Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Old Stock vs Reproduction Parts For Your Classic Car

by Andrea L. White
Motorheads Performance

Guy Algar and I are often asked whether it is better to have an original part or a reproduction part on a classic car, and this question came up from a caller to Motorheads Performance just the other day. More specifically, the caller wanted to know, from the standpoint of keeping the vehicle's value at its highest, whether it is more important to have a rusted part to refurbish and install, or to use a reproduction part. This is a question that many of our customers wrestle with. 

Because Motorheads Performance is a traditional hot rod shop, we try wherever possible to use old stock. We often find parts in junkyards, on-line searches, or through our network of shops and private collectors who we've accumulated over the years.  Yes, it is painstaking and time-consuming work to find parts which are 1) correct for the vehicle, 2) are in restorable condition, and 3) are priced reasonably.  This is where experience helps save time and money, but unfortunately for the average do-it-yourselfer, there will be a big investment of both when trying to keep your restoration project truly stock.

Our preference for trying to keep all of our restoration projects stock is because there is more value in a "correct" vehicle, whether you're talking number matching engine and transmissions, or other engine, body or trim pieces.  However, as parts have been frantically bought up over the last decade, they are becoming increasingly harder and harder to find, especially for the most popular of cars and trucks including the musclecars and rare or vintage hard-to-find vehicles. You'll notice more restored 4-door cars as the 2-door models have been pretty well picked over and bought up over the past decade or so. Even models that were never considered noteworthy are now popping up with appeal to those wanting to get in on nostalgic old cars and trucks.

Those who haven't tried searching for a rare part would be amazed at how many hours of searching it can take to find appropriate parts.  I stress this because you need to be cautious when buying parts. Sometimes you'll hear, "Oh, this part will also fit yours", or "it doesn't matter what vehicle it came off of as long as the diameter is the same", or similar comments from those wanting to sell the item they have.  I can't tell you how many of our customers who have taken up the task of finding their own parts ended up buying parts we couldn't use because they were incorrect or wouldn't fit.  The job is sometimes harder than you think.  Read your vehicles manual, research, and stay with parts that are indeed correct for your ride if you are taking the time to keep things original.

Since time is money, this is why some people make the decision to incorporate some reproduction parts in their restoration.  Done right, reproduction parts can sometimes save a bit of time, prevent the need to restore (repair, blast, prime and paint) old parts, and can get you out of a pinch if you simply cannot find the needed part. 

Case in point is one customer who has not been able to find an original dash for their Model A.  After searching for years without success, we were able to give them the name of a company who manufactures reproduction steel dashes specifically for the Model A.  While not "original", the use of this reproduction part will get the project back on track and on the road!  The owners, who wish to use only original parts, have the option to keep searching for the correct dash piece needed while enjoying their ride.  In an upcoming article, we'll talk about how to properly restore an old, rusty original part.

Reproduction parts are useful when they are correct, are quality, and made specific to your vehicle.  We avoid "one size fits all" types of reproduction parts, as proper fit can often be challenging enough for parts manufactured specific to one vehicle's year, make, model.  We find that sometimes reproduction parts fall short in providing proper fit or performance. Again, carefully research the product and compare it to using original parts.

Also a consideration is whether you want to add a few modern luxuries such as IFS (independent front suspension), disc brakes, a beefier exhaust system, headers, or upgrades to your powertrain. Changing your suspension to IFS will keep your vehicle from being truly stock, but can add to the enjoyment of your car if you are wanting to enjoy long cruises or weekend drives. Upgrading the engine to performance levels will also involve modifications to several systems such as intake, exhaust, suspension at a minimum, which also alters a "stock" vehicle. 

Guy Algar explains, "At Motorheads Performance, I meet at length with each customer to determine what their wants and goals are. What you intend to use the car for (daily driver, weekend warrier, drag racer, cruiser, etc), as well as what your goals are for horsepower, and level of "bling" or eye appeal you want are very important, as they are often in conflict with each other. We try to help you sort this out and make solid decisions so you end up with a finished project that meets or exceeds your dream." He also suggests, "Try finding shops that offer design and planning services. If you are wanting to do all the work yourself, but need help planning out your project, we can layout the appropriate steps and parts you'll need." Whether you do the planning yourself or enlist the help of a professional, I recommend thinking your project through carefully before you invest any time or money into it so that when you do begin your project, you haven't made costly and sometimes irreversible mistakes.

The bottom line of old stock versus reproduction parts is that "it depends".  It depends on what you want, what you value, what you will use your ride for, whether you are doing the job yourself or hiring a professional, and to some degree, your budget.  We like stock because there will ALWAYS be a demand for quality stock vehicles. The trick is to know what are items you can upgrade or change that may actually add value, versus those that will not or may even cause a loss of value. The drawback to pimping out your ride is that fads come and go. Sometimes it pays to be conservative. What is popular now probably won't be in another few years and you'll be looking to do another at least partial restoration. 

Andrea L. White is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her business partner Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Purpose of Motorheads Performance's Newsletter

Guy and I have been talking about the best ways to share some of the experiences we have at Motorheads Performance, as well as some of the great questions we get from people contacting us. Our purpose is to help others get good information to help them with their own restoration or repair projects, as well as help them avoid some of the common mistakes that are made. Often, these mistakes can save time initially, but end up costing much more money and time in the long run.

If you would like to see a specific article in Classic Car News, need an answer to a question, or want to share an experience you think might benefit others, please contact us via e-mail.

Guy L. Algar & Andrea L. White
Motorheads Performance