Original vs Resto Mod – Which is Better?

As I sat and watched countless hours of the Mecum Monterey auction over the last few days I saw countless vehicles I would love to have in my own collection despite not having a seven-figure budget for that sort of investment. I also saw some I wouldn’t pay $2,000 for personally even though in the real world they were far more valuable. I even saw one car cross the block sold for half that amount.  A trend constantly growing in popularly is the ‘resto-mod.’ When seeing these heavily modified cars I wonder what might be more valuable. Completely original cars or “resto-mod” vehicles? Most  are sure to prefer one classification over the other. Of course, there are some like me who can appreciate each for their own unique attributes.

The differences between the two are as much as peas and carrots. Sure, they are both cars (peas and carrots are both vegetables as far as this writer knows) but that is about where the similarities stop. An ‘original’ car is exactly that. Original. Sure, it likely has new tires, brakes, exhaust systems and maybe even a new paint job. But for the most part it remains as it was born – with all its original parts.

A ‘resto-mod’ is far from it. They are based on a car of ones choosing but are then rebuilt using modern aftermarket parts. The result is a classic design blended with all the latest technologies, gadgets, safety features horsepower and other creature comforts one has come to expect from today’s higher end automobiles.

The cost to create such a custom vehicle can easily put you into the six-figure $$ range. As an example, when redoing a Blue Oval vehicle one might select a Ford Coyote engine. Released in 2011, the Coyote engine is the most recognized and common power plant for those seeking more horsepower in their resto-mod Ford. The cost for such an engine? $10,000 – $20,000 USD and that’s just for the engine! There is an awful lot of car left to build after one chooses the engine that is going to put power to the rear wheels.

One might think that a classic vehicle becomes the more logical choice from a dollar spent vs. dollar earned standpoint, and it certainly can be. However, keeping a vehicle in ‘original’ condition is not nearly as easy as it sounds. The hardest part? Not. Driving. It. Can you imagine putting a 2017 Dodge Demon in your garage only never to touch it with hopes of selling it in the future for a profit. That is some strong will power. Luckily for collectors, there are those out there who treat these rare beauties as nothing more than the investment potential they hopefully bring. Back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s it was not as common to think of and finding those are getting harder and harder to come by with each passing day. That or the cost is so astronomical that it takes them out of the average buyers price range.

Keeping a car in original condition does not mean one can simply park it and let it be, quite the contrary. They (the cars, not the buyers) must still be started from time to time to time, given a bath, have fluids changed, air put in the tires, parts both mechanical and electronic used to avoid seizure and ideally even be driven the occasional mile adding ticks to the odometer. Failure to do so might very well result in a very large paperweight with dust on it – and little value.

So which is the more fiscally responsible choice? It depends on who’s buying at that time on that day. It has and will likely continue to come down to preference. Some people like a classic look with modern technology, go-fast add ons, larger wheels and tires and of course more horsepower. ‘Resto-mod.’ Others, the purists if you will,  prefer their collector cars  with the same design and function as the day they rolled off the assembly line at the factory. Lucky for us, we can personalize our cars (or not) to our exact liking. For every one car, there are 100’s if not 1000’s of replacement/ upgrade parts available. But when decides to go the resto-mod route, a builder/designer/owner must also hope that there is at least one like-minded individual out there when it comes time to sell the result of their efforts to its next owner. After all, not everyone likes pink flames on the front fenders and hood.

– Drew Nelson

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