Call them what you like but there’s now a blossoming industry dedicated to upgrading and improving classic cars.
Whether you want a subtly updated icon to deal with modern driving or an all out wold in sheep’s clothing, we’ve listed the best restomods going in alphabetical order:
Without doubt, the AC Cobra is the most replicated car in the world, with many times the number of copies in existence compared to the 1000 or so originals made. However, there are copies and there are recreations, and it’s the latter camp that Brian Angliss and his Autokraft company fall into with its faithful remake of the Mk3 Cobra.
Angliss bought the rights to the AC Cars name and used original jigs and tools to produce around 480 continuation cars. They used a more modern 5.0-litre V8 to deal with stricter emissions regulations and are now sought after in their own right, with prices from around £135,000. And AC Cars is set to return with a new model in 2020 under its new management.
Alfa Romeo GTA-R 290
Alfaholics knows more about building fast classic Alfas than anyone else, so it’s GTA-R 290 is an incredible piece of kit. It retains the delicate looks of the GTA 1300 but comes with a 240bhp 2.3-litre screamer of a four-cylinder engine. Weighing 830kg thanks to plenty of carbon fibre panels, it has a power to weight ration of, you guessed it, 290bhp per tonne.
That makes the GTA-R very quick and it has modern semi-slick tyres to cope. There are also 300mm front and 267mm rear brake discs, but no assistance so feel is very much of the 1960s unfettered variety. A GTA-R 290 in this spec will set you back around £190,000, which seems like decent value when an immaculate original GTA will set you back £300,000.
Ares Corvette C2
You’d bet the house a restomodded Corvette would come from the warmer states of the US, but Ares creates its Stingray recreation in Italy. Using the second generation C2 as a base, Ares restores the car before adding the suspension, brakes and running gear from the last of the run front-engined C7 Corvettes.
Under the bonnet, there’s a 525bhp 6.2-litre V8 and five-speed manual gearbox. Wheels are now 19-inches at the front and 20-inch rims at the back, yet the turbine design closely mimics the original’s. Plenty other details persist, like the pop-up headlights and tapered rear window design. It takes around 3500 hours to complete the Ares C2 and the company charges from £300,000. If you don’t fancy a Corvette, they also offer uprated Land Rover Defenders, Ferrari 400i and De Tomaso Panteras.
Aston DB4 GT
Few cars captured the gentleman’s club racer ethos of the late 1950s better than the Aston Martin DB4 GT, so little wonder the company fancied its chances selling recreations at £1.5 million apiece. All 25 have sold and each has a chassis number that continues from the last built in period, though Aston has previously produced a handful of continuation DB4 Zagatos as well. This crop takes 4500 hours each to build.
The track-only DB4 GT Continuation has a few upgrades that weren’t available when the original was new, so you get a 4.2-litre straight six in place of the 1959 car’s 3.7-litre unit. This bigger motor gives 331bhp and there’s a roll cage and FIA fuel cell to reflect its track bias. However, the tyres remain skinny like the first DB4 GT’s, so the driving experience remains close to how it would have been for Stirling Moss.
David Brown Mini Remastered
Shelling out £75,000 on a classic Mini could get you the very best Cooper S or something with a bit of racing provenance. Or, you could choose the David Brown Mini Remastered. Far from being a faithful recreation of any particular car, the Remastered is a modern take on the upgraded Minis from the likes of Hooper or Radford.
Each Remastered car takes around 1400 hours to make, which is explained by the immaculate finish and brand new bodyshell. Only the engine and gearbox are taken from a donor car and they are uprated. With 75bhp, it’s perky by Mini standards but you can tick a box for more power too. There’s also the famed Mini handling to keep you entertained when not looking at the luxury upgrades inside the cabin.
Eagle has been restoring, uprating and enhancing Jaguar E-types since the 1980s. The pinnacle of all this acquired knowledge is the Speedster that is a pared down, tuned up notion of what Jaguar might have achieved itself were it to come up with a more focused E-type.
Shorn of bumpers and any excess exterior chromework, the Speedster has subtly reworked styling to give it a more race car feel. This is carried on under the bonnet, where a 4.7-litre version of the original XK engine now resides and it’s attached to a bespoke five-speed manual gearbox. The interior is also hand-finished to each buyer’s specification and each Speedster costs around £600,000 to complete.
Achingly pretty, the Ferrari Dino has just about enough performance to back up the looks. However, if you want a Dino with real bite, you need to speak to Moto Technique, which has perfected fitting Ferrari’s V8 motors into this delicate slice of 1970s supercar style.
