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CaptainGTX

Would You Restore or Just Preserve This Car?

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I bought a 1953 Dodge Coronet convertible a year ago with the intention of restoring it. While researching this vehicle, which was acquired from the family of the original owners, I found it to be a very rare car. 4,100 of these were built, but I've only found six other examples in a year of searching. The WPC (Walter P. Chrysler) Club with 4,000 members owning over 10,000 cars lists no others than mine. Making my decision even tougher is the liklihood that this very car, the 49th built, might well be the oldest Dodge hemi ragtop in existence. (1953 was the first year for Dodge's famous Red Ram himi engine.)

This car is all original and shows 102k miles. The body has several small rust spots, one over a rear wheelwell and in both front floorboard footwells. Paint is original and glossy, albiet chipped in places. Bumpers need rechromed and stainless trim straightened. The interior, dash, et al, are in pretty good shape, typical of an eleven year old car, which is what this was in 1964 when it was retired. The top is original and solid, but looking a little shabby. Brakes, fuel & cooling systems have already been rebuilt. The engine runs good but the Gyro-Torque transmission shifts poorly.

My question is this - is this car noteworthy enough that it should only be brought up to safe operating condition (seat belts would be a nice addition), but not restored? Everyone says they're only original once. Yet it would be nice to take it back to factory new condition. That's still my preference, but I would welcome thoughts on both sides of the issue. I know others have faced this delimna. What would you do?

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Nice car! Have you ever restored a car? This is a serious question, my guess is to do a 100% Show Car restoration you would spend 30-40 thousand if you did it yourself and well over 60,000 if given to a shop to do. All that so in 6-10 years people will question the originality of things. Enjoy it as it is, find a top line upholstery shop that can replace the top, that will use up $5,000 and keep yoy dry. Bob

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As long as you can maintain it and enjoy it, that is what I would do.

My experience may not be the same as everybody else's but here is my story about original versus restored cars.

I have a Senior Grand National Winning 1929 Model A Ford Phaeton. I also have a 1976 Ford Country Squire Wagon. The Wagon has been maintained, is a little bit rusty, has dull paint, and has a few other visible imperfections. The Model A is appraised at over 10 times as much as the Country Squire is worth.

At local AACA Chapter car shows, many more people want to ask questions about and make comments about the Wagon than the Model A. People admire the restored car but they are more interested in the unrestored orginal survivor.

Maintain it and enjoy driving it as long as you can.

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It seems that today, there seems to be a growing appreciation for patina. The deterioration evident but indicating care are an asset to certain vehicles, especially where no other or few other examples are available to exhibit as original. The rarer the car, the better.

I like restorations where the vehicle brings back the delight of original showroom adventures.

Dan

Edited by Caballero2 (see edit history)

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The fact that there are only a few left, it's rare, no one else has one, etc ,etc ,etc, means little as far as the moneytary value goes. If you pay someone to "restore" it you will be underwater on it if you are thinking moneytarily. If you love the car for itself spend as little or as much as you want, just enjoy it................Bob

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I would agree the wise thing is to preserve. However, I'd get a handle on the now seemingly minor rust issues before they become worse and require drastic repair. It is indeed a well preserved example and a very nice looking car.

Jim

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hi, it doesn't sound like you have too much to restore, if you decide to. the transmission should get rebuilt so you'll have no major issues about the car being operational. the body rust issues can be fixed so they don't grow to become bigger issues. but i wouldn't repaint the whole car for some time to come. congrats on getting a very nice dodge, first year for dodge to get the 241 hemi V8. i have a 1953 pontiac chieftain custom catalina 2 door hardtop that i bought in 1973, when i was 17. still work in progress. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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I've done two full-blown restorations in the past - a 1940 Ford Deluxe coupe which I know longer have (my biggest automotive mistake ever was selling it), and a 1969 Plymouth GTX, which I still own. I did both restorations myself, except for body & paint (I know my limitations). The 40 Ford was done in the 1980's and I had $15K in it, sold it for $17K. The GTX was completed almost 5 years ago & I have around $40K in it. I'm under no illusions as to what a quality restoration costs in both money & time. I realize it's very easy to get underwater - although that hasn't happened to me yet - ignoring any value for my time, and possibly the time-value of money.

While cars are only inanimate objects, I'd still like to do right by it. At the few car shows I've taken it to, the Dodge attracts just as much attention as does my GTX. I suspect the Dodge wouldn't draw any more attention if it were restored. So it will give me, and others, pleasure no matter which way I go.

I guess it all goes back to why people buy new cars in the first place. Right now I have a used Dodge convertible. I could trade it for a new one by just spending some money. That's what people have been doing since cars were first invented.

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I would preserve it, vs. restore it. But that is just me. Do I understand that it still has the original top from the factory? You would never get your restoration costs back, and original does have value.

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I would not restore it. I would not repair the rust at the wheel well, only stabilize it. I might redo the floors to keep the body structure sound. I wouldn't replace the top. The original, preserved cars always draw more attention at car shows. There is a reason for that. Cars in the condition of yours are rare because of their condition, not production numbers. I attended the Survivor show in St. Charles Il. There were several cars that didn't look as good as yours. They were impressive. I would rather look at glossy, chipped original paint. Anyone can have a glossy repainted car. I would prefer to own a collector car in the condition of yours. They are hard to find in any body style. Yours is a ragtop. Just do the necessary mechanical work, clean it without removing the factory markings and enjoy it. You are fortunate to own such a vehicle. Can you post additional detailed photos? I would love to see more of this car.

