Should you upgrade your vintage muscle car?

1965 Mustang - Enrique Landa

The ACC Question: Should you upgrade your vintage muscle car with modern wheels, tires, suspension and brakes in the name of performance and safety, or is that just a modern fad that will die out? Do you keep your car as stock as possible to be true to how they were in their heyday? Which do you think should be worth more in the market today?

Mike Daley

Lots of thoughts on this subject. Unless you have one of those rare matching number originals with the right desirable options, COPO for instance, you are much better off updating/resto-moding. Most of the affordable cars (at least for me) available are the mundane small V8 automatics that are not worth the big dollars, we have all seen very nice big dollar resto-mods crossing the auction blocks at near or more than the desirable big block mid year Vettes and the Shelby GT’s. If you want something you can drive and enjoy plus increase the value resto-mod is the way to go. Like CMN commented, save the original stuff, if somebody wants to have it for stock claims or put it back on you have it. If it was not stock to start with you sure are going to gain all the way around.


I think it’s great to see interest by the new generation in the cars I grew up with. Some of the changes on these cars have been really outstanding. We’ve also found out that done right can increase the value in many cases. I’ve always said, your friends that don’t smile are the ones without toys.


Rare muscles cars should be left as stock as possible, but drivable. By rare I mean too much HP for the braking and handling they were built with. The Chevelle shown could easily have been an SS with a 6 cylinder. In which case hot rod it to the max.


Keep it stock. Only original once. Anyone can pour money into a modified

Michael Salter

In my humble opinion this is all about deciding whether we are preserving history or creating a modern masterpiece. Fortunately there are enough of most models around still in original condition to preserve the history and act as a reference for those wanting to restore others to original condition. Personally I enjoy the journey of restoring cars to their original condition and preserving history, appreciating the finished product is a fleeting pleasure.


My question is I want to drive my ’67 big block not look at it or show it. So I want to enjoy the modern technology. However my big concern is what effect will it have on the value? If I add modern technology and leave the looks original will the car lose value? Of course I would retain all original equipment that would have changed. Thoughts, comments?

Dave Cull

I think if you own some super rare ride, you should probably leave it as is-Stock. If you are driving a Buick Skylark that somehow now resembles a GSX or a Lemans that started out in life with only 6 cylinders but now is over 450 hp, carve it up, cut it up, paint it, stripe it, and put on the big brakes/sway bars/air bags. Have fun with it. Drive it. Break it. And when you fix it, make it even more of a corner carver and add a few more ponies. Keep the jewelry in the garage.

Bill Hiland

If you are going to drive it, update it and be safe, and enjoy driving it again. If you are going to park it, show it only, watch it grow as an investment, leave it stock.

I have a 67 MGB roadster that I drive a lot for fun, it has supercharger, 4 wheel disc brakes, 5 speed, limited slip, new wheels, bigger sticky tires, and it is fun as hell to drive!

Steve Bailey

I have kept my Ford Galaxie as near to stock as possible, only because it is in such great shape as is and also because I have not had the spare cash recently to upgrade the suspension and brakes. Maybe someday.

Dennis Elrod

In my lifetime I’ve had the pleasure of owning and daily driving a 1964 Ford Falcon, a 1965 Chevy II Nova, two 1968 Camaros, the first with the 350 small block and the second, the 396 big block, and a 1979 Trans Am. As you described in your call for our thoughts on the subject, they all had their unique issues, but the Trans Am was probably the closest thing to a well-handling vehicle.

I recently had the Déjà vu pleasure of jumping in the driver’s seat of a close friend’s 1968 Camaro SS/RS 396/375 with the M-22 and 3.73 rear end that he restored to near original spec. I say near original because it has a 1973 experimental Chevy Performance 427 in it. It came with 4 wheel discs, but the suspension was mushy compared to today’s muscle. It actually gave me an uneasy feeling while going through the gears and curves of an isolated country road. I have become so in tune with my new model cars, and even my Sequoia handles better.

That photo of the Blue 1965 Chevelle on your invite looks pretty darn good and in my opinion, is enhanced by what I see. I’ve followed several of the chassis and suspension gurus of the day for the past few years and every vehicle that comes out of their shops performs well, and many are winners at car shows and autocrosses.

Since my son and I are currently working on a 1963 Ford Falcon conversion to a Resto-Mod, and we plan to install a new IFS front suspension, 4-link rear suspension, wide and larger tires, we wholeheartedly believe the vehicle will perform better, therefore be safer to drive, and actually be more appealing and marketable if we ever decide to sell it.

Enrique Landa

1965 Mustang - Enrique Landa

I turned my 1965 Mustang into the 21 century super car, and have enjoyed it much more than the nimble handling performance and looks it had. Absolutely the best of both worlds!

Chuck Wilde

Resto-mod is my way

Ray Koenig

The only way to an acceptable upgrade to a vintage may be tires for street use otherwise the originals should be used for show and concours. Real collectors usually have two sets of tires to meet the specific venues.

Get it right or call it what it is, just another ride.

Gary Post

The eternal question many people will ask themselves is should I up date my classic vehicle. It could be something as simple as converting up to a 12 volt system or even adding air conditioning if it was available but not ordered on your car or truck. Then there’s those who insist on bringing their rides into the 21 century even though they may look “stock” to the novice eye. With the cost and difficulty of finding OEM parts, most people have moved towards upgrading their rides. Certainly there will be rare vehicles or currently numbers matching cars the really should be kept stock. In this world where you can build a complete 1969 Camaro without using a single GM part, it’s amazing what the aftermarket brings to the table. I think a big factor in the question is will I drive the car? Most numbers matching rare vehicles get trailered to and from events and really rarely see much road time.

One hop behind the wheel of a modernized resto-mod and you will quickly understand why people make changes. My stock looking ’54 Studebaker PU sits on air bags on all four corners, updated independent front suspension, power steering, ac and a LSX power plant that people could only dream about back when it was originally built. It gives me 27 mpg cruising on trips, stops in half the distance when it was new, pulls .9 gs on a skid pad and is tenfold safer and easier to drive. Originally it didn’t even come equipped with seat belts! Not something I would want as a driver without adding some improvements. Yet from 20 feet away most people would only notice that it doesn’t have stock wheels. My pops 1957 Pontiac Starchief will stay original because all the parts are there and its really rarely driven. Give us something to modernize and with more time and money than most people care to admit you too can have a classic new car.

Ron McBain

We just returned from Barrett Jackson and Russo and Steele auctions in Scottsdale this past weekend. While i agree that safety is of great concern when driving your favorite car so brakes are a definite must for all cars. When you look at the cars with the newer engines, interiors, suspensions, etc all you have left is the stock body mostly. What are these cars going to look like in five to ten years. My input would be that custom wheels will not devalue a vintage car as they can be changed out easily.

When you look at 60% and above the engines are all large cubic inch Chevrolet and after you have seen ten they all look alike. I can appreciate the custom work and money spent by the owners or builders but it is only stock once.

Good luck with which ever choice you make.

Roy Evarts

I have had numerous muscle cars and classics. My position on resto-mods is that if you want to drive your muscle car a lot, then with today’s drivers and speeds you will probably survive better if your vehicle is up to date with suspension and braking. Myself I do not drive my collector vehicles all that much as they have gotten too valuable and too hard to repair. In addition with the wild drivers eating, texting and phone calling whilst driving at 80 mph the chances of an accident are increased tenfold.

In the end it is the owner’s choice. Myself I like original for its intrinsic value.

Chase Gregory

Modding is only good for the famous person that resells.

Like Travis Pastrana, Lebron James, or famous actors, when these types of people put aftermarket parts on even vintage cars, do they go up in value because of the owner.

Otherwise, especially at auction, people want that “from factory” feel. Many people buy on the fact of remembering the cars as they first came out. And that is when their “Dream” first starts. The guys that, as kids, work their whole life to buy that “Dream Car” and they find it in perfect restored condition with original wheels, same leather stitching, and close to same color paint. The only thing that should ever be updated is the stereo, because quality of sound is hard to give up.

Ted Holman

Original happens just once but to tell someone what they should do with their personal property is opening up a can of worms. What I have seen is that it is much harder to bring a car back to its factory condition then to pick and choose out of a catalog, parts you are going to replace the stock items with. It is not just a matter of money spent, it is the time and effort required to find missing, broken or obsolete part that make the car factory condition once again, sometimes even an impossible task.

I think a lot of builders choose the Resto-Mod path because it offers convenience, improved drivability and bling for the buck. Old cars do not drive well, stop well, turn well or kick you back in the seat when you mash the throttle. If you are going to be driving the car or want to astound your peers, what better way than to stuff a 502 and 12” slicks on the back to create your idea of a sleeper?

But which would you rather have, a modern driver or an old car? I guess the question that comes to mind is why not just buy a new car and call it good? Old cars that get modified will never speak of the times they existed in once the cutting torch has been applied. They do not drive well, but they do allow a window of experience that cannot otherwise be witnessed how technology and a life style passed was witnessed by our fathers and grandparents.

