New cars that look like old classics


Originally published at:


“Modern cars… they all look like electric shavers.”



Once at a museum I saw a car that looked like this. An old woman standing next to me said, “This is the kind of car I dreamed of having as a little girl.” I said, “This is the kind of car I dream of having now.” I regret that she may have thought I was making a joke. I was quite serious.


Those VW vans were fun though. My brother had one and we’d sit up on the roof through that big ragtop while he drove.


How familiar are you with the concept of a resto-mod? Basically you take an old car and restore it so it looks like it originally did. But you swap out the mechanical with something more modern. Modern engines, modern suspension, interior ETC. People take it to a couple of different levels. But its often much cheaper than full, museum ready restorations. And much, much cheaper than these fancy reproductions and professional updates. Often because the base concept avoids the whole “everything must be original” mentality.

Of course its cheapest if you can do it yourself. But there seem to be plenty of cars in this vein out there for non-insane its a toy prices.


I’ve wanted something like this for either an old Mustang or something from that era. I don’t necessarily need everything to be original. Granted i just bought a brand new car a few weeks ago so it’s going to be a while until i’m in the market for something else.


I don’t have eleventy billion dollars, but if I did, I would be on that Land Rover so fast. It’s beautiful.


For me the thing that doesn’t work is forgetting what made the original popular. The “new” VW Beetle was just like any other small car only more expensive; the original was popular not only because of cuteness but because it was cheap. Why does buying nostalgia always require upselling? Same disappointment with Mini. You get a car that’s small yet doesn’t get good mileage, but you still pay a premium? I don’t get it. It’s one of those things that makes me think too many suckers have too much money. Decent styling for a small cheap car shouldn’t cost that much.

Last time I was shopping for a car I really wanted to be able to consider the retro Ford Thunderbirds that they made around the early aughts, but the reliability ratings were in the crapper so no dice.


That’s the thing. Its gonna be a toy. While something resto-moded is gonna be less of a collectible and more practical as an actual driving car its still a toy. A second car, something extra and fun. But the base concept is kinda interesting. You see it done with a lot of vintage cars that are less a collectors item. And its apparently a pretty feasible way to go about restoring a vintage car that’s in pretty rotten condition. Once you get beyond a certain point of disrepair something like a Mustang becomes weird to restore. The base car, in terrible shape, will still be strangely expensive. And restoring it, even with reproduction parts, to “original” condition may very well cost more than the car could ever be worth. So traditionally something in less good shape would get sold for parts.

But the resto-mod uses cheaper and more available modern bits and pieces. So now you’re talking all you really need need is the body, frame and maybe a bit more. It becomes much cheaper to assemble a running vintage looking Mustang from what used to be a parts car. I think that’s why you see it most often with less overvalued/desirable cars. They’re cheaper to start with and you aren’t impacting collector value. I know a guy who does this with 60’s Dodge Darts. He gets them pretty cheap, keeps the original engines, but updates almost everything else. His whole family has one. One for him, for the wife, his daughter, both his parents. I forget what he said it cost him to knock one out. It varied but was something less than $15k each.


I think some of the recent retro-inspired vehicles coming from the American car makers have actually been pretty great. The Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger have all managed to strike a good balance between retro-inspired design, modern engineering, and decent value.

It’s definitely a lot better than the trend in the late 90s/early 2000s of automakers resurrecting storied marquees only to completely fuck them up. Then there were the retro-inspired disasters like the Prowler, HHR, PT Cruisier, and so on that were all style with no substance.


…since 1909… and looking it.


Ah yes, I forgot about the Mustang. Thought they did a good job with the 90s revival. Not sure I agree about the Camaro or Challenger. For muscle cars, the one I want to see revived is the Pontiac GTO.


There was a GTO revival in the early aughts, which was actually for all intents and purposes a pretty great car as it was based on the Holden Monaro.

It didn’t much resemble the original GTOs in style (other of course than the hood nostrils) but it definitely fulfilled as a spiritual successor with its understated but brash styling and big engine.


I just drive an old car. It’s our third car now, but for over a year, my 1972 FJ40 was my daily driver. If the engine ever conks out, I’ll put in a small block V8, but for now it is running like a sewing machine. I also drive a 2017 hybrid small SUV for rainy days and winter. Resto-mods are good too, if you require modern conveniences and reliability with the vintage look. I’ll drool over the proper restorations and re-manufactured cars as posted here, but they’re strictly for the plutocrats based on their prices.





This is what immediately came to mind re. the topic of new aping the old - Japanese kei class vans transformed into VW buses:



That actually doesn’t look too bad. I would swap out the mirrors and mod the 2 front doors to look closer to a WV van but it looks pretty convincing