Resto-Mod Restorations - Part 1: Introduction
By definition, a Resto-Mod is a modified car. The first part of the term — "Resto" — implies a vehicle that is restored. The second part of the term — "Mod" — implies a vehicle that is modernized. A well-built Resto-Mod is an attempt to put together a car that has the styling appearance of a classic car combined with the many improvements (more durable paint, better tires, hotter engines, upgraded sound systems, quicker steering, more comfortable interiors, smoother-riding suspensions, etc.) that automakers have added to vehicles in later years.
Cars are made of "hard" mechanical parts like a starter and "soft" parts like a seat cushion. Repaired original parts come from other cars. New parts can be NOS (new old stock — factory made but never installed), NORS (new old replacement stock — vintage aftermarket) or modern reproduction. Modern reproduction parts offer two advantages in that they are somewhat more affordable and are usually much easier to find in printed or online catalogs.
Reso-Mods make extensive use of reproduction parts. That's not to say that a Resto-Mod builder is going to throw away any good parts that come with the car when it's purchased. But, as the restoration work proceeds. The Resto-Mod builder will not be re-chroming rusty parts or spending years scouring swap meets for an elusive NOS bumper guard if a reproduction is available. This means that a high-quality Resto-Mod can be built cheaper and faster (and sometimes better and safer) than a restored-to-original car.
This series of articles will talk about and show a variety of Resto-Mod projects, but will also focus on three specific projects involving 1960s high-performance cars. By coincidence, all of these cars were made by General Motors. However, the steps in the restorations would largely be the same for any car of the same type whether it was manufactured by GM, Ford, Chrysler or American Motors.
The restorations of the orange '67 Camaro and the burgundy '69 GTO Judge were done or managed by the owners, who are do-it-yourself guys, but not professional restorers. The silver blue '69 Camaro illustrates a pre-cut reproduction upholstery kit install. The lady owner had the work done at a body shop. Other cars pictured in this series show specific steps in restification projects.
Reasons for "Restifications"
In Jeff Moll's case, buying a half-disassembled car was a good reason to build a Resto-Mod. Jeff — a resident of Mukwonago, Wisconsin — felt it wasn't practical or cost effective to restore the car to original. Jeff wanted to retain all the great '67 Camaro "factory" styling and features, but use upgrades to improve the car. This is often called "restification." Jeff defines it as "making the car appear the way it could have been built back in the day — only better." Restification is easy to say, but it took Jeff four years to complete his'67 Camaro RS/SS Sport Coupe.
When Jim Mokwa, of Waupaca, Wisconsin, started restoring his '69 GTO Judge convertible, he knew where he was going with it. A friend found the "goat" in a Spokane, Washington, backyard. The angry girlfriend of a previous owner had bashed it with a baseball bat. The car had the wrong motor and transmission. "It was total chaos," Mokwa recalls. "My friend Orville, a tool and die maker, thought he could fix it, so he hauled it to his barn out in the country and stored it for 10 years."
"I saw the movement towards restifications and Resto-Mods and knew the car didn't have the right engine or other numbers-matching features," Jim says. "So I said let's go for the big horsepower and we built a car that looks pretty much original, but with modernized technology like a Butler engine kit, a Tremec tranny, American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels and Baer brakes."