Resto-Modding, And Dailying Classics

Jek Ray Low
3 Jul 2020

We humans are a sentimental bunch. We see the world through rose-tinted glasses, believing that old world charm beats modern convenience and consumerism any day of the week.

What we fail to consider though, is the fact that modern technology is built upon the past, improved and made better through years of trial and error, as well as potentially billions in R&D. The modern equivalent of its older counterparts are usually more bullet-proof and more ergonomic, which makes dailying newer vehicles a more comfortable and pleasant experience. But there is a solution that allows you to experience a daily slice of old world charm, but with less of the drawbacks.

The Restomodding World

Photo: Expedition Motor Company

The aftermarket is worth SGD$530 billion. The restomodders contribute to part of the massive figure. They take the cars of yesteryear, and add some modern touches to said vehicles. These modifications can range from minor upgrades in reliability and interior comfort, to full blown carbon fibre rebody and all-new chassis with the latest and greatest in braking and suspension technology.

The Elephant In The Room

Depending on the scope, resto-modding can severely diminish the value of classic cars. Purity is collectable, and modern creature comforts take away from the vintage experience. Experienced resto-modders opt for fully reversible modifications, which still allows the owners to experience daily-able classic motoring, but be able to preserve the value of the vehicle come resale time.

Mechanical Updates

Unfortunately, our rigid motoring laws mean you cannot swap out an engine, even if the intended replacement is more eco-friendly and efficient than the one currently in your classic. However, should LTA offer some flexibility later down the line, this should open up the possibility of having more classics on our roads.

Photo: Mechatronik

Elsewhere on the planet though, tuners often swap out tired and carbureted engines, in favour of more modern and efficient units. A growing number of fabrication workshops are designing complete custom subframe replacements, which can bolt onto the stock location, and have allowances for all the modern luxuries that we’ve all come to expect.

Photo: Bad Obsession Motorsport

Check out the guys at Bad Obsession Motorsport, who have embarked on Project Binky. A classic MINI, which they are restoring, and with that, they are shoe-horning a Toyota Celica GT4 engine, together with its 4wd drivetrain. Guranteed a good laugh, if you are a serious car nut!

Another popular drivetrain swap, entails the creation of bespoke chassis parts to replace the traditional ICE components (think engine, gearbox and driveshafts), with EV parts. These include battery packs, motor controller units, as well as the charging infrastructure and the electric motors.

We had recently touched on weather Singapore is ready to go electric, and since it will be, wouldn't it be great to see some of these old machines still plying our roads?

Photo: Volkswagen

Both solutions preserve the aesthetic of a stylish classic, and provide you with the comfort, reliability and power of a modern vehicle. Plus, classic components can be made of some seriously harmful materials (asbestos in classic brakes and clutches), so modern replacements can actually help improve the health of the driver and its occupants, as well as everyone around the vehicle!

Comfort And Luxury

Driveline, brake and suspension modernisation can be invisible, but interior modifications often are not. Modern luxuries are more in-your-face, and more brazen as compared to the retro and clean lines of the past. If you’re after some 21st century creature comforts, you’ll have to sacrifice on the vintage look.

Comfortable only because it is worn down... but still no air-conditioning. The Series Land Rover used in the Last Overland Expedition.

It is not uncommon to see owners of older Volkswagens and Land Rover Defenders, especially in the country we call home, retrofit aftermarket air conditioning units to their vehicles. These systems, compared to OE solutions in modern cars, are often ineffective, but even that beats simply baking in what is essentially a mobile greenhouse. It does take away from the perceived visual purity, but the comfort more than outweighs the sullying of retroness in our book.

Other interior surfaces can be swapped out for more technologically advanced items, that offer superior performance to the original equipment, but closely mimics the period-correct look. Updated materials are hardier, and can provide superior grip in places you need the most.

Photo: Porsche

Perhaps the single item that offends most classic car enthusiasts, but it has quickly morphed into an item that most of us can’t live without - a smart head unit. These come with bluetooth connectivity, phone mirroring, and even navigation, providing you with all the information and the tunes you need to enjoy your daily commute. However, these are all displayed on a large screen, that does not fit into a classic car at all in any way. Porsche realised that this was a market with huge potential, and since 2019, has been offering a unique blend of old and new. These look period correct, but still have all the modern amenities. There is a drawback though - the severely dimensionally-challenged screen. 

We believe that the best compromise in this regard, is to get a single DIN unit with a pop out screen. These pop out only when in use, and the screen tucks away when the car is switched off, allowing you to enjoy the luxuries of modern technology and not have a massive screen ruining the look when parked at a car show or meet!

Things You Take For Granted

Technology has moved on quite a bit, even in areas that you take for granted. Paint, for example, has evolved massively since a classic was originally built. Modern 2K paints are water-based, and are finished with a hard-wearing, and super-glossy clearcoat, which protects the basecoat, and ensures a long-lasting finish.

Photo: British Motor Heritage

Replacement panels too, have been made with superior metals or composites, allowing for tighter panel gaps and a higher quality finish post-restoration. Lights too - gone are the days of the dim and ineffective lights of the old days. Modern replacements are brighter and more efficient as well, though, as with the engine, LTA tends to get a little jumpy if you replace your stock lights with aftermarket units.

In Summary

Classics should really be savoured, and kept for uses on special occasions. There’s a reason why our classic plate scheme exists.

You give up so much of what we’ve grown to love and take for granted in newer cars, and need to learn to live with the foibles that so many claim adds character to classic cars. If you daily a classic, we really have the utmost respect for you, as it really takes someone with a strong will to be able to do so!

Photo: Twisted

We believe that resto-modding opens up the world of classics to a wider audience. You get a taster of what life was back in the so-called “good old days”, but with less of the drawbacks. These bewitchingly beautiful creations will allow a whole new generation of car enthusiasts to be able to relate to and appreciate designs from yesteryear, and perhaps spark a greater appreciation and even conversations of said vehicles. Community - isn’t that what the classic car experience is all about? 

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