I don’t know if the title makes sense, but I hope I can clarify here. And since I didn’t know if there’s a factual answer, this forum seemed the logical place to ask the question.
Background: I live in southern Maryland, and cars are big here. We have an international drag strip and frequent formal and informal car shows. Racing and restoring or modifying old cars are popular. So it’s no surprise to see vehicles from all years on the roads, and occasionally beside the road with a For Sale sign affixed. That’s what leads to my question.
Last weekend, we saw a Ford with 1925 license tags. The inside of the car was beautifully restored to what I would assume is original. The body was in beautiful shape, the chrome shiny, and except for being painted white (didn’t Henry Ford offer any color you wanted as long as it was black?) it looked just like what it purported to be. However, the wheels and tires were clearly totally different from what was available in 1925, and the engine was a V8, and even if it wasn’t all shiny chrome, I’d have guessed that it wasn’t original either…
Which brings me to the original question - when does a car cease to be what it was when it was built? If you replace all the body panels, is it considered a classic as long as they’re replaced with authentic panels? Would fiberglass panels devalue the car? What if, over the course of a restoration, the only original part is the steering wheel - is it still a “19XX whatnot coupe” or does it become a replicar? Is the shell what matters, so what’s under the hood and under the chassis can be as modern as you like?
Does anyone else even care about this? I just wondered - if I had a Model T that I was fixing up/restoring, is there a point where it would cease to be a Model T despite what it looked like? Are there standards, rules, guidelines, or anything else that car enthusiasts use to determine what a car is?