Kevin Shaw: Why Not All Stock Is Boring

Admittedly, I’m walking into a firestorm on this one. The notion that “stock isn’t boring’ is pretty much regarded as an affront to the spirit of hot rodding, a tenor of thought that automotive modification is an expression of one’s tastes, interests and personality. While I will always bow to the freedom of expression through the medium of one’s own cars, I will rise to the defense of those who strive to flawlessly restore their cars to as-stock condition. Let me explain why.

More so in muscle cars than in vintage hot rodding, enthusiasts of these machines uphold a great deal of reverence for the product the manufacturer produced. While the idea of meticulously restoring a 289ci ’65 Falcon sounds absolutely boring to most, many wouldn’t bat an eye at somebody pouring a great sum of money into restoring an original A12-code ’69 1/2 440 Six-Pack Super Bee or a R-Code 427-powered 4-speed ’67 Fairlane. Why?

It All Boils Down to Rarity

In fact, the rarity of these cars is so high, that many would consider modifying them to be borderline heresy – particularly as a convincing clone could be built for far less money and could be modified freely without any one purist muttering a disparaging word. This, of course, raises the question of why modifying such cars is considered so egregious. It’s your car after all, right?

Many feel that as time continues, the occurrence of encountering an original BOSS 429 Mustang or a L-79 396 Chevelle are becoming rarer and rarer. This fact is true, but what bearing does it have on the individual?

How many Daytonas Did Buddy Baker race? Yeah, not too many. You can't put a price on history.

Well, as the Internet makes connecting with the automotive community all the more easy, a greater sense of social responsibility seems to arise. You are no longer a lucky guy who owns an L88 427 Corvette, you’re a caretaker of an exceptionally rare piece of American history.

Considering this redefinition, many are taking the responsibility of ownership to a far larger scale. Today, one can trace every code, every date and nearly every detail of their car’s production, cleanly dispelling any mystery that the yellowed broadcast sheet they found wedged inside of the backseat’s springs might’ve had.

In a day when claptrap rust buckets are now no longer considered candidates for parts cars but restorable rollers, original numbers cars are just too valuable to sacrifice.

I know, the idea of people restoring original muscle might make your skin crawl. But we’re not talking about saving the plain Janes and grocery-getters here, folks; we’re talking about the original big block and hot-from-the-factory machines, the SS’, the R/Ts, The GTs and Shelbys; the GTOs, 4-4-2s and GSXs; the cars that got so many of us into muscle cars.

The Perfect Canvas

Unlike so many ’32 Fords, ’51 Mercs and ’55 210 Chevys, a 455-powered ’70 Judge was an impressive performance car, and cars of its generation required very little in the way of aftermarket mods to go from good to great. Were the factory muscle cars boring? Not in the least, particularly to those car lovers who lived in the days precluding them…

Hot rodding was born out of necessity. The cars of the 1930s through the early 1950s were mainly utilitarian means of going from Point A to Point B. A great deal of labor, thought and engineering was required to change a 1929 Model A into a backroads clunker into a salt bed racer.

To the performance lover, these cars, unlike the iridescent-hued muscle cars that would follow decades later, were boring, but not so much as to quell any desire to improve upon it.

I suppose I am defining “boring” by different terms. When I say that a car “bores me,” I mean that it holds very little of my interest, so much so that I give it very little mind; a Toyota Camry, for example bores me – and I’m sure you too – to no end.

I have have difficulty understanding how a particular car can bore you into wanting to build a hot rod out of it. A stock ’32 Ford or ’50 Ford Vicky can’t be all that boring if so many people are interested enough to rebuild these cars.

A Bigger Reason

That is why I am left to consider that those who refer to those cars we regularly regard as classics as “boring” as being either clueless or merely ungrateful. A stock ’56 Chevrolet Be Air can’t be all that boring as it has been the canvas from which so many car builders have created gorgeous pieces of automotive art.

While a stock ’56 Bel Air doesn’t exactly make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I can appreciate the car for being what it is, an example of American history.

I’ve seen more restored Mustangs than I’d care to remember. Personally, there’s not a whole lot that excites me about those first two or three years of Ford’s pony car.

Fatefully unchallenged until 1967, the Mustang didn’t need to excel there were cars competing for the same market segment. That was when the big block ‘Stangs came to be, where the Mustang became something to be appreciated.

A ’66 2+2 is as dull as Chevy Astro van to me, but it doesn’t mean its any less valuable in the preservation of this legacy. I will always applaud the enthusiast who diligently sourced the right hex headed bolts, OE-style hose clamps and Canaflex lines to perfectly restore their Mustang to showroom stock, because one day a kid will walk by that restored classic and say, “Wow. I want one of those,” creating a new car lover. And that’s the whole point.

-Kevin

About the author

Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw is a self-proclaimed "muscle car purist," preferring solid-lifter camshafts and mechanical double-pumpers over computer-controlled fuel injection and force-feeding power-adders. If you like dirt-under-your-fingernails tech and real street driven content, this is your guy.
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