I watched a number of auctions on TV in January and I saw a definite trend.
No, it wasn’t a trend like you see on Twitter—it was a real trend, not one that was artificially pumped up by special interest groups, sports fans and advertisers.
The trend is the spike in resto-mods.
For the record, a resto-mod is an old car skin built around new tech. In other words, you get the stock look of a vintage Road Runner but underneath that classic exterior beats the heart of a Hellcat.
There are many reasons for these alterations of automotive history but you can pinpoint the starting line. It goes back to the days when a guy would plunk a big Chrysler hemi or Cadillac V-8 under the hood of a Model A; add some Buick finned aluminum brakes to stop it and suddenly you had a 30s era car that could outrun 50s era cars.
Today’s resto-mods follow the same basic plan but they take the game to stratospheric 21st Century levels. Are you a big fan of the C-7 small block Vette? There’s good news — you can get your tri-five Chevy to run like a C-7 Vette, handle like a C-7 Vette and brake like a C-7 Vette — plus you get C-7 Vette gas mileage.
Purists take exception to the resto-mod philosophy and I side up with them – to a degree. If someone lovingly preserved a Gen 1 Mustang for decades I see no logic in carving it up like a Halloween pumpkin because history is…history. We have to save a few of them so kids 100 years from now will marvel at the crude, Flintstone-like persona of a stock 1st Gen Mustang.
The gloves come off if the Mustang is a beat-up, badly neglected, 6-cylinder outcast. That’s the car you want to turn into a street monster so the resto-mod is a great investment because it not only ups the Mustang’s game on the street – it ups the retail value by a hundred times.
That scenario played over and over in January because resto-mod Corvettes, Super Birds and Chevelles were blowing stock versions of the same car right out of the water on the auction stage. The logic is simple. You get a car that looks classic; doesn’t pump out raw fuel in a black haze out the exhaust; runs with the gazelles and stops faster than Wile E Coyote when he hits the ground after a 3000-foot plummet off a cliff.
Resto-mods can dial up 600 horsepower, idle like a Rolls Royce, get better mileage than a 2001 Subaru and deliver you in comfort and style after a 2000-mile road trip. That’s the upside and it’s a big upside – but the downside comes from the very thing that makes resto-mods work so well…high tech.
High-tech giveth and high-tech taketh away. You’ll find out the minute your classic-on-the-outside-Jetson-on-the-inside car quits running on a freeway. The new version of your car – the one you chucked in favor of the old version is now un-fixable when you’re on the side of the road. You could get the old tech version running with a rusty pair of pliers, a screwdriver and a paper clip but that new version is going away behind a tow truck.
Nevertheless the resto-mod is here to stay and if current market trends continue you’re going to see a lot more old iron in the fast lane and that’s makes for a pretty cool future.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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