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BangShift Question Of The Day: At What Point Does Modifying A Vehicle “Ruin” It?

BangShift Question Of The Day: At What Point Does Modifying A Vehicle “Ruin” It?

Today’s Question Of The Day stems from an age-old dilemma that I’ve personally faced many times with many cars and I’m sure that the majority of you fellow BangShifters have faced as well with a bone-stock vehicle: “Should I modify it or leave it as-is?

I’m personally debating this right now with my ’87 Monte Carlo LS as it’s a bit of a fresh start compared to my ’87 Monte Carlo SS, which was ridden hard and put away wet for years before coming into my possession, at which point I admittedly did not take much better care of it for the first few years of the decade that I have been its owner. Sure, I’ve added a bunch of “go-fast” parts to the SS (Some of which have made it slower…), but in the process I was also dumb enough to remove the heater box and spend more money on things like the suspension instead of, oh, I don’t know, making sure the t-tops don’t leak all over me when it rains. Don’t get me wrong, I love the car, but it definitely isn’t my G-body of choice for those chilly Spring or Fall mornings with rain in the forecast.

Proving out my point, here's Lohnes busy helping me install some aftermarket control arms. Perhaps the correct answer as to when a vehicle is ruined is "When Brian gets his hands on it"?

Proving out my point, here’s Lohnes busy helping me install some aftermarket control arms. Perhaps the correct answer as to when a vehicle is ruined is “When Brian gets his hands on it”?

This is where my dilemma with the Luxury Sport Monte comes into play, as it was a bone stock car when I bought it, complete with bench seats, small cigarette burns in the upper door panels, and 2.41 “I’m ready for Bonneville” gears.

I’ve already started down the slippery slope of adding uprated springs, performance shocks, bigger brakes, and better wheels and tires, but for the most part all of these modifications have made the car better to drive, not worse. Of course, now that I’ve owned the car for a few months I’m really getting tired of the wimpy 160 horsepower LG4 305 and terrible gearing and that 5.3L Gen III V8 I have sitting in storage is looking mighty tempting, but at the same time I really can’t deny how well the old quadrajet-fed mill has treated me this winter, starting up without fail even in sub-zero temps. Heck, this video shows how easy the engine fires up after sitting in below-freezing weather for several hours, and it does this every time.

So, what’s your take on this one? I’m not looking for specific advice on my car, but instead looking for insight as to when modifying a vehicle “ruins” it. Are you a purist who believes that it’s ruined once you replace the first part with anything other than a factory replacement, is “to hell with it, modify away” your attitude, or somewhere in-between?

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36 thoughts on “BangShift Question Of The Day: At What Point Does Modifying A Vehicle “Ruin” It?

  1. stump chunkman

    The moment i decided to install an SM465 into my FJ40.
    Pretty much threw away a perfectly good OEM drivetrain for a gearbox that shifted like a dumptruck and was nearly unstreetable.


    I’d say you “ruin it” when you seriously compromise the streetability/daily driver ability of the car.

    Some examples (skipping right past your specifics of pulling the heater and not fixing the T-tops)
    Autocross suspension that wears the inside edge of your tires out from too much negative camber
    Snotting the engine up so much that you can’t run the AC in traffic without it overheating
    Adding a roll cage that requires you to wear a helmet and 5 point harness to drive safely on the street for risk of smashing your head on the bars
    Adding brakes so large that you can no longer get the proper tires for the season for the wheels required
    Adding a fuel tank/cell that is too small for anything longer than a 50-100mile trip
    Removing the seating to the point of not being able to give your significant other a ride in the car

    Not all encompassing and I understand that some cars you just don’t drive in the winter due to the effects of salt on the vehicle but something (like more modern rides) really should be capable of being driven year round.

  3. cyclone03

    It is a balance that we all must carry…
    Some will say yours was ruined when you put the hard riding suspension under it. (you said it handles better,others say it rides like crap now) .
    A driver stays simple,as stock as posible. The “toy” gets it all and more.

    Some will say my Mustang is ruined because the FE in the front runs counter to the lowered,hard riding somewhat handling suspension. The purpose is confused. Drag Radials on the back and skinnies up front matches up with the FE better. The A/C really screws it all up…

    Ruined,velvet,tassles,scent crowns,DONKED,raised too much,too low,stink bug look,stickers,no stickers,stick on vents,port holes,side pipes,hood scoop,no scoop,too many scoops,spoiler too big,too small,not big enough,not real. I dont have the writing talent for any more but,you ge the idea.

