- All photos, text and errors by: Chris Breeden

Know your cars! Resto-Mods

Giving vintage cars a touch of 21st century performance and handling


Starting in the early 1990's people began to apply the same kinds of building methods that had been used on Street Rods to mass produced American cars of the '50's, '60's & '70's. Mainly because the cars of this era were cheap and easy to find. Plus, Vintage Tin (cars produced before 1948), was starting to get scarce and that was leading to steep price increases. Secondly, automobiles from this era didn't require major frame construction to handle newer engine/transmission combinations, like Street Rods required. Lastly, the Street Rod Movement had been around for over 20 years and it was time for something new to happen.

A big wheeled & big braked Buick!

A big wheeled & big braked Buick!


Many of these cars had been used by Street Rodders to supply engines, transmissions, front and rear ends and interior pieces. These were mainly the everyday cars of the era. The Impala's, Galaxy 500's, Fairlanes & occasional 6 cylinder Mustangs. Yes, some Muscle cars had this done to them, but it seems like people gravitated to the common cars they remembered from their youth. Nostalgia for the '50's, '60's & '70's probably played as big a part in this as the rising cost of Street Rods.

A Galaxy 500 in classic black.

A Galaxy 500 in classic black.


What is a Resto-Mod? The answer to that is in the name. Resto, or Restoration, refers to the fact that these cars most often do not receive any sheet metal modifications, just a lot of rust repair. Sheet Metal is usually restored to a factory appearance.

One mean, green machine!

One mean, green machine!


The Mods, or Modifications, usually come in the form of electronic fuel injection upgrades, better than stock transmission upgrades, more efficient brake systems & replacement of stock wiring harnesses. These upgrades all help make these cars act more like modern automobiles.


While it is true that a car is only original once, in the case of these cars, that's not always a good thing. The massive numbers of these cars and trucks that were produced means that the value of a Antique(Stock) version isn't very high.

One fine Chevy Impala!

One fine Chevy Impala!


This is really about saving old cars from the crusher or from rusting away in a field, and as you can probably guess I'm all for that. If U.S. automotive T.V. and aftermarket parts suppliers are to be believed then these cars make up the largest segment of auto enthusiasts in the country.


Due to the demand for cars from those era's, examples that wouldn't normally be considered for upgrading are now becoming more and more popular. Everything from 1/2 ton pickup trucks to the lowly family Station Wagon are becoming prime targets for Rest-Modding. I also suspect that these Station Wagons and even the increasing presence of Square Body Chevrolet Trucks becoming popular is a reaction against the coupes that once were the only acceptable body style. Also, it has been over 25 years since this movement began and change was bound to come about

Even things like this Mustang 2, Cobra are starting to get some love!

Even things like this Mustang 2, Cobra are starting to get some love!


To me the most promising trend in the Resto-Mod world has to be the embracing of Malaise Era cars. These underpowered, anti-smog machines were unloved when they were new, but are starting to gain appreciation. This is actually a good thing. No one wanted a 4 cylinder Mustang 2 when they were new, they just bought them because that's all that was available at the time. Pulling that 4-banger out and dropping as big a V-8 that can fit isn't going to disjoint anyone's nose. I think that may be the best thing to have happened to the automotive scene in 30 years! So bring on the Fairmonts and big bumpers Nova's, the 944's and the Vista Cruisers, there's room for them all in the automotive world!

As long as long as Resto-Modders remember the most important part of any automotive scene:

Keep on Cruisin'!

Links to the Know Your Cars! Series:

Art by: Chris Breeden

Art by: Chris Breeden

About the Author

"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."


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