Like with everything, technology brings advancements in the automotive industry whether it be at the manufacturer level or the aftermarket. As good as your dads 1979 Trans Am was to him back in the day there are KIAs nowadays that would have no problem keeping up with it. That’s not a dig on KIA either as they have come a long way and make some pretty damn good cars anymore. I’m just saying that cars have come along way over the years from engine and suspension technology to tires and interior materials. Sure you can go out and buy a new Corvette or Porsche but what if that 1979 Trans Am is still in the family? Maybe its setting in the back of your dad’s garage and you’ve wanted it since he first pulled in the driveway with it. You have had a love affair with that car for decades but the performance of a newer sports car is alluring. Fear not my friend, as there are a host of companies out there offering new, updated components for many cars and some of them would be happy to build it for you but that love affair you have might cost you a pretty penny!
There is a huge restomod market and some pretty amazing builds out there. For those who don’t know a restomod is essentially an old car that has been restored with a percentage of new, upgraded parts. Some cars are done subtly while others only maintain some of the original sheet metal. You see the latter at shows like SEMA where companies like Ringbrothers, Heartland customs, and ICON bring their builds that look like modified originals but are 98% new or custom components. As cool as these cars are, many are built for show, especially ones as crazy as you see at SEMA. I have been on the fence about restomods. On one hand, I totally get it if you are trying to make a classic car or muscle car go, stop, and turn better than they were designed to 50 years ago. It can make them more enjoyable to drive and some can benefit from the aesthetics of modern parts. On the other hand I feel like it takes away from what makes the cars special and “period correct”. I want my Big block MOPAR to feel like the front end is coming off the ground when I pin it and I want to feel the whole car shake at idle. To each their own though!
A restomod can be any type of vehicle, not just classic muscle cars. They can be old World War Two era trucks to old school JDM cars. When I think restomod the first thing that comes to mind are the popular 60’s and 70’s muscle cars that people restore with late model suspension components and fuel injected crate motors from their respective manufacturers. There are many people out there who have the means to “revamp” these old cars and make them perform more like the new sports cars of today and I can see the appeal. Many are attracted to the older cars because of their looks or their dad had one years ago but aren’t ecstatic about the handling and braking of the old cars. This is where companies like Year One come in. They not only offer replacement original parts for classics but they also offer a wide variety of new-age performance retrofits for them as well. One can essentially replace everything on the car leaving only original metal if they so choose. I am a MOPAR guy at heart so a 1967 Dodge Dart with a modern suspension under it, big brake kit, and a big block HEMI under the hood sounds about right! It would have to be lime green with a flat black hood and big square six pack hood scoop. It would need a wide tire with good stance on black steel wheels as well. So many options!
Like I said earlier a restomod doesn’t have to be a classic muscle car or even anything that old. There are companies and people out there doing full restorations on 90’s cars like Honda CRXs and MKIV Toyota Supras. One I have come across recently as i’ve been slightly infatuated with the idea of owning an old Land cruiser is an 80 series that TLC 4×4, an ICON company, built for Joe Rogan. Joe is a pretty big car guy who has owned a restomod 1965 Corvette and 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. I came across this 80 series LC build while writing last months newsletter on overlanding and this thing has a crazy amount of detail for a restored Land Cruiser. The 80 series has been retrofitted with a supercharged LSA engine that’s good for about 560 hp. It was torn down to the frame for cleaning and powdercoating. It features new leather seating throughout including 14-way adjustable seats lifted from a 7 series BMW. The truck has ARB air lockers front and rear with a dedicated compressor, an aftermarket front bumper with integrated winch, a suspension lift, and a snorkel because they just look cooler with them but also serve a purpose. As with a frame off restoration the truck was completely rewired and includes light bars all around the roof rack. The amount of detail is pretty crazy considering what the truck is built for!
A good example of a crazy restomod build is one of the Ringbrothers newer builds, a 1972 AMC Javelin AMX. An old Javelin may not be your first pic for a restomod build but I think that adds to its coolness. The build looks absolutely amazing and I imagine it cost a few bucks to complete, about half a million bucks actually. Ringbrothers built the AMX for Prestone as it marked their 90th anniversary last year and the car’s name is Defiant. The shop tore the car down to bare bones and pretty much left nothing untouched when rebuilding it. The front axle was moved six and a half inches forward and the majority of the front end including the hood and fenders were recreated in carbon fibre. The brothers told Prestone they would shoot for 1,000 hp and they overshot with a 4.5L Whipple supercharged Hellcat engine. Its mated to a GM 4L80E and the whole package is controlled via a Holley Dominator system. The engine makes about 1,100 hp detuned from 1,400 and overcomes the 345 series rubber in the rear with just a tickle of the throttle. They designed the engine bay to look retro as well which is pretty sweet and all of the metal trim on the car is machined aluminum. The car is painted in a BMW baby shit yellow / gold that a lot of people don’t care for but I like it. Don’t get me wrong, Camaros, Mustangs, and Chevelles make for cool builds too but the more obscure AMX is a pretty damn cool build.
I’m pretty sure that i’ve mentioned more than once that I have a slight obsession with porsches of any era and there’s a company out there that I’m sure you have heard of that builds restomod 911s that are the things of wet dreams. That company is Singer. I love all Porsches but Singer only works with the 1990 to 1994 964 series air cooled cars and I’m ok with that. They take tired cars and transform them while keeping the classic 911 looks. Their cars feature all motorsports grade carbon fiber panels except for the doors which remain steel for side impact purposes.. All of their cars are built to customer specs but most feature upgraded brakes in the form of 993 Turbo brakes but carbon ceramics are optional. There are multiple engine choices from 300 to 390 hp with the 3.8 and 4.0L engines. These engines are completely gone through, blueprinted and balanced. The cars shed about 500 lbs with all of the carbon body panels and come it at under 2700 lbs in most cases. I would be absolutely fine with a 400 hp flat six singing to 7,000 plus rpm behind me in a well sorted 911. That power to weight ratio propels the car to 60 in the low 3s which is plenty fast to get in trouble. Singers Porsches are truly works of art and they have built over 100 cars for clients now, hats off to them!
To showcase another company who builds some pretty interesting things before signing off I’d like to talk about a company by the name of Legacy Classic Trucks. Legacy currently builds three different trucks but offer restoration services outside of their builds. They are best known for their Dodge Power Wagon builds which are my favorite. Their newest offering is for the Jeep crowd with a Scrambler conversion. They will take any CJ5,7,or 8 and convert in into a modern day Scrambler. The Scrambler of the 80’s offered a longer wheelbase and Legacy does the same with their conversion. Everything around the frame is custom though including the sound system, dash, and drivetrains. A 240hp turbo diesel or 430hp GM LS engine are offered. The second newest build they offer are their NAPCO Chevy builds. The tri-fifties as they are referred to were produced from 1955 to 1957 and came from the factory 2wd. Certain dealers worked with NAPCO, a four wheel drive component manufacturer, to convert the trucks at the dealership. The Legacy truck is almost completely rebuilt with thoughtful custom parts but to many it would look like just another restoration. Power comes from a 5.3L GM LS or optional 6.2L LS3 good for 430 hp. The NAPCO chevys are some of my favorite classic trucks and Legacy did them justice for sure! Just because your dad’s car is decades old doesn’t mean you can’t breathe new life into it. Sounds like a perfect project to me! From all of us here at Gearbox, have fun, be safe, and keep the shiny side up!