Question of the Week: Stock or modified for your vintage ride?


As long as automobiles have existed, people have been making their own improvements to them. When it comes to originality, there seems to be two camps in today’s classic car community. There are those who maintain and restore cars as close as possible to how they rolled off the dealer’s lot, and there are those who can’t resist adding some kind of performance or visual customizations.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/01/05/stock-vs-modified-for-your-ride


There was a time when I would modify a car (any car) with reckless abandon and all sorts of parts were thrown at the car. I still enjoy making modifications but for the most part I try to modify my cars using upgraded oem parts. For example: I would be more inclined to swap a 450sl engine for a 500 or, 560 so as to keep things in the same family. I do all of my own work and pay great attention to detail. I clean and polish my bolts, aneal copper washers, antiseize everything, and torque to spec, and clean everything in the surrounding areas. I am very skeptical of other people’s work so, for person like me that does modifications, I wouldn’t be a buyer of a moded car. However, when a person buys a moded car from me they’re also getting the love for free.


I think I had the time and skills I would be all about building awesome Riddler Award Worthy cars would be the plan. But realistically. I like to make subtle resto mods to make the car more fun and safe to drive. The typical stuff, power disc brakes, suspension upgrades to improve handling, a well planned out engine build that is streetable but with some solid performance on pump gas. Bolt on stuff for the most part. Otherwise, I try and stick to factor available upgrades, like factory gauges, factory wood wheels, factory colors and schemes. But my next car will be an old Model A Pick up Roadster, all stock and in top notch running order but with some patina.


I typically lean towards small reliability improvements (electronic ignition and fuel pump) and bolt on style and performance upgrades (exhaust and carburetors) while keeping the original parts safely stored and preserved.

I try and make it as easy as possible for the next steward of my cars to restore them should they choose to.


Agree. I also lean toward reliability modifications. In the old car, things like a solid-state ignition to replace points and condenser, or a ballast resistor and a 12v battery to add a little confidence when I’m 30 miles from my shop on a summer day.
On the new(er) car I’ve been able to remove complicated and failure-prone emissions equipment with better engine management and also added improved cooling and lower charge temps.


I drove the stock vehicles for many years when I was growing up, the list is staggering.
The speed limits were 55 mph, most of the older cars, that was about as fast as you would want to drive them.

It only seems obvious that you would want to modify the engine suspension and anything else to maintain safety on the roads of today, there have been a lot of close calls on some guy driving his 1954 Chevy pickup at a whopping speed of 40mph on a 65mph road.

I love the looks, but not the performance of the old cars/trucks.

You just can’t go wrong with a modern suspension and engine in your 1937 Chevy pickup, and you don’t have to put a 700HP full blown nitrous engine in them either, that is ridiculous.

Just using these as an example.



I’ve tried to keep my 66 turbo charged Corvair Corsa convertible as stock as possible with a few exceptions:
-electronic ignition and fuel pump
-dual master brake system
-larger 15" wheels with radicals.
These upgrades vastly improve reliability and handling.
Though I prefer “stock” cars I have no problem with people who personalize their vehicles to their hearts content.


I suppose we can do just about anything we want to cars we own. There are those who must be totally original and those whose finished products bear little resemblance to what came from the factory. I personally fall somewhere in-between. I make performance improvements in-keeping with what was available in-period. Though a real bear of a project, The MGB MkIII now has a proper MKI metal dash with proper toggle switches, side markers disappeared when last painted, etc… The old 998 Cooper is now a proper '65 appendix K spec 1275. Do what you want. It’s YOUR car, but don’t forget to ooh and aah at the other bloke’s ride even if you want to throw-up as soon as he’s gone!



I have a 50 Chevy 3100 pickup modified quite a bit
Running a 261 L6 out of a 58 school bus,Howard Cam,Finton headers, Edelbrock duel intake, Weber carburetors, electronic ignation, Saginaw Four Speed, transmision,1970’s GM truck twelve bolt 3:07 rearend, power brakes with disks brakes on the front three inch dropped axel and two inch drop mono springs front and rear.
Then there’s our 1974 GMC Classic motor home not quiet stock
Way to much to post.


I have a 1967 Mustang Fastback that I have modified to make it safer and more reliable to cruise in. It was done with the thought that the next owner could return to original (if they choose to) within a six month period. I see no reason not to add these features and believe it is a peronal choice as a lot of these older vehicles have had modifications in the past and original engines and drivetrains would be impossible to aquire. Just have fun and drive them, that is why we have them.


I agree with doing the safety and reliability upgrades, but when I modify my vintage cars ('58 A-H Sprite, '66 Mustang 289) I make sure that the modifications are A)reversible and B) don’t change the factory design (i.e. adding holes, welding plates, etc). This makes the cars able to be returned to stock, as-built configuration, BTW, I also keep all of the original parts for the next steward.


