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Classic Car Restoration Glossary

Updated: Apr 22

Restoring a classic car is an exciting experience, but it can be daunting for newcomers who may be unfamiliar with the terminology used in the classic car restoration industry. Understanding these terms is crucial for effectively communicating with professionals and fellow enthusiasts.


To help you feel more confident and navigate the realm of classic car restoration, we've compiled this Classic Car Restoration Glossary—a comprehensive list of key terms and definitions that you're likely to encounter along your restoration journey.





2-Stage Paint Job

A 2-stage paint job, also known as a base coat/clear coat system, involves applying two separate layers of paint: a base coat followed by a clear coat.


The 2-stage paint job offers several advantages over single-stage paint jobs, including improved durability, gloss, and color retention. It also allows for greater customization.


Aftermarket

The term “aftermarket” refers to the market for automotive parts, accessories, and modifications that are not supplied by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Aftermarket products are typically produced by third-party manufacturers and are designed to fit a wide range of cars. Most mechanical parts found at auto parts stores are considered aftermarket parts.


Appraisal

An appraisal is a professional assessment or evaluation of a classic car’s condition, authenticity, and value. A thorough appraisal is essential for ensuring accurate insurance coverage and establishing the fair market value of a classic car.


Barn Find

A barn find refers to a classic car that has been sitting in a barn, garage, or shed, often in a neglected or forgotten state.



classic car, barn find


Body-Off Restoration

A body-off restoration involves removing the body from the chassis, allowing for easier access to the undercarriage and ensuring thorough restoration of all structural and mechanical elements.


Build Sheet

A build sheet, also known as a factory build sheet or broadcast sheet, is a document produced by a car manufacturer during the assembly process that details the specifications, options, and features of a specific car. The build sheet serves as a blueprint for the assembly line workers, guiding them in the installation of various components and accessories.


Build sheets are valuable historical documents that provide insight into the original specifications and configuration of a car. They can help verify the authenticity of a restoration project, guide the selection of replacement parts, and document the car’s provenance and originality for future owners and collectors.


Chassis

The chassis is the car’s framework or structure, typically consisting of the frame, suspension, steering, and braking systems. In classic car restoration, the chassis may require repairs or modifications to ensure structural integrity and proper functionality.


Clone

A clone is a car that has been modified or replicated to resemble a more desirable or valuable model. Clones are often created to emulate iconic or rare vehicles that command high prices in the collector car market.


Sometimes called a tribute car.


Concours Restoration

Concours restoration is a restoration process aimed at achieving a level of authenticity and accuracy that meets the standards of a Concours d’Elegance—a prestigious automotive competition where cars are judged based on their historical accuracy, craftsmanship, and condition. This meticulous restoration approach focuses on every detail of the car; all parts, finishes, and details must be historically accurate and consistent with the car’s original specifications. Achieving concours correctness involves meticulous research, attention to detail, and sourcing of authentic components.


Coupe

A coupe is a two-door car with a fixed roof and a compact, sporty design.


Crate Engine

A crate engine is a complete, ready-to-install engine, usually shipped in a crate.


Daily Driver

A daily driver is a classic car that is regularly used for everyday transportation, commuting, and errands. Daily drivers are subjected to weather and road conditions.


Frame-Off Restoration

A frame-off restoration is an extensive restoration process where the car’s body is completely removed from the chassis, allowing for a thorough restoration of both the body and chassis components. This type of restoration typically involves disassembling the car down to its components and rebuilding it from the ground up.


Gran Turismo / Grand Tourer / GT

Gran Turismo, or GT, describes a high-performance car designed for long-distance driving in comfort and style.


Gran Turismo


Ground-Up Restoration

During a ground-up restoration, the entire car is disassembled, restored, and reassembled from the ground up. This approach involves rebuilding every component to like-new condition, resulting in a fully restored car that is virtually indistinguishable from its original state.


May also be referred to as a frame-up restoration.


Highboy

A highboy is a car that was not channeled on the frame, sometimes with the stock fenders removed. Example: 1932 Ford.


Hot Rod

A hot rod is a classic car that has been modified to enhance its performance and speed. Hot rodding a car can involve removing body panels or stripping the interior to remove weight while modifying the engine, in order to increase performance.

The term originated in the early 20th century and was initially used to describe cars modified for racing or high-speed driving on the streets or dry lake beds.


Kit Car

A kit car is assembled from prefabricated components, parts, or kits, typically purchased from a manufacturer or supplier. Kit cars are often replicas or reproductions of classic cars, although they can also be custom-designed or modified to suit the builder's preferences.


