What affects the level of the restoration costs?

  • The pure adherence to originality always affects the cost of the work. With an early car (1950’s or earlier) original or NOS parts are getting more difficult to locate. Because of the scarcity the material costs are always higher. Original finishes, paints and trim fall into this category as well.
  • Concealed damages; extensive rust damage to areas around major suspension attachment points, door frames, chassis elements or areas where “Bondo” has been liberally applied in lieu of proper metal work all add to the costs to repair.
  • Set-up motors, brakes, master cylinder, carburetor components where replacement parts are mandated, negating the chance for rebuilding. Here again, some replacements are just not available.

What are the possible upgrades that affect cost and reliability?

  • Newer disc brakes at the front versus drum brakes on older cars will improve stopping and reduce costs to some degree. Disc brake parts are more available. On the Sprite for instance, this is fairly straight forward when a major front suspension is being considered.
  • Aftermarket or reproduction parts can reduce costs. For example carpet sets, upholstery and some trim can be had in both original and reproductions.
  • Modern electronic distributors are available and improve reliability, starting and overall performance. Again, many mechanical and electrical parts can be found to original spec’s and manufacturers labels, or may be offered under repro labels.
  • Replacement of the engine and transmission in early cars with a later package’s available to production cars is typical. Moving up in a MGA from 1600 to 1800cc is as simple as finding a MGB doner. Sprites and Midgets are famous for upgrading “A” series engines. Now 5-speed transmissions are rapidly coming to the market for most British cars.As an example a Datsun 510 transmission can be adapted to provide a five-speed option behind the Sprite / Midget with a Rivergate kit. Moss Motors offers kits for MGA, TR and MGB. HVDA makes a very nice TR conversion option.

Will I ever get my original investment back if I do a full restoration?

  • The short answer is yes! Properly restored cars are always in demand. Most collectors would rather have a restored car versus going through the arduous restoration process. If you study the car market you will see normal up and down trends generally following the economy. We are currently in an Static or Flat market. Because cars historically hold their value some people are buying cars instead of stock or other commodities. The Bug-eye Sprite for example is a car that always holds it value, as well as MGA and Austen Healey, especially if they have not been corrupted.
  • If you use it as a regular driver you impact the resale value to some degree due to normal wear and tear (stone chips, wear, staining, etc.).
  • The general response to the level of investment question is that you are a caretaker of a small piece of history. There are fewer and fewer of these cars in the world and any restoration becomes a labor of love and the return on investment logic often does not apply.