To Restore or Not to Restore?

To restore or not to restore? If unrestored, what is responsible use? Should unrestored vehicles be made to run and drive? This was the hotly debated topic at this past fall’s Driving History conference held at the Historic Vehicle Association’s Laboratory in Allentown, PA. In conjunction with the College of Charleston, presenters, students and enthusiasts alike came together to discuss the future of automobility and the merits of preservation. Read on.


Should a car or truck be returned to some semblance of its former glory or should it be preserved and maintained in its current condition to ensure its continued existence? Both sides of this spirited debate were on display surrounding the 1918 Cadillac recently added to the National Historic Vehicle Register.


Remaining largely untouched in the years since its return from the French frontline during WWI, the car is said to be the last known surviving vehicle to have seen combat. As it exists today, it is just that—a survivor. So the question posed to the HVA’s Allentown panel was simple: Should the car be kept as is, preserving its historical integrity, or should it be returned to running order and, thus, fulfilling its intended purpose as an operational vehicle?

A number of valid points were raised on both sides of the argument. Many argued that—in the Cadillac’s current state—the car is now little more than a museum piece or historical curio. Conversely, those in favor of its continued preservation argued that a car is only original once and that any changes made to the vehicle at this point would not only compromise its historic integrity but also potentially eliminate or destroy many of the elements that currently make it such a fascinating vehicle to begin with.

No one side proved more persuasive than the other, and the topic still remains hotly debated. Check out our This Car Matters short film on the car and let us know what you think the best course of action would be in the comments section below.

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