Curbside Question: How Far Gone is Too Far Gone?


Catalina 2+2 Front Quarter

While it may appear this 1964 Pontiac Catalina 2 + 2 is waiting for a tow to the salvage yard, a closer look reveals decent tires and valid license plates. I’ve seen this car parked at a number of locations here in the South Bay, and it’s clear someone is keeping it around for future use. As an owner of a forty year old classic, I’m extremely familiar with the issues related to owning a car as old as this, and based on that experience I have to say this owner is either extremely unconcerned about the appearance of their automobile, or they are treading on the razor edge of insanity.

This is a question we’ve dealt with in other posts, but I had a couple good examples of cars that have traveled far down Entropy Road, which led to this post. We could also ask the question this way: when does a car’s patina cross the line over to neglect?

Catalina 2+2 Side view

If the owner simply does not care about vehicle appearance, I suppose this Pontiac can continue to deliver good service for many more years. When it comes to driveline, suspension and brake parts, American cars of the sixties used enough common parts on the dirty side of the car that a reasonably handy person can still find the parts needed to keep one safely on the road. Even if the exact part is not available (for example, a factory fit spark plug wire set), there’s usually a universal part you can modify to fit. The only thing that could kill this car is extreme corrosion, and I see no evidence of that. Mechanically, this car appears to be in good running condition, so maybe it is just a daily driver.

An original car with the patina of regular use does provide restorers with important clues regarding the production process. Things like the hardware used, specific positioning of clamps and other parts, and option packaging can all be checked using these cars. But looking at this one, I’m not sure it’s worth maintaining this time machine.

Catalina 2+2 Rear Quarter

But something tells me this car was brought down from Washington State as a project car, and that the owner has big dreams of restoring his mighty full sized convertible. Let me tell you, that’s a whole ‘nother thing. While the owner may dream of returning this ride to it’s former glory, from stem to stern, every aspect of it says parts car.

For example, this rear quarter panel may be the nicest sheet metal on the car, and as you can see, a scrape on the back edge of that character line has created a ripple in the sheet metal, exposing it to the elements and leading to a bad case of surface rust. If you flip back to the street side view, you’ll find a dented quarter panel with a big chunk of the rocker panel ripped off behind the driver’s door. All in all, a body that does not inspire confidence.

Badges 2

Here’s a better look at that “surface” rust on the quarter panel, along with a good look a the Catalina badge. I’m not sure if the badge is reusable, but if so, it requires an hour or so of cleaning, plus a very steady hand repainting the indentations with some pin stripe paint. Nothing about this restoration project looks simple.

Patina 2 the Xtreme

A close up of the deck lid shows us crazed paint, surface rust and bondo patches, always a bad sign. Whoever laid down the bondo did not do a proper job of body preparation, which is always cause for concern, and if there’s evidence of improper body work, can we consider that an indicator of other improper work? Many times, improper work ties up time and resources budgeted for other aspects of a restoration.

Little rustWhere to start with this picture? We never want to see rust perforation in sheet metal, but I’m even more concerned about the joint running up between the door and the fender. In theory, the seam should maintain consistent spacing from top to bottom, and if a panel is out of alignment, it should gently taper from one end to the other. The fact that the gap grows and shrinks as our eyes travel up and down the body indicates problems beyond door alignment.

Catalina 2+2 no grille

Up front, more issues: the missing grille pieces equal more dollars out of your pocket, and the bumper may have enough rust damage to prevent restoration. I will concede that during this walk around, we saw most of the trim and badges still in place, so the car is relatively complete. It’s just that the parts present and accounted for are all beat up to the extreme.


A look inside does not inspire confidence either. We’ve already seen a ripped convertible top and missing back window. A cracked dash top, missing door panel and bed sheet covered seat add to the list of things gone wrong on this car. Interior soft parts are a huge challenge to locate when performing a restoration, since they often change year to year. If this car were a 1968 A-body, I’d have some confidence these parts were available as reproductions. A ’64 B-body? I’m not so sure.

Badges 1

Is there any upside? Maybe this 2 + 2 badge. Between the top of the line trim level and the convertible body style, this car is among the most collectable ’64 Catalinas out there, but you’ll still spend more in the restoration process than this car will ever return at auction. I don’t see any 421 badges on the fenders, and there’s no four speed shift lever on the center console, so this is NOT a top shelf car.

Ford Granada Side View

And as long as were gathering opinions, let’s take a look at another car. Once again, this is a car I’ve seen running about here and there, so it’s not simply a curb decoration. Based on the round headlights, I’m calling it out as a ’75 to ’77 Granada coupe, complete with a partial vinyl top (which now appears missing). The condition of the paint and body work is comparable to what we saw on the ’64 Catalina, but with the advantage of a metal roof to protect the interior from the elements.

Ford Granada interior

It seems not to have made much of a difference, however; point by point, this interior seems to suffer from the same defects as found in our ’64 Catalina. Worse, a restoration is even more challenging due to the increased use of plastics to form the dashboard and other interior parts.

Ford Granada Rear 3 quarter

If, from this angle, the body work and paint seem to be in better condition than the Pontiac’s, that’s still damning this car with faint praise.

Ford Granada Front 3 quarter

The front end actually includes better parts than the Poncho, with much less corrosion on the bumper, and all grille parts present and accounted for. It even still possesses a hood ornament! But is that enough?

Ford Granada Patina

A close up of the quarter window tells us this is a Granada Ghia, a top of the line trim level. However, this shot also exposes a major issue with this car, rust damage brought on when the vinyl top trapped moisture against the roof. I like the lines of a Granada Coupe, but this one doesn’t have the mojo to inspire me.

In closing, I invite you to weigh in on both these cars. Really quite similar in condition, they represent different eras, body styles and market segments. Do those differences inspire you to save one and pitch the other? Are both cars trash or both cars treasure? I know where I stand, but I’m sure opinions will differ, so bring on the debate!