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The world of classic car ownership is plagued by two opposing mandates that have discouraged many a collector over the years. The first is a desire to keep the vehicle as original as possible. The second is to actually be able to start and drive the thing, which usually entails aftermarket auto parts replacement and upgrades of one kind or another. The key, of course, is striking an acceptable balance between these two extremes–a balance that you, the owner, can live with, as well as one that will not adversely affect the car’s ultimate value.
Let’s face it. The older and more rare a classic car is, the more likely it is to require non-factory classic car parts. If you own a 1969 Pontiac GTO you may still be able to find factory-made or factory-remanufactured parts, but if you have a 1954 Kaiser Darrin, every part you require will, by definition, be in the category of aftermarket parts if not specifically custom-machined.
One strategy that’s increasingly popular is to replace the wheels and tires for practical road use, but reverting to the originals at car shows. This saves possible wear and tear on the valuable original equipment.
Other owners sidestep the issue entirely by ignoring the first mandate and fully accepting any and all classic car parts. They modify their cars without a second thought for originality, opting for the pleasures of today in place of the authenticity of the past. There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach as long as you are not talking about a Duesenberg or Hispano-Suiza. Then again, you wouldn’t be taking either of those on an extended road trip that might demand more modern creature comforts.
If you’re not a stickler for original parts, there are all kinds of things you can do to older cars to make them more suitable (and practical) for road use. Over and above aftermarket auto parts, there are always car accessories and gadgets that were never dreamed of when some of the older models were created. These include everything from cosmetic changes to air conditioning, car audio, and MP3 players.
In the end, after all, it is your car. If you’re not overly concerned about its resale value and want to enjoy your ride now, then all changes are fair game. Like all car care and repair decisions, it’s your call.
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