How to Upgrade a Classic

1958 Corvette. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

If you are a fan of auto fix up shows, you are very familiar with the term “resto mod.” If it is a new term to you, it is shorthand for “restored yet modified.” (If you are unfamiliar with the term “shorthand,” I ask that you do a bit of Internet searching. Last weekend, I overheard two teenagers raving over a typewriter; they had heard of such a device but had never actually seen one. I posted about this on Facebook and got a hundred responses; many of which implied I was being too harsh on the kids.)

“Resto moding” is blasphemy to automotive purists. They hate to see classics “mutilated” with modern drivelines, brakes, suspension, and tires. For many years, any deviation from the original specifications was severely punished on the auction block. For some cars this means an almost ridiculous attention to detail. (Corvette restorers have reference photographs of the “acceptable” misalignment of assembly stickers and “proper” runs in undercoating.)

Attitudes are changing, however. In recent televised auctions, “resto mods” have actually sold for higher prices than perfectly restored “originals.” Apparently some enthusiasts actually want to drive their toys around without fear of modern traffic conditions. They prefer a car that looks “classic” but drives like a modern car.

There may be a few museums that display old gearboxes and industrial equipment restored to original specification. (If you know of one please let us know so we can visit.) Far more likely is a processing plant with a maintenance staff who would dearly love a weekend off from nursing their “classic” machinery into operating condition.

So how do you help them have more leisure hours? The same way the custom car shops do: you apply the latest technology to the revolving elements and fit them inside of a carefully refurbished “chassis.” We can easily increase the nameplate capacity of old units with carburized, hardened, and ground gearing. Bearings have higher ratings as well, even if the fit-up dimensions are unchanged. Seals and lubrication systems have never been better, either.

Best of all, these “resto mods” will fit into exactly the same foundations and can usually be eased into the line as needed to replace the maintenance hogs. A few more thoughts on this next time.

About Charles D. Schultz 671 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.