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slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: 67 airvair ()
Date: November 09, 2017 02:54PM

The following article contains much of a letter that I sent to Richard Lentinello in response to his editor’s column in Hemmings’ Classic Car issue of July 2012 entitled "Plain is Best". I’ve reedited it for presentation in an article format, in addition to adding material.

-Mark Corbin

Some people have the notion that a car restored to “stock” condition should be put back to the condition in which it left the factory, otherwise known as an “As-Built” condition. That includes no addition OR subtraction of optional equipment. While that’s a nice goal, if that is what you want to achieve, the concept has serious flaws in it. First, in order to qualify for an “as-built” status, verifiable documentation is essential. Ideally, a factory build sheet is best (though other means are always acceptable). However, some cars may not be documentable as to how the factory built them. In the domestic-built Corvair’s case, the factory records were destroyed, and just don’t exist any more. So with most domestic Corvairs, the only thing documentable may be the options listed in the body tag codes. That is, IF they are listed at all, as some years didn’t include them on the tag.

When listed, however, only a portion (about a third in ‘67) of the factory options ARE on the body tag, and only because Fisher Body installed them. The rest were installed by Chevrolet and are not so noted on the body tag, or anywhere else on the car. So unless one has something like a sales order, bill of sale, or original factory-issued window sticker, they cannot be documented. Then too, window stickers and even body tags can be reproduced to order. So who’s to say WHAT a particular car had on it from the factory?

But the truth is that factory-installed options are only part of the story. Chevrolet (and no doubt other makers) offered options in three ways. One was by factory installation only, the second was dealer-installed only, and a third middle ground of either factory or dealer installed. And many individual dealers took full advantage (and still do) in ordering lightly-optioned cars with the full intention of adding accessories, either factory-approved or aftermarket, and either over the counter or installed in his service department, all to the customer’s request. So most of the cars he’d end up selling were not "as-built" even fresh off the lot. Thus an "as-built" restored car could very well NOT be typical of even an "as-delivered" car, and would not be a very "authentic" example of street-driven reality, either. The bottom line is that an “as-built” car is often simply an impossible goal, and an illusion at that.

As a case in point, I did a breakdown of the ‘67 Corvair, and found that factory accessory installation rates fell into three distinct groups. A small group of common items were factory installed in roughly 60-70% of the cars that they built, consisted of a radio, upgrade (110hp) engine, automatic transmission, and whitewall tires. Indeed, not very "showy". A second small group of options were installed on between about 13-35% of the cars, while the vast majority of options were in the 9% and under range. This indicates that many cars were strippers from the factory, or nearly so. But since there’s no telling just how many options were added by the dealers before delivery, the as-delivered rates are anybody’s guess. However, many of those option kits sat on the shelves, only to be bought up by collectors years later.

Today’s collector cars are often accessorized to the max by more recent owners, and often by using NOS option kits. This creates cars that are simply not typical of a "back in the day" average car. Just pity the poor film set property director who needs to decorate a period piece set with cars typical of those days, and all he can find are loaded, decked-out showboats. Whereas, any vintage picture taken of a typical street scene would show mostly very plain cars, and few if any showboats. So for the “period” look "plain" does have merit, but only to a point.

Then too, just how far are you going to take the "as-built" theme? I once read that one auto maker was going to install tires of a certain spec on a certain car. The tire company was only going to supply the manufacturer, and had no intention of ever supplying that exact tire to even their own replacement market. Thus, it would be impossible to get the exact factory-spec tire for a restored car, period. And since maintenance items don’t always have to match OEM, a similar scenario could occur with any item. Just think about that angle for a while.

I have to further part company with the "as-built" people when it comes to the point of whether to preserve an individual car OR as much of the marque’s history as possible. Consider the following scenario. Suppose you had a pure parts car, but it had a rare and valuable option. Note that I am not counting reproduced accessories. Note also that for sake of this discussion, the parts car is beyond even the ability of the combined resources of Bill Gates and the Walton family to restore. In other words, for sake of this discussion, restoration is ABSOLUTELY NOT an option. That leaves you with only three options, and all three will result in ending up throwing the parts car in the crusher. The first option is to throw it ALL in the crusher and walk away. The second is to salvage the option and put it on the shelf as a dustcatcher, while the third is to install the option (in as close to a factory manner as possible) on a suitable recipient car.

