It’s a question that you see discussed frequently in old-car magazines – will cars of the 1990s ever be restored? Some say “no way.” Others feel it’s just a matter of time. Auctioneers say that people start collecting the cars they wanted in high school when those cars turn 25 years old. The mortgage is paid, the kids have been put through college and suddenly the money is there to buy the dream car. I always accepted this view. Now, after taking a '90s car apart piece by piece, I've changed my thinking. People will certainly collect well-preserved 1990s cars. Some are doing this already. Other enthusiasts may even “fix up” a ‘90s car with minor repairs. But when it comes to a complete, ground-up restoration, I think that a 1990s car may be impossible to restore.
A 1994 Sunbird coupe inspired this “reality check.” The car was purchased to be an engine donor. It took about three and a half months of working nights and weekends to strip the car down to the bare essentials. When the job was finished, all that remained was the sub frame and body structure, the front A arms, the damaged right-hand door, the right rear quarter window, the backlight, the rear axle and suspension, the gas tank and a pair of temporary spare tires bolted to the rear wheel hubs (without brakes). In this form, the car was rollable and could be pulled away when all the parts were removed. As the car was disassembled, every part was “tagged and bagged.” Taking the car apart was supposed to be a “fun” project and a learning experience. Due to the complexity of the vehicle, stripping it down was more work than pleasure. The educational part of the job was also kind of a bust. For example, one would think that after taking hundreds of plastic electrical clips apart, you’d learn the right ways to disconnect them, but it seems like the factory procedure is to break the clip, throw it away and get a new one for reassembly. That’s great for GM clip sales, but what will future restorers do when all the clips are gone? Many parts on a 1990s car are fully recyclable and will soon be impossible to find. I believe that no one will ever do full restorations on '90s cars.