Restored or Restomod?
What if you want to take a detour off the pure resto approach, however? When is a restomod an improvement on an old favorite, or like putting new wine into old wineskins? ("For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins."—Mark 2:22)
Biblical analogies aside, we should point out that unlike the Survivor trademark, restomod (or restification, if you prefer), is a rather broad term, referring to a wide spectrum of cars—everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. We've come across some impeccable examples that look virtually identical to an original '63 split-window, but are married to modern mechanicals underneath those classic lines. At the other extreme, we've also seen cars that look more like a chance encounter behind the bicycle shed, producing a mongrel offspring.
Then there's something in between: a customized Corvette that takes tasteful liberties with the original look of the car, along with its underpinnings, yet preserves the spirit and feel. Consider the black restomod displayed here, owned by Fred Barber of Hinsdale, Illinois. The only original parts on the car are the body and seats. Everything else is new, from the chassis to the 572 Chevy to the custom rims.
Why go to so much trouble and expense to modify a Corvette? "Why not?" might be the tart reply. In Barber's case, though, he's like Yager, with a large number of great cars in his stable, and thus feels comfortable tampering with history. "He made it the way he wanted," Glass notes. "He likes to drive the car hard, and it'll break loose the tires at 100 mph. He turns on the air and music, and he's stylin'." How many owners of Split Windows can make the same claim?
Taking on the role of a car designer is no easy task, however. The hardest part? "Making decisions on what direction to take," Glass says. "The customer was very involved in the build process, even though he's a very busy guy."
Through it all, Glass kept his eye on the practical aspect, since it wasn't intended to be a trailer queen, nor sipped wine over on a concours lawn. "He was gonna drive it, so I made it easy to fix, with nothing exotic or foreign, so it can be repaired while on the road if need be." (Barber did keep all the factory parts so he can return the car to its original condition, something Glass has done with his Gasser Corvettes, which we featured in a previous issue.)
Looking at restomods in general, which have grown in popularity of late, Glass freely admits that, for all his success over the years, "I'm an old geezer trying to stretch the dollars." So when he gets strange customer requests, he tries to keep costs down and recommends doing a little at a time. As a case in point, he recalls one guy spending $400,000 at another shop and still not getting a driveable car. His basic premise: "Let's not destroy the integrity of the car."
When it comes to restomods, Krook agrees on the value of restraint—and of starting with the right candidate. Find one that's "not well documented, not original, not one of the rare options cars, not a King of the Hill, and no original engine," he recommends. "Then turn it into a toy, great for personalizing."
But with one big caveat: Don't expect to see your investment returned on the back end of the project. "What you invest doesn't guarantee market value," he maintains. "Restomods are not moneymakers, but they meet an appetite."
Indeed, Glass points out that many automotive enthusiasts, who are accustomed to contemporary quality, now expect the doors to have even gaps, and to close with a solid thunk. The old days of those Corvettes sloppily built in St. Louis, and finished with orange-peel paint, just don't cut it. "People want to be proud of their Corvettes, and enjoy better gear ratios, brakes, suspension," he concludes. The bottom line: "There is no right or wrong—it's what makes you happy."