Journal: With SEMA Starting Soon, What Do You Think About The Present And Future Of Modified Classic Cars?

With SEMA Starting Soon, What Do You Think About The Present And Future Of Modified Classic Cars?

By Alex Sobran
October 29, 2018

SEMA starts tomorrow but the last-minute build reveals have been showing up online for the past week or so, which prompted a discussion in the office recently about how the approach modifying to classic cars might change in the future. It’s not an easy thing to predict; so many subcategories make up the generalized state of the modified car world, and the same is true when those cars aren’t new ones.

It appears that many of the same basic routes will continue to be taken in the future—restomods, backdates, race replica conversions, powertrain swaps, all things that have been happening for some time—but the approaches to each path seem to be changing and becoming more extreme over time—it’s hard to stay the same and harder to go backwards when a major part of point is to change things. Just look how many plug-and-play engine swap kits exist today versus a decade or two ago; re-bodied cars are nothing new, but very few people were putting modern chassis underneath classic bodies recreated in carbon fiber; and there was nothing like a Singer-modified Porsche twenty years ago. Like the very basic idea of what a car should do (move people around on the ground), there are only so many ways to go about getting it done. If it’s modifying classics, it’s less a question of “What will happen?” than it is “To what degree?”

What do you think about the current trends and the where they’re pointing us? What do you think is a trend? Is the attitude toward modifying older cars changing as they become rarer and more valuable in general? For some examples of what look to be the major routes taken in the course of customizing something deemed classic, here are a few that we’ve featured over the past year or so. Let us know your opinions, and in the meantime we’ll keep our eyes on the good stuff (not the bedazzled SUVs) to come at SEMA this week. To learn more about any of the cars featured below, links to full articles and galleries are included at the bottom.

Full-Service Restomods

Replica And Race Car Conversions

Engine Swaps

“Chassis Swaps”

Period-Correct Visual Changes


if you want to read and see more of the cars pictured, here are the links with photography credits:

MZR Roadsport Datsun 240ZWill Broadhead
911 with Singer DLS modifications – Singer Vehicle Design
911 ST ReplicaPatrice Minol
Jag V12-Powered Ferrari 365GT 2+2 – Jamie Ferguson
SR20-Swapped Datsun 510Daniel Piker
Volvo Amazon-bodied BMW E30 – Daniel Piker
BMW E34 M5Alex Sobran
Acura Integra Type RIan Wood
Jaguar D-Type Continuation – Jaguar Land Rover

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Bryan Dickersonwmaloney Recent comment authors
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It is a very interesting question. I am not the first one to predict that we will be seeing more and more electric drive trains put into classic cars, like the electric E-type. I am not sure how much of it I will see during the remainder of my lifetime, but of course at some point combustion engine mechanics will be harder and harder to find.

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson

You’re right wmaloney I can’t believe I didn’t go there. I’d love to see plug and play electric conversion kits that replicate, to some degree, the drive experience of a combustion engine. For example: Could electric drive trains be set up to efficiently utilize a 5 speed transmission? How about sound reproduction? Don’t laugh, I talked to someone who had experienced an electric converted Bug in a rallycross event! He said it performed great except for not being able to hear the engine rev when the tires lost traction. He said that sound reinforcement tied to the engine rpms would’ve… Read more »

Bryan Dickerson
Bryan Dickerson

I love all of these segments of the industry but the biggest problem they all share is the cost to participate. All of these options cost more than folks with modest means can afford and over time that will kill the hobby. Lots of less-than-wealthy folks like myself crave the analog, vintage driving experience but are increasingly squeezed out of the market so I rack my brain to come up with a solution but always run into the road blocks of capitalist reality. I do love the idea of repurposing less than inspiring ‘throw-away’ machines in to devices that stir… Read more »