on the paint, either. Make sure you find a reliable professional for the job and use original colors whenever possible. These elements will help the car retain its value in a resale.

As for the engine and various other parts, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish with the rebuild. Is this to be a restoration to bring the car as close as possible to the original? Or are you simply aiming for power? If you answer is the latter, save money and hand-wringing by finding affordable after-market parts.

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