Where should you look for classic muscle car decals?

Sometimes, finding the right decals for your classic muscle car can be one of the trickiest parts of the restoration process. See more pictures of classic muscle cars.

For most of us, refurbishing a classic car is a labor of love. There's the body to rehabilitate, with its rusted panels and dented fenders, and then a million engine problems to discover and fix. Tracking down and installing replacement parts, learning new skills to repurpose the parts you can salvage, and making decisions about what's good enough for the road or for show are all parts of the pastime.

With muscle cars, of course, the emphasis isn't just on power; it's also on design. From the time we're children, learning about classic automobiles and their detailing, we learn to recognize the specific badging -- racing stripes, brand identification, even telltale hood ornaments or paint jobs -- that tell the story of our particular passion's history. That means finding, replacing or recreating a lot of those specific details in order to get the look we want.

If you're looking to recreate those childhood dreams of the perfect automobile, perhaps it's worth it to find lookalike details, decals and stickers -- or even make your own. But if you're interested in recreating the original look of the car at all costs, that means tracking down and working with dealers, manufacturers and other collectors to find the vintage detailing that will make the package complete.

Online auction sites can be misleading, or price-gouging, because unethical sellers for any collector market know how much these tiny details can come to mean in the pursuit of your dream. While it's highly possible you'll find original, unused decals in a simple online search, there are plenty of sellers catering to a "whatever works" market that doesn't really care when those decals rolled off the printing press -- a group that could include you, if you're honest about what really matters for your personal stake in the pastime.

With a little ingenuity, those last details can be applied at home, whether through repurposing newer decals, varnishing over homemade contact-paper stickers, or a thousand other do-it-yourself options. However, if you're the type that wants total authenticity -- which is to say, if your plan from the outset was to recreate the car as though time has been standing still -- the way can be trickier. On the next page, we'll look at some of the pitfalls you may run into when seeking original decals.