Modernizing a Classic Car

Modernizing a classic ride is an often debated topic on the front stoops and driveways of America.  There are solid arguments to be made for both sides in the discussion.  There is nothing like that classic style, as originally designed and intended back in the day – with attention to stitching, woodwork, lines/curves in the body and interior and all that funky stuff that entails a vintage automobile. Moving your wheels into the 21st century with some technological updates can mean increased convenience, but in my mind, the best argument to be made for modernization is all about safety concerns.

If you are choosing to futurize, then safety first should be your mantra.  Yes you want to do a bunch of other funky stylings to your car, but all of that needs to be built around a framework of safety at its core.  Air bags should be your first addition – with both front & side curtain ones of course if you are going to do it right.  After that, anti-lock brakes, power steering, wider, newer styled tires for stability, newer model seatbelts with a shoulder strap, On Star/car phone and maybe even a roll cage/bar are all good potential options depending on what kind of vehicle you are working with.

Once you have the safety concerns handled, then you can start thinking about adding an iPod docking bay, flat screens for the back seat riders, headphones/jacks, rims, spinners, custom lighting and all that funky stuff which can be cool, but if anything decreases you safety on the road, rather than increasing it – if only by making you and your car more of a magnet for thieves than it already was just being a classic. But if you don’t mind drawing attention to yourself and you really want to get crazy, there are a plethora of even wilder ideas you can try with your neo-classic experimental project.

Some people like to work with a more modern engine, if only because it can be easier to fix and cheaper and easier to find parts for.  As long as you put in an engine with enough power for the weight it has to move and a design that fits the design of the car closely, if not perfectly, that can be quite a wise move for both the short and long term. Once you’ve crossed the barrier of worrying about needing to “keep it real” and do everything the way it was done in the past, then really, the sky’s the limit as to what you can do. If you want to race it, you can install nitrous oxide boosters, but remember if you do that, be honest and up front with your insurance agent to make sure that your hefty investment will be covered in case you crash it in a race or such.

If you like to take adventures in the outdoors, you could camper-ize your car, putting a mattress in the back, with fold down seats or such and then install a T-roof like on old Pontiac Firebirds so you can gaze at the stars as you fall into sleep. Your imagination is your only limit.

Mike Machina has written for 944 Magazine/944.com, Comcast, The Onion and Westword and has been a car enthusiast since he was first able to get behind the wheel of a truck on his friend’s farm in elementary school. He specializes in blogging about classic cars, everyday driving tips, maintenance, insurance and car humor.

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