LOOKS like 2015 is going to be the year for retro cars. Old cars are making a comeback and a lot of friends of mine have their project cars. In fact, searching for cars from the 80s and older is getting more and more difficult and more and more expensive. Old cars that are so beaten up that usually would be sold for scrap are now being bought to be used as car parts for someone’s restoration project.
In the nostalgic car world, there are the purists – those who like to restore the car to exactly the way it was during its time – and there are those who like to modernize the car they are restoring by including some modern technology in their old cars. The latter is the type of restoration called restomod, which is an acronym for restored modern. I personally prefer the restomod way.
In doing a restomod, there are certain upgrades that I personally believe are a must, and these are the steering, brakes, suspension, engine and air conditioning.
A lot of old cars still use the steering box instead of a rack and pinion system and is usually not power steering. With a steering box, generally, there is more play and the steering does not feel that direct. With the modern rack and pinion system the driver will definitely have better control of the car. It goes without saying a power steering upgrade will add tons of convenience.
In general, cars of the 80s and older have poor stopping power, and only a few came with four-wheel disc brakes that after driving a current car and you go drive an old classic with original brakes, it would feel like the old classic has no brakes. There are many aftermarket brake upgrades on the market that fit these old classics.
A good suspension setup is the key to a great handling car. Just like the brakes, there are aftermarket companies that offer upgraded suspension kits for old classics. These suspension kits will make the car run like it is on rails, resulting in the classic car being an absolute pleasure to drive and not just a show piece.
The most common way of upgrading the engine is a classic is to do an engine swap. The old engine is replaced with a modern engine. The result is better reliability, fuel efficiency and more horsepower, plus the added confidence that the car will not break down during road trips. Another way is to modernize the original classic engine. What I mean by modernizing a classic engine is by fitting it with a modern fuel injection system and getting rid of the old mechanical carburetor and the analog ignition system. The main advantage one gets by converting an old engine to electronic fuel injection is reliability. Other advantages would be better power, cleaner emissions and fuel efficiency. One important thing about this kind of conversion is that it must be done by an expert. I have seen many failed attempts mostly by the do-it-yourself people that they are afraid to do the conversion and stick with the old technology.
Comfort is important, thus, a modern air conditioning system is a must in restoring a classic car. Moreover, the old air conditioning systems use R12 freon, which is now banned as it is bad for our ozone layer. Modern air cons use R 134-A Freon, which is environmentally friendly.
Restoring an old classic car to its original form or modernizing it costs a lot of money, but going the restomod way will enable the owner to really enjoy his restored classic because of better reliability and performance.
I am currently involved is some restomod projects and will feature those cars here soon.