My passion is motorcycles. I have 1971 BMW R75/5, a 1975 Triumph T160 Trident and a 1976 Norton 850 Commando. These are the bikes I dreamt about in High School. In 2005 I was able to take all three to Portland International Raceway and pound them for the day. I got to see which one handled the best, pulled the fastest and stopped in the shortest distance. I got to do a road test of my favorite motorcycles in their stock condition. It was a thrill and an experience I could never have otherwise experienced (BTW, no wonder Reg Pridmore won the 1st AMA Superbike Championship on a BMW). What I got was to experience bikes of my past dreams as they were delivered, not changed up with parts and technology currently available. What a rare and unbelievable moment.

I have to say that being able to see the thinking of how designers made things work 50 years ago fascinates me but so does the incredible workmanship that goes into Resto-Rods. If an older car is in good shape, it is a shame to “break” the providence by bringing your stamp of interpretation to it’s unaltered state. They make “new” medal replicas of almost all the important cars from the past. A lot of builders do just that, no rust and no prior damage. Maybe a better start is there instead.

Charlie Barone

I prefer the original appearance, but definitely would want (and would pay for) an upgrade to the brakes, suspension, wheels and tires. While an original car will always be valued higher—as they are disappearing from the scene in spite of the growing collector market—a resto-mod car can be driven. And that’s what it’s all about.

The most valuable cars to me are ones which have retained their stock appearance, but have been modified in ways not readily apparent. The less noticeable the better.

Just my thoughts…

Alan Lantz

1957 Ford Thunderbird 1 - Alan Lantz

1957 Ford Thunderbird 2 - Alan Lantz

1957 Ford Thunderbird 3 - Alan Lantz

1957 Ford Thunderbird 4 - Alan Lantz

I’m all for modernizing a vintage car, especially if you drive them a lot. As long as it isn’t rare and there aren’t many left I highly recommend it. Can’t tell you how much better my 57 T-Bird runs, handles and stops since I modernized it. It’s a lot more fun and trustworthy to drive now.


It may be considered heresy by some (particularly in my neighborhood, home to the premier Concours d’Elegance), but I don’t see anything wrong with modifying a vintage ride by upgrading some of the components using modern technology. I myself am currently in the market for a chrome bumper C3 Corvette and I have my eye on one with a crate motor and transmission along with upgrades to the suspension and brakes. I love the look of the classic style, but I plan to drive the car regularly so safety and reliability are important factors.

I believe an all original car would probably carry its value better than a resto-mod because there is something to be said for assembly line authenticity. And cost recovery of those enhancements is difficult because each project is so personal in nature. Cars that have some sort of historical provenance should be maintained in that condition to as high a standard as possible because they have a story to tell.

But gearheads have been pushing the boundaries since the Model T rolled out of the factory. Hot rodders have always looked to the cutting edge of technology to improve the performance of their ride. They started stuffing Chevy small blocks into 32 Fords way back when. And what about the all-conquering Shelby Cobra? Didn’t that legend start out as an AC Ace resto-mod?

Ralph Robichaud

Of course there is no absolute answer, just individual preferences. Personally, I always lean to original. Cause, there are no more of those being made.

I do not have any objections to modern technology in suspension, steering, brakes, performance, but that’s readily available in every new car showroom.

My classics will remain as original as I can have them, uncomfortable seatbelts and all.

The one exception I can support is an older still serviceable automobile ,that as the expression goes was ~rode hard and put away wet~ and which is neither a good candidate for restoration ,or economically advisable.

You want to beef up the brakes, suspension, exhaust system, weld in some brackets, replace pans, fix body scars or rot, on that ’71 Torino, or Buick GS, then by all means go for it.

I just think, it’s an absolute shame to cut up, modify a true original classic, be it a sleeper ’64 Falcon or a life-long garage kept ’68 Olds Cutlass.

Lance Holmes

I think this depends on the car, what it will be used for and what its owner’s desires. When I bought my 67 Firebird, I intentionally looked for a 6 cylinder car that had a 400 V8 stuffed in it, because I planned to drive it on the street. I did not want to destroy the value of an original Firebird 400 4 speed. After just a few years, and a lot of scares, I realized that I was hopelessly outgunned in the braking department. For my safety and the people around me’s, I installed 4 wheel disc brakes. Now I am not living in fear that someone with a nice set of antilock Disc is not going to come to a stop in front of me, while my 4 wheel disc are trying to get a little friction going. For a street driven vehicle I feel that brakes are a must. Old muscle car brakes are woefully inadequate, and let’s face it stuff happens, and modern cars can stop way faster.

My intention was to mod the car from the beginning so a myriad of other upgrades have followed: engine, suspension, Drive train, and interior.

If I had a rare & valuable car, I think it would be a shame to do this. Hopefully no rich guy will go out and resto-mod a rare car. I realize all of these cars are becoming rarer every day, but my car would probably be in the crusher had I not rescued it. The owner should do as he or she sees fit, but it would be a shame to see something rare cut up just because the owner can. IF modding a rare, valuable car for street use, I would stick to bolt on parts, which can be undone later to retain the cars value. Brake kits, and a lot of suspension mods can be done with bolt on parts, and later undone. Just save the original pieces! Wheels and tires can be undone easily, as long as they don’t involve a tubbing.

Diana Gilman

Upgrade to the highest performance and safety standards without compromising the period design and aesthetics–cars must be driven to count at all.

Jeff Surdyk

What makes life intrusting is how different we all are. I firmly be live that classic cars, trucks etc. should be restored or maintained in ordinal condition. That said, they all are interesting and fun to look at and read about. Even the craziest creations make me smile. A gear head with too much time on his hands or more money than good since is still fun to talk to.

Mike Kent

1962 Chevrolet Impala - Mike Kent

While the Resto-mods are popular now I believe in the long term the most original cars will bring the most interest. Like land… they simply are not making any more original cars while Resto-mods are being produced as fast as sellers can fill out an Auction form. I think this year’s Auctions in Scottsdale confirm that the market is shifting to the best original cars with many Resto-Mods selling far below build costs. On Friday night a beautiful Willy’s gasser at Barrett Jackson went for $55,000 that had to have cost well over $100,000 to build followed by a beautiful original 58 Impala selling in the $130,000’s.

I recently bought a 62 Impala SS Golden Anniversary car that was slightly modified (see attachment) and the seller was surprised to learn that I absolutely wanted the original Carter Carburetor and the Bias Ply Tires, skinny wheels and hubcaps. When I brought the car home I could not switch them out quick enough. I yanked the Edelbrock, sold the Cragar wheels and put it back as it belonged. In 15-25 years tomorrows collectors will be seeking what was original not what we did to our cars in the 70’s to make them cool.

So if you’re planning on Modifications I suggest sticking to what you can return easily to original and don’t lose, misplace or sell that boring OEM accessory or sluggish 4 barrel.

I learned my lesson long ago when I bought my first 62 Impala in 1973 and yanked out the factory Air unit to make the most important modification of the day (An 8 track tape player install with accompanying big round door panel Speakers) . Like all teenagers I gained wisdom over time and learned from my mistakes. Today’s teenagers are tomorrows Collector car buyers and having been brought up on the utility and sensibility of the family Prius they will have greatest interest in originality as opposed to be a passing fondness for engines on steroids.

Love your magazines and if Hemmings Motor News is the Industries Bible… SCM and ACC are the New Testament.

Patrick Barnes

I’ve got a real problem with huge “rims” on old muscle cars. They look terrible and change the whole stance of the car. Wheels don’t have to be stock, but should be kept looking the same size as the original wheel/tire combo.

As far as the rest of the car, keep it stock looking. Upgrade the mechanicals if that suits you. Let’s face it, today’s mechanicals like brakes, engines, and transmissions, are far superior to past day super cars. I wouldn’t drive a car without A/C, so installing a Vintage Air system or similar would make lots of sense.

James Marsilia

1952 MG TD - James Marsilia

I just drove my friends ’63 Vette coupe (original Fuelie car) to my house to work on it. It’s far from a perfect car. On the way the restored single master brake system went out. I got the car stopped without mishap (except for the brown racing stripe) but you have to be STUPID to build a nice car WITHOUT at least a double master. I sent along a picture of my updated 52 MGTD. Better tires, brakes and a 57 392 hemi. Hope you like it.

James Smith

This is a great topic. There will assuredly be arguments on both sides but for me, I want something I can safely drive and still display the classic lines and beauty of the cars I own.

I know many of the real old timers who still drive the cars from the 1900s-’20s and on will often replace the dangerous locations of the gas tanks, replace the window glass with safety glass, etc. I consider these guys the fathers of our modern classic car era and consequently if it’s OK with them to employ new safety measures, it’s OK with me.

I care little about the resale value my wife gets the day after my death when I know they will be on the auction block. She will be well cared for anyway.

Charlie Barnett

In my opinion let them make mechanical improvements. New engines, brakes, a/c systems and transmission upgrades are fine but leave the exterior styling stock. Looking at cars from the ’50’s into the early ’70’s with 20 inch chrome wheels, modified large chrome exhaust pipe extensions, and lowering or jacking up just don’t seem to do the cars justice.

