What is a Restomod?
The restomod is a relatively recent phenomenon in the collector-car world. As a counterpoint to the “survivor” craze, these new cars mix old and new technology to create the best of both worlds, matching classic styling with modern comfort, performance and reliability. From giant, retro-styled wheels to Singer’s hand-built Porsches, enthusiasts are able to have their cake and eat it too.
Why? Old Cars Suck.
It’s one thing to look at a classic car and enjoy its styling, but it’s quite another thing to drive one. Floaty suspensions, drum brakes and feel-free “fingertip” steering all conspire to make the cars of the 50s and 60s positively scary to drive around town. Even a Duesenberg starts to look unattractive when you consider that they didn’t have power steering or brakes. Restomodding addresses these issues.
Restomod or Hot Rod?
The adaptation of newer parts to older cars has been around almost as long as there have been cars: One only needs to look to the classic Chevy small block, Ford 9-inch rear-end and Mustang II steering rack combo that have become so popular on classic hot rods.
Instead of cobbling production parts together, restomods go a step further, using new parts designed to fit in stock locations. This way, the builder can add modern performance but also return the car to its stock state by refitting the original parts. What started as a few niche pieces like air conditioning kits and digital gauges has transformed into an aftermarket industry that provides parts to make classics truly usable as daily drivers and long-distance cruisers.
Addressing the Issues
Although the most spectacular restomods may share only a body with the original, the modifications done by regular enthusiasts center around a few critical components.
Overdrive transmissions – Newer transmissions shift more smoothly and have more gears, but their biggest advantage is their overdrive gears. These allow low engine speeds on the highway, improving fuel economy while reducing noise and motor wear.
Disc brakes – Like a new transmission, a new set of brakes offers numerous minor improvements overshadowed by one major advantage: The fade-free, moisture-resistant performance of disc brakes compared to drums.
Suspension – Although a full coilover independent suspension is out of reach for most cars, minor improvements like polyurethane bushings, stronger A-arms and Panhard bars not only help around turns, but also keep the car going straight at full throttle.
Entertainment – Vintage-looking head units have long been a staple of usable restorations, but the ubiquity of media players and smartphones means audio options can be expanded by adding a hidden input plug.
Wheels and Tires – Moving to bigger wheels allows for modern performance tires to be fitted.