What Is a Restomod ?
Restomods started out as a small trend in the late 1980s. While most hot rodders were still entrenched in drag racing, pro-billet street rodding, and the pro street wave, a few pioneers at the grass-roots level quietly began the restomod movement. The evolution of the restomod movement in the muscle car world was a natural outgrowth of the improvement of factory production cars, which began to incorporate more powerful engines, electronic fuel injection, disc brakes, better radial performance tire technology, computer-designed suspensions, and overdrive transmissions.
Owners of older muscle cars didn’t like getting gapped at the stoplight or outhandled on curvy mountain roads, so they did what hot rodders did through the ages: They rummaged through late-model junkyards and the OE parts bin, adapting technology to work on older cars, giving birth to the restomod craze. The early restomod builders were less interested in traditional car shows or drag racing—they just wanted a muscle car that performed as good or better than a new Corvette or Mustang. Looks were still important to restomod builders, but they would develop in a distinct visual direction (bigger wheels, lowering, stance) that implied handling and stopping as well as acceleration.
What Is A Restomod Worth?
The value of a restomod muscle car depends on two things: how sought after the make and model of car is, and the level of modifications—the “mod” part of the restomod name. While many readers already have a pretty good handle on what their preferred make and model of car is worth, the cost of modifications can vary widely and don’t always move the value of a car in commensurate fashion. Choosing to buy a restomod already built versus building one in your garage can have a significant bearing on the cost of a restomod—and picking up someone else’s stalled project can be a gold mine.
For this reason, restomod muscle cars are frequently built from less valuable versions of a given body style. For instance, you would never start out with a 1969 427ci COPO Camaro (even in thrashed shape) as the donor car for a restomod build project; you would start out with perhaps a car originally built as a six-cylinder or base V-8 model, and a well-used one at that. Once finished, a restomod 1969 Camaro could be valued well above its original mark, while a restomod COPO Camaro would take a huge hit relative to its as-restored valuation.
Within the hot rodding parts industry, there are many companies that offer parts for engine performance, racing, and muscle car restoration, but within the last couple of decades there has emerged a fairly large segment of companies that specialize in updating classic muscle cars with modern technology—the so-called restomod experts. While any solid restomod project will involve the usual suspects like new sheetmetal, body and paint products, and restoration parts, it is this newer group of products like fuel injection conversion, overdrive transmissions, high-performance suspension, and disc brake conversion kits that will be your primary focus of restomod research.
Any question about the effectiveness of a restomod’s brakes is always going to be couched in terms of horsepower, and to a lesser degree, vehicle weight. There’s nothing nostalgic about making a panic stop with 50-year-old factory brakes, so the restomod builder will always upgrade to at least a set of 11-inch disc brakes up front. Today, 12-inch disc brakes at all four corners are the rule for a classic muscle car restomod, and you can find a multitude of application-specific options for Ford, GM, and Chrysler classics at Baer Racing, Wilwood, SSBC, Classic Performance Parts, and Performance Online.
Restomod Wheels & Tires
The whole point behind a restomod is to do everything better than stock, and the only way that can happen—whether it’s going fast, turning harder, or stopping shorter—is with better, bigger wheels and tires. Grip is ultimately what makes a car perform, and a larger tire contact patch is where the rubber meets the road. Bigger wheels and tires, of course, are the biggest giveaway that tells onlookers your car is a restomod, so chances are good that if you want the restomod look, you’ll want a wheel and tire upgrade.
Higher levels of horsepower, grip, and braking have a negative effect on the chassis of antique cars, which were only capable of marginally coping with higher performance aspirations when they were new. Moreover, suspension geometry of the 1960s contained design flaws that have only been uncovered in recent decades, putting restomod dreams in danger without the necessary remedial action. For these reasons, the restomod recipe always calls for suspension upgrades, or else all the other incremental upgrades we’ve mentioned won’t amount to much more than a cosmetic facelift.
Fortunately, suspension upgrades like shocks, springs, swaybars, spindles, control arms, suspension bushings, and subframe connectors (for unibody cars) are common, and sources for them are numerous. Looking for suspension parts? Performance Online, QA1, Global West, Ridetech, roadstershop, all have affordable suspension kits for GM, Ford, and Mopar restomods.
Restomod Overdrive Transmissions
Since the operative concept of a restomod is to make everything better without compromising the original classic muscle car style, there must be some consideration given to efficiency, engine life, passenger comfort, and economy. Arguably no modification provides more overall benefit to a restomod than an overdrive transmission. There are three types of overdrive transmissions: an automatic overdrive, a manual overdrive “stick” transmission, or an add-on overdrive made by Gear Vendors, which can be added to most non-overdrive transmissions of popular GM, Ford, and Mopar applications.
Restomod Engine/EFI Swap
Restomod engines aren’t really a category on their own, and there is no feature or set of features that points to a restomod specifically, but if we apply the overarching restomod concept—making everything work as good or better than a modern factory hot rod—then we must look at fuel injection (EFI for short) and electronic ingnition to arrive at that. Whether you are swapping in a completely new engine with EFI already installed, or updating a classic V-8 small-block Chevy (or Ford Windsor or Chrysler LA-series small-block!) then you’ll probably want to have the flexibility, torque, cold start manners, and throttle response of EFI.
What you may be more encouraged to try is one of the simpler EFI conversions, from Holley, that sit in the same space as a traditional carburetor. These throttle-body-style EFI systems can use any carbureted intake manifold and air cleaner, and though they pack all the power of EFI, will look just like a stock carb and air cleaner. The only difference is you’ll have great drivability, throttle response, and better long-term engine life from better cold-start fuel management.
Once your vintage muscle car looks like a modern muscle car, why don’t have a look to the interior. Many manufacturers provide a wide rang of improvement like digital gauges, electric windows, new designed central consol, and more. DakotaDigital, AutoMeter, Scott Drake, Summit Racing can provide more stuff than you need.
Find Your Restomod Muscle Car at Arnage Neoclassic Cars
If you’re interested in purchasing a restomod muscle car prepared by Arnage Neoclassic Cars, turn to Arnage Neoclassic Cars. We have an exclusive selection of Muscle cars for you to choose from.
Browse our exclusive selection of RestoMod muscle cars today. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us, and one of our expert sales representatives will be happy to help.