Having lived thru lakers (side pipes), curb feelers, shave jobs, cat eye taillights, flames, pin stripes, chrome additions, and chrome deletions when they were all in vogue was fine in its day but if we are going to bring a car back to its former glory let’s give it a great paint job and mechanical improvements and leave it at that.

Ron Brothers

1st make it known that it is totally impossible to have it, like for instance, 1965 Corvette, where would I get 1965 gasoline for the tank, or even 1965 air for the tires!

Paul Baudhuin

I much prefer the resto-mod approach. The thought of paying a premium for a numbers matching muscle car that has less performance than my daily driver just does not appeal to me. I have no interest in trying to preserve a little piece of automotive history and storing it in a hermetically sealed time capsule. I want to use and enjoy it on the road.

Micheal Brumley

I am a die-hard Mustang fan and have restored a 69 and 70 Mach1 and just starting a 70 R code restoration.

My position depends on what you are restoring; if it is a numbers matching vehicle I will go with keeping everything original to maintain cars value.

If car is not numbers matching, then I want to keep things visibly original looking. I like adding improvements that are not real obvious, ignition systems that still appear original, better exhaust, suspension upgrades, AC system upgrades that still keep interior looking original.

Jimmy Nylund

Upgrading mechanicals invisibly is great. Certainly nothing wrong with better brakes and handling.

To put overly large diameter – particularly ugly ones – wheels on an otherwise nice car is, well, ugly.

Okay, they’re easy enough to unbolt, but would be embarrassing to try to sell.

Jim Jensen

1967 Ford Mustang GTA - Jim Jensen

I own a 1967 Mustang GTA Fastback that has been restored to as close to original as humanly possible. It is beautiful and competed in car shows for the first time beginning June, 2012. It has won best in a best in show award as well as an award of excellence. It is a handful to drive on the Coker replica bias belted tires with the thin white wall. I want to keep this car as original as possible, but, to be able to enjoy driving the car (which still won’t be that much), I have purchased a set of aftermarket 15 inch chrome steel style wheels and will mount P215/65R15 radial tires to be able to feel safe driving it on cruise nights and in parades. It has factory optional front disc brakes as well as factory optional shoulder harnesses. Whenever it will be shown in a MCA Mustang sanctioned show, the original equipment wheels and tires will be reinstalled. In non-sanctioned shows I will leave the more drivable radial tires on the car.

That said, I am looking for a 1964 1/2 Mustang coupe like one I ordered in March,1964 and was the second Mustang delivered in to the Kansas City area. It needs to have an excellent unmodified original body that can be converted to modern day suspension, A/C, P/S, brakes, drive train, etc., that could be a daily driver with as much reliability as modern day cars.

I believe my 1967 GTA will be worth a lot more in original condition than if I were to convert it to resto-mod status. I have to admit, it would be great to be able to drive it more, but it is too nice with too much money invested to turn it into a resto-mod.

William Martin

Most of the things that make up a resto mod are bolt on…so if you want to go back to stock it’s no big deal. When you get past 400hp to the rear wheels, better brakes , suspension and tires become safety items. So its probably a plus to go resto-mod…

Robert Redner

I think bolt-ons are fine. You can do the upgrades without a drill and a torch, and return it to OEM when ever, if ever, you want to. Disc’s, springs, wheels and tires and shocks both enhance safety and performance without causing pain.

Randy Arnold

I had to think about this for a while. I am admittedly a purist and much more interested in European cars than muscle cars but I grew up with the muscle cars. i used to be able to tell the difference between a GTO and a Mopar getting it on in the middle of the night on the only straight and wide street in Kettering, Ohio.

I think that there are enough of the lesser models of the popular cars, i.e., Pontiac LeMans, Chevelle, all of the Mopars and Fords, that if you wanted a resto-mod, you should take one of those and build what you want. The end product is the car you want, you can call it whatever you want, and you have not destroyed one of the original cars. Only a purist like me would be able to tell what you began the project with and, if you started with one of the true collectable cars, you no longer have one of the “real” cars when you are finished.

That said, if someone gave me a ‘66 GTO and I wanted to drive it regularly, I would be very tempted to put MUCH better brakes and shocks on the car! All of the muscle cars were built to be cheap so they frequently did not offer even the technology that was available then. The cars are not always up to the demands of modern traffic. Moderate, reversible updates like good brakes would make sense for a driver. A show car or collection car should be left original.

Ron Brothers

In the beginning of car culture, enthusiasts started with modifications.

Serious enthusiasts tinkered and modded , rebuilt, changed things around for the express purpose of going faster, all other things were secondary!

If it don’t go fast, (make it look pretty)!

And let’s face it, some of today’s cars, are pieces of ART, they are no longer considered a vehicle for transportation!

Marty Johnson

Yes to resto-mods!

Drew Scherz

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a resto-mod done well. However, it is no longer original and will ultimately lose important aspects of its value as the years go by. The visual appeal and road feel of an original car in good condition provides an idea of what the original car was like coming off the assembly line. A ’65 Mustang with a totally new suspension, heavily modified engine and drivetrain, plus an upgraded interior with modern AC may be a much better car to drive, but it has only a minimal connection to the original car. It’s no longer a 1965 Ford Mustang. I prefer collecting the original. I’ll buy a new car from the manufacturer if I want current technology.

Dian Tardd

Resto-mods are what I enjoy more than any other car mag. Include them.

David Rubin

Frequently an original vintage muscle car, in excellent original condition is worth more than a modern muscle car. So if you want ultimate performance, sell the old car, and use the money to buy a new one.

Another option is upgrade the vintage car with bolt on stuff, and save all the old parts so the car can be resurrected, if desired.

They say, an old car can only be in nice unrestored condition once. There is historic value to the original configuration. As time goes on, vintage cars will be restored, so the unrestored cars will become rarer.

Personally, I favor preservation, but I do appreciate the opposing point of view.

K. G. Beenenga

Like many I subscribe to a significant number of mags and more and more there are articles that relate to this issue. Whether it is a result of less original cars or most of those “originals” that remain are of little collector significance.

Anyway, my take on this issue is, “it is really up to the individual”. Saying that, one has to look deeper into “that” individual. That is to say, what is the motivation of the owner. For some that motivation is simply money. For some it is nostalgia. For some it might be “a family thing”. Maybe grandpa, dad or the favorite uncle owned a car like the one in focus. The list is nearly endless.

More practically, whatever the car, whatever the reason for restoration or not, depending on the intended use of the car, does it NEED restoration. If it looks good, drives good and meet the basic needs of the owner, why spend the hard earned cash to do a restoration. The research into what consists of a true restoration is time and often money. All said and done, after the restoration, what is it realistic value. Let’s say, heaven forbid, the day after the restore is finished the owner drops over with a massive heart attack, and the little wife needs some cash, what can she get for it? Sorry, to be so morbid and practical. It is my father’s fault for growing up in German pre-WWII.

Personally, my wife and I have the same car that we bought back when we got married in 1963. Off the show room floor for about the same money I was making annually, and the only car we had those first 6 years of marriage and after some 80K miles on Illinois roads, I tended to keep the split window in pristine condition. In those times, when I was young, strong and healthy, if we arrived home after a night on the town, and several hundred June bugs later, the ole ’63 split window got washed and dried before I retired for the day. Needless to say, we are discussing a 50 years old car in excellent, original condition that would only depreciate in value if it were restored.

Fred Morck

Resto-modding has always left me with mixed feelings. I really appreciate the work that owners put into their vehicles to bridge eras. I guess the bottom line/key term here is owners. Owners can do want they want with their cars.

That being said, I personally tend towards the trip back in time, scary, vague steering, and long braking experience. I embrace the term “retro modding.” I guess this would be the “day two” concept also; do what people did to their cars once they got them home from the dealer. My 69 Mach One with an M-code Windsor, is basically stock appearing, other than the obligatory Magnum 500’s with wider rubber. The previous owner put a stouter cam in. I have modded the engine with a Performer RPM, a bigger carb, and, of course, headers (ceramic coated, though). Obviously, I have the “Cobra dress-up kit” with Cobra finned valve covers (but painted Ford blue with the fins bare aluminum because it looks cool) and an open element air cleaner. Basically nothing that wasn’t available in 1969. I have had the stock steering rebuilt, but not modified, same with the brakes.

I would consider a five speed upgrade, as the Toploader and 3.50 gears run the Windsor up to 4100 RPM at 80 mph. On that note, if the engine ever goes south, I would probably go with a Ford 392 stroker Windsor, dressed up 69 style. I do like cars that people have updated as much as possible but still keeping them stock appearing.

What I do not like, although I have tried, are tall rims and short rubber on vintage cars. I do not like vintage cars with late model attributes grafted on to the bodywork, ala some of the Ring brothers’ Mustang projects. My opinion (which everyone has, I know) is that the muscle car designs of the 1960’s were some of the best factory designs ever to appear. Little can be done to make them look better. I do like some of the efforts I have seen with “factory what ifs,” or people that create cars that could have been, like the 72 Torino with a Boss 429 motor that sold at Barrett Jackson last weekend. Another was a Montego-take on a Ranchero I saw in Legendary Ford mag a few years ago. A gentleman in Colorado installed a 427 SOHC in a 67 Fairlane and made it look totally factory stock and functional.