Lowrider

A lowrider is a car or truck that has been modified with a hydraulic suspension to achieve the desired ride height.


lowrider

Media Blasting

Media blasting, also known as abrasive blasting or sandblasting, is a process used to remove paint, rust, corrosion, or surface contaminants from metal surfaces through the application of abrasive materials propelled at high speed.


A stream of abrasive media, such as sand, glass beads, walnut shells, sand, or plastic pellets, is directed at the surface of the metal using compressed air or a centrifugal force. The abrasive particles impact the surface, effectively stripping away unwanted coatings and debris and leaving behind a clean and bare metal substrate.


MOPAR

MOPAR is a combination of the words “motor” and “parts.” It refers to parts, accessories, and cars manufactured by the former Chrysler Corporation.


Muscle Car

A muscle car is typically characterized by its powerful engine, rear-wheel drive layout, and aggressive styling. Muscle cars are usually equipped with large-displacement V8 engines. Iconic examples include the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Charger, Plymouth Road Runner, and Pontiac GTO.


NOS (New Old Stock)

NOS is short for new old stock, and refers to original parts or components that are unused and have been in storage since they were manufactured.


Numbers-Matching

A numbers-matching car still retains its original engine, transmission, and other major components that are stamped with matching serial numbers or codes that match those originally assigned by the manufacturer. Numbers-matching cars are highly sought-after by collectors.


OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)

OEM is short for original equipment manufacturer, and refers to parts or components that are produced by the same company that manufactured the car when it was new. In classic car restoration, OEM parts are often preferred for their authenticity and compatibility with the vehicle.


OEM parts can be difficult to source depending on the classic car in question. The best places to find rare OEM parts can be at car shows, club events, or swap meets.


Patina

Patina refers to the natural aging and wear that occur on a car’s exterior surfaces over time. In classic car restoration, preserving or enhancing the patina is sometimes desired to maintain its original character and historical authenticity.


classic car patina

Pearl

Pearl refers to a special-effect paint additive that produces a lustrous, multidimensional appearance with a subtle iridescent or shimmering effect. These pigments consist of tiny reflective particles that refract light, creating a soft, pearlescent sheen that enhances the depth and richness of the paint finish.


Pearl can be mixed in with the color itself or the clear coat.


Period-Correct

Period-correct refers to parts, accessories, or modifications that are consistent with the era in which a classic car was originally produced.


Phantom

A Phantom is a custom-built or modified car that is designed to resemble a specific make, model, or style that was never produced by the original manufacturer. They may take inspiration from concept cars, prototypes, or fictional vehicles featured in movies, television shows, or literature.


Powder Coating

Powder coating is a dry finishing process used to apply a durable and protective coating to metal surfaces. Finely ground particles of pigment and resin are electrostatically charged and sprayed onto the surface of the metal object. The charged particles adhere to the metal substrate due to electrostatic attraction and form a uniform and continuous coating layer. The coated metal is then cured in an oven at high temperatures, allowing the powder particles to melt and fuse to create a durable and resilient finish that is resistant to corrosion, chipping, scratching, and fading.


Preservation

Preservation refers to the practice of maintaining a classic car’s original condition, patina, and historical authenticity without significant alterations or restoration. Preservationists focus on protecting the car’s original features and character while preventing further deterioration or damage over time.


Project Car

A project car requires restoration or refurbishment to be roadworthy or show-worthy. Project cars often require varying degrees of work, ranging from minor repairs to full-scale restoration.


Provenance

Provenance refers to the documented history or proven ownership lineage of a classic car. It includes records, documentation, or paperwork that provide insight into the car’s previous owners, maintenance history repairs, modifications, and any notable events or milestones in its lifespan. Provenance can help establish the authenticity, originality, and historical significance of a classic car, influencing its value and desirability among collectors and enthusiasts. A car with well-documented provenance is often considered more valuable and desirable than one with an unknown or incomplete history.


Rat Rod

Rat rods emphasize a rough, unfinished appearance. They typically feature rusty or weathered bodywork, exposed mechanical components, and unconventional modifications, giving them a distinctive and rebellious aesthetic.


Replica

A replica is a recreation or copy of a specific make, model, or style of vehicle, often produced to resemble a rare, iconic, or historically significant car. They are typically created for personal enjoyment, historical preservation, or commercial purposes.


Restamp

Restamp refers to the process of stamping or engraving identification numbers, codes, or markings onto classic car components or parts, typically to replicate original factory markings or to alter the appearance of a part to deceive or mislead.


