In the early ’90s, bringing a classic car back to life was simply called a “restoration.” The term was used to classify a particular vehicle that has been “restored,” but nowadays that same word seems to be the center of debate between traditionalists and those who use the word loosely. While the word “restoration” may be a correct way to categorize the overall action of bringing an old car back to life, the industry has now coined additional subcategories to provide detailed insight as to what type of restoration was performed. So, here’s a breakdown of the most popular categories:
Often referred to as a body-off, frame-off, or ground-up restoration, this is used to describe a vehicle that has been disassembled and reconstructed using either refurbished factory parts, N.O.S. (new old stock), OEM parts, or re-popped, factory-approved replacement parts. This is the most detailed type of restoration, which addresses all parts seen and unseen, and it’s the costliest of the bunch. One of the highlights of a full restoration is the fact that they try to preserve the vehicle’s original history and the end goal is to return the vehicle to like-new condition.
This highly popular category infuses modern-day technology and performance into the cars of yesteryear. While most of the exterior retains the stock bodylines and attributes, restomods feature a host of modern-day parts, which include upgraded braking systems, new frames, high-performance dependable motors (think LS), and modern-day suspension upgrades. In short, this is the category some refer to as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
These vehicles have a solid foundation, with most emphasis being placed on the motor, transmission, and suspension. When it comes to a mechanical restoration, there are varying degrees, as some mechanical restorations are done on vehicles with superclean bodies while others are performed on what would otherwise be called rust buckets. Of course this category is also referred to as the “Black Hole,” as this is a lengthy process that many car owners can get stuck in for years, if not decades.
Sympathetic Restoration, aka Cosmetic Restoration
Perhaps the most popular of all the categories is a sympathetic restoration. This is when most of the visual cues of a vehicle have been addressed and the body has remained on the car. A sympathetic restoration represents the largest category of builds out there and is also one of the best ways to enjoy your lowrider. Plus, there are quite a few “survivor” lowrider-style cars still out there.
Now that you have a general breakdown of the most popular types of restorations, we’re hoping this information will help disseminate the differences as it is an important chunk of information that’s necessary when it comes to describing your own build or buying one that’s been improperly listed. In the end these descriptive terms and categories are just identifying terms used to categorize the style of the build, but it will be up to you to see just how well the work was performed.
In addition, each category comes with its pros and cons. Some full restorations become so detailed and expensive that owners don’t even want to drive their vehicles while others who have cut their frames regret it when it comes time to getting full value for their vehicle. But this is where lowriding gets fun because at the end of the day it’s your build and your vision so do as you please, and if someone disagrees with your decision send them the link to your GoFundMe page so they can give you money to build the car they’ve always wanted. Last but not least, all these car build categories also come with fair warning: Please be careful with the shop you choose because as most of us know time and money for a build can multiply with wrongly chosen shops out there. Trust no one, good luck, and God bless.