I am not an absolute purist. Does anyone remember the “Aloha Bobby and Rose” Camaro? That car was cool, fender flares and all. Flared fenders on vintage Mustangs I don’t dig so much. I have also seen a late model GTO wrapped in 64 GTO sheetmetal that was fantastic.

In closing, as someone that became aware of cars during the 1960’s, my car is my time machine to that era. However, Mustangs, Camaros, and the icons of the 60’s are becoming the deuce coupes of today. They are going to be modified in the extreme, especially with advent of complete reproduction bodies. The car hobby will stay alive. There is room for everyone’s personal expression.

Thomas Chura

When we were kids with no money, I had a old ’49 Ford. The only thing could afford was two whip antennas on the rear fenders. After running the gamut, raising a family, retiring and turning back into a kid again, this time with money, I took my 93 T/bird S.C. and put a ’49 ford body on it. I bought on eBay It was from easy, the 5-day build took me 5 years, going to dress her in satin black and flames. So I say to all you old kids with money, go for the gold that you never had as a kid. Make yourself happy again.

Mark Chmar

Over the years I’ve had some serious “classic” cars, including rare old racing Ferraris and Porsches. But my first car was a 67 Mustang. A basic 289 3-spd manual and no power anything. To my eyes, no Mustang has ever had better, or equal looks. But at this point, I am spoiled by modern handling, stopping, and even comfort. So I keep thinking of building a 67 Mustang convertible resto-mod. Keep the exterior the same, but upgrade the guts as much as practically possible, and have a beautiful “old” car that I can comfortably and confidently drive every day. I won’t presume it’s an investment, except in my happiness. And I certainly wouldn’t do this to something originally unique or now very valuable. But for about the price of a new Lexus GS, I’d sure have a lot more fun.

Roger Wothe

The muscle cars that I own have all been upgraded with tires, suspension, transmission and engines. It’s the thing to do to make the cars more enjoyable. I have kept the non-muscle cars in original condition for judging at car club Concours and I prefer them that way. It all depends upon your use of the vehicles.

Butch Gilbert

I think you should do whatever you want to your car. Cars are an extension of someone’s personality and artistic expressions. Some people even pay $4m for The Batmobile and plan to put it in their living room!

John R. Haas

I purchased a 1958 corvette 10 years ago this June. It was very rough. I have been to Carlisle for parts as well as swap meets. The easy thing to do would have been to update this car. It was metal flake blue with a worn out NOM engine. Everything needed a rebuild. I decided I wanted an original looking car that I could drive anywhere and do well in car shows and cruise nights. Obviously I did not have the original engine, but I chose to keep all I could original or replace with correct replacement parts. After my first trip to Corvettes at Carlisle with new bias tires, I chose to go with Coker wide white wall radials. I felt this was a safety issue. This will not be a NCRS car, but I went with original colors inside and out and respect the original 1958 car for what it was. I enjoy this Vette with my wife and two small dogs every chance we get. I vote original!

Javier Gomez

I think that when you buy a CLASSIC CAR you should keep it as it was original design.

Like, IT IS, a piece of ART.

Can you think of modifying a GAUGIN to look updated?

Bill Pankiw

Having done both types of restorations, I believe if it is a rare, low production car, it needs to be kept completely stock for maximum return on your investment and future historic value. But if is an average, high volume produced car, than Game On! Have fun with it and don’t look back. You might not get the long term return on your investment, but it sure will put a smile on your face when you drive it, especially in daily traffic when it gets all the thumbs up, turns a lot of heads.

John Squires

My opinion is it depends on the particular car. For instance, if you have a special or rare car eg. 1967 vette with one of the high performance engines with matching numbers it should be restored. If you have a 67 that requires a lot of work and it is not well optioned, you would be better off updating and mild to serious resto. Two different audiences. One is collector who wants pure original even if it has to be restored and the other is one who wants to drive their investment. It appears to me that the prices are about the same except in rare instances. The main difference is that the rare original or restored will be more likely to increase in value while the resto-mod will not keep up in appreciation. One you can enjoy driving and the other you can enjoy looking at.

C. M. Bradley

I’m doing restorations both ways:

Have a 1931 Ford Model A Victoria leatherback done completely stock, except I swapped the original tranny for a ’39 Ford in order to get synchro mesh shifting. Changed out the ignition to electronic and converted to 12 volt too. Also waiting for the EZSteer steering unit to ease the steering. Everything else is stock, Beautiful tri-color paint with black fenders and copra drab & copra chicle body with straw pinstriping and straw 19″ original wheels & whitewalls. Leatherback roof is tan vinyl making beautiful contrast. For a Model A it’s drop dead gorgeous and a lot better than my 1st all black Victoria I owned from ’56 to ’73.

Have a 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 Sport Coupe: to the uninitiated it looks stock on the outside. No apparent modifications and is painted an authentic color. Engine not original when built but period correct: 289 HiPo. Moved shifter from column to Lokar mounted on the center console. Mustang 2 front end with power steering. Power disc brakes all around. Dual exhausts & Doug Headers. Interior is custom rolled & pleated in not original vinyl, but looks better than original patterns & colors. Runs on radials & later Fairlane ‘racing’ wheels. A/C added for south Florida comfort. Converted stock radio to AM/FM with iPod & 4 speakers. Except for the interior it looks identical to our first brand new car we bought in the fall of ’64.

Finishing a 1935 Ford woody. Kept original wood as it was in great shape and just cleaned & varnished it. Kept all steel original and painted authentic Tacoma Cream. Everything under the body is new: chassis, small block Chevy, 4 speed automatic, power steering/brakes, A/C. Re-upholstered interior in rolled & pleated beige vinyl. Added remote control stereo/ipod. Really cool dashboard made of two ’35 dash boards using one to extend the bottom to conceal A/C unit. Tilt wheel steering column in chrome with shifter. New chrome spoke wheels with wide white radials really set it off. Spare is authentic to fool you from the rear. Not noticeable to the uninitiated. Car looks stock until the pipes announce it is running.

Also finishing “1935” Ford Club Cabriolet. I used quotation marks as Henry did not make a ’35 Club Cab. I had a ’35 Cabriolet back in the 50’s and wanted one again but didn’t want rumble seat with grandkids asking for rides and scratching up rear fenders getting into the rumble. Found a really rotted 1936 Club Cabriolet with back seat & trunk instead of rumble seat and moved the body onto a 1935 Chassis. Blocked out the frame, installed a small block Chevy with 3 speed automatic. Power disc brakes all around, P/S & A/C. New chrome wire wheels with wide white radials including the spare. Custom interior being fabricated with a Duesenburg pattern. Changed the dash to ’40 ford to use the instrument cluster for that period. Tilt wheel steering on painted column and Lokar floor shifter. Painted a classy metallic red same as my Harley Springer. With luck this baby should be done in 6 months using terrific craftsmen here in Naples, Fl.

Like I said, it depends on the car. Converting to resto-mod is expensive but if done right, auction prices for resto-mods are generally higher than stock restorations and warrant the investment. besides, a 1400 pound car with nearly 300 HP really surprises everybody when the light turns green. All cars have seat belts.

Gregory Fredrickson

1966 Ford Mustang - Gregory Fredrickson

I say NOT. If I wanted a new car I would have bought one. I like the feel and attitude of my 66 fastback. I know I’m not lighting the world on fire, but hey that’s not the point… it’s just plain cool!

Oh yeah, if you resto-mod, than you always gotta have the latest and greatest thing ($$$$$$$$)

My 1966 GT k-code will stay as close to original as I can keep it. It hasn’t got the original engine, but that’s not the end of the world.

Dan R. Davis

I’m not a politician, but I sit on the fence. I took my 64-1/2 Mustang back to original (except for radial tires and silicone brake fluid), because I wanted to preserve the memory of when I went to the Ford Rouge Plant tour in 1964. It really gave this kid some direction in his life. Within 10 years, I went to college and along with some buddies from school, we were working at Ford Motor Company in Engineering. Then in 2001, just before I retired, I got a “toy” I had longed for quite a while, a 65 Ranchero, to go with the old Mustang. But since someone else had changed the 6 cylinder over to a V8, added dual exhaust and a floor shift, I didn’t feel bad about continuing on with Mustang bucket seats, a T5 transmission, and a more modern V8. So I’ve got both. Like having my cake and eating it too. But I don’t know which flavor of cake I like best!

Steve Sunshine

The age old question, “As is”? Or “As was”

When it come to American Muscle Cars, if it is in original condition, keep it that way, maintain it or restore as necessary.

If it has little originality left, resto-mod all you want because even though it’s been said, many times many ways, “It’s only original once”

Also, ask the average reader how many miles they drive their Muscle car annually.

I guess 500 miles or less. So, how much stopping power and suspension do you really need?

Ray Clark

Upgrades should be limited to more power, better brakes and suspension and the best tires available.

Robert Gallaway

The answer to your question is as simple as the question of your choice of Ford, Chevy, Mopar, or ?????? Each person has their own preference. Some make the choice based on performance, some on the style of the car, and some compromise. Some people look for something unique in a vehicle, while others want a car to look just like what they wanted off the showroom floor eons ago! It truly is up to the buyer or owner what they want in a vehicle.

