Adler's Antique Autos, Inc.
Author of "Notes from the Corrosion Lab"
801 NY Route 43, Stephentown, NY 12168
(518) 733 - 5749 Email
by Bob Adler
Can you restore an old Chevy with a Mustang sub frame? Of course not. Can you use moly piston rings in an engine overhaul, even though they were not installed at the factory? I vote yes, and I'll explain my reasoning below.
Chevrolets were manufactured originally as an economical means of transportation. Chevrolet Trucks, my favorites, were manufactured to maximize useful work at minimal cost. The V8 era starting in 1955 segregates two tracks, the first remaining loyal to economy, the other more upscale in power, amenities, etc. appealing to a wider segment of buyers, but straying from the original concept. I'll limit my opinions to the Chevy sixes, with which I'm most familiar.
I view my role as a Chevrolet Preservationist to demonstrate that old Chevrolets are still capable of performing economical transportation and old Chevy Trucks are eminently capable of doing useful work by driving them and using them. Museum vehicles and show cars and trucks are a small segment of the preservation scheme. The oldest and best belong there but just a small per cent of the population sees them, and we lose the “useful” aspect. In order for the public to accept the useful part of Chevrolet we have to drive them. I consider the six cylinder Chevy's, especially 1936 and newer with hydraulic brakes, quite usable today.
Here's where we can start defining restoration. My goal is to have a useful vehicle capable of performing its original function. Visually it should look like it left the factory. If it had lumpy roof seams from the factory, leave them in. Over detailing makes a show vehicle, not a driver. The driven vehicle—especially a truck—will pick up scratches and eventually show some wear. That's OK for economical transportation. Mechanically the vehicle should also be close to the way it left the factory. If we add a Mustang sub frame, we are not preserving a Chevrolet. The public gets the impression that the original product was inferior and the Mustang sub frame improves the old car for modern use. This is the opposite of the impression I want to create. Original Chevrolet suspensions work fine when brought back to factory specifications.
What about the previously cited example of non-original moly rings? I say use them. On the visual level there's no argument as we can't see them in operation. On the mechanical level these rings should help hold an engine together longer. Driving a smoker down the road does more harm than good for our image. Moly rings cut down on cylinder wall scuffing, and tend to hold oil while the engine is not in use. The result is less wear during engine start-up. We get more miles out of the engine—it fits my definition of preservation—so go for it! Similarly we can balance and blueprint an original engine to smooth out vibration and obtain maximum power and life expectancy. Modem lubricants? Of course, for the same reason. Urethane paint? I say yes for a driver. The original paint was lacquer on cars and synthetic enamel on trucks. Urethane has only been available for about 20 years. I feel a urethane paint job initially has too much gloss, but after weathering for a few years it should approximate the gloss of the original paint. And we do not have to buff it frequently like lacquer, which will wear down the paint film. So the vehicle looks presentable longer with urethane. It meets my preservation goals much like modem “SG” motor oil.
* Originally published in the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America, Inc.'s "Generator & Distributor", May 1992, v31, no. 5, p38.
Bob Adler is owner of Adler's Antique