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Question of the Week: What terrible changes have you made to your car, only to regret it?

Owning and being the caretaker of a car is one thing, but making it your own is something entirely different—and a rite of passage for many car lovers. With all the options for modifying cars out there though, there are certainly wrong ways to go about it. We want to hear about the modifications you regret.

Early automobiles didn’t have nearly the aftermarket support that we enjoy today—or even that existed 50 years ago. Those lucky enough to own cars might have the upholstery re-done when it inevitably wore out, or a custom pinstripe added to the paint. Post WWII, Americans have enjoyed the ability to customize their vehicles easily, thanks to outfits like J.C. Whitney, which stocks any manner of hop-up and customization parts.


This 1984 Toyota Celica has certainly been customized. Photo: Aaron McKenzie

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, though. Any number of great original cars has been ruined thanks to an owner with far too high of a credit limit on their American Express card. We all have done something to a car we’re not proud of, so let this Hagerty Forums thread serve as a confessional. Tell us about those questionable modifications you’ve made. We won’t judge.

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I changed the color of a 69 1/2 6Pack Road runner because I got tired of being pulled over.

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@mopardon - That’s a rough one.

Got pulled over a lot when it was Red. Never again once painted steel grey imoron.

Loud exhausts seem awesome when you first get them then about 20 miles into a long cruise it gets old. The new electronic valve setups are probably the best of both worlds.

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Very true! My exhaust sounds great…for 20 minutes. Then I need to wear earplugs!

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Restoring them on a perhaps too frugal budget…

Letting the wrong people wrench on them.

Not devoting enough time to them.

That’s about all I got.

Oh, and perhaps never getting them ready in time for the public spin around the indy motor speedway track days.

Cutting holes in door panels and rear window shelves to accommodate big stupid speakers. What was I thinking???

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I cut a hole in the roof of my ‘69 Camaro for a sunroof. There’s absolutely nothing I can do to back that out, it looks good, just doesn’t really do anything to enhance cooling in or appearance of the car.

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Bought a 1951 Dodge convertable in the early 70’s that my wife thought was “cute”. Lived in a hilly Suburb with narrow winding streets and only on street parking. After wife drove the cute car for awhile with no power steering or brakes the cuteness wore off.

I have a couple. same car. Young kid then
1973 Dodge Charger. Light brown interior. Door panels were a beat up and I didn’t have the money to replace so I wrapped them in diamond tucked “leather”…yeah I know. Had some extra so for good measure I glued the rest in the back window shelf…Pretty snazzy!!!
Second the seats were torn pretty bad so I came across an old wrecked charger that had had the interior seats (front and back) redone in crushed yellow velvet…awesome!! 50 bucks and yep they went into it too. Looking back, just needed the fedora with the feather, and I was god to go

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I saw an article in Hot Rod magazine where somone had put a Olsmobile Toranado engine/transaxle in the back of a Corvair. I became obsessed with the idea. As a 19 year old with a worn out Corvair and a cutting torch, I felt I could do anything, so I did it. Many hours later, I ended up with a rocket ship that was unstable whenever you took your foot off the gas. I ended up giving it away.

It’s never been clear to me why anyone would spend the money to install a Huge sound system – better than a lot of home systems – into a car that is replete with road, wind and driveline noise.
A bunch of those Huge thumping bass speakers should be rated more on the Richter scale than on decibel output. When you can see the windows vibrating as the speakers work, you just Know that the hearing of the driver is being done no favors.
So buy stock in a hearing aid manufacturer. The demand for those ought to increase commensurately in the future.
Meanwhile, when I want good music, I’ll enjoy it with the Bose system I have installed in my home.
When I’m driving, I’ll just go with whatever the factory chooses to offer, even as options.
Especially with older vintage and classic cars, even as resto-mods.
It’s just not worth the money to do much more than that. Even for bragging rights.

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I made the mistake of trying to put a factory tilt column in my 72 Cougar. First of all the supposedly “refurbished” column cost me nearly $1000. Then the turn signal switch was bad which was another $125. Then after it was installed it would tilt only occaisonally. The final straw was when I was sitting in line to enter a car show when smoke started coming out of the column. The switch had shorted out, so I had no turn signals or brake lights. That was the last straw and I put the original column back in and sold the car for much too cheap. I did get $300 for the tilt column on eBay, and yes I did advise the buyer it needed work.

Very true. I learned this twice. Once with headers on a 71 Challenger and again with straight through glass packs on a motorcycle. Both lasted a maximum of two weeks and only because it took that long to get the stock parts delivered. It was like I ruined both vehicles and could not wait to get back to original. Loud exhaust is the most monotonous sound, make that noise, in the world.

You did the recipient no favors. That was and remains a really bad conversion. Even the Corv8 conversions were nothing to write home about, though they were really fast in a straight line. They offered a smaller polar moment of intertia bias than did your conversion, but added a fair amount of weight along with some cooling issues that were always an issue.
Most homebuilt Corv8’s I’ve seen suffered from too many shortcuts and bad quality builds to be considered good on the road.
Years ago, WRC Shedenhelm writing for Sports Car Graphic did an article about someone who swapped a Corvette V-8 into an AH Sprite.
That one may still be out there now, but it was another really bad idea.

I don’t know that it qualifies as “terrible”, but it’s one I wouldn’t do today. When I was 18, I had a '65 Buick Skylark that I had put the engine & trans from a '72 LeSabre in. I scored a pristine shaker hood scoop & air cleaner assembly from a wrecked ‘78 Trans Am, so I took a jig saw and cut a hole in the Buick’s hood and finished the cut edge with chrome vinyl door edge guard. Then I cut out the back of the shaker. Surprisingly, the height was just about perfect, but the black scoop poking through the brown hood looked odd, so I taped off the hood and sprayed a couple of black stripes with a rattle can. Stylin’!

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I’ll preface this by stating that I was young and stupid! My first car in the mid-60’s was a hand-me-down '55 Pontiac Star Chief 4 door sedan. About as stodgy as they get - even for a '55. I set about to make it more “cool”. Remove most of the chrome and stainless trim (of which there was a shit-ton) including the front bumper & grille. Add a hood scoop, cut out and flare the rear quarters, paint it a metallic dark brown (which looked good, to me, on a mid-60’s Bel Air) that made it look like a big turd! Baby moon hub caps with chrome trim rings, bucket seats out of a Corvair and a myriad of other custom touches inside and out. Since the car had been in the family since new (Grandparents) and that my Dad was a Pontiac mechanic for most of his career, I’m still amazed that he didn’t kill me for “destroying” the poor car. Feeling increasingly nostalgic for the past few years, I acquired another '55 Star Chief (a 2 door hardtop in Turquoise Blue) to restore and enjoy. I’m hoping to have it on the road before Summer is over and I’m hoping that bringing this car back to life will provide some forgiveness of my past sins!

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I’ve done the big stereos and with the added sound proofing investment I’m ok with what all had gone into it… when I was younger. Putting a exhaust system in my current car is for sure something I wasn’t expecting to regret. As mentioned towards the top of the thread… it for sure wears off in not much time. Second mistake would be adding lowering springs… with zero other supporting mods. Its a bouncy house in there and I bought the car brand new.