Understanding the Four Levels of Classic Car Restoration

February 10, 2022

Understanding the Four Levels of Classic Car Restoration

Classic cars are beloved for a variety of reasons—their craftsmanship, durability, personality, and historicism among them. But the fact of the matter is that classic cars are decades past their prime. Time is harsh on vehicles. As the days, weeks, months, and years pass, a car's mechanical components wear down, and its exterior deteriorates.

Fortunately, that's why restoration exists—so we can turn back the hands of time and make classic cars look and drive like they just rolled out of the factory. If you're the proud owner of a classic car and are considering restoration, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with some of the common reasons for restoration and understand the four levels of classic car restoration beforehand. It’s also important to understand these things if you’re looking to purchase a custom restored classic car.

Here's what you need to know about classic car restoration.

What Qualifies as a Classic Car?

What makes a classic car classic? Is it the impeccable craftsmanship? The individuality and dapperness? You may be surprised to learn that the only thing that sets modern and classic cars apart from a technical standpoint is their age.

Generally, classic cars are defined as any car that's between 20 to 45 years old. However, the definition of what it means to be a classic car varies slightly depending on who you ask. The Classic Car Club of America, for example, defines a classic car as a "fine or distinctive" car manufactured between 1915 and 1948. For insurance and registration purposes, a classic car is any car that's 20 to 40 years old and has minimal modifications.

Reasons To Restore a Classic Car

Isn't part of a classic car's charm its age? To some, it may feel blasphemous to tamper with the original components and style of a classic vehicle. But without restoration, we wouldn't be able to see classic cars cruising down the freeway or displayed in mint condition at car shows. They would be broken down, rusty, moldy, and just generally in a pitiful state.

Restoration is what allows modern folk to enjoy these timeless pieces of history in their full glory. There are plenty of pros to restoring a classic car. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Boost Value

A classic car in mint condition will inevitably fetch a better price than one that's coming apart at the seams. If you find a classic car at a steal of a price and have the time and money to devote to it, you can make a pretty penny on it once restored.

And even if you can't bear the thought of parting with your classic car, just knowing you own a piece of history—and an expensive one at that—is extremely gratifying.

Improve Drivability

Wish you could cruise down the road in your classic? If you feel a burning desire to take your classic car for a spin, you'll need to fit it with components that are capable of enduring the stress of the road first.

Operating a classic car is much more thrilling than sitting at the wheel of an automatic. The need to manually shift gears and operate the brakes creates an active driving experience that forces you to pay special attention to your car and the road.

Prepare It for Car Shows

The only thing that's better than privately admiring your classic car is bringing it to a place where other classic car enthusiasts can "ooh" and "ahh" at its resplendence while you stand by it like a proud parent.

Car shows are a fantastic opportunity to mingle with fellow classic car lovers and see what everyone else is doing with their classics. It's also a chance to have your classic judged by a professional—and restored classic cars tend to get the most praise and the highest marks!

A Sense of Accomplishment

Restoring a classic car takes an impressive time and money commitment. It also takes a great deal of skill and passion. Taking on a classic car restoration is like embarking on a journey of self-discovery. You'll learn a lot about cars—and yourself—along the way.

The amount of pride and accomplishment you'll feel once the restoration is complete is something so powerful that it can't be explained in words.

The Four Levels of Classic Car Restoration

So, you're thinking about restoring your classic car. Or maybe you’re looking to find a restored custom classic car for sale. Before you can get started, you need to determine the level of car restoration you need.

There are four levels of classic car restoration: driving, street show, show car, and Concours. Understanding the four levels of classic car restoration is crucial if you want a classic car that meets your needs.

Driving Quality

If you couldn't care less about car shows, but want to show off your classic on the road, this is the restoration level for you. The goal of a driver-level restoration is to make the car safe to drive—nothing less, nothing more. It involves installing functional replacement parts and performing minimal bodywork to ensure the car doesn't rust out.

Street Show Quality

Want to turn heads while you're driving your classic down the road? For a street-show quality restoration, you'll need to pay close attention to the details. Both the bodywork and mechanical components need to be in flawless condition if you want to drive and show off your classic at the same time.

Show Car Quality

A street show-level restoration will make your classic car visually impeccable. This is especially beneficial if you don't drive your classic car very often but still want it to look good on your driveway and at car shows. Reaching this level of restoration requires intimate knowledge of your car's factory manual and specs. You'll likely need to hire a professional to perform most of the work.

Concours Quality

The highest level of restoration, Concours, aims to make classic cars look brand-new. Concours cars are perfectly shiny and don't have a single scratch, dent, or imperfection on them. Essentially, these cars look like they just arrived fresh from the factory. These cars are usually meant for auto shows or for private collectors. Concours cars are rarely, if ever, driven because driving them would expose them to harsh conditions that could compromise their beauty.

Understanding the Four Levels of Classic Car Restoration