Date registered: Jul 2005
Vehicle: SLK 320
Location: the Sierra Nevadas
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RE: This is what I want my 116 to look like
The best look is NOT stock. However, there are a million more ways to screw up when you diverge from stock, than there are ways to improve over stock. You need to have the eye of a Giorgio Armani to pull it off as better than stock. If you aren't an acclaimed artist, a fashion designer, or something along those lines, do not trust yourself. What you think is an improvement WILL BE an uglification. Ask for lots and lots of opinions from tasteful people, and be conservative about moving away from stock. It has to BEG for a change for weeks and weeks before you let the change happen, and then you search for weeks and weeks before you settle on the right change.
Here is my little theory on modifying classic cars. Everyone falls somewhere on the "Restoration Ladder", with the worst people on the bottom rung and the best on the top rung.
* Rung One. This guy loves his car so much that when he restores it, he can't help but do little things to "improve" it. He wants to put his love into the car so bad that he has to tamper with "improvements" wherever there is an opportunity. However, it violates the vibe and authenticity of the car, at best creating subtle disharmony and at worst creating a monstrosity.
* Rung Two. Having seen other people's "rung one" cars, or having messed up his own in the past, the guy is an obsessive anal purist about making it ABSOLUTELY STOCK and original. Anyone with an obsessive nature will gravitate toward rung two. Classic car shows will all have judges looking high and low for the slightest little "impurity" or unoriginal part, in the same way that obsessive compulsives wash their hands fifty times a day because they are afraid of germs. Nevertheless, in favor of this rung is that it is higher than rung one, and does have a purity to it, the "original feeling".
* Rung Three. This is based on the fact that you CAN'T conjure the same look or same vibe in a car as when it was new. Your favorite song in 1978, for example, WILL NEVER SOUND THE SAME AGAIN, now that it's 2005. Same with the car. Back then it had a sexy novelty of "oh wow, look at the NEW Mercedes model." Whereas now we have already seen so many trends and fashions come and go. Now the beauty is in a nostalgia for how style used to be, and for what has been LOST in modern style from an older era. The subtle Rung THREE restorer knows that wheels that looked great back then can't help but look like SHIT now. He tries to find a slightly wider, slightly larger diameter wheel that takes the spirit of the old style, yet modernizes only so slightly so that it still has the style, but no longer looks like a tired old dog turd from prehistoric times. It didn't look like a turd back then so it needs to look better now. Same goes with other very subtle touches. If carpet is better now, why use older crap carpet? If tires are better now, why use older crap tires? If light bulbs are brighter now, why use older dull bulbs? And so on. The trick is to fool everyone else into thinking it's original, yet they somehow find new appreciation they never had before, because the elements of style that have become decrepit in the original, are ever-so-subtly upgraded while staying true to the original spirit.
Rung Four. "Giorgio Armani". This person has mastered Rung Three. This car has had decades to brew, like a wine or a scotch. This person has looked at the lines of this car over the years and watched how they seem to bend and change as the modern eye goes through its own different fashion changes. You must literally observe the vehicle over a long duration, noticing how what you think needs changing, will itself go through change-of-heart as your own mind and style change with time. Finally you find the timelessness in the expression that the original designers themselves only captured 90% or 95%, and you finish it off yourself. Small changes in body line, grills, seat stitchings, wheels, improved door latches, etc., to make the car what it always wanted to be when it came out, but the designers didn't have years to perfect it. They had to move on.