What Is Restomod?

What Is Restomod?

Last Updated June 13, 2023 | Alison Smith

A restomod combines the classic styling of old school vehicles with new technology. Rather than using all stock components, restomods use aftermarket parts to improve upon the performance and appearance of older vehicles. Restomods are becoming increasingly popular, with many builds stealing the show at SEMA and other car events.

What Does Restomod Mean?

As the name implies, restomod is a combination of “restoration” and “modification.” Restoration requires using all original parts to restore a car back to factory specs. Restomods are restorations that also use aftermarket parts not available from the factory. Many restomod parts fit like stock but provide more capability, performance, and comfort.

The great thing about restomods is that you have complete freedom. You can choose how much you want to keep stock and what you want to modernize. Perhaps you want to keep the appearance as close to factory as possible but want a stronger engine under the hood.

Restomodding gives you the ability to restore and upgrade as much as you want. There are no rules when it comes to building a restomod.

Before and after photo of Project 55, a teal 1993 Mustang Cobra restomod build

Why Do a Restomod?

Even if you’re a classic car enthusiast, there are many benefits to a restomod build. Since classic cars lack many modern safety features, a restomod can offer better protection and reliability. Classic vehicles also aren’t known for their comfort. Upgrading the suspension system will improve both the handling and ride quality.

As with everything, money and time are important factors as well. Finding all the original components for a classic vehicle is a quest in itself.

When it comes to building costs, it depends on the vehicle. Hard-to-find parts for limited-edition classics will likely be more expensive. But restomod builds can quickly add up depending on the number of upgrades you plan to make.

While fully restored classics can be worth more, that’s usually only the case for rarer models. Restomod builds are in high demand, which can give them a better resale value compared to a restoration.

Top Restomod Ideas

Starting a restomod build can be a daunting task. If you’re not sure where to begin, these are some ideas to get you started.

Interior Upgrades

When it comes to restomod interiors, comfort and style are key. You can upgrade everything from the steering wheel to the audio system. Restomod dash and instrument bezels can give your cabin a completely different look. Modern gauges will make it easier for you to see your speedometer, tachometer, and fuel levels.

Restomod seats add a fresh look along with added comfort and support. Whether you want nice comfy bucket seats or seats fit for racing, there are plenty of options. With the ability to choose different colors, stitching, fabric, and designs, you can get a truly custom look.

Before image of a classic Mustang interior vs after image of a restomod Mustang interior

Modern Lighting Solutions

Modern lights will make a world of difference in your restomod build. Forgo the dim stock bulbs in favor of LED lights. Not only are LEDs more efficient, they’re also brighter.

Swapping out the factory headlights for LEDs will greatly enhance visibility for night driving. You can essentially upgrade any light component from marker lights to brake lights.

In addition to LED bulbs, there are a wide variety of modern lighting solutions available. You may want to add under hood lights, more interior lights, or other accent lights as well. Restomod trucks can benefit from off-road lights or additional truck bed lighting.

Before and after classic Mustang with restomod headlights

Brake Disc Conversion

As many older vehicles use drum brakes, brake disc conversions are popular with restomods. Before the late 1970s, most vehicles used drum brakes in the front and rear. By the end of the 1980s, many automakers ditched the front drum brakes in favor of disc brakes.

When it comes to drum vs disc brakes, disc brakes offer increased stopping ability, reliability, and performance. Disc brakes dissipate heat better than drum brakes, so they’re less susceptible to brake fade. They also repel water better than drum brakes. The structure of the drum brake can allow water to pool, negatively affecting braking power.

Converting from drum brakes to disc brakes is especially popular for avid racers. Disc brakes are better for performance driving due to the extra stopping power and reduction of heat buildup.

Before image of drum brakes compared to after image of disc brakes

Engine Swap

Swapping out an engine is a big undertaking but can have dramatic results. Since engine swaps are a more technical upgrade, you may need help from an experienced mechanic. A new engine will boost horsepower and torque for enhanced speed and performance. Of course, it will also cost a pretty penny for a new engine and any labor costs.

A popular option for classic trucks is an LS engine swap. If you’re restomodding a Mustang with a six-cylinder, there are a few V8 engine swap options out there. There’s no shortage of choices if you’re looking to make some major under-the-hood upgrades.

Before and after image of a restomod engine swap

Upgrading the Suspension System

Many classic vehicle owners opt to upgrade the suspension system. Slammed trucks and lowered muscle cars use modern suspensions to drop the ride height and improve performance. You can use coilovers, adjustable shocks, or air suspensions to lower your ride height. You can also get a noticeable performance from new suspension components if you notice any signs of bad shocks and struts on your current build.

Some suspension systems are completely adjustable so you can go straight from the street to the track. Lift or leveling kits are great options if you want to increase your ride height. Even if you want to maintain the stock ride height, modern suspension systems will greatly improve handling, ride quality, and response time.

Before and after image of old suspenion springs vs upgraded suspension in a car

Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) Conversion

A popular restomod for vehicles with carbureted engines is to convert to an electronic fuel injection system. There’s some debate on using a carburetor vs fuel injection due to the complexity of EFI systems. While EFI may be more complicated, it offers improved performance, efficiency, and reliability. Conversion kits make it easier to switch as they contain all the necessary hardware.

Some EFI systems even look like the old school carburetors if you want to maintain the classic look while adding modern capabilities.

Underhood shot of an electronic fuel injection system on a car

Wheels & Tires

Wheels and tires can complete the look of your restomod build. Whether that’s adding fatter tires or bigger wheels, you don’t have to stick to stock. Depending on how you plan on using your restomod, the type of tire will be important.

Performance-geared tires will improve acceleration, handling, and your ability to stop. If you’re restoring an old Bronco or truck, you may want to add a set of off-road tires instead.

Before photo of a classic Mustang wheel and tire with after photo of a restomod wheel and tire

Restomod or Restoration?

There are many reasons why you may opt for restomod versus restoration. Restomodding gives you modern comfort and more power. But restoring to stock is the most unadulterated way to restore a classic car or truck. There are merits to both options, but whether you go restomod or full-blown restoration will depend on your goals.

If you want a classic Mustang that can tear down the track, you may need to add aftermarket parts to increase performance. Whereas if you’ve been waiting to restore an old Ford F-100 you’ve had sitting in your garage for the past decade, you might want to keep everything factory-specific. No matter which direction you choose, there’s nothing like fixing up a classic vehicle and making it run like new again.

Source: What Is a Restomod?, MotorTrend

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