I’m not sure who first coined the proverb, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” I think there is a lot of truth to it in our little corner of the hot rod world. Much like clothes or house decor, it seems like if you hang onto something long enough it will be become cool again. Dual-quad tunnel-rams, velocity stacks, IMSA-style road racing flares, even straight-axles under gasser-raked muscle cars can be spotted at the local cruise-in. Trends repeat. They can also be fresh and original. From walking the halls at SEMA to our local Cars and Coffee events, here are a few trends I feel are worth mentioning.
Trend: Old-School Engines
Engine swaps are the foundation of hot rodding. In production for over 21 years now, the LS engine is still overwhelmingly popular with the engine swap crowd. Now with GM pushing the new kid on the block—the direct injection LT series—one would think the classic small-block Chevy has been dealt its death sentence once and for all. Thankfully, that’s far from the truth. Our shop (Chris Holstrom Concepts), which is known for LS conversions, has installed several 383 crate engines with bolt-on EFI this past year. It’s a simple package that works amazing with Vortec heads and saves thousands over the LS/LT options. Also, you can’t beat the look of a classic small-block.
Trend: Street Race Hero
Remember the beginning of the 10.5 tire Street Car Shootout craze? That was a reflection of what was taking place on the dark backstreets in the early ’90s. Flowmasters, 3.5-inch front runners with sticky rear tires, and a bottle of VHT were all the rage. With Tesla cranked up on the mega-watt Alpine tape deck, pulling up to a stoplight took a deft touch to keep that solid-cammed big-block alive. Extra points if you had the big AutoMeter tach with yellow shift light screwed to the dash. Ahh, I can still smell the racing fuel. I see this trend returning strong and executed on highly detailed muscle cars. Add EFI, in-tank fuel pumps, and modern drag coilovers and you’ve got the ingredients for a fun boulevard bruiser. I know this style never left parts of the country. That’s OK. If the car I described is sitting in your garage, consider yourself a trendsetter.
Trend: Next-Generation Muscle Cars
Speaking of trend setting, poor magazine editors have been pushing late-model (think post 1972) cars on us for years without much traction. How do I know? I have a shop full of cars all built before 1970. That’s about to change. Prices of restorable ’60’s muscle cars are through the roof. The availability of precious vintage tin is drying up. The alternatives are clean, driveable examples from the ’70s and ’80s, which can be bought for a song. Goodguys Hot Rod Association recently lifted their 1972 year cutoff, allowing a platform for two decades of prime hot rod material. Think Monte Carlo SS with 19-inch wheels and the full Pro Touring package complete with an LS swap. How about a Pro Stock Monza turned street car complete with gold Moroso valve covers and dual carbs rumbling through the fairgrounds? Craigslist is full of Camaro IROCs just waiting for a new lease on life. Don’t forget the overlooked ’70’s Malibu and El Camino models. With just a little imagination you can build a car that is different from the crowd and just might catch that magazine editor’s eyes.
Trend: Late-Model Muscle
Another trend I see playing out is the popularity of modifying late-model muscle. The fifth-gen Camaro is going on eight years old. A quick search on Craigslist yielded several LS-powered examples for well under $20,000. Being out of warranty, these cars are perfect for guilt-free modifications and enjoy solid aftermarket support.
Current color trends seem to be shying away from bold graphics with an emphasis on keeping things subtle. Blue is the hot color. Big wheels are here to stay but so are old-school wheels. Here is the thing with trends; regardless of style, if it is executed correctly you can’t lose.
About the Author: Chris Holstrom is the owner of Chris Holstrom Concepts, a hot rod shop in Puyallup, Washington, that specializes in repairing and building high-quality muscle cars and hot rods.