It started with a 3.2-litre V8 but has progressed to a 400bhp 3.6-litre version that comes with a Perspex engine cover so you can see the F40-derived motor lurking within. However, that’s about the only external clue as even the wheels have been chose to blend in with the overall look and feel. As for price, every car is a one-off, but you can guarantee you’ll need deep pockets.
The cosy, cutesy MG B isn’t the first car you’d think of for a retro makeover, but Frontline shows just how far you can take this classic Brit. It does away with the wheezy B Series motor and borrows from the modern incarnation of the MG, the Mazda MX-5. So, you get a tuned 289bhp 2.5-litre engine and six-speed manual gearbox good enough for 0-60mph in 4.0 seconds and 160mph.
Every other area of the MG is uprated by Frontline, which means a restored and beefed up bodyshell, six link rear suspension and larger brakes all round. There’s also a plush interior to remind you where you spent £88,475.
Gunther Werks 400R
Starting with a 993 generation of Porsche 911, California-based company Gunther Werks strips this already desirable classic sports car to its bare bones. From there, a 400R emerges as the engine is taken up to a 4.0-litre and 400bhp. It revs to 7800rpm and is coupled to an upgraded six-speed manual gearbox, while the suspension is also fully reworked and has a six-inch wider track front and back compared to the donor car’s.
Bigger brakes, wheels and tyres keep the 400R in check, while inside the car is completely retrimmed to have a more classic look and feel. Creating the ultimate air-cooled, normally aspirated 911 was the aim of Gunther Werks and, for $525,000 (£400,000), they’ve got it bang on.
Icon Toyota FJ
Icon is an aptly named company based in Los Angeles, USA. It strips and rebuilds Toyota’s iconic FJ 4x4 into something way beyond the utility vehicle it was originally intended to be. However, don’t think this is a luxury car to rival a modern Range Rover. Instead, Icon focuses on making the FJ even more of an off-road warrior.
To do this, the FJ often receives a Corvette-spec V8 engine with power starting at 430bhp. If you want more, Icon will happily oblige. There’s upgraded off-road kit for the suspension, axles and gearbox, as well as a roll cage and better seats. All of this costs from $190,000 (£145,000) and takes at least 12 months to complete.
Jaguar E-type Lightweight
Jaguar’s E-type was the car to have in the 1960s and the Lightweight racing model took the fight to the likes of Aston Martin and Ferrari on track. However, only 12 of the 18 planned were made, so Jaguar Heritage decided to make good the shortfall and build six continuation cars costing a minimum of £1.5 million depending on specification.
That spec includes a body make from hand-formed aluminium to earn the Lightweight its name by being 114kg gentler on the scales than a standard E-type roadster. With an aluminium block for the 3.8-litre motor that generates more than 300bhp, the Lightweight also handles far more nimbly and evokes the same raw racing experience as the original.
Jaguar XKSS Continuation
The Jaguar XKSS was always a rare machine when it was new as production was cut short by a factory fire in 1957. This meant there were nine chassis numbers left unused and Jaguar has picked up where the fore left off to finish the production run. It also means this is one of the rarest of Jaguar’s recently reborn models, including D-type and E-type models.
An obsessive attention to detail from Jaguar Classic means all of the 2000 rivets that hold the body together are in exactly the same positions as on an original XKSS. The only changes from the 1957 spec is a modern safety fuel tank and fuel lines to cope with the latest petrol. All of this takes around 10,000 working hours to create, which makes the £1 million-plus price tag seem almost reasonable.
Jensen Automotive International Interceptor R
The Interceptor has always revelled in its large capacity engines, so it’s fitting that Jensen International Automotive has opted for a Chevrolet V8 for the R. This 6.2-litre motor is fitted with a supercharger for good measure and cranks out 560bhp. To deal with this, there’s a six-speed automatic gearbox and customers can choose whether they want rear- or four-wheel drive just as they could when the Interceptor was new.
From the outside, and even when sat in the driver’s seat, there’s not a lot to give away the restomodded R’s potential. There’s a little less chrome for the exterior and better quality materials inside, so it’s only when you put your foot down do you realise where much of the £180,000 asking price has been spent.
Land Rover Defender Works
The Defender is a car that just refuses to lie down and even Land Rover has got in on the action with its Defender Works V8 70th Edition. Built using cars already registered, the Works V8 was only offered to 150 customers. Each car received an updated infotainment system, improved interior and Recaro sports seats, and upgrades to the suspension and brakes.
