First thing -- what kind of bike is it? Is it fairly rare and/or valuable, like a bike built by a highly respected and sought-after builder or brand? If it's an early specimen of the marque, or if it has some provenance (owned by a well-known racer, for example) it might be even more valuable than other examples. Bikes that have a lot of inherent value are almost always worth more the more original they are. It's a question of rarity. The bike is already pretty rare to begin with, but how many of them are completely original? So even if the condition is not exactly "showroom" or "mint," if you want to preserve that value, you leave it alone. Faded paint, minor chips or scratches in the paint, or some flaking decals will not lower the value anywhere near as much as throwing a new coat of paint on the frame. Get some good advice on treating the little chips and scratches to keep rust from developing, but otherwise just learn to enjoy "patina."
|1973 Mercian Superlight -- original paint, correct|
components for the year. As good as it gets.
Replacing components may or may not be much of an issue. It depends. Replacing a worn-out Campy Nuovo Record derailleur on an old Colnago with another one just like it isn't too hard to do. There can be slight differences in model years (and some are actually inscribed with dates), so it's worth the extra effort to find a replacement that is really the same -- at which point, it shouldn't affect the value or desirability of the bike in the least. But if the components were unique or rare, it's probably better to keep them (even if they aren't perfect) than to replace them with the "wrong" parts. Some great French builders, collectively known as "Constructeurs," would craft some of their own components, or have them made to their own specs and inscribed with their own name. Rene Herse would be a great and well-known example of that. Finding proper replacements for parts like that can be difficult or nearly impossible. Replacing them with more common or "ordinary" parts would probably lower the value of the bike a lot more than keeping the original parts even though they are in less-than-ideal condition.
Okay, so what if the bike is really nice, but not particularly rare or valuable? I'm talking about something mass produced by a major company, like Schwinn Paramount, Raleigh, or Peugeot, and especially higher-end models with Reynolds 531 tubing and Campagnolo components. In cases like that, originality is still desirable but I'd worry a little less about getting a repaint if the condition is not what you're after. If you can live with the patina -- Fantastic -- but I'd still suggest that if someone wants to get a repaint, that it be done with respect to the original. I'd still spring for an actual "wet" paint job, and save the added braze-ons for another bike. Just my opinion.
|Early 80s Nishiki mixte. A pretty basic Japanese bike. |
Renovated with new paint, updated wheels, Brooks
saddle, and Velo Orange racks and fenders.
There you have it -- certainly not the last word on the subject -- but it's what I think. If someone's considering tackling a vintage bike project and they still aren't sure if they should restore, renovate, or leave it alone, my last bit of advice is to ask around a bit. Check out the CR resources and get some opinions on the specific bike in question before making big changes that can't be undone.