DEARBORN – We’ve all seen hipsters hanging out at the local coffee shop. They look cool and vintage on the outside, even as they constantly check social timelines and post selfies with their smartphones. Restomod Ford Mustangs are the hipsters of the automotive world.
A 1960s-era Mustang looks awesome. Similar to the unlikelihood of finding a hipster sitting in a coffee shop with a computer of the same vintage as the t-shirt they’re wearing, that old Mustang doesn’t accelerate, turn or stop as well as its contemporary descendants and certainly doesn’t ride as well.
A restomod Mustang melds the classic looks of first-generation models from the 1960s with modern engines, brakes, steering and suspension for reliable everyday driving and all-around performance most old muscle cars can’t even approach. You can buy or build what is essentially a brand-new 1965 to 1970 Mustang with any engine you want--including the 5.0-liter ‘Coyote’ V8 found in the 2014 Mustang GT.
Traditional vehicle restoration, by comparison, is all about bringing an old ride back to the way it was when it rolled off the assembly line. That means using original parts where available or reproductions when necessary. Executed well, the end result is a “brand-new” 50-year old car that performs like a 50-year old car.
“I’ve been building custom street rods and muscle cars for more than 25 years but over the past decade the restomod has really increased in popularity,” said Barry White, owner and founder of Barry’s Speed Shop in Corona, Calif. “A lot of people love the classic 1960s looks, but they want a car they can get in and drive every day, not just a museum piece.”
Restomod cars are a natural evolution of hot-rods and custom cars of the 1950s and 1960s. Restoring a car close to its original appearance while adding mechanical modifications can transform it into something the original engineers might never have imagined.
“The market for restomods really took off after the release of the movie ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds’ in 2000,’’ said Larry Brogdin of Dynacorn International, manufacturer of Ford-licensed restoration body parts and complete shells for 1965 to 1970 Mustangs. “The ‘Eleanor’ Mustang in that movie, made it much more acceptable to do more extensive modifications to classic cars. Seventy percent of our business now is for upgrades and modifications rather than traditional restorations.”
Restomods can run the gamut from simply swapping in a new engine, adding rack and pinion steering or upgrading brakes to overhauling technology from the wheels up on a vintage Mustang.
Starting with a newly manufactured restoration body shell available through Ford Restoration Parts, customers can essentially buy or build a brand-new 1965-1970 Mustang fastback or convertible and equip it with any of the array of components available in the Ford Performance Parts catalog.
Matt Comps of West Bloomfield, Mich., took the vintage body approach when he bought his 1968 Mustang California Special hardtop seven years ago.
“The car already had a fuel-injected 1995 5.0-liter crate-motor installed when I bought it, but the rest of the car was in pretty rough shape,” said Comps. “I fixed up the body, installed the Baer® brakes that were used on the early 2000s Cobras and upgraded the suspension with new springs and control arms.
“The car drives great now!”
Gavin Knapp is senior manager, market research, Specialty Equipment Market Association, a trade group that represents manufacturers of automotive specialty products such as the parts used for restorations and restomods.
“The street rod and custom segment, which includes restomods has continued to grow at a steady pace, totaling $1.19 billion in 2012, up from $954 million in 2005,” said Knapp.. “For comparison, the traditional restoration market has been relatively flat over the last several years.”
New body shells are often the preferred choice for restomodders looking for state of the art performance. Brand-new metal offers the strength to stand up to the increased acceleration loading from modern high-output engines and contemporary tires, something a 50-year old body might not provide.
Ford Racing offers engines ranging from the classic 302 cubic inch OHV V8 to the very latest 5.0-liter ‘Coyote’ V8 that powers the 2014 Mustang. Builders and owners that like to tinker might prefer old-style carbureted V8s, while those who want a “classic” that will reliably start every morning, no matter what the weather, lean toward modern fuel-injected equivalents.
“One of my clients recently drove the 1970 Mustang we built for him with a new fuel-injected V8 to Oregon and back with no problems at all,” said White.
Restomods can be built to fit a wide range of budget and performance needs and it’s a trend that is becoming more popular with options from basic upgrades to brand-new vintage cars. Unlike some of the hipsters serving up your coffee, a Ford Mustang is never aloof or pretentious either.
Ford has launched Mustang Countdown, an online video series to throw the spotlight on the legendary sports car and the culture that has formed around it all across the globe, and to continue the celebration leading up to the 50th birthday of Mustang on April 17, 2014.
The series kicks off with – Where It All Started: The Mustang 1 Concept – and turning the clock back to the 1962 debut of the first concept car to wear the pony badge. From there, other episodes lift the lid on Ford’s exhaustive Mustang archives, Mustang toys, custom Mustangs and more – all featuring unique and often rare footage, exclusive new interviews and expert insight. Subscribe to the Mustang Countdown playlist to never miss an episode.
50 years of Mustang
The Ford Mustang is about to become the newest member of a very exclusive club – vehicles in continuous production for 50 years. In its first 49 years of production, Mustang has gained a worldwide base of avid fans, including more than 5 million on Facebook, the most of any vehicle nameplate. The car’s unique combination of style, performance and affordability established an entirely new class of sporty cars, and Mustang has led the segment ever since.
Over the past 49 years, of the more than 9.2 million Mustangs produced and sold, most of them have originated close to Ford’s home base in Dearborn, Mich. From the racetrack to the silver screen to the airwaves to the toy box, Mustang has become an enduring part of pop culture.