Join us for a bit of a trip down “Memory Lane.” Think back; what was your favorite vehicle of all time? Was it the VW Bug, your first car, or your Dad’s “hand-me-down” pickup truck?Maybe it was a muscle car, or the first time you bought a European or luxury model? For me, my first car will always be one of my favorites, a 1963 Chevy Impala Super Sport.
My ’63 was a hardtop, whereas this classic example, refurbished several years ago by Vanessa Bryant for her now late husband Kobe, is a convertible. The color, trim, and badging are otherwise the same -classic, timeless beauty. Unfortunately, most ‘6os vintage vehicles on the road today don’t look or run like this one. For that matter, neither do most ‘70, ‘80, or ‘90 models either.
But what if you could bring your favorite older vehicle into the 21st century with today’s conveniences, technologies, and performance? What if you could even improve on the original and take a page out of Elon Musk’s book and electrify your classic? You’re in luck. In this article, we explain how you can do just that, improve on the original performance, going green at the same time.
We will follow a timeline from restorations to resto-mods, to electrification, with examples along the way. Finally, we provide the platforms for making your classic an electric vehicle and introduce a new concept, the skateboard. This is not the skateboard of your teen years; rather it’s an electric base that can be fitted under the body of almost any vehicle, converting it into an EV (electric vehicle).
Restoring Your Classic Vehicle
People have been restoring vehicles since there have been cars and car enthusiasts. Restoring a vehicle simply means reconditioning it from its existing condition to a like-new or better condition. Car restoration has spawned an industry, numerous television shows, and a complete curriculum at university.
Tune in to Discovery or any other reality TV channel, and you’ll find restoration shows such as Counting Cars, American Hot Rod and Pimp My Ride. A personal favorite is Jay Leno’s Garage. Leno is quite possibly the celebrity most often associated with all things automotive. In 1977, Leno visited a small college in rural Kansas, McPherson College.
One year earlier, a local businessman donated his collection of 125 vehicles to the school to help train the next generation of automotive restorers. Initially, McPherson created a two-year restoration program. The program attracted Leno’s attention, who established the Fred S. Duesenberg Scholarship and the Jay Leno Popular Mechanics scholarships. Now a four-year curriculum, the Automotive Restoration Program is the only one of its type offering a bachelor’s degree in Restoration Technology.
Types and Levels of Restorations
There are five basic restoration types: Cosmetic, Mechanical, Body Rubber Bushing, Frame-Off, and Complete Rotisserie Restoration. The names are self-explanatory, except perhaps the Rotisserie. In this type of frame-off restoration, the vehicle is disassembled and then placed on a device, a rotisserie, so that it can be turned or rotated to access every part of the vehicle.
Just as there are types of restoration, there are levels as defined by the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA):
- Street Driving Condition
- Street Show Condition
- Show Car Condition
- Concours Condition
Street driving condition is just that; the restoration allows you to get from point A to point B in your restored vehicle. Whereas Concours condition culminates with the Concours d’ Elegance, the highest level of restoration.
California Muscle Cars, Phoenix, AZ
For a more European flair, the following example is from our neighbors in California, CPR Classics, who specialize in Porsche and Mercedes, focusing on ’70s vintage 911s. CPR has its own restoration levels, from Ala Carte to Sympathetic, CPR Certified, and Concours.
CPR Classics, California
Both vehicles obviously fit the definition of reconditioning to a like-new or better condition. The next level of restoration seeks to go beyond the like-new description, all the way to bright, the resto-modification vehicle.
The Resto-Modification Restoration
Visit any of our classic car auto auctions in the Valley, and you will hear about “resto-mods.” These are classic and muscle cars that enthusiasts have taken to new heights beyond the vehicle’s amenities and performance when delivered as new by the dealer. Modifications may include performance enhancements, such as an updated, larger, more powerful engine, new suspension, brakes, and tires and wheels.
Resto-mods often include more modern conveniences, air conditioning, power windows, seats, steering, or an improved sound system. Safety improvements can consist of everything from seatbelts to airbags and power brakes. And, of course, no resto-mod is complete without an updated techpackage.
Our examples below illustrate the concept beautifully, combining the styling and appearance of a classic with the modern advancements automakers have made to vehicles in more recent years.
