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"Day Two” Restorations
By Tom Olsen
Automotive build and restoration trends certainly vary as time goes on. Back in the 1980s, the pro-street look was all the rage. Custom vans had their time even before that. Ultimate, better-than-factory-new restorations have been, and still are, strong for those than can afford to take a car to that level. Rat rods can be the other extreme. Currently gassers are the latest big thing around the country, I discussed them some years ago in the December 2012 issue. Another trend that has quietly been out there for several years is the “day two” restoration. Day two restorations have been happening for years, the trend just never had a name up until recently.
So what is a day two restoration? Day two is referring to all the things that a car guy or gal did to their new car the day (or week or month) after they drove it away from the dealership. While everything didn’t magically happen on day two, some of it was started then, and much of it was at least planned then. The fact that all of it may not have happened on the actual second day of ownership most likely was due to time and financial considerations. Plus, you really had to spend that first day or two driving by all your buddies’ homes to show off that new machine!
Thinking back to when my wife, Joyce, and I bought our new 1969 SS396 Chevelle in September of 1969, it was only a matter of waiting until that first weekend to start right in “improving” things. The rally wheel beauty rings and rear exhaust tips that were standard on the SS Chevelle never really did it for me, so they were the first things to go. (That really was on day two!) Then, the black SS side stripes were peeled off on a nice sunny afternoon. Next, the tail pipes were cut off behind the mufflers, and a turn-down just ahead of the rear axle handled exhaust. Not long after that, a Sun tachometer was installed, and soon a set of Hooker headers were added. Other tweaks were done as time went on, but this gives you the idea of what many of us did to personalize our new car on day two or soon thereafter. That was all in 1969, in my case, but enthusiasts have been doing similar modifications all along, and that continues on new cars to this day. All one needs to do is pick up any automotive hobby magazine to see the endless possibilities for day two upgrades.
Those are some of the things I did to our Chevelle in 1969. When I made the decision to do a full off-frame restoration to the car in 2001 I, unbeknownst to me, did a day two restoration. The name just didn’t exist then.
As the restoration began, I knew that I wanted to create an “as new” car, but I wanted it to be equipped like it was in 1969-70. We found a great body shop to fully restore the body and paint to better-than-new standards. I did a full “nut and bolt” restoration, rebuilding and refinishing the frame, suspension, and running gear. The engine and transmission received a complete overhaul, and new factory correct upholstery replaced worn areas. Nothing was left untouched.
But, when it came to many of the items that I had changed back in 1969, I deviated from the factory issued equipment once again. Instead of exhaust manifolds and emissions equipment, I installed a set of Hooker headers. Custom wheels replaced the original rally wheels and beauty rings. The Sun tachometer sits proudly on top of the steering column where it did in 1969. I did install an exhaust system more compliant with state law than I had in 1969, but those factory exhaust tips haven’t returned.
Probably the biggest decision on deviating from stock came with regard to the factory black tape stripe on the side of the car. I was actually leaning towards having that re-installed by the body shop. Joyce and I talked about that and she convinced me that, “if we didn’t really like that stripe on there in 1969, why would we want to replace it now?” She’s right, of course, and the stripe didn’t go back on.
Looking at our Chevelle now, it looks almost exactly as it looked in 1969-70. (Better, really, since paint and body standards are much higher than they were in 1969.) The end result is that, before the name existed, I did a day two restoration. Now that you know what a day two restoration is, I suspect that many of you have done the very same thing.
This is a trend that is really prevalent these days. At any cruise night I attend, the vast majority of cars from the ‘50s through the ‘70s that are “restored”, probably fall into the day two category. When I was showing my Chevelle, the “stock” class at most car shows would allow two to three subtle modifications. This usually included headers, custom wheels, gauges, etc. Once again, those were things that were done on day two. At local shows, and certainly at cruise nights, you see very few “completely restored to factory stock” restorations.
Recently I’ve noted that some major shows around the country are now even offering a “Day Two Restored” class. To qualify for a true day two class entry, actual “period correct” accessories are required at some of these shows. (No years-later, look-alike pieces just to achieve the look.) It’s good to see that the concept is now being recognized, as opposed to placing any car with a deviation from stock into a “Modified” class, or it simply not being considered a proper restoration.
You may remember the top-of-the-line restoration my good friend, Jerome Miller, did to his 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, which was featured on the cover of our April 2017 issue. After years of research and preparation, every aspect of the Boss was properly refurbished and brought to factory specs. Jerome drives it now, and the car has just a couple performance upgrades: headers, traction bars, and an engine tweak or two. Other than that, it looks bone stock.
That’s what day two restorations are all about. Perhaps it’s a term you’ve heard, but never knew for sure what it referred to. Although the term is relatively new, the trend has existed for years. The good news is: even though automotive trends change regularly, this is one “trend” that won’t be going away anytime soon.