My preference is definitely the resto-rod. I have owned streetrods simply for the reason I love the old ’30’s fat fenders and running boards. That said, I also like the safety and dependability of upgrading it to a streetrod. The very first upgrade is a dual master cylinder for brakes. The second upgrade is the front clip to have at least a ’70s V8 and front end. This usually brings in a ’70s rear end and thus you have a ’70s drive train that can be repaired with parts from any local auto parts store if you break down. However, with a vintage antique, you would have to tow it home and wait numerous weeks researching for parts to be delivered to have your precious jewel back on the road. An updated streetrod can be driven cross-country without fear of being stranded looking for parts.

There you have it!!! It is up to each owner, and the value of what you do to a car will only be determined after you are able to find buyers willing to pay a price when you are willing to sell it. After all, isn’t that what all the “black books” and “blue books, etc. are based on anyway? What the market will bear.

Joe Kehring

1971 Dodge Challenger - Joe Kehring

I’m sixty years old I lived the muscle car era and owned the cars I own now. I live in Yuma Arizona and watch the big auctions and track the trends. It seems the resto trend as I call it is hot now but I think it will die off. If you look at the big restorers like the Thortons and their Olds restorations as they rolled off the assembly line the work and worth shows!! If you want a fast and handling car find the car you want Corvette, Challenger T/A, etc. but do it right by the numbers!! If you upgrade from drum front brakes non power do it with factory style stuff and save old stuff!! We are saving our automotive History and that to me is the objective not making it something it wasn’t!! If you want to go fast with all the new stuff buy a new hemi Challenger or Z06 Corvette but if your cruising in your 40 or 50 year old ride slow down enjoy the rumble and respect what you own!! I’ve included a few pic’s of my 71 numbers matching 383 dodge challenger which I got and restored from a guy that was going to restomod it’s now just as the fender tag as ordered!!

Terry Fritz

The only mods I would consider to any restoration would be “period” mods, if they made that engine or suspension, or even seat trim, when the car was built then allow it. But DON”T go putting 20 inch rims(or larger) and enter it at a car show as a classic car. The new crate engines might make the car more drivable, and quicker, but it destroyed a classic by putting it in. It’s like giving the “Mona Lisa” blonde & purple hair. Drive & show the resto-mod for what it is; a kit car.

Don Scott

Modifying an old car is not a black and white issue. My opinion is that when disc brakes or modern refinements that don’t ruin the car’s looks are added, that is fine. But 20 inch wheels and 500 c.i., billet this and that, and lowered ’64 Chevelle will never be as nice as a clean original one that has had a few minor mods to make it drive well without ruining the essence of the car. If you want a modern car, you should just get one. Not destroy an old car.

I am seeing the restomod thing done to MGBs now- cramming in Camaro V6s where they don’t belong. It can make a hot rod of the old MG, but I do think its soul has been sacrificed.

Ahmet Ongun

Yes, I certainly believe that one should upgrade the suspension , brakes and and the power – using period mods for the engine, though keeping to original fitments such as carburetors instead of converting to fuel injection.

I drive my classics for long tours, say 3,000 to 4,000 miles at a time, and one certainly needs those mods to feel safe and comfortable in today’s roads and traffic, worldwide.

Raymond Callander

As owner of 20 plus antique automobiles, both classic’s and 50’s, I tend to be a purist. My 1965 GTO convertible, 389, 4 speed, with original bias-ply tires. If you want all the modern handling and performances items buy a new Camaro or Dodge Charger or your choice of the new makeovers offered. But to cannibalize your muscle car is not for me.

Geo Marin

I believe a rare muscle car should be left alone as stock as possible since higher optioned cars were out of reach for many people and a base model muscle car should be the donor to anyone looking for to modernize its overall performance. I currently have a Firebird that came with a V8 Pontiac 350, being that it’s not a rare car, I decided to put in a 5 speed manual transmission and I also added Trans Am looks.

I think an original unmolested factory muscle car will always be more valuable than a modified one, although there are some performance shops that do turn out some very ultra high performance muscle cars where money is no object, example: the 2nd gen Trans am Bandit, classic looks with new technology can sell upwards of $100 grand. I noticed with the introduction of the classic styled Pony cars from GM, Ford and Chrysler have rekindled a great interest in muscle cars and I have seen many people talking about them on social websites like Facebook, I think the muscle car hobby is strong and will get stronger as movies, social media, father to son put these older cars in their laps.

Steve Pink

There will always be people who love resto-mod so it is not a fad. I happen to have a strong bias toward stock vehicles.

It is the original model design that attracts you in the first place. Done well resto-mod can be an interesting and unique vehicle but done poorly it is like putting an Walmart frame on a Picasso. Certain vehicles can be more amenable to rest-mod but stock vehicles over time are more collectible.

Resto-mod is more a matter of personal preference that appeals to a smaller audience whereas stock maintains a universal long term appeal.

Appraising the value of resto-mod must not be easy and takes the “how much is a bottle of wine?” question to a different level!

Roger Bailey

There is plenty of room for all types of restorations in our hobby. Main thing is to drive em!

Ron Stotler

Technology has changed the playing field drastically.. Showroom cars have more horsepower than AA fuel dragsters 30 years ago. Lightweight materials are everywhere, and the hobby is over 60 years old. Many nicely restored cars of 10-20 years ago are aging again and the true old car guys are getting quite old. Other than a museum car or garage queen cars are meant to be driven, and to me a resto-mod is the best of both worlds. I have an ’04 retro bird and love it. It’s a fast as my ’65 muscle car was and as impractical as a ’57 bird, but I can drive it anywhere and get repairs anywhere. I am ’71, and if I had some of my former cars today they would be updated but look close to original. Just 20 years ago we never dreamed of what is available today, in after market goodies. A 55 Chevy with a crate motor suits me fine.

Andrew Tapia

Keep it somewhat stock. update a few things ok but keep the motor original and updating to a new motor just ruins the original look i guess what you don’t see is ok to upgrade. What you see should stay original.

Brian Foster

Depends if you want a collector car or a driver. You can buy newer bushings and front end components, as well as newer stock size radials that will help with the handling of your old car. If you keep your brakes adjusted drums work just fine. If you want to keep your car a collector, don’t change it. Once you change everything such as the motor, Mustang II front end, disc brakes all around, fancy paint, and big wheels the car is gone. Although they may be beautiful cars they are not old anymore. They are basically a new car that in most cases drives as good if not better than a car from the showroom floor. If you own a resto-mod you might as well drive it because there is nothing on it that can’t be changed if it gets worn out. I have nothing against the resto-mods but don’t call them a classic once you modify them too such extremes. They may be “Classy” but they are no “Classic”

Nick Fantasia

I think to resto-mod or not is decided by the car. I you are lucky enough to have a true Survivor, or all numbers matching, or something rare. Then they should stay true to the factory build.

If you have a car that already has a different drive train, or is a clone altogether then there is no harm in making it a better safer driver. After all a great majority of these cars saw day two modifications when they were bought.

And can you think of a better reason to have more than one.

Rick Beil

I am an old drag racer and spent from 1968 – 1977 working in speed shops. Neat time to be selling speed equipment. To me all old cars are hot rods. I don’t keep any part of em stock. I do prefer to set up my cars as old gassers / modified productions. I like my cars loud, hot and fast.

I do realize for resale value this is not the best option. I never try to get top dollar for any of my cars. I know what they are and the value they have. I am a fabricator but not good at body work so my stuff is always a rat rod.


The answer for me, after restoring well over 50 cars, is what do you use it for? If you plan on owning a trailer queen… leave it stock. If you want the look and then enjoy driving it as well, update it. I have a 69 Mustang convert that is stock and restored. My son has a new GTR that is stock except for chip and exhaust. To compare these two cars is like comparing the moon to the sun. Every time I drive or ride in the GTR I get out and open the hood to make sure I am not dreaming. Technology has come a long way baby, and it is so very nice!

Bob Kraus

Where would hot rodding be today if every Model A, 32, 36 or 40 Ford, or Chevy was left stock? Well there is a name for that, it’s Antiques! So the same is true with today’s generation of “old” cars, leave them stock and you have a “modern” antique, update, modify, personalize and you have a Hot Rod. “To each his own” so the saying goes, someone somewhere down the road a guy will cherish his 2014 “stock” Corvette, his brother will have hot roddded his with all the new 2025 STUFF.

Duane Foster

There should never be a detraction of value for a muscle car with modern upgrades for safety and handling!!

Tom Eichholz

With a driver, safety first & reliability with as many modern parts as possible, but trying to keep the look of originality.

’65 Vette owner


I believe that it is up to the owner of the vehicle to decide what he or she wants to do with the car. If they want to drive it a lot and enjoy their vehicle in this manner then by all means go ahead and update it with modern technology to make it more enjoyable to drive. If they have a more rare muscle car then you might want to just restore it to 100% original. It will be worth more this way than modified.

I owned a 1966 Pontiac 2+2 for over 25 years. IT was restored to bone stock original. I enjoyed that car a lot. But as time passed and I grew older and our everyday new cars became more enjoyable I did not enjoy my 2+2 near as much as I did when I was younger. So again it falls back on the owner of the vehicle to decide what it is that they want from their car.

