As humans we share the general weakness of remembering things better than they were. Watch a movie you once loved as a child and you might be disappointed. You remember how good the burgers were at that diner, but did you forget that it smelled like an ashtray?
Or take classic muscle cars. They were beautiful, riotous examples of automotive pageantry, jammed with enough torque to pull the rug out from under your neighborhood and a thunderous exhaust to match. And most of them rode on leaf springs.
Yeah, steering was crap. Braking was crap. Safety was a laugh. Fuel economy meant walking. And starting up that carbureted engine on a cold morning proved a challenge on more than one occasion.
Almost every aspect of new cars is better than its equivalent in old cars. But so many new cars just lack soul. They don’t exhibit the same careless, beautiful vulgarity that we love so much about old cars. The gem about cars, though, is that they can be disassembled, mixed up, and reassembled with newer parts. And that’s what pro-touring and resto-modding are all about- taking great-looking old cars and giving them modern parts to improve their driveability.
To be clear, resto-modding and pro-touring aren’t exactly the same fields. They overlap in many areas, but a resto-modded car is mostly for on-the-road driving and showing, and a pro-touring car tends to focus more on racing and performance. We love both, and we’ve sifted through the best of the best to present you with our top four picks.
Bodie Stroud’s ’69 Can-Am Mustang
When you’re not dealing with numbers-matching anymore, you can throw any old power plant under the hood. For his Boss Mustang project, Rod-builder Bodie Stroud found something that could work – an all aluminum 494 V8 originally found in Mario Andretti’s 1969 Can-Am race car. It dyno’d at 777 hp. To put all that power in such an old unibody would be too crazy, even for Bodie, so they custom built a body-on-frame chassis, complete with channeled exhaust, and went to town. The result was breathtaking.
Daniel and Richard Gottlieb’s ’69 Big Red Camaro
The Big here refers to the engine, of course. It’s a custom build 9.8 liter Chevy Big Block, producing 1107 hp, all naturally aspirated. That’s enough to shove the car all the way up to 234.2 mph. Daniel and Richard (father and son) loved the lines of the original Z/28, but after the first Big Red Camaro was destroyed at 140 mph, they knew the next car would need a tube frame. Best of all, Richard often sets it up for course racing and autocross, rather than just focusing on straight-line speed.
Gary Meadors’ Viper-powered 1948 Chrysler Town & Country
Muscle cars aren’t the only eligible candidates for some resto-modification. Goodguys founder Gary Meadors found a ’48 Town & Country, found a 500 hp Viper truck motor to keep things in the family, and matched them up like an enthusiastic parent. Aside from a slightly lowered stance and some wire wheels to accommodate the gigantic disc brakes, you’d never know it wasn’t all original. Until it started up and burned the tires on the way out of the show.
Nor is resto-modding just for the show crowd. Some are designed to get muddy. Maybe even a little scratched. We couldn’t pick just one Icon 4×4. Between their Jeep CJ series, their Toyota FJ series, and their Ford Bronco BR series, they’ve won our hearts. The Icon machines are stunning, sure, but they’re also quite functional, rebuilt with modern suspension, lighting, and power.
There are many, many more examples to explore. The Thundertaker didn’t quite make the cut, mostly because we’ve covered it before. The idea behind resto-modding and pro-touring is to build something that performs as well as a modern car but has the soul of a classic. And we haven’t forgotten what that’s like.