    It’s “ruined” when YOU say it is,and then you start to unruin it,only to ruin it ome more. (or make it better) or ruin it.
    It never ends.
    Good luck,we’re here to help.

  4. weasel 1

    never been a purist, my first car was a 65 Falcon that i pulled the 6cyl auto for a 289 4 gear. that said i have seen some beautiful cars trashed by guys making them “better”. i am some where in between. buy what you want, fix it the way you want it and to hell with the people that don’t want to know why you did something, just that what you did was “wrong”.

  5. Joe Roberts

    This is indeed a dilemma that most of us face whenever we decide to change something in a basically stock ride. My 1965 Studebaker Cruiser is a case in point. It was purchased new by my uncle and when he wanted to get rid of it a few years ago I jumped at the chance. He never really modified anything on any car unless it was strictly for practical reasons. I never really wanted a four door, but the Cruiser was there and that is what I got. Typical of that era of U.S. automobiles handling was not a priority, but I wanted the car to handle as well as possible. I put in quick steering arms, oversized front sway bar, added a rear sway bar, lowered her a bit, installed front disc brakes, swapped the original wheels for 15×7” Mopar Cop Car wheels with a set of TA Touring tires and found it handled like an altogether different car. I love it. Did I ruin it? Well, it is a matter of opinion. The engine is the original 283 McKinnon V-8 (Canadian built GM small block) and we warmed it over a bit with a four barrel carb, a better cam and a set of tubular headers (heck they were on sale so how could I not?) and dual exhaust with Porter mufflers. I gave up the originaI Borg Warner automatic for a GM 200r4. It is not a barn burner when it comes to outright speed, but it will cruise all day long at 75+ with plenty left for the mountains or whatever. Other than air conditioning and three point seat belts, the rest of the car is stock. I am sure my uncle would be tempted to say I ruined it, but to my point of view I made the car a bit better without ruining the essence of the car. Is it stock? Technically no, but I don’t think I ruined the car either. What it does come down to is that if it is your car you are the only one who decided what to do with it. If other folks don’t like it they can simply do what they choose with their own cars.

  6. threedoor

    I won’t buy a rig that some guy has removed the hvac out of because its too much of a hassle to get the oem parts from 30+ years ago. I consider ruined once the body has been hacked up, I don’t like nice clean original cars chopped and channeled when one from the bottom of a scrap pile could be done the same way. I’m doing some horrible body mods to a suburban of mine, it started as a rotted out wrecked roach, if it were a cream puff I’d keep it stock because its harder to restore than cut up.

  7. TheSilverBuick

    When you are ready to haul it to the scrap yard, that is when you know you’ve ruined it.

  8. Matt Cramer

    It is ruined when the mods you put on it start getting in the way of using the vehicle for your intended (and possibly unspoken) purpose. Mods that are just right for Bonneville would be horrible if you wanted a daily driver, for example.

  9. GuitarSlinger

    When you replace good for bad … in hopes of gaining performance but instead lose reliability and drivability

    When you make it fugly as all _____ [ yeah I’m lookin at you .. Donkers ! ]

    When you lower it so much [ w/out air springs ] as to make it undrivable

    When there’s absolutely no purpose what so ever for the modification

    When you make it loud as ____ yet gain nothing .. in fact usually lose performance

    When the modifications are pure ‘ Pep Boys ‘ pretense and not modifications at all [ fake hood scoops etc ]

    Yeah …. thats a pretty good list . Probably could come up with a few more but ….. 😉

  10. Ed

    I “ruined” one of my GTO’s by doing a rotisserie restoration on it. Now I’m afraid to drive it if there are any clouds in the sky for fear of hitting a puddle and never being able to get the undercarriage as clean again.

  11. AngryJoe

    Once something is done that can’t be undone without serious work. But all in all…its a freaking car…do what feels good. If you try to sell it lose your ass…its your ass to lose.

  12. 440 6Pac

    You said you put things on your SS that made it go slower. Just hows did ya make a Chevy go slower? Ya put a Pontiac engine in it? 🙂
    Seriously, anything that makes a car slower ruins it.

  13. Cletus T Rickenbacher 3rd

    It’s your vehicle. Therefore any mod’s that you do are fine in your eyes and do not ruin it.

    The rest of us however will point and laugh at your pants on the head retarded “mod’s” you made.