Brian Silva

As with many things in life – it depends…

If I were collecting cars that would sit in a showroom or a museum – those that would depreciate quickly if driven (like taking a vintage Star Wars action figure out of its original packaging), I would opt for returning to stock as it came from the factory.

That said, I can’t afford another garage, let alone a showroom, and I love to drive. So for me personally it would be to replace or modify just enough to enhance both performance and safety, without going overboard. As long as you are not changing the outward appearance of the vehicle, I say go for it.

John Rogers

I certainly hope that this “resto-mod” movement is a fad that will lose popularity over time. Although I can admire and respect the creativity and quality of the build, it really detracts from the historical accuracy of the car…..and (depending on the amount of the modifications) it might not be possible to return the car to its original configuration economically. I understand the argument of “safety and reliability” improvements, but these cars are not driven or used in a traditional manner as are late model “driver” cars. Additionally, once a car is modified, the value becomes difficult to assess and can only be based on what a willing seller will accept from a willing buyer on any given day. Original cars, however, will always have a referenceable value range depending on options and the quality of the historically accurate restoration.

Larry Hill

I have actually been contemplating this very thought having just returned from the Scottsdale auctions. First it should go without saying if the car in question is a rare option matching number valuable car it should be kept stock. On the other hand if the car in question is a run of the mill one of a 100,000 cars with non correct engine in it. Then I say do what you want. My preference would be to keep period correct look to the car paint it any color reasonable to the period. I like a new LS engine, rack and pinion steering, upgraded suspension, and so on. If the interior is upgraded it should either be an all out custom using period original style materials. The other choice is to make it period correct but upgraded like adding correct console and bucket seats out of the same period and style car. And of course upgrade with vintage a/c, nice sound system, power windows, etc. One think I am not a fan of is wheels that are too modern they need to look correct for the car. If you can get by with 15 inch wheels or up to 18 inch but in my opinion that is where so many of these cars lose me.

Glenn Vrooman

As a small car collector for 40+ years and a subscriber to ACC, I would like to offer the following:

1- It is only original once

2- How can history be preserved if all our beautiful machines of the past are altered? I don’t want to attend a car show to evaluate the talents of a restoration shop; I want to see how “Henry” did it.

Now on the other side, if somebody wants to rescue some old iron from the bone crusher and turn it into a piece of modern art, I give that effort 100% of my support. They have a place in our hobby, but it seems to me that the pendulum has swung way too far in the resto-mod direction.

Most recently I have been watching one of my former super talented students turn a gorgeous 1941 Cadillac fastback into a lowered fire “eatin” machine. To that I say Nice Job but Too Bad! Too bad you had to throw the baby out with the bath water!

Dave Bott

Whatever floats your boat goes. Satisfy yourself first. I own both a full stock vehicle (9 yrs old) and a lightly tuned resto (48 yrs old) to take advantage of updated brakes, safety belts and engine performance. My 3 yr old daily driver is for utilitarian use only. Value? I’m not into this hobby to gain money. If the car increases in value, great. If I lose money upon resale, so be it. I had the opportunity to enjoy.

Fred Loomis

I own a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible, black with a white top and red and silver interior stock except for Dakota digital dash. It has 4 wheel disc brakes, H.D. front and rear sway bars, rear air shocks, rack and pinion steering, 17-inch American Torque Thrust wheels with R17x245x17 tires, 350 LT1 V8 fuel injected engine, LS80E overdrive tranny, posi rear, traction bars, ps, pdb, a/c, disc radio player, and it shines and looks brand new. I wouldn`t drive it if it was completely stock, the steering that came with it in ’57 can`t keep up with today’s driving. If I want to I can go anywhere and in comfort. It gets a lot of attention from everyone, and the gas mileage isn`t bad. I`ve built many rods and they all were built for the road, and quarter mile, normally just change the rear and go dragging. I drive it on the superhighways without any trouble, and every once in a while I put my foot in it and what a thrill it is to listen to the pipes when it winds out, WOW! Now you know why I built it. I’m seventy four years old, and I still get a big kick out of it! As for the guys that keep everything stock, bless them, but I guarantee you I have twice the fun.

Mark Lee

I looked and researched American made ORIGINAL muscle cars before I purchased a numbers matching, authentic 1969 Camaro Z/28. The whole purpose of the search was to find an ORIGINAL anything. I watch auctions religiously and see all sorts of resto-mod, pro-street examples of lots of cars….especially Camaros. HOWEVER, the real deal is the real deal. If you have one, keep one. They will always appreciate.

Oh by the way, I had a ’67 V12 Ferrari that did that brake and corner thing. Everything has its place, i.e. don’t mess with the original anything.

Chris Kunkler

True “Vintage Muscle” Cars tend to be worth so much these days that they should be kept totally original. Most probably aren’t driven that much, annually, due to their market value(Garage Queen).

I have always felt resto-mods are very appropriate when it comes to restoring, say something like a 65 Mustang 6 cylinder, auto or a 6 cylinder, no option, 71′ Nova(most true muscle cars have their domesticated brothers). Huge numbers of these vehicles were produced. Utilizing these high production volume old cars for resto-mods probably keeps many more of them on the road than would be otherwise. These cars provide the perfect opportunity for individuals to build their “Dream Ride.” Why not stick a 350 Crate Motor w/a 5-Speed in that old Nova and give it suspension and brakes to make it competitive, performance wise, with current production cars.

After watching the recent Auctions, and reading about them for years, the resto-mods appear to be the true “Best Value” or “Bang For The Buck” out there! In today’s economy, they rarely sell for anywhere near their build cost and most are far better than they ever were as new cars! $30,000 to $50,000 will get you one heck of a nice ride that will provide loads of driving pleasure, outperform most cars on the road and require nothing more than routine maintenance for years to come!

Dave Catherman

I don’t like the styling of the resto-mod cars. Wheels are too big and tire profile is too small. As a driver-enthusiast (not a show participant), I say add the modern suspension and brakes but keep the original styling as close to stock as possible. Best of both worlds!

Don Carlin

I’m an original owner of a 1967 GTO , restored the car in late ’90s to pure stock. Nice car but dangerous to drive with cars around you that steer & stop. A few years ago I changed over to modern suspension (Global West, Baer brakes quick steering box etc.) car did lose value. But now I have a car that I love to drive. Hard to put dollar value on that!

Kevin Ward

1972 Chevrolet Corvette - Kevin Ward

Jim, I feel that if you can improve both the performance and safety of your classic car, why not do it “If.” And my “IF” would be defined that these upgrades be completed with bolt-on parts whereas you maintain the original parts for restoral back to stock when determined later down the road. I current have two classic Chevrolets. The first is a 1972 Corvette which is completely stock with my intention of keeping it that way with exception of newer 15” American Racing wheels. Easily changed back to original Rallys in 30 minutes. My other Chevy is a 1966 Caprice. I recently upgraded the 4 wheel drums to 4 wheel power disc brakes and 8”x15” rally rims. The white-knuckle, 60-0, all-over-the-road stop I can do without. I do not see the need to revert back to drums ever but, I have all the parts in boxes just in-case. Larger diameter wheels and a handling package are in its future so yes to the resto-mod in this case.

Further, I have attended a recent Mecum Auction and watch endless hours of televised auctions and feel that upgraded muscle cars are far commanding a higher price than their stock counterparts paying dividends when they get to the auction block. If this so called resto-mod fad does die out, as most fads do, maintaining the original parts for switching out or filling up the truck prior to selling your car is a wise investment toward the benefits of bolt-on performance and safety upgrades.

Chuck Wilde


Jay Waddell

Originality should and always will be worth more in the marketplace, if for no other reason than the cost of preservation and replacement of original parts is much higher than replacing with new. However, I have no problem with keeping classic cars on the road by updating suspensions or even drivetrains. If updating certain components allows me to actually drive a beautiful old car and keep it on the road for others to see and enjoy, so be it. Nothing wrong with that.

Adam Blumenthal

I don’t think it’s a question about what you should do with a vintage car unless your sole interest is in making a profit. In that case, it’s a relatively straightforward process. I realize I’m oversimplifying it, but figure out how much you can put into your ride taking current market trends into consideration, where values may be headed in the future, and act accordingly.

The decision should really come down to what you want to do. It’s what makes you happy and not what the market or someone else is telling you is the right way to go. Notwithstanding unusual circumstances, there is no right way — it’s your way and that’s all that should matter.

If you have a creative vision for transforming your car into the baddest resto-mod, and you’re in love with the idea, then by all means do it. Never mind that the car may not be worth as much as stock. Conversely, keeping it in original condition will bring years of driving enjoyment. Either way, you’ll experience tremendous satisfaction every time you settle yourself in behind the wheel, fire the ignition, and hit the road.

And if you happen to get a lot of thumbs-up along the way from admiring passers-by … well, hey, there’s nothing with that!

