Sorry this is so long winded...
While I feel the draw of the Retro bikes and parts the thought of going back and actually using much of that kit again scares me. I worked in bike shops through the late 80's and 90's and although I drooled at all the really expensive kit I didn't buy much of it (I was busy riding and racing my XT equiped bike).
Almost everytime I deviated from XT for whatever reason I discovered that the alternatives where not as good. Working on bikes with all the chi chi was enough to put me off much of it. I stuck by my XT with only a few changes.
Some of the things I saw.
Cooks cranks that cracked at the taper (friends missed races because of this)
Kooka cranks that cracked at the pedal spindle
Kooka Racha levers (and others) that were scary flexy
Ti bottom brackets which flexed and had bearings that lasted weeks
Campag's beautiful to look at canti's which I could never get to work
Cannondale and Pace rocker things for Canti's - Rubbish
Dia Compe SS5/7 levers and 986/987 Canti's that were rubbish and so hard to set up
The ridiculously spongy brake levers that Dia Compe sold
Gripshift - say no more
Rapidfire - the original two thumb job (I stuck with thumbies until Rapidfire II which I still like).
Hope/Nukeproof bonded hubs that unbonded... on this subject - bonded anything has a habit of un-bonding in my experience. Dynatechs, Trek Bonded Frames etc. Pace Forks didn't - must have used good glue
White Industries hubs - fronts were good - rears exploded
Machine Tech hubs - so heavy, complicated, and weak
Any hub that required a freewheel - WTF?
Aftermarket cranks that required hours of fiddling with different spacers to get the rings the correct distance apart.
Control Tech Seatposts - BEND.
Syncros Seatpost - the infamous snapping bolts and clamps (MkII was a lot better)
USE anything - BEND
X-Lite anything - BEND
Sugino cranks - BEND
Anyone who made really light handlbars by making them 21 or 22" wide instead of 23" - Pace, Bontrager, Ritchey etc
Anything anodised a fancy colour... Note - The only Anodised part on my bike back in those days was a Blue Hope Suspension Hub to match my Manitou 3 forks. I sold it after a year in which it ate two sets of bearings... I now happily run Hope hubs - the newer ones seem so much better sealed.
Suspension forks were a learning curve, and every new year brought new models with new problems. It took a few years before these were worth having. Think Mag 21 and Manitou 3 - before this they were really really rubbish - I'd rather have had rigid - and I did.
Pace frames - every one that was ridden hard broke - I really wanted one but when the shop became a dealer (after I left) they refused to sell me one because of my bike history
On the plus side...
SPD's however were, and still are brilliant.
Answer was the one company who's bars I really trusted (I still use 1995 Hyperlites).
Syncros made lovely stems (I still use a 1992)
Ringle made lovely stems (I still use a 1992)
XT was the kit you could really rely on
Salsa made/make the only good quick releases
Bontrager made some nice kit (I still use a 95 Carbon Seatpost)
Middleburn Cranks and Rings - but I'd still have XT cranks because they are cold forged
When XTR came out things changed - to me this was the end of the anodised chi chi age. Shimano showed what could be done without a CNC machine was so much better than that produced by the backroom boutique boys.
Very little of my kit survived those years. I was a poor student and I raced and rode hard, the only way things got replaced is when they broke, and by using mostly XT a broke very very few parts and eventually wore most of them out.
Having said that old XT was so good I would not go back - my current XC hardtail is a 1999 Trek 8900 Aluminium with Hope C2 brakes and 8spd XT. Good solid kit that works very well and I can't seem to break it or justify replacing it. I suppose my 1995 Kona Explosif Singlespeed is Retro, but it has XTR V-brakes on it because they work - and I would not replace them with something that doesn't function as well just because it's from 1995. If the bike is going to see some real hard usage then a lot of the retro parts aren't really the best parts for the job.
If however your going to build up a retro bike to polish and fuss over then it's all really about posing isn't it? Which lets face it, is what these parts were for in the first place, and the fact that these parts are still alive now means that they were either bought by posers, or replaced so young in there life (because they were either crap or out of fashion) that they are still in good condition.
Retro frames I can get a little more excited about. Although with my experience of breaking just about anything I threw a leg over in the old days makes me unwilling to splash out on anything that can't be repaired easily (so that will be steel only then). But more importantly to me is that the frame I still have from 1995 means a lot to me because of what we have been through together, if I were to buy another frame from back then it will merely be something I have bought.
If a frame from back then has to be repaired or resprayed then surely much of the originality is gone? As an example when my Kona broke rather than get it resprayed I got the track ends put on and then Hammerited the dropouts - thus keeping it as original as possible and allowing it's age and battle scars to shine through. It looks like sh!t though and were I to ever want to sell it I wouldn't get much for it, but when I'm using it for what it's made for and hooning through the woods on it who cares?
I have a few items that were on my bike back in those days that I will not sell because they were on my bike when I won XXX race or whatever. I plan to put them on a bike some day - but what bike?
Having just been so negative about the Retro thing I'm really glad that there are people out there who do get it, and who are looking after these period pieces and building up these fabulous machines that meant so much to us stary eyed geeks back in the day. They are lovely to look at.
Keep up the good work