Car modifications – Yes or No? – Enthusiast Motor Insurance

January 24th, 2023

Let’s get something straight right off the bat: people have been modifying and customising their cars since Karl Benz strapped a phonograph to his Patent-Motorwagen and went cruising for chicks in downtown Mannheim (possibly). The point is, despite what commenters on the internet would have you believe, modifying cars is a key part of the lifecycle of cars.

All too often we see comments online suggesting someone has “ruined” their car because they’ve altered it from the factory spec. On modern cars this is normally done purely for style or improved performance, but old cars are ripe for improvement as the technology used in their construction is outdated.

Adding performance to a car, switching from drum brakes to discs, or changing to plus-size aftermarket wheels to get access to better-quality tyres all makes for better driving cars. There are no doubt vehicles of historical significance that shouldn’t be altered from the specifications which gained them their provenance, but these are fairly rare cases and for most people they’ll enjoy their classic car with choice modifications.

People have been personalising their cars to suit their individual use since the very first horseless carriages rolled the muddy streets of Europe. Hot-rodding, and the later muscle car era, brought car personalisation into the middle-class American suburbs and out of the realms of expensive hand-made Bugattis, Delages, Bentleys, Cords and Dusenbergs.

Today this history made on dried lake beds, salt flats and clay fairgrounds of the USA is well-respected; the Pebble Beach Concourse even has a class for historic hot rods! Faster than the original cars, with better road holding and modern technology like 12-volt electrics, hot rods were much better to drive than original T- and A-model Fords.

As cars have gotten faster and evolved through the second-half of the 20th Century the modification styles have changed, and not always for the most stylish reasons (hello, Auto Salon), but the pursuit of personalisation still follows the basic guidelines of happening for style, utility or performance.

This all starts getting complicated when cars start being seen as classics, and values rise. Outside vehicles with particular historical provenance, the most valuable classics are typically the lowest-mileage, most stock standard examples of a desirable model you can find. People aren’t spending real estate money on every stock standard car, however, and the rarer it is to find that desirable model in dead-standard form, the higher the value typically will be.

This is easily seen in the muscle car world, where so many of these tar-burning monsters were built into street freaks, speedway and drag racers, or lost to scrap yards. It is exceptionally rare to find an all-original, cherry fresh example. But does that mean any example with modifications (period or not) is now worthless until it goes under a concourse restoration? Hardly.

Style is subjective so while we all like different trends and uses for our favourite cars, we all need to remember that “ruined” is an opinion and not a fact.

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