Don Thorpe

I don’t think there is any one correct answer. It all depends on the circumstances. I think the following factors are relevant: Do you drive the car? If so, how far and how frequently? In what condition is the car currently? How difficult will it be to reverse the modification? Also, is the vehicle in some way unique or special? I.e., is it a base ’69 Corvette coupe or an L88? You wouldn’t pull the finned drum brakes off a ’63 Z06 and replace them with discs, even if the discs stop the car better.

I have modern radials on my 1970 Corvette because I drive the car about 2,000 miles a year and that’s an easy reversal. If the cast iron rear leaf spring broke, I would consider a fiberglass replacement. My car has over 100,000 miles and is in #3 condition. Conversely, if I had just paid up to purchase a faithful restoration in #1 condition, I would be very, very reluctant to change it.

Dave Lennartz

“It depends….” IF you want to DRIVE the vehicle, and get both maximum enjoyment and minimum risk of damage &/or injury while doing so, then (at least) moderate changes/upgrades are desirable. Of course, if they’re “easily” reversible to “O/E” that’s even better. Bolting on modern suspension, wheels, tires and brakes (including a dual master cylinder)…and adding seat belts/harnesses “should” be done…even bolting in a new/upgraded drivetrain can be considered….

IF you want to SHOW the vehicle, and most of its driving is going to be on & off trailers, then keep it as a display piece rather than a driveable “car”–keep the “scary when driven” running gear, ignore safety upgrades, and live with the performance the factory provided (for example, acceleration/quarter-mile times that many current 4-cylinder, 4-door sedans can beat, as well as poorer braking and handling than most of those sedans, eh?). For example, my 1966 Shelby GT 350H in “stock” form would probably (based on tests done “back in the day”) turn 1/4 mile times in the high 15 to low 16 second time range.

As a past or present owner of several 65/66 GT 350s (including a retired vintage racer), a 289 Cobra (and now an ERA FIA-body replica), a Sunbeam Tiger, a couple 65 Corvette roadsters (one Fuelie and one 396), among other “decadent second childhood” toys, I feel like I’ve looked at this “from both sides now”…. Oh, and I should include modern “daily driver” toys such as a Z06, a couple (e36) M3s, a couple “R”-model SVT Cobra Mustangs, and currently a MazdaSpeed3.

Paul Jankowski

This is an easy question for me. True backyard muscle car guys love cars. They love to work on them and they love to drive them. They are not museum car collectors. We do not hundred thousand dollar barn finds to work on. If I found an original Shelby GT500 in my price range, I would leave it original. That will not happen.

I am currently re-working my 68 Firebird convertible, which I restored thirty years ago. It was not a numbers matching car to begin with, so it did not concern me to pull out the Muncie and the 1972 400 motor. The first ten years after the restore, I used the car quite a bit, but the past twenty years she sat while I worked on other projects.

I believe it is a shame to leave cars sit in a garage, only to see day light to be washed. My firebird will be driven daily by my girlfriend, so I want to make improvements to the car. I will have a custom tuneport Chevy 350 with 700R trans. This will bring my gas mileage up from 9 mpg. It will have a Heidts Pro G front package, with frame connectors, to make it handle on today’s roads. Other goodies:

Pro-G Subframe – with Trans X-Member

Plain Tubular Upper & Lower Arms

Pro-G 2″ Dropped Spindles

Billet Coil-Overs, Single Adjustable Shocks

Power brakes

Power Rack & Pinion Steering

11″ Wilwood Brakes with Black Calipers

I had a numbers matching ’59 Impala hardtop that I purchased complete. The body had been customized to sit on a 1996 Chevy Caprice Police Interceptor. Whether it was my 34 coupe, 53 & 58 Willys, I wanted vehicles I could enjoy driving. No trailer queen or something that was unsafe on today’s roads, like my father’s Model A’s.

My first car was a 55 Chevy Bel Air — I quickly swapped out the drive train, and re-upolstered the interior. I do what I do not asking in what state will it be worth more. I love cars, but cars is not how I make my money. I still own that ’55 I purchased in ’76, and I still love her!

Mark Reynolds

An interesting question.

For starters, the Chevelle pictures shows what is wrong with much of the resto-mod craze. Ginormous wheels and rubber band tires are an insult to the eye in this case. A 22″ wheel has no stylistic relation to the original wheel openings designed for 14 inch wheels. Worse, the ride and handling of these 22″ setups are as bad as the jacked-up rear end or low-rider styles of the past – won’t we ever learn? The look is trendy today, but will appear ridiculous in a few years. Take a look at an issue of “Street Rodder” or “Rod and Custom” from the 1980’s to see how poorly some of the fads from that time have aged. I suspect the 22 inch craze will do equally as poorly in time.

Conversely, we don’t use straight weight mineral oil in vintage cars anymore, and no one in their right mind would ride in a car, new or old, without seat-belts. Some modifications for safety should be broadly acceptable, if we want to keep buyers of vintage cars around for the future. Upgrading 30’s era Fords with hydraulic brakes has been acceptable for years, and putting more modern disc brakes on 60’s muscle cars – especially GM models like the GTO with their miserable 10 X 2 inch drums – fits in with the acceptability of seat-belts as an almost mandatory upgrade – especially as the phase out of original asbestos based brake linings further compromises brake performance. Replacing the miserable bias belted tires of the 60’s with radials of visually compatible size is also essential to self preservation (by the way, ACC and SCM add insult to injury by negatively critiquing cars with radials in auction reviews, IMHO).

The guiding ethic in my opinion is to make the changes minimally visible as is practical. Go ahead and put modern KYB gas shocks on your 60’s muscle-car for better suspension control, but paint them black to look like the originals. An electronic ignition is acceptable if you hide the control box – who would ever know? Even the addition of a disc brake dual master cylinder can be made more compatible with original era metal finishes.

Let’s leave the 22 inch wheels to the street rod fans, and the bias tires/ drum brakes to the trailer queen crowd. The “cars of ACC” are meant to be driven, and are fun and safe with conservative upgrades. Otherwise, what is the point of having one?

Russ Dickey

Personally, I think resto-mod is the way to go with any classic car that doesn’t have significant value due to its rarity, history, or racing pedigree.

For example, I would never resto-mod an original Shelby Mustang, COPO Camaro, or Hemi Cuda. But a 200-6cyl Mustang coupe, a 307-powered Chevelle, or a 289-powered Fairlane? As far as I am concerned, those represent the “generic” versions of popular pony & muscle cars, and are ripe for the resto-mod makeover. There were hundreds of thousands of these cars produced during the 60s, and resto-modding them provides performance and value that far exceeds restoring them to factory specs.

Carroll Swam

If a car is in decent condition- keep it as original as possible. If the car is rough and needs almost everything, then go ahead and add some modern touches.

Bob Brugnoli

Resto-mod, sure. It’s your car, you should do whatever makes you happy. I personally like to keep my cars as original as possible, but I don’t consider upgrades like radial tires or dual circuit brakes as blasphemy. Replicating factory overspray and other flaws is just silly, as is the current trend of driving “Barn Finds” in their as found condition without so much as a wash job.

Larry Denton

I’m 66 years young and I grew up in the muscle car era, owned a ’64 1/2 Mustang, ’68 Road Runner, ’56 Chevy, ’57 Ford, ’62 Chevy and a ’52 Studebaker. If I had them all today I would restore each to stock. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look at the resto-mods, but they are just not for me. Currently own a 2004 Mystichrome Terminator. PURE STOCK!!!!!

Brennan Holland

What do you want to do with the car? That’s the question you have to answer before asking “resto-mod or not.” If you want to drive the old car, then you probably do want to add bigger, better radial tires, disc brakes with newer friction material, a sway bar or two and shock absorbers with improved damping. If you want to “show” the car, or you want a collectible, then you want to restore it to its original configuration. I think the restored car will always be worth more money (if it has any REAL collectibility, and that’s the subject of another survey) than the resto-mod. The resto-mod will likely never be worth what you put into it, though I think it’s possible that someone can (or will) make a resto-mod that transcends the then current tastes in engines/wheels/body rake and will look as timeless as a properly restored car and HOLD its value. Even then, I think it’s unlikely that such a resto-mod will ever be worth what was spent to make it. Restored cars have value because of their rarity and quality of restoration and, certainly in the case of ’60s & ’70s muscle cars, all the good times we associate with them. Value will always be good when rarity is factored in (’69 ZL1 Camaro, ’70 Hemi Cuda convertible, L88 Corvette, Boss 429 Mustang, etc) and good enough that most people are unlikely to resto-mod such a car (as much as that wouldn’t be a bad idea if you want to do anything more than a quarter mile at a time in one). It’s tempting to resto-mod a more common vehicle or make a clone and get similar performance (i.e. – scare your passenger just as silly), without the worry over what happens if you bend it or stone chip the paint or break some unobtainable trim piece.

What would I do? I’d want to drive the sucker. If I had had an old muscle car, and the money, I’d be inclined to go for subtle, easily replaceable changes: modern radial tires on only slighter larger alloy wheels (19’s? 20’s?!? Oh, please… the Hot Wheels I played with as a kid looked better. But I digress.), brake pads with newer friction material, an electronic ignition conversion, a set of headers and exhaust to match, and a decent driver’s seat. And I’d keep the car and run it until it needed a new paint job.