@hnielsen2 - I have heard it said those GMC Motorhomes are always a $30k investment. Whether you buy a $10k or $25k example, you will end up with at least $30k into it.

I could only imagine for one that is modified!


@chuds66 - The dual circuit brake conversion is always a worthwhile addition. Considering it can be done with factory parts and not look out of place at all, there is no reason not to in my mind. I have the conversion sitting on my workbench now awaiting my calendar to clear up enough to let me install it on my '65 Corsa!


I bought my ‘69 Camaro pure stock off a dealer lot in 1974. I started modifying it almost immediately, and have kept on over the years. It now has a SBC stroker, a tilt fiberglass front end, tubs, Caltracs bars, Ford 9” rear end, Doug Nash (now Richmond Gear) 5 speed, sun roof, roll cage, almost everything has been modified. We weren’t stewards back then, I just had a very fast used car. Every bolt, nut, washer, clip, has been cleaned, painted/chromed/replaced. The only modification I regret is the sun roof.
So, modified. That said, I’m now the steward of a highly modified ‘69 Camaro so my son can enjoy it.
I’m looking at a “new” car to play with, and it is solely because I love the way that model looks lowered. The fact that the 5.7 Hemi has enough age that almost anything can be done to go fast is bonus. The plan is for it to be my sons car when he’s old enough, a (running) project to build as he grows up.


This is a “How long is a piece of string” question to which there is no “right” answer in my clearly humble opinion. Folks seem to fall somewhere on a continuum from those who “Drive” to those who “Show”. The closer one falls to the “Drive” end of the range the more likely one is to modify their car at least with the things that have been noted to improve safety and reliability and the ability to operate at modern speeds and traffic densities. The “Show” end of the range tends to search out the OEM part and then not drive the car very much but provides a clear baseline for what the car looked like when it left the factory.

As for me, I am a driver who likes to make mods that an observer can only see if very knowledgeable about my car model or when I open the bonnet or put it on a lift. And I respect everyone who has made a choice anywhere along the continuum as long as it is well done.


I think it depends on the car weather to leave it stocks or modifie. I have a 1970 Nova that I bought in 1974 other than the original owner going to Applegate Chevrolet in Flint Michigan and ordering the car the way he wanted it was just a stock Nova.So after driving the car for three years stock( other than some aluminum slots ,an L88 fiberglass hood ,and a set of Hooker Headers sidepipes) from three trips to Daytona and a drive to California .I decided to pull the tired 350 2 bl and three speed out (130,000 miles) and replaced it with a bored out 350 , a Dyers V 671 blower and 4 speed. Even with a 4:11 gear I don’t drive to far but it still runs great and still turns heads. In 1977 when I was working on the Nova I bought a 1971 Monte Carlo SS.Not knowing the limited number of SS made when I bought I still left it stock.Other than radial tires the car is all original with 54.000 miles . So to me it depends on how the owner of the car wants to express them self.


Like most above, I work hard to keep all my classics looking close to original. However, aside from exterior appearances, they all have updated drive trains, suspension, gauges, and electrical. Some have custom interior when original was either deteriorated beyond repair or simply not comfortable for driving. I am in awe of the guys that can customize sheet metal to create visions from their sketch pad but I am not that well versed in sheetmetal work and I like the original body lines of the cars I choose. That is the major reason I choose them. So, restomod all the way for me!


I got hooked on Lincoln Mark VIII’s, the last of Lincoln hot rods, 93-98. I keep them orginal as I can. My 98 Collectors Edition, only 1326 built, is oem except the radio. My 94 is all oem. The 95 is my wifes DD, which we’ve had for 19 years. They got the 32 valve engine,(cobra), in 93. People always say look a Mustang engine, but Mustang got it in 96. They have plenty of power, just under 300 HP, all the toys, and great mileage. As with all cars 20 years old, parts are getting rare.


I think I’m in the middle of the “piece of string” conversation. I have a 74 Challenger, vast majority is stock or NOS. The only items I replaced with “modern” piece were the front bushings and associated rubber parts. Since the car is both a driven and show vehicle. I’m doing all I can to preserve it as it came off the line. If god forbid the motor goes, then I’ll consider a suitable replacement and suspension upgrades.

However, I have a bunch of buddies who have made it their mission to rebuild/re-invent their rides. I get get what they did and appreciate the work, time and expense that went in to those cars. I also love to check out the rest-mods and hot rods at the local cruise nights - nothing like a Chevy small block in a F series Ford pick-up.


I am a mod guy, I like to keep the appearance of the vehicle as stock looking as possible with mag wheels being the only thing non stock looking. Well maybe tires too. But underneath it’s hog wild bigger engine, modified suspension, brakes, drive train, you name it. I like to make em the way the factory should have back in the day. Please understand the stock looking part is as it drives by, up close is another story.