Restamping may be undertaken for various reasons, ranging from legitimate restoration purposes to fraudulent activities. Legitimate restamping may involve recreating worn or damaged identification numbers or markings on original components to maintain authenticity and originality during restoration projects.


Restomod

The word restomod combines “restoration” and “modification.” It refers to the practice of restoring a classic car to its original condition while incorporating modern upgrades and enhancements for improved performance, comfort, and reliability. The goal of a restomod is to create a classic car that looks and drives like it did when it was new, but with the added benefits of modern technology and conveniences.


restomod

Restoration

Restoration is the process of repairing, refurbishing, or rebuilding a classic car to its original condition. This may involve mechanical repairs, bodywork, painting, and interior restoration.


Ringer

A ringer is a car that has been fraudulently altered or misrepresented to appear as a more desirable or valuable model than its true identity. They are typically created by swapping or falsifying VINs, body tags, or engine codes.


Roadster

A roadster is an open-top car with two seats, minimal or no weather protection, and a sporty design. Roadsters are characterized by their long hoods and low-slung profiles.


Rolling Chassis

A rolling chassis refers to the structural framework of a car that is capable of rolling or moving under its own power. A rolling chassis typically lacks the body, engine, and transmission, but it serves as the foundation upon which the complete car is built or restored.


Rotisserie Restoration

A rotisserie restoration involves mounting the car’s body on a rotating frame, allowing for easier access to all areas of the car during the restoration process.


Show Car Quality

Show car quality refers to a level of restoration or modification that meets the standards required for entry into automotive shows, exhibitions, or competitions. Show-quality cars are meticulously prepared and maintained to present flawlessly at events. While they are typically roadworthy, driving is a secondary purpose for these cars; their driving is often limited to going to and from shows and other events.


Single-Stage Paint Job

A single-stage paint job combines the color coat and clear coat into a single layer of paint.


Sleeper

A sleeper is a car that appears unassuming or ordinary from the outside but is equipped with high-performance or modified components, enabling it to outperform expectations and surprise unsuspecting observers.


Split Window

A car with a split window has a rear window that is divided into two separate sections. Example: 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupe.


1963 Corvette split window
Source: Motor Trend
Street Rod

A street rod is a customized classic car that has been altered for improved performance, aesthetics, and functionality. While street rods share some characteristics with hot rods, they are often distinguished by their emphasis on street-driven usability, comfort, and reliability. Street rods are typically designed and built to be driven on public roads, offering a balance of performance, comfort, and practicality for everyday use and occasional show or cruising events.


Supercharger

A supercharger forces more air into an engine’s combustion chambers, resulting in increased power output and performance. Its operation is based on the principle of forced induction, where compressed air is delivered to the engine’s intake manifold at a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure. This allows the engine to burn more fuel and generate more power during combustion, resulting in improved acceleration, horsepower, and torque.


Survivor

A survivor is a classic car that has remained largely original and unrestored, often retaining its factory paint, interior, and mechanical components. Survivor cars are valued for their authenticity and historical significance.


Targa

A Targa is a two-door coupe with a removable roof panel over the front seats.


Trailer Queen

A trailer queen is a classic car that is meticulously restored or customized to such a high standard that it is rarely, if ever, driven on public roads. Instead, a trailer queen is typically transported to car shows and other events on a trailer.


Trim Tag

A trim tag is a small metal or plastic tag affixed to a car’s body or chassis that contains information about the car’s original trim, paint color, and other factory options. Trim tags are regularly used to verify the authenticity of a classic car during restoration.


Tubbed

Tubbed cars have modified rear wheel wells or fender arches to accommodate larger tires and wheels.


Turn-Key

Turn-key refers to a ready-to-use or fully operational condition, typically used to describe a classic car that is complete, fully restored, and ready to be driven without the need for further assembly or modifications. A turn-key car is essentially “turning the key” and starting the engine.


Woody Wagon

The term “woody” originated from the use of genuine wood materials, such as ash or maple, to construct the exterior panels of early cars. A popular example is the 1949 Mercury Station Wagon.


 

We hope this Classic Car Restoration Glossary has provided you with a better understanding of the terminology commonly used in the world of classic car restoration. Whether you’re embarking on your first restoration project or simply looking to expand your knowledge of classic cars, having a grasp of these key terms and definitions will help you navigate the restoration process with confidence and clarity.

 

If you have any questions or would like further clarification on any of the terms mentioned, feel free to reach out to our team—we’re here to help you every step of the way on your restoration journey.



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