Paul Harden

After just coming from the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, I had the opportunity to see the full range of resto rods. What soon became apparent is that there are some well thought out cars with the full-range of improvements with a new drivetrain, upgraded brakes, suspension, and wheels and tires. You then see other cars that only have a new engine, wheels and tires and a few other minor mods that make it difficult to return to stock. It’s these cars that are sometimes worth less than a stock car.

One of the factors it comes down to is how you see yourself using the car. Will it be only a show car or will it be a car that will be driven frequently etc.?

Chuck Wegman

None of them are particularly rare and if they need restoration, why not update? Make them usable. There will surely be a few restored to original and eventually placed in museums. The rest should be used and enjoyed in a configuration that is cool and usable. Coolest Chevy’s would be update suspension and LS power. Usable and collectable.

D’Arcy Ballinger

Show car only: Original

Driven car: Resto-mod

Dan Tosi

If it’s all original numbers car, it should stay that way, All stock. If its non-numbers or a “garden variety” muscle car to be driven…Go for it! It’ll be safer and more fun.

Al Meier

I vote for a merge of the two – resto-mod and stock. Assuming I had the cash, I would choose a resto-mod with original style wheels and radial tires. In other words, the car would have modern performance and reliability, but it would look stock. The best of both worlds.

I think, in the long run, the stock appearing resto-mod would bring the higher price on resale.

Isidro Alvarez

Why would you want to restore an old car?

Basically it´s because it gives you pleasure. Either you like the lines and aesthetics and you are bored of looking around at the nearest traffic light to watch cookie-cutter-like cars; or it is a part of (your) history. That makes a difference.

What drives you to restore a car, what you think and feel about it makes the basic distinction on how you will do it. If you want a daily driver to go with your family on an everyday basis you´d like a refurbished vehicle, one that drives and feels new, with a personal touch. That is something that shows you are a unique person; an individual.

On the other hand, if you feel that those “good-old-days” are gone, there is a story which comes back to life when you get behind the wheel of that sixty something Chevy, you need some serious restoration.

In this case, you might not be getting off- the shelf parts. You cannot go and get some spray can with the color that came out of the factory and it is gonna be a bit harsh for you to get that knob-turning, push button AM radio. Surely you are going to need some help to get it running as it were.

Classic restoration, because its more time consuming, should be given more value and be considered the way to go. It is for me. Generations to come will appreciate how history and technology have developed in the car industry if you´ve got a fully re-stock car.

Howard Poulter

I feel the resto-mod vehicle is here to stay and the future of the hobby will include that type of vehicle as more of the young hobbyists will embrace the resto-mod with its modern drivetrains and suspensions with the “nostalgia” look. There will always be a place for original muscle cars however few of the young guys today can afford many of them and simply will not find the idiosyncrasies to their liking …. But they do and will continue to like the styling. As much as I like to drive all of my collector cars I really appreciate and equally enjoy the modern power and comforts of modern muscle of my Z06 Corvette and SRT8 300C Mopar.

Andrew Pesek

I am doing my own experiment as follows: Three early 70’s Oldsmobile A-bodies (2 – 71’s & 1 – ’72).

One is “stock” as it rolled off the lot(+/-), one is a “day-2” car; headers/big pipes/electronic ignition/big sway bars/stiff suspension bushings/etc. The 3rd is a full on resto-mod; Schwartz chassis/tubbed/big brakes/LS-7/6-speed/etc.

Mile per mile the “day-2” car is my favorite to spend the afternoon with. Maybe because it is most like the car I wish had when these cars were what we all drove in 1980.

“Day-2” cars are more fun to check out at car shows & actually the most fun to own.

Rob Groll

Isn’t the collector car hobby about having fun? If one’s idea of fun is driving an old car with modern amenities, then why not? I’m more of a day one fan when it comes to GTO’s, Road Runners, etc., but there are plenty of Tempests and Satellites begging to be resto-modded. Anything that keeps an old car on the road is okay by me.

Mike Kanalos

Just my thoughts. I have been in the hobby since 1966 and have different views on car collecting than most.

I have worked for GM, Ford and Chrysler as an engineer and a national account manager in sales to the performance industry. So my background is very wide and diverse.

I have worked with many builders trying to build cars such as Panoz, Qvale Mangusta and many others.

Thru the years I have seen many fads come and go, some were good but most where terrible.

The resto-mod fad that is sweeping the collector marker will die a slow death in ten years or so. Just like the custom van market from the 1970s.

Most of these resto-mods when they go to auction sell for 50% less than what it cost to build. The cars are built for one person’s specific likes and very difficult when selling to find a person with the same likes.

At the end of the day, original cars (restored or not restored) will always be in demand, weather its next week or 50 years from. All of the other BS car such resto-mods will find their way to the junk yards.

Remember it takes more to preserve or restore these cars then to just write checks and build a resto rod.

Allen Leier

NOT! If you have a very good muscle car or are restoring one keep it original as possible, once modified it cannot go back easily. They are slowly disappearing. If you want modern performance, buy a modern muscle car and let’s keep our vanishing heritage intact for as long as possible.

David Brill

An automobile is the property of the person who paid for it and is completely their choice to take and modify it as they see fit. If that means pulling the original 440 six pack and dropping in a new crate Hemi, lowering the car, sitting it on 20’s with massive brakes, etc, so be it. However, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it or would do it myself.

My OPINION, is that if one likes the overall looks of a 69 Charger but wants to stuff a 6.1 L, SRT8 Hemi under the hood, with the aforementioned goodies, plus some, do it with a junkyard dog, run of the mill 318 car, not an R/T.

In terms of the “idea” of taking the “old” and making them new again by adding modern performance items, I like the idea. Some cars look great done up in that fashion…and of course, some have gone a little over the top.

Joe Venturini

If your car is one of the special originals bringing big dollars leave it stock. If it is a “standard” version update it for safety and better performance. It will make it more appealing to a wider audience and easier when you decide to sell it. I am restoring a standard ’65 Impala convertible and upgrading suspension, brakes, and appearance items, including the SS package styling. The younger audience likes the big wheels and suspension upgrade items, and I want them to stay interested in the old car hobby!

Scott Garrett

I feel that for me I prefer cars that have upgraded running gear including wheels but retain the parts and ability to restore to original if some future owner would like to return is to factory original.

Gary Ackerman

I think there is room in the market for both. The pure classic muscle cars will always have value and appeal, especially the rare high dollar versions, Hemis, Boss, COPOs etc. I also think that nicely done resto-mods create a place in the market, both for collectors and builders. A car not worth a total restoration as a stock classic can make an outstanding resto-mod, and make the new owner very happy. I own both and am happy that I do.

Rick Matthews

Nothing’s better than an old muscle car that looks great and drives like a new car. It’s no fun to wander down the road.

Tim Phoenix

To answer the question, depends on the car from my point of view. How rare or historical is it and what condition is it in to start. I would be biased to say preserve first if the car is in good original condition. If not, I would prefer to restore, especially if the car in rare, historical or iconic. But that said, if someone wants a great driver for a 66 Mustang or ’70 Chevelle, of which there is no scarcity and the originals don’t drive or handle that well in original form, resto-modding I think is perfectly fine and as we have seen with prices lately, for many more common cars the ROI of a resto-modded car is actually better that a restored car. Again, while my bias is originality, I think it is a very good trend that resto-mod cars are getting a lot more respect these days.

Michael Horrigan

I am torn right down the middle on this, most of my cars are original, but I really like some of the resto-mods. For example I have a 1990 Chevy SS 454 pickup that is all original, and I have one that is lowered and smoothed which may receive a more powerful big block in the future, since the original motor is kind of anemic.

I see some resto-mods selling for more than a nice stock car, so who knows what the fickle future holds.

I guess I just like all cars.

Bob Betz

Disc brakes on all four corners are a must. Look at the info provided on the web by SSBC and Master Power Brakes with the shortened stopping distances. Giant wheels on a ’60s muscle car tells the world you are a brain-dead teenager.

Michael Carmichael

While I do enjoy looking at original muscle cars, I vastly prefer resto-mods. The reason: driveability. I want a car that handles, stops and goes like a modern muscle car. That is might be clad in the fashion of the 60s or 70s does not matter. If the car is to sit in the Petersen Museum or the Black Hawk – then let them be original, but if the owner wants to drive the beast – resto-mod is far and away the better option.

I wouldn’t buy an original muscle car.

I would pay handsomely for a clone of Eleanor.

Philip Lampman

If the car in question requires a thorough restoration, then there’s nothing wrong with a resto-rod. Especially if the owner wants to use it fairly often or take a road trip with it.

If it’s all in original condition, numbers matching, etc. then consideration should be given to a restoration or even leaving it alone. A car inherited from an older family member may be a different case and I lean toward restoring to original.

Above all, only the owner of the car in questions knows the answer and ought to do what he/she wants and to hell with making it seem like something “everyone else” wants.

That said, if one comes across something an original COPO car, it might be best to keep it a COPO car. Another example: If one wants a Porsche 911 Speedster, it’s better to cut down a late model Carrera Targa than to take a Speedster and try to make it a Targa.


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