At its core, this Works model also had a 5.0-litre Jaguar V8 with 399bhp and 380lb ft of torque. This ran through an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, helping the Works V8 from rest to 60mph in 5.6 seconds. There was also a new centre differential to help with off-roading in this £150,000 homage to the iconic 4x4.
Legacy Power Wagon
Legacy Classic Trucks will build you any sort of updated US pick-up you fancy, but its Dodge Power Wagon is the one that’s grabbed the imaginations of buyers. From its base in rural Idaho, USA, Legacy turns these old workhorses into fantastic modern 4x4s, or even 6x6s, over the course of 1000 hours of work.
Rather than focus on outright performance, though, Legacy prefers to accentuate the traits that made the Power Wagon popular in the first place. This means you get serious off-road equipment, including a winch, more ground clearance and improved towing capacity. It’s fair to say, Legacy expects its owners to use this truck for more than a Sunday jaunt after spending from $185,000 (£140,000).
The word ‘continuation’ takes on a whole new meaning with the Lister Knobbly. Here is a car that’s not only built by the same company as the originals, looks the same and goes the same, it’s built using the same tools and jigs. This makes the Knobbly a truly authentic slice of driving fun from the 1950s brought bang up to date, complete with a 340bhp 3.8-litre Jaguar engine.
If that doesn’t sound like a lot of power, the Knobbly weighs only 900kg and comes on the same narrow Dunlop tyres as it did when first new back in the 1950s. On top of that, this car can be driven on the road, unlike many other recreations, so the £300,000 is easier to justify.
From the outside, Mechatronic’s improved classic Mercedes look identical to any other immaculately restored SL or Coupe. Peer under the bonnet and that illusion is dispelled with the sight of a modern 4.3-litre V8 engine with 275bhp. It’s attached to a slick five-speed automatic gearbox that is far smoother than any four-speed auto ever fitted to these cars in period.
There are plenty of other changes, such as the addition of ABS brakes, KW suspension and the latest infotainment systems blended into the cabin. Flawless bodywork and upholstery can be ordered in any colours you like, which you’d expect when handing over £265,000.
Many tried to copy the Lamborghini Countach, but most ended up as angular disasters based on anything from a VW Beetle to some very flaky steel tube bedsteads. Not Prova. It chose the LP5000 as its inspiration when it launched its replica in 1991 and the firm is still going strong supplying millimetre perfect examples that use an Audi RS5’s V8 mounted amidships.
Some owners opt for V12 motors, with even a few fitting genuine Lamborghini motors. However, what sets the Prova apart from other Countach copies is it’s the only one to gain approval from FerruccioLamborghini, who stated the Prova was better built than the original. High praise indeed for a car you can drive off in for around £50,000, which is a fraction of the cost of an original.
Range Rover Classic
The first-generation Range Rover is one of the most loved classics of the 1970s, so it’s no surprise to find this game-changing 4x4 being recreated to better than new. There are plenty of companies offering upgrades to the Range Rover, but why not go to the source and order one from Land Rover itself?
You’ll need at least £135,000 to consider this route, but what you get is effectively a brand new but original Range Rover. Each car is carefully selected by Land Rover for the programme to ensure they are genuine and unmolested before a ground-up restoration. The customer can choose the specification to suit themselves, including subtle upgrades to the brakes, suspension and cabin comfort.
In the world of restomod Porsche 911s, one name stands out and it’s Singer. The California-based company has become a global force in reworked and reimagined air-cooled 911s. It all starts with a 964 generation car built between 1989 and 1994, which Singer then strips to every last nut and bolt before reassembling it to better than new condition but with a raft of upgrades.
Among the improvements that Singer offers its customers are carbon fibre bodywork to make the car lighter, though the doors are left in steel to retain their crash worthiness. Engines, brakes, wheels, suspension, interior and lighting are all finished to an individual customer’s specification, with prices starting from around $475,000 (£360,000).
Superperformance Ford GT40
If you lust after an original Ford GT40 but baulk at the multi-million pound price, the Superperformance GT40 is for you. Whether you want the purity of the Mk1 model or the brute force of a racing version, this US-based firm has all the answers.
Alongside its Cobra recreations, Superperformance has built more than 4000 of its GT40 chassis. The car is accurate in almost every detail and more than 65% of the recreation’s parts can be shared with an original GT40. That includes the Ford V8 motor at its heart and the car is so close to the original that Superperformance GT40s were used in 2019’s Le Mans ’66 film. Offered in left- or right-hand drive, a Superperformance GT40 costs from £162,000.
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