There’s something about a survivor car that can get any car enthusiast’s blood pumping. Survivor cars are few and far between, and they can take us back to an era when phones had a wheel that was used to dial a number, the Internet was science fiction, and gas was roughly $1.00 a gallon.
But, what constitutes a survivor car? Just because it is still around, doesn’t mean it fits that category. To be considered as such, a vehicle had to survive through the years with all of the originality that it carried as it rolled off the assembly line. Sure, some can overlook maintenance items like belts, hoses, plugs, and wires being changed, but in theory, the car needs to essentially be factory correct.
Right off the bat, a survivor car’s paint job has to be factory applied. Give a car a repaint, and it’s no longer a survivor. Some will allow a car that has received minor paint touch ups to retain a survivor status, but that is left to debate. The interior also has to be original to qualify as a survivor car. Start replacing upholstery, carpeting, or headliner, and survivor status can be questioned.
David Baum has what he calls a survivor, and it’s a gorgeous 1979 Chevrolet Z/28. “In the 33 years I’ve had the car, it has always been garaged and never driven in the winter. I’ve done very little to the car aside from driving it, keeping it clean, and very well maintained. However, the passenger’s rear quarter-panel and the transmission have been replaced,” David told us.
David actually posed an interesting question on NastyZ28.com, and we thought that bringing the question to you guys would also lend some insight. “Over the years, I’ve toyed with making modifications to the drivetrain and suspension to improve performance and handling, what are your thoughts?”
Personally, I like the idea of possibly adding a few performance-enhancing, bolt-on items, and saving the original parts for posterity. But then, can the car still be called a survivor? Sure, the parts are still within arms reach to reinstall, but maybe we need to come up with a new term, something like “updated survivor”. To be considered as such, you would need to have verifiable proof of the stored part’s authenticity to the car in question. But, that opens a whole different cause for debate about the car owner’s honesty, so maybe that won’t work.
According to nastyz28 user PaulC: “It’s only original once. If it’s a true, never been apart survivor, I would be hard pressed to take a wrench to it. I have a ’71 SS/RS LS3 that I have owned for quite some time, and years past, I went the go-fast route. It’s all bolt-on stuff. At that time, the car was pretty close to a survivor. Fortunately, I kept the original drivetrain, and recently, I have been thinking of putting it back to stock. That 396 with close-ratio transmission and 3.42 gears was so nice to drive.”
Another forum user, Mallard, had a slightly different take: In my humble opinion, a ’79 Z28 in “original” condition isn’t likely to garner a significant price, strictly because it’s original. It’s probably going to bring just as good a dollar modified, so I think you do as you please. If it were a ’74 or older, I’d likely think a lot differently.”
Finally, user 200mph had this to add: “If you have a documented chain of ownership and a low mileage car, I would preserve it as is and enjoy driving it and maintaining it. It’s true that they are only original once. If your goal is maximizing future value, that is the right path. However, we own these cars in order to get enjoyment out of them. If you want to improve it, it’s your car, go ahead. Its value will not change that much, and you will drive it more. I like the idea of making modifications that can be easily put back to stock if you or the next owner chooses that path.”
All of the guys that posted make very valid points, and the discussion to leave it alone or modify it can go either way. We’ve heard from several others, but what say you? What’s your opinion about upgrading what could be considered a survivor?