    I would suspect that every one of us has made some questionably modifications over the years. Especially when we were waterhead teenagers trying to spruce up a 2-300 dollar crapcan.

    1. 440 6Pac

      I paid $60 for a crapcan when I was 16. Today 52 years later I’ve finished the latest rebuild on it. So far I’ve paid about $30,000 to keep that crapcan on the road. But I still enjoy it.

      1. Cletus T Rickenbacher 3rd

        My time frame reference was a fair bit more recent that your’s; early to mid 70’s. Doing some quick math( takes off shoes) I’m guessing the vehicle was only slightly younger than you were when you purchased it?

          1. Cletus T Rickenbacher 3rd

            Very nice. Sadly, where I was living at the time, was in the rust belt. Very, VERY, few older vehicles survived. 10-15 years seemed to be about it. Unless you had a winter beater, and as a teenager the extra money wasn’t there. If you had a beater, it was because you wrecked/blew up your “regular” car.

  14. squirrel

    depends on who’s doing the modifying. Some guys improve a car every time they wrench on it. Others…well…everything they touch turns to crap.

  15. Royce

    It’s only ruined if you don’t enjoy it anymore. Pretty simple. For me that means reliable, because nobody likes sitting on the side of the road.

  16. evil16v

    It think there are a lot of things that can ruin a car. But I will focus on driveablity. The problem comes when the car becomes a street driven race car, not a street car. Some think if it has lights, insurance and a tag, it’s a street car.
    Street cars do not have:
    Zoomie headers
    Race (pin on) fiberglass parts
    Fuel cells as main fuel source
    To be trailered to local races
    Lexan windows
    Tube chassis
    No visible aftermarket wiring including switch boxes
    Snorkel hoods
    pin on/ zuesed body panels

    Street cars :
    Have full interior/original appearing seats
    Key ignition
    Exhaust to at least the rear axle
    Everything works (i.e. wipers, regulated windows, stock lights, heater, defrost, speedometer, gas gauge, radio)
    can talk to person next to you.

    1. cyclone03

      Crap my car is no longer a street car,my speedometer broke last weekend,and conversation requires “outside voices”.

  17. john t

    had this dilemna for a little while now…I love my XB coupe, took a perfectly good 6 out for a 351c and 4 speed which I do love and which up until a few months ago was my only car and it did all vehicular duties – shopping, long trips, you name it. My daughters just had a baby and my sons partner lives a long way away so I have to haul people around and watching them cram themselves into the back of the coupe wasn’t great so I bought an absolutely bog stock XA 4 door sedan – fixed a few things and gave it a coat of paint but kinda loving driving a 6 cyl 3 on the tree with bench seats and a bus size steering wheel! So I figure I can now go crazy(er) on the coupe !!

  18. AZ427 (Scott)

    A car is ruined as soon as you put more than three chrome items on it that have nothing to do with perfomance from the local auto parts store.

  19. Tom Slater

    I think the car is ruined when it’s no longer pleasant to drive and / or when it’s less reliable than stock.
    My Jeep was ruined by an electric fan & too-stiff motor mounts, 31″ tires without enough gear to back it up and an exhaust that was too damn loud for me. Now, for some guys, this was the perfect Cherokee. But for me, it wasn’t giving me what I wanted. Not even close. So I started reversing the mods, and I like the car better than I have in years.

  20. Mopar or No Car

    Ruin, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. As long as it continues to be your car you have not ruined it. If you try to sell it, that’s a different story. And there are different degrees of ruin — reversible ruin and permanent ruin. If the cost/benefit ratio of reversing the bonehead mod is too high, ruin is permanent.

  21. Steve Bolin

    I like performance upgrades and understand that with that comes more work. It’s part of the passion tho. I believe once you choose not to drive your baby because of gas mileage or whether your slipping. I drive mine year round and have been through a 76 stingray 71nova and now my 64 gmc 1000 swb fleetside. I haven’t been in the game long as this is a recently acquired passion but it’s not fading. I slip a ton in the snow, but look and sound incredible doing it and more importantly I’m having a blast. Warming up my 383 hydraulic flat tappet cam makes for easy maintenance, I have low vacuum cause it’s huge so I added the booster or storage container and power breaks/steering, static drop, tubbed,lokar, cruising…and hoping to get a 55 Buick next. Gonna learn how to go up and daily drive an old nailhead and I’m stoked.

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