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Automobile restoration is the process of repairing the degraded aspect of an automobile to return it to an overall "authentic" condition. Restorations should be historically accurate as a representative example of the production model. For example, the guidelines of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) are to "evaluate an antique vehicle, which has been restored to the same state as the dealer could have prepared the vehicle for delivery to the customer."
In contrast to preserving its historical artifacts through restoration or to conserve significant vehicles by keeping original surfaces and materials, some owners make changes or add modern upgrades during the restoration of their cars that may reduce or enhance the value of the vehicle. In the U.S. a non-original restored car may be termed a "restomod."
In contrast to conservation, which is like an unaltered historic document, the "restoration of a mass-produced vehicle without any significant historical associations can be justified if it is in poor and unstable condition or if a restored condition is required for educational purposes."
A vehicle restoration is the process of reconditioning it from a used condition "in an effort to return it to like-new condition ... can be refurbished using either original or reproduction parts and techniques." Many antique and rare cars may not be able to have a true to original restoration done because some parts may not be available to replace or to imitate fully, yet with the proper research, they may be restored to an overall authentic condition. The objective is to preserve the historical aspects of the vehicle, its components, and assembly.
Restoration is sometimes confused with the term "restomod." A restomod has portions of the car as they were when the car was first offered for sale as well as significant changes (updates). If any part of the car is updated, the car has been "restomodded," and not restored, such as "a nearly stock-appearing vehicle that has been fitted with late-model chassis, drivetrain, and conveniences." An "original restoration" puts a car in the same condition as when it was first offered for sale.
Another process is the re-creation, "a vehicle that has been modified to appear like another car or truck entirely, or like a more desirable version of that same vehicle." Examples include taking a popular model and restoring it to a more desirable, but counterfeit, limited production or muscle car version. High demand for some special automobiles has also led to sophisticated fake replica versions.
A complete restoration includes not only repair of the parts that can be seen – the body, trim, chrome, wheels, and the passenger compartment – but also the components that are not necessarily visible or otherwise evident, including the engine and engine compartment, trunk, frame, driveline, and all ancillary parts like the brakes, accessories, engine cooling system, electrical system, etc. Repairs are made to correct obvious problems, as well as for cosmetic reasons. For example, even if a wheel is covered by a full hubcap and not seen, and is structurally sound, it should have the tire unmounted and any required repairs performed such as rust removal, straightening, priming, and painting.
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