Restomods: Best of Both Worlds

It’s an age-old car question – are you a classic or a modern car lover? In recent years, we’ve seen people ask “why not both” through a new trend: resto-modding. While there is no clear-cut definition, a restomod vehicle is one that has been externally restored to original, or close to the original appearance, yet has its mechanical components updated to include modern automotive offerings. This allows car enthusiasts to have the best of both worlds – a car which maintains its classic, identifiable look while also having performance aspects that match today’s sports cars.

Where it Began

To understand where the trend of restomod vehicles came from, we need to look back at the history of the classic car hobby. In the 1950s, when the pastime was still young, there were two very distinct segments of hobbyists: those who collected old cars, which at the time included Ford Model Ts and 1930s luxury brands such as Packard, Dusenberg, and Lincoln; and those who built their own hot rods – heavily modified classic cars with newer engines, made for linear speed with custom sheet metal.

Collectors prided themselves on authenticity and keeping their cars in line with the original factory specs. This group was more interested in showing their cars at events than driving them, so the lower horsepower engines and inferior brakes included in these early models were not an issue for many enthusiasts. This side of the hobby is still very popular today, with many collectors transporting their authentic models to car shows across the country rather than driving them.

Modern Overhaul

“Hot rodders” on the other hand wanted to change everything about the car, inside and out, for an overall better driving experience. This meant bigger motors and better brakes as well as custom paint, headlights, and lots of chrome accents to give the car a unique and modernized look.

As time went by, the car hobby matured and the baby boomer generation became interested in the cars of their youth: classics of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, otherwise known as the muscle car era. This is when the concept of the restomod was truly born. Many owners of classic cars from these decades preserved the external appearance of the vehicle while taking advantage of the latest engine, brake, and steering technology to allow for improved safety, performance, and driving dynamics.

The Deuce Coupe is a popular model among hot rod enthusiasts today. Pictured here is the Rodfather, a Deuce Coupe owned by former milkman and now hot rod boss, Andy Brizio. At the 1970 Grand National Roadster Show it won the World’s Most Beautiful Roadster award. Photo: From the book “Deuce: The Original Hot Rod: 32×32” by Mike Chase, published by Motorbooks.

Trends Today

One of the most popular cars for resto-modding is the Ford Mustang, particularly models from the 1960s. Hundreds of thousands were built so replacement and restoration parts are readily available, allowing hobbyists to keep the original look alive. However, these Mustangs can also be equipped with newer Ford drivetrains, allowing for modern upgrades to be made internally.

The Chevy Camaro is a close second to the Mustang for resto-modding. Restomod Camaros are often upgraded with big wheels, matte paint, hood scoops, and spoilers to give them a more modern look. Similar to the Mustang, classic Camaros can be equipped with V8 Corvette engines and newer drivetrains, allowing for a sleek look with some unsuspecting punch under the hood.

The restomod side of the car hobby continues to grow, especially as younger generations become interested in classic cars. These individuals want the classic look of an old car without compromising on the performance and safety features available today, so resto-modding is perfect for them. It’s easy for people who are new to the hobby, as well as those who have been collecting for years, to inject their own creativity when restoring these cars. We expect to see resto-modding continue and gain momentum as drivers seek out modern safety and performance features while also taking pride in maintaining the unique aesthetics of a classic car from decades ago.

Richard Reina is a Product Trainer at CARiD.com and lifelong automotive enthusiast.

About The Author

Richard has been an auto enthusiast since the age of two when his dad taught him the difference between a Chevy and a Ford. Since then, it’s been cars all the time. He enjoys restoring and driving old cars, with a special love for anything Italian - he currently owns a 1967 Alfa Romeo. Richard is also passionate about all music, especially classic rock and Jazz as he is a big Beatles fan.

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