Numbers Matching, Match This

This never happens:  Two guys are walking through a car show and one of them says, “Hey, nice ‘69 Z/28!”...

...and the other one says, “Hold it, hold it.  I’ll be the judge of that.  Let me stick my head down in the engine compartment and check out those casting numbers to see if it’s an original “numbers matching” 302.”

I wouldn’t give a shit if it was numbers matching or not, hell, I wouldn’t even care if it wasn’t a 302.  It could be a 307 for all I care, they look like 302’s, and contrary to what everyone says, you can make a 307 go.  I’ve done it.  Yeah it might never match the performance of a 302, but who cares?  If the owner won’t even let people touch his car, he’s never going to drive the car anywhere near it’s maximum potential anyway, so what difference does it make?  You can just tell everyone it’s a 302, and if someone ever sticks his head down in to check, slam the hood on him.  “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

I would much rather see someone giving a  Z/28 with a 307 transplant, a good beating, than see a totally original one, sitting behind the safety of a rope fence.  These cars were meant to be driven, and driven hard, and if that means puking the motor during the process, so be it.  The story is more valuable than the original motor if you never plan to sell the car,and  it’s not like there’s any shortage of Chevy small blocks out there, along with OEM and aftermarket parts for them.

We’re not talking Duesenbergs or Rolls Royce Phantoms here.  There are plenty of original muscle cars out there, and even more copies. (Which are every bit as good as the originals)  The whole original, “numbers matching” thing was just some scam cooked up by collectors to artificially jack up the value of their cars.  Fortunately, they have ridden that horse as far as it can go.  The well built clones with upgrades are bringing as much at auctions as the original cars.  Good.

Every once a in a while, you’ll hear about some dude trying to pass off a clone as an original, as if there is something wrong with that.  (Like it wasn’t any more dishonest to create artificial market values, by saying that somehow, some UAW guy sticking a certain motor in a car 40 years ago, makes it any more valuable than me sticking a virtually identical motor in it today.)  I say more power to him.  Maybe someday, someone will perfect the process of changing casting numbers to the point where they will be impossible to distinguish from originals.  Then, all of this nonsense will be eliminated forever.

Even better than that though, are the guys that don’t even try to fool anybody.  The ones who don’t care if they piss anyone off.  These guys are my heroes.  The guys who openly defy purists and brand loyalists.  You gotta love a guy who puts a Chevy motor in a GTO.  That’s awesome.  The only way that you could beat that is to do something weirder.  I’d like to see a Ford motor, or even better, an International truck motor, in a Corvette.  How about a Hemi in a classic T-Bird?  I bet you’d have to do a lot of hacking to pull that off!

It’s strange what they say is acceptable and what’s not.  Nobody gripes about having a Ford 9” rear end in anything, but did you know they rob power?  Unless you’re seriously thrashing your ride, it’s not worth it.  Very few people abuse their cars enough to destroy a 12 bolt, or a 10 bolt rearend for that matter, but if that’s what you want, go for it.

I say anything’s OK.  It’s your car.  Build it the way you want to.


  1. This is an awesome post.

    You can just tell everyone it’s a 302, and if someone ever sticks his head down in to check, slam the hood on him. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

    I laughed. That's just right. If you get it right, who cares if it's original or factory?

    1. Sure, an original 302 would be nice, but you can make 302 yourself (327 + 283 crank) or better yet, build a 383 stroker. My point is, you have to play with what you got or what you can afford. Everyone likes to rip on 307's, and I admit, they are not the optimal Chevy small block for a performance build, but you can make one put out some pretty decent power, and if you already got one, or can get one for free, why not? I have a lot more respect for someone who makes the most of what he has, than someone who can afford to just throw money at a problem.