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HomeCar CultureRear view: 9 - Futureproofing the fleet with the electro-mod

Rear view: 9 – Futureproofing the fleet with the electro-mod

It’s like a resto-mod, but with electric motors and batteries

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Go to any car show or collector car auction and you’ll see a lot of classic cars that appear to have been wonderfully preserved or restored to — or even beyond — their original factory-fresh glory.

But open the hood on many of those vehicles and you’ll see the original engine has been replaced by a modern V8 that not only provides more and more-efficient power, but doesn’t leak all over the garage floor. 

While under the hood, you also might notice updated suspension and braking components. 

Next, open one of the car doors and while the dashboard may appear to be original, there’s most likely Bluetooth technology and a modern audio system, and perhaps even GPS. Seating may have been upgraded from factory as well, and seat belts installed for safety.

Such vehicles are called resto-mods, that term coming from restoration and modification. But the changes — other than perhaps a fresh coat of paint and perhaps newer wheels and tires — have been made beneath the skin. The car looks original, but has been vastly improved in terms of comfort, performance, drivability and reliability.

In 2021, a major theme across the automotive spectrum was electrification, with automaker after automaker announcing that by 20whatever, all of its vehicles will forsake petroleum fuel in favor or electric motors and batteries. 

But what of our cherished collector cars? What’s to become of them on the electrified highways of the future? Might our cherished but petrol-powered vehicles be banned, or at least restricted to very limited use?

Two words: Futureproofing and electro-mod.

To assure that vintage vehicles can remain viable on the roadways of tomorrow, they likely will need to be futureproