Gunners Garage


Do you prefer a car to that’s totally stock or one that rocks because a few things that didn’t work well in the first place were upgraded? That’s the debate that Shane Hanke and I were having at Gunner’s Great Garage on Monday past. While I like my early ’50s MG T Series cars totally stock, Shane is an expert on the newer MGB’s and he has no problems putting twin carbs on a ’76 model or swapping out the failure-prone early electronic ignition for something more reliable. “Shane,” I said. “Collectors want ORIGINAL stuff on their cars.” he shot back, “MG B owners want their cars to have the things that work the best.” He and I are about 180 degrees apart on these things and I’m sure some of you will understand my view and others will agree with him. But I’m wondering which approach has the most fans. If you read this and have an opinion, please tell me wht you think. — Gunner

22 thoughts on “STOCKER OR ROCKER

  1. John

    That is really a loaded question and truthfully, but it part:
    It appears that in the upper end of the highly priced automobile world,( millions ) , originality rules all the way to 500 point shows, the best of the best,

    There again, their are shows that are explicitly set for Hot Rods, Custom Cars and and Modified cars.
    This is the break away point from original to personal taste.

    I have been a purist in my automobile renovations, rotisseri types, nut, bolt and clip, and wax the underbody and frame before reattaching.

    Many owners do upgraded to their own taste, I would say it is to make their car perform better, look better and to correct factory known build issue’s !

    I do enjoy all automobiles as a whole, especially from the late 1890’s-1973.
    Would make an exception for a 2005-07 Ford GT 40.

    I term, (90%) of modern day cars as “throw away cars”, meaning that they are to be used, handed down to a new owner and then used until ready for the shredder.

    I personally would keep any automobile of collector value as stock per factory spec.
    If I would vary from stock, I would most definatly “keep” the stock parts.
    If a new buyer does not like your modifications, he/she has the option of going back stock.

    Best I can come up with, much more could be written though,

  2. Ron Rauschart

    Although I admire the street rods, the retro rods, etc. I prefer a totally stock vehicle. I have a stock 57 Chevy Bel Air Coupe. This is a car that is tempting, and very easy to modify and improve. I’m still hanging in with bias ply tires, no power steering or brakes. They are only original once…..when they leave the factory. They can remain stock indefinetly.

  3. Bill Holtzclaw

    I think how a car is restored depends on the builders ambitions. If your goal is to restore for show, then by all means keep it totally stock and original as the manufacturer intended. If your goal is to drive it and show it at local “Cruise Ins”, then safety, performance and driveability are much more important than originality. The folks walking around at local shows don’t look at “correct” so much as they look at overall “bling” factor.

  4. dan hoffman

    Presently I own five collector cars:1964 Karmann-Ghia, 1966 Austin-Healey 3000, 1967 Morris Minor, 1973 Jensen-Healey and a 1978 Leyland Mini.

    Though I keep my cars as stock as possible I do some modification for improvement (performance or safety) if I can conceal it for show. The Ghia does have a 1500 engine with 1600 barrels but looks stock when viewed (I had difficulty finding a good 1200 engine). The Healey does have a mechanical switch for the brakes after I was able to stop it without the brake light coming on. The Morris does have a Pertronix distributor (I had one in stock a customer changed his mind about).

    Overall I do find cars that had “emissions” added to existing engines (like the British in the late sixties and the seventies) were more troublesome and required some modification. Once the engines were designed for emission there were less troublesome. British cars of the fifties and sixties (pre-emission) seem fine if properly maintained. At least that is what I find with my Healey which I have owned for 42 years.

  5. Don McCredie

    I am for upgrades. Completely stock is OK for the museum or trailer queen cars. However, if your car is to be driven on today’s roads with family on board, I see nothing wrong with “reasonable” safety and reliability upgrades which help extend the life of the car and the occupants. Examples are, hydraulic brakes, seat belts, radial tires, electronic ignition, LED tail light bulbs, electric radiator fan, etc. Most of these upgrades are invisible to the casual observer.

  6. Ken Jordan

    I do not like to see a nice original body with a nearly original interior sitting on a later model chassis with high performance equipment. But the only cars I would not change in any way are completely unrestored originals, or as now called “preservation class”. In restoring an old car to near original condition I think if it is going to be a “driver” the addition of upgrades for safety or better drivability, done in good taste, are ok and even smart to do. I painstakingly restored a 1971 Chev short body pickup to factory original. It was a plain Jane model with no power assists, 250ci 6cyl. and 3 speed. It looked beautiful. But after struggling with its drivability on tour or in parades (having driven 8,000 mi. since restored) I gave it a major transplant last year. It now has power brakes, power steering, 350ci V8 and automatic transmission from a 58,000 mi. 1975 Chev. pickup that was rusted beyond salvation. It looks the same, but is so much more fun to drive that I have put 1,500 miles on it this year. The debate will always be there in this hobby, but the only changes I am against are the truly “sacriligious” modifications, no matter how beautifully and mechanically done.

  7. Jim Fraser

    I can agree with you both. An early “T” should be keep original, you’re not going to drive that car on any kind of a regular basis. A later model “B”, you will probably want to drive and enjoy, so why not upgrade to something drivable? God knows they certainly need help. I do for the most part like the original look to be maintained as much as possible. I own a 1952 Ford F-1 pick-up which looks stock, but has been upgraded for drivability. Compleatly stock body all steel with the original I-6 215 cu in engine. Converted to 12 volt, disk breaks, T-5 transmission, gas tank relocated to under the bed and fully sound insulated. I love driving it because it drives great and it looks great too!

  8. ted cragulets

    i like all stock autos as long as they are in a museumn and not being driven. but as you have said, they are only new once. if one is goinging to drive there car they must be upgraded. we know that the auto enginers were never the smartest. ted gragulets

  9. Mac McCoy

    I have no problem with modifications to an automobile as long as it does not show and it helps the usability of it.

    For example I have a 1910 Brush Runabout. It had the original cast iron piston replaced with a modern aluminum one. This makes the engine run smother with less weight from the 4 X 5 single cylinder having the mass of the piston moving up and down. My Brush also has modern seals to control oil leakage and modern roller bearings in the wheels in place of the ball bearings the car had from the factory.

    My 1920 Model T Ford Roadster has a counter balanced crankshaft to reduce vibration. This makes the car a joy to drive compared to my 1930 Model A Tudor and 1930 Model A Deluxe Roadster that the vibrations in the steering wheels will make my hand numb after an hour of driving them.

    I have installed a new wiring harness on my 1930 Roadster that has add ional wires for turn signals as the drivers today have no idea what the hand signals mean. My cowl lights now have double filament bulbs and there are left and right tail lights on the rear for the turn signals. None of this shows other than the right side tail light. I feel this is a small change in the name of safety.


  10. Johnnie Luddite

    Mr. Gunner, let me state up front that I respect your expertise and accept your preference on the question of absolutely stock vs. updated and improved. But, Mr. Shane’s position is my own. I can enjoy my old rides more when they have been updated with better engineered improvements from later models. I prefer trouble free motoring over righteous, but trouble prone motoring.

  11. Bill Pearson

    Hard to take any side completely, always an exception, i.e., a change from lacquer paint, radial tires and electronic ignitions seem to be exceptions that “almost” universally are accepted. Personally I like to see totally original cars, trucks and motorcycles kept unrestored if in exceptional condition. I also like period modifications like vintage type mag wheels, sun tachs and so on, on muscle cars or under dash air on 50’s 60’s cars. Oh and don’t forget, we’ve all seen hot rods made from otherwise worthless, or very uneconomical restoration projects.

    In the end, you own it, do what you please.

  12. Bob Johnson

    I find the desire for “original” varies widely among vehicle enthusiast’s. The type and age of vehicle play a role in how it is viewed, and which “collector” is attracted to the vehicle.

    Among my customers, I have both camps. Generally, those who want to use their vehicles for more than display them have no problem in adding more modern and reliable systems. Most seem to prefer maintaining the original appearance of the exterior.

    Last year I appraised a “resto-mod” 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air 2-door hardtop. I was somewhat surprised to find, at that time, the market valued the resto-mod higher than similar condition 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air 2-door hardtops that were fully restored to factory specification.

    I am wrestling with this now on my wife’s 1966 Mustang GT coupe. It needs a freshining, and it is tempting to upgrade engine, suspension, etc. Problem is, it is a nice original equipment car with the factory running gear. It is not a survivor, as it was restored about 20 years ago with new paint, and upholstery as part of the deal. She likes to drive the car, so making it a trailer queen is not part of any plan. It is also not a “rare” car so the market value may not be adversely effected by changes.

    I believe the question will always fall to personal preference with too many variables to devise any “formula” for the correct choice. My favorite customers tell me they built their cars for themselves and really don’t care whether anyone else likes the end result, or not.

  13. R Schenkenberg

    I bought and restored a 65 Chevelle S/S totally stock with numbers matching. I kept it this way as was easy to do because of what I started with. This creates problems at shows because I’m concours stock competing against “slightly” modified cars. This includes mags and tires,chrome goodies under the hood and so on. Stock classes show be for stock cars at shows.

  14. burt Schwartz

    While I enjoy looking at bone stock restorations or originals, the operant word is “looking.” If the car is to be driven, then I want appropriate safety upgrades which often go hand in hand with issues of reliability. If the original brakes were inadequate and/or prone to failure, by all means, upgrade them. Then there is the issue of creativity. A well done purpose built/modified ride, be it for reliable street use or track use, is always interesting. In a way, its no different from putting snow tires on a car if the car is to be used in an area with severe winters. Finally, there is the matter of cost. Restorations can cost many dollars more than modifications and not everyone has unlimited funds. One of my vehicles, a mid 30s pickup had been mostly parted out to restore other, more desirable vehicles. It was then resurrected with a Heinz 57 collection of parts and has been back on the road for 25 years now. If not modified, it would still be in a field.

  15. Kenny Anderson

    I think it depends on the vehicle in question. I don’t care for an original 30 or 40 year old car wearing 23″ DONK wheels and tires and sitting 2 feet up in the air but I guess everyone is different. If it’s an original car and in pristine condition, then definitely keep it that way. A summer cruiser can ofcourse be updated with newer safety features like radial tires, dual master cylinder, seat belts, etc.Anything bolt-on that can be put back to original is OK too like mag wheels, newer radial tires, an extra mirror,etc. If it’s been modified before to any extent, then anything new isn’t going to take away from the value or change anything original since it’s already been modified. Plus, Hey It’s a free country and it’s your car, so have fun with it, that’s what the hobby is all about anyway. Kenny.

  16. B. Filed

    I like this issue a lot. MY PERSONAL feeling is: when I go to and pay for attendance to a museum, I expect to see bone stock car from the period as they came from the factory and fully restored. When I go to local cars shows I want to see what local people drive and show. Some old cars as noted before are daily drivers and it scares me to have an old car with period brakes driving at freeway speeds right in front of me (safe distance). They do not have disc brakes and cannot stop as fast, cannot accelerate as fast to avoid accidents. I personally drive a 1929 Chrysler Model 65 fender less street rod with all late model Chrysler (V8, automatic) running gear. All wheel disc brakes. I also own a stock 1940 Chevrolet (clean) survivor that is not driven much at all. I do enjoy both types and would never put down anyone’s ride.

  17. Jere

    You know, that’s what’s so great about this hobby. We have room for just about everyone. I’m personnally into restoring pre-60’s cars to the as-manufactured condition and maintaining some neat old originals. I cringe a little when I see an old senior Packard with a Chevy shot-block in it but most of those guys found a car that would otherwise have been sent to the crusher, and they saved it for posterity. I also collect the parts they dispose of when they make it a rod.

    By and large I just admire good work regardless of it’s author. If it wasn’t for the Rod Shop’s, many of us “mere-mortals without noticable skill sets” would not have anyone to paint our antiques. I’m with some of the above folks who slip in seat belts, clear-coat paint jobs, turn signals, radial tires, cadmium coated spark plugs, and a few selected other modern advances to make my cars more rekiable (and safer) to drive. Sure, I have to change it all back to original, or hide it, when I go to the meets. If I can’t drive them they’re just another piece of furniture in my garage.

    Relax guys, have a cldl one, and tell some stories.

  18. Mark Kirk

    I generally prefer a totally stock vehicle but in a few cases it seems fine to change a few things and save the stock parts. I had a 1955 Hudson Hornet Twin H (dual carbs) It was 6 volt which we promptly changed to 12 volt and it made a huge difference in starting. Next went to radial wide white-walls and power assisted brakes with front discs. Otherwise the car was bone stock but the difference in handling and drivability were huge. It was not a real pricey car even restored. I wanted to drive it and I did. I was at Route 66 in San Bernardino and someone offered me 10 times the money I was in it and so away it went. Now I want a 1951 Chev, Deluxe 4- door with about the same set up except a split manifold, dual carbs and a good stereo and air.

  19. bob jorglewich

    I prefer stock cars of the period with period correct add-ons, I can’t ever recall seeing muscle cars appearing as they come out of the factory on the “second day” My 66 442 losts its grille, wheels and the suspension was raised hot for its time and still hot. For the balance of the cars if they are going to be driven changes for safety sake are manditory. But if I bought a 40 ford to drive on sundays would stive for stock throughout, I really think that the hobby has room for us all well maybe not “rat rods”


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