One of the most important — and also among the most misunderstood — distinctions in the automotive restoration world is the difference between car restoration vs. refurbishment. Unfortunately, this confusion is made worse by some sellers and dealers who either use these words interchangeably, or make outright false statements intended to deceive unsuspecting buyers.
What is a Car Restoration?
The operative word in the term car restoration is RESTORATION. That is, a restored car must be entirely stripped down and rebuilt from the ground-up precisely to the original manufacturers specifications. This includes visual elements (paint, grills, upholstery, etc.), mechanical systems, electrical systems, and even the radio.
What’s more – and this is another very important distinction – an allegedly restored car that features any improvements vs. the original vehicle is no longer a restored car; it’s more likely a restomod. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with restomods (in fact, some of them are flat-out awesome), they aren’t restored cars and shouldn’t be described as such.
What is a Refurbished Car?
In the simplest terms, a refurbished car – whether it was once a classic or rolled off the assembly line a few years ago – is a used car that has undergone improvements to one or more aspects, such as electronics, interiors, body, and so on.
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There is nothing fundamentally unethical about selling a refurbished classic car — provided, of course, that it is clearly identified as refurbished and not restored. The former involves making improvements, including some that may indeed be important and worthwhile. The latter involves making a car IDENTICAL to its original version. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between the two can be as massive as that between “the lightning bug and lightning.”
Restoration or Refurbished: Questions to Ask
To ensure that you aren’t misled by deceptive (or sometimes, just plain ignorant) sellers or dealers, here are some critical questions to ask:
- Has this car been totally stripped down to the very last nut and re-built to 100% meet original specifications using original parts, or if unavailable/too expensive, exact replicas?
If the answer is yes, then it’s a restored car.
- Does this car have any improvements or modifications of any kind vs. the original edition that rolled off the assembly line decades ago?
If the answer is yes, then it could either be a refurbished car or a restomod.
- Are you willing to certify and put in writing whether I’m getting a fully restored car, refurbished car, or restomod — and do you have any problem with me getting an expert independent opinion?
If the answer is yes, you’re likely dealing with a reputable seller who is telling you the truth. If the answer is no, or if there is any push back or resistance, then it’s a red flag – watch out!
At Precision Restorations, we take pride in crafting full, classic car restorations, as well as awesome, eye-catching and jaw-dropping restomods. For customers who have a more limited budget and/or timeframe to work with, we also refurbish classic cars so they look amazing and drive beautifully and safely — but when we do, we NEVER describe them as restored.
To connect with a team of experts that devoted classic car owners like you have trusted for years, contact us toll free at 1-844-652-1966 today, or email me directly at [email protected]. We love talking about cars and can’t wait to help you with your next project – whether it’s restoration, restomod, refurbish, or any other vision that you want us to bring to life!