I was able to attend more old car events than usual this summer, and the one common thread that I notice is almost all classics have been modified in one way or another. True originals are and few far between, and are seemingly becoming more scarce as time goes on. Of course there are a lot of people that restore their cars to stock specifications, down to replicating assembly line markings. These vehicles that are meticulous restored to better than new and are typically not driven much if at all. They are also not exactly the type of car we usually see on the curbside.
It seems most of the classics we encounter in the wild have some modifications or changes to them. They range from small and subtle things that are obviously not original. People seem to modify their cars for a number of reasons. These include adding desired options or accessories not original to the car, modifying for better performance, modifying out of necessity since original parts are hard to find or too expensive, or to improve the comfort of the car.
There seems to be a large group of people today who love the styling of classic vehicles, but don’t want to put up with the old fashion suspension, brakes, drivetrains and amenities. These so called Resto-mods have become quite popular and range from stockish appearing to heavily modified. There are aftermarket suppliers offer modern suspension systems, rack and pinion steering, some even offer completely modern rolling chassis.
Kits to install modern V8 engines, such as the ubiquitous GM LS V8 or the modern Chrysler Hemi, are common place. Fuel injection and air conditioning systems are also pretty much become the standard for these types of cars. While it sure makes the car drive a lot better, how much of the original cars’ personality is actually left?
Most of the muscle car era cars I see today seem to be loaded with bolt on modifications, and often equipped with a far more powerful than stock engine. Stroker engines, headers, MSD ignitions, Holley carbs, big cams, aluminum heads all seem to be common place amongst this era of cars. A lot are setup for drag racing type performance, but it does seem more often these cars are getting some brake and suspension upgrades (for functionality or bling).
Another trend for the muscle cars I have seen “Day-Two” cars, where the owners have performed period correct modifications. These owners will modify their cars to represent not how they left the factory, but how many owners would have modified them back in that era. Modifications include things such as vintage engine swaps, wheels, headers, tachometers, shifters and carbs.
Then there are owners who do more subtle “stockish” type upgrades that often go unnoticed. They sometimes are done for small improvements, or may have to do with using parts that are cheap and available. It might be something like replacing that Powerglide with a Turbo-Hydramatic 350 because you had a spare one in the garage. Maybe replacing your worn out 289 with a 70’s de-smogged 302, because that’s all you could find in your budget. Or perhaps upgrading from a factory single exhaust to dual exhaust and swapping the points for a an electronic ignition.
A good example of this was Paul Niedermeyer upgrading his ’66 Ford truck from the three speed to the Warner T85 with the R11 Overdrive, as he discusses here. Other examples might be adding a larger engine, heavy duty suspension, a limited slip or factory style power disc brakes on a car original not equipped.
Of course there are lots of ways beyond what I discussed here to modify a car. And while I am pretty certain that most CC readers prefer their cars relativity stock, I sure most of us have some level of modification that they are okay with.
So that brings me to the question of the day? What modifications if any, are you okay with on a classic car?