With the first option, you lose everything. With the second option, you salvage the option, but lose the historic value of how it was installed and how it functions in the car. With the third option, you preserve as much of the historic value of the option as possible, even though the recipient car wasn’t so equipped. But here is where the "as-built" people get hysterical. They feel that you’ve devalued the recipient car. However, they lose sight of the fact that you’ve preserved a much more rare option AND the historic knowledge of its installation and functionality. In the end, you are sacrificing a more common car’s "originality" for sake of preserving as much of history as possible. And isn’t THAT the real goal of restoration and preservation?

"As-built" may have its place, but so does preserving rare vintage (not reproduced) accessories. In the end though, every car should suit its owner, and a car that is ill-equipped for the owner’s tastes is out of place. Let us all appreciate our cars in whatever manner we choose, but also maintain a rational respect for the goal of proper historic preservation.

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Re: slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: American Mel ()
Date: November 09, 2017 03:40PM

Interesting ideas there Mark.
You should have dropped this into the Yenko discussion!grinning smiley

Speaking of "Factory Options", . . . . .
I remember back in the mid '80s iirc.
Toyota was advertising the least expensive mini-truck on the market.
A friend of mine was looking to get a new vehicle and went in to check them out.
He came back rather disappointed.
Out the door, it was not even close to being the cheapest truck available!
In order to get the price of their base truck, below the competition, they listed everything that they could as an option.
This included THE WHEELS AND TIRES ! ! !eye popping smiley

WA. state, 1 mile south of the Canadian border,
I am not at the end of the world, but you can see it from here.
'66 Monza Coupe - 4spd, 140 Daily driver beater
'67 Monza Vert. - PG, 140 Daily driver beater

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Re: slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: stitch ()
Date: November 09, 2017 04:17PM

That was Great! and well thought out!
When I first clicked on this thread, I thought it was j3m. I'm glad that I read it tho'. GOOD STUFF! thumbs upsmileys with beer

"If you can't fix it with a Hammer, you have an Electrical problem."
Schertz, Texas.
(Smallish town/burg 17 mi. NE of San Antonio)

!967.. 4th body
8th off the line

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Re: slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: jmaechtlen ()
Date: November 09, 2017 05:40PM

Great discussion of "as built" versus "as sold".

Re the pickup trucks - we used to see ads for pickups at a very low price - of course they were strippers ,one or two available at that price. A guy I worked with would get one of those for his commute - he had a long commute, and he figured that was the cheapest way for him - buy dirt cheap and drive the wheels off!

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Re: slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: Seth Emerson ()
Date: November 09, 2017 07:14PM

Like the famous 57 Chevy "Continental kit" tire on the rear bumper. Of the 1100 originally produced, only 2500 remain!

Seth Emerson

Check my new Performance Corvair Web site []

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Re: slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: MonzaDave ()
Date: November 10, 2017 08:11AM

Interesting read, Mark. When I ordered my '69, I inadvertently solved the as-built versus add-on options problem by checking virtually every box on the order form.

Dave Keillor
Rochester, MN

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Re: slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: Paulsgt ()
Date: November 10, 2017 08:58AM

My 62 Monza is a good example of what Mark describes. I have the original purchase order (very hard to read) but one line item lists something illegible however I believe it to be painting the top white. The car now presents as a two-tone Monza 4-door that was not factory available in 1962. Also included was day/night mirror and driver's head rest. (Both aftermarket pieces I believe).


Paul Sergeant
CORSA Central Division Director / CORSA Treasurer <-new title
Lee's Summit, MO
CORSA since 1975
Member – HACOA, Corvair Minnesota, CORSA, Little Indians, POCI

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Re: slightly OT - The Problem With “As-Built”
Posted by: glivorsi ()
Date: November 10, 2017 05:24PM

Seth Emerson Wrote:
> Like the famous 57 Chevy "Continental kit" tire on
> the rear bumper. Of the 1100 originally produced,
> only 2500 remain!

And nowadays every Chevelle is an SS!

Greg in Wildwood, MO (part of the St. Louis urban sprawl)

1965 Monza Vert 110PG, Crocus Yellow with black interior and top

2014 Honda Accord V6 (DD)
2017 Honda Pilot (wifemobile)
2012 Chevy Sonic 1.8L (kid's car)
1997 Honda CBR1100XX
2006 Mazdaspeed 6 (no longer own)

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