This is a guest article from Beat Walti, classic car expert and early adopter of The Motor Chain. If you have something to say about classic cars and their documentation, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org – we love to hear from you!
In America (and other countries) a new trend has been spreading for a number of years: to improve classic cars by changing mechanical components to make them better, go faster, more reliable and make them more “beautiful” (ouch!). Old C2 Corvettes and Camaros are equipped with the latest technology 500 hp engines and 22 inch rims. Some people then find this cool and start asking (and paying) ridiculous money for these strange creations. How about a Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am with 1,300 (!!) hp? Or a good old stepfront Alfa Giulia GT with 216hp and a body entirely made of carbon fibre? Everything goes, the only limit imposed is of a monetary consideration. Said Pontiac cost about 300,000 USD just to build and the Alfa is probably not far off.
Mind you: an original Firebird Trans-Am with the original 350hp V8 in impeccable condition can easily be found for around 80,000 CHF. A real bargain, don’t you agree? Are we facing similar trends on our shores? I hardly think so, in any case not to the extent seen in the USA or the UK. We have (and for once I am not too unhappy about this) quite rigorous MOT (Strassenverkehrsamt) inspections which drastically limit any power- or other modification excesses. In addition there’s the venerated “Veteran Status”, the automobilistic accolade we all are striving for. This is a very effective instrument to maintain at least some level of originality.
Of course there’s still room left for improvement in this matter. The Veteran Status is still bestowed on a car subject to the MOT inspector’s judgement and there’s still too much room for interpretation. Where one inspector will refuse the privilege on the grounds of seemingly “too much patina”, the next one will sink on his knees in admiration. Some inspectors insist on a FIVA pass in order to grant the Veteran Status and that’s certainly not a bad approach which, in my opinion, should be adopted by all MOT inspection organisations. Hope is the last to perish as they say…
If and to which extent a classic car may be “improved” is fairly easy to answer, I think. As long as no sheet metal cutters or welding equipment comes into action, I am fairly relaxed about the matter. Anything which remains reversible with normal effort may be allowed, or at least tolerated. There’s no arguing about taste in any case. Some modifications on classic cars make a lot of sense to me. An alternator, hidden in the casing of the original dynamo makes life a lot easier. A battery master switch, discreetly installed is an excellent theft deterrent and a valuable safety item. New tire technology in the shape of the classic appearance of the old Pirelli Cinturato or the Michelin X can only improve things.
There are indeed a number of modifications which will not deter from the original appearance and feel of the classic in question but will undeniably make it safer and more reliable. Where I would draw a line though are those engines whose outwardly appearance is original but which are brimming with latest technological gadgets internally and a massive increase in engine displacement resulting in double the original power output. What’s the point of this? Generally, original specifications should be respected and maintained. Only in this manner is it possible to enjoy an original driving experience of days gone by and, more importantly, to pass on true unmolested history to the next generation. There’s enough fake news as it is, don’t you think?
Yours, Beat Walti