Mecum’s Auto Auction-We mentioned the popularity of resto-mods at auction. The above is a classic example of a 1970 Mustang that received the complete resto-mod treatment, including a new Coyote V-8, stainless exhaust, new transmission, new suspension, power rack and pinion steering, and too many other updates to mention.
Not to be outdone by a Ford, Barrett-Jackson recently auctioned off the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette pictured below. Resto-modifications include a new 430-horsepower engine, new transmission, and new suspension. Of course, the base vehicle and interior were subjected to a complete frame-off rotisserie restoration as well. Beautiful.
Auto Glass Repair & Replacement During Electric Conversion
We hope you’ve enjoyed these first two segments along the path to the ultimate restoration and electrification of your favorite vehicle brought to you by SunTecAutoGlass.
If you are in the process of electrifying your classic car, or a restoration, now is the time to get your vintage auto glass either repaired or replaced. At first, this may seem like an easy task but what you’ll learn is classic car auto glass is hard to find! That’s where we can start to help.
SunTechas specialized in windshield repair and replacement since the early 2000’s. Our hand-selected, highly experienced glass technicians receive ongoing training to address any type of windshield damage.
Car enthusiasts and classic car owners prefer the unparalleled services offered by SunTec:
- Mobile service, often the same day, at no additional charge.
- We use only OEM or OEM equivalent glass products.
- Our technicians ensure a perfect fit and finish.
If you’re restoring, converting or refurbishing your classic vehicle and need glass repaired or replaced, make sure you choose an expert and not just any local auto repair shop. Our technicians have seen and repaired virtually every type of glass known to man! And, our team can access hard-to-find OEM glass products, even if from out of state.
If you are in the process of converting your classic to electric, take the time now to get your auto glass or windshield replaced so that the finished product is complete!
The Electrification of Your Classic Vehicle
There are two options for converting your classic into an EV, an “engine swap” and the previously mentioned “skateboard platform.” Converting to an electric drive system is the older of the technologies, yet it still typically provides a significant performance upgrade due to the “instant-on” torque of an EV.
A Classic Converted to EV
Perhaps the first time you witnessed a classic conversion to an electric drive system was the E-Type Jaguar Prince Harry drove during his wedding to Meghan Markle. This conversion came courtesy of Jaguar’s E-Type Concept Zero team at their Classic Works Division, with a significant performance upgrade and a price tag of $471,000. Of course, the conversion starts with a vintage E-Type which will set you back over $200k before conversion.
Not all conversions are this pricey. Companies are springing up across the country that do the conversion for you or offer a DIY alternative. For those do-it-yourself types, removing the existing internal combustion engine, replacing it with an electric motor, and adding a bank of batteries will cost about $7k – $8k in parts.
Aftermarket companies, such as EV West, will sell you a complete Tesla Model S drive unit; with motor, inverter, gearbox, dash display and control unit (EV Controls), etc., for $11,900. You will need expert technical help for the installation.
Here is an excellent example of a conversion performed by EV West. Today, it seems, the company is focused on selling components versus doing conversions themselves, too bad.
Hemming Motor Sports
Converting Your Classic to EV – the Skateboard Platform
Most companies entering the EV skateboard platform space do so for use on new vehicles. The concept is ingenious, one platform that can be scaled to various sizes for use with multiple body styles to help defray development costs. The platform eliminates the need to engineer each model from the ground up, essential given the number of new EV models slated for introduction in the next 12 – 18 months.
One company, however, is focused on using the skateboard to electrify the classics market.bFor the ultimate experience in converting your classic to a fully functional, zero-emission, high-performance electric vehicle, there is the Zero Labs Universal Platform picture below.
The Zero Labs skateboard platform is advertised as being able to turn any classic into an EV within thirty days. The skateboard is fully self-contained, with batteries built into the floor, electric motors front and/or rear, adjustable suspension, and Brembo brakes. Those electric motors deliver up to 600 horsepower and massive torque. Your Zero Labs EV is guaranteed to be a performance upgrade versus the classic you converted when it was brand new on the showroom floor.
To Sum It Up
hicle, with modern technologies, enhanced performance, and zero emissions, will continue to operate for the long term versus being sent to the scrap yard. Your classic may no longer be considered a collectible due to modifications (aside from regular upkeep such as windshield replacement), however, we consider that a small price to pay for the extended lifetime and enjoyment.