Car Restoration versus Refurbishment

The words car restoration and refurbishment are two of the regularly misjudged and misused words. Be it car buyers or seller, it appears everybody has their own translation of what these words truly mean. The misconception of their actual ramifications can cause issues when a car is being sold. We will try to dispel any confusion and characterize what each word implies.

In basic terms, car restoration or auto restoration is an automobile that has been built precisely the way its manufacturer initially had it rolling off the production line.

There are different types and quality levels of car restoration: beginner and expert, incomplete or full, exposed metal or snappy repaint. However, for each situation, the general purpose of renovating old cars, trucks and cruisers is to take them back to the same correct condition they were in when initially delivered.

Classic car restoration doesn’t imply that it has been restored effectively, and precisely. Truth be told, many car restorations fail for a number of reasons. Repainting a car doesn’t mean that car has been properly restored. Reconstructing a car’s mechanical frameworks, be it the motor, transmission or suspension, doesn’t imply auto restoration either.

The other options besides a factory correct car restoration are: a resto-mod where a vintage car or truck is given a modern drive-train/engine/brakes to make it more drivable or have more power; or a custom restoration where a vintage car or truck is given a roof chop, fender flares, or other body modifications to make it truly one-of-kind, often also including upgrading the drive-train.

The true sense of the term ‘car restoration,’ implies the following:

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Body: All the windows, weather stripping, and each and every bit of outside trim (handles, badges, etc) are to be removed.  The past paint/primer/filler complete must be removed and the whole body rendered in bare metal. All the rusted-out, lumpy, damaged, and/or pitted metal areas must be repaired.

Paint: The paint color ought to be precisely the same that the car was first painted, if known, or be shading that its producer offered that year for comparative models.   Paint codes can be obtained to match the factory colors.

Interior: More than simply slipping on an upholstery unit and new door panels, classic car restoration incorporates a dashboard that has been dismantled so every one of the instruments can be cleaned and reconstructed. Same with the chrome trim and chrome handles; they should be re-plated if required. All new weather-stripping must be introduced also.

Mechanicals: For auto restoration all suspension, brake, fuel, steering, axles, and any part that wears must be inspected.  Those that don’t need to be replaced should have new bearings, bushings, etc.  Those that are too worn to put back on, should be replaced with original equivalents.


Engine: Original specifications are the key here. Internal upgrades, such as lightweight pistons, higher-lift camshafts, forged connecting rods or a three-angle valve cut, are acceptable only because these modifications cannot be seen once the engine is assembled. However, aftermarket intake manifolds, exhaust headers, carburetors, chrome alternators and open-element chrome air cleaners are not acceptable for a factory-correct car restoration.

Car refurbishment’ then would be partial work done in these areas.  For example, a repaint without removing the interior, dash, wiring, even if the outer body panels are taken down to bare metal.

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If these guidelines appear to be fastidious, they are, but it’s this kind of correctness and detailing that separate a restoration from a refurbishment. A factory correct restoration is not for everyone, but certain cars hold tremendous value if done this way.  If you want the best car restoration, it can only be provided at good car restoration shops. The best car restoration shops know from experience what your car needs. Get in touch with a top car restoration shop here.