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I have to agree that I would preserve it. I would do whatever was neccessary to keep it in good mechanical condition, and preserve the rest as best as possible. Some cars are drug out of the weeds and require a restoration to make them roadworthy as there is no other choice if the car is to be saved for future generations. If yours is a road worthy original. Keep it so, and enjoy it. Dandy Dave!

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Preserve for sure! That thing is beautiful as is!

Looks into Evapo-Rust and the products they sell. It removes rust with a neutral ph and won't harm or remove paint. Plus they have a product for applying after that will prevent rust from re-forming that will not alter the patina.

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CaptainGTX, my 2 cents since you are asking, is to do only what is necessary at this point, and try the experience of a very original car. You have had two nice restorations and know what that is all about. Why not enjoy it after minor attention, and if you decide to restore later you have the option. If you do it now, you do not have the option, and since you are asking you must be on the fence, why rush it?

You are right though, it will be a nice car either way. keep us posted!

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Hello Captain GTX, I agree with Steve above--fix the transmission and whatever needs fixing to drive the car and enjoy it as is for a while. As you said yourself--

1. They are only original once.

2. The car in it's current state draws as much attention as if it were restored.

3. You can drive it now and restore it later, all it takes is money.

Good luck and enjoy, Todd

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For years I have been telling car guys that there are at least 300 $100 jobs in a restoration. AND a person should be required to put up a bond for that amount before they disassemble a car.

A few friends and I promote "component" restoration. Never disable a car for long periods of time and do a thorough job of restoring sub-assemblies. Focus first on what is required to drive; brakes, fuel system, cooling system, and so on.

Try to drive you car at least 15 miles per week to maintain its value. A car that sits around piles up deferred maintenance.

That said, there is a partially disassembled Jaguar in the back of my garage. Its not all sensible is it.

Bernie

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If this car is as rare as your indicate, then it should absolutely be maintained as is. It will serve as the "gold standard" for any others that do require restoration. It will show all the exact and CORRECT details that sometimes get lost due to "ad libbing" during a restoration. Many times the small details get lost because there is no accurate info available to go by. PRESERVE this beautiful car for generations to follow. We are only the caretakes of these cars and it is our responsibility to ensure their place in history by restoring ones that are too far gone to keep in original condition, maintain the survivors so they remain survivors and yes even some should be customized if they are too far gone for restoration.

Survivors are truely the next big thing. Watch my words, in the next few years people will finally start to pay the premium money for survivors over restored examples. I saved an Amphicar a few years ago that was about to be restored. She is certified HPOF with only 4038 miles on her. It is beautiful, warts and all! It gets so much more attention than my restored Amphicars because people see it as it was when it was new. You can see it in the AACA calendar a few years back.

PLEASE save your car as is and your money, fix what needs fixed, repair only what needs attention and you will be far more happy (and richer too) for doing it.

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Survivors are truely the next big thing. Watch my words, in the next few years people will finally start to pay the premium money for survivors over restored examples.

PLEASE save your car as is and your money, fix what needs fixed, repair only what needs attention and you will be far more happy (and richer too) for doing it.

I am certainly no one's investment expert, but I agree with John's comments above. Condition is the issue here, of course, a car that is rusty, weathered, worn or modified is hardly a "survivor", it is a project. However, a car that is original and driveable and presentable with only a little wear (patina) has tremendous appeal in that it can be driven and enjoyed without worrying about any little blemish. AND as was pointed out the owner does not have to lay out many years and many thousands in restoration work to get to the car show. I think this could in fact be the MOST appealing way to enjoy the hobby and many hobbyists seem to agree, Todd

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I would definitely fix the rust issues and leave the rest of the body alone. A good bodyman could repair the lower quarters and blend the paint below the stainless trim. The car seems too nice and original to restore.

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I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments. So far its unanimous that the car should be preserved and not restored. I'm inclined to do just that and was being a little bit of a devil's advocate in my comments. I'd really like to have a restored car such as this, but I just can't bring myself to do it to this example. (My first car was a 53 Dodge Coronet sedan V8, hence my attachment.)

Someone asked to see some additional photos, so I've attached a few. It was asked whether the car has its original top, and it does. It's difficult to tell for certain what the original color was, though. It appears a tannish-gray now, and is that color where it tucks into the rear quarter & was protected from the sun. However, above the passenger door it looks black under a spot that was protected by a welting. The boot, which almost looks new, is a black vinyl-type material which matches the interior. The IBM build card from Chrysler Historical archives shows top color as "1", but no one apparently has the decode sheet.

I'm lucky to live in Colorado where the humidity is low most of the time. I could leave the rusty spots alone & probably never have to worry about them. The car has always lived in Colo, and that's probably a big factor in why its survived all these years. That plus the fact it was in a garage from when it was retired in 1964 until I bought it in 2009. So, as I said before, its basically an eleven year old used car.

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Regarding the stabilization of rust. I clean all dirt and debris from the inner panel using compressed air or a shop vac. Then I coat the area with por 15. This will only work on areas that are just beginning to show on the outer panels. I also make it a point to keep the car dry. I wash the car with a cloth dipped in cold, clear water. I never use a hose on my collector car. It looks as if the area around the left rear quarter has been spot repaired previously. I agree with skyking regarding this particular vehicle. This car is awesome! I would love to own it!

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The car has always lived in Colo, and that's probably a big factor in why its survived all these years.

My 60 Metropolitan came from Colorado and had almost no rust. I always thought with all the snow out that way, it would have been the opposite.

Anyway, you have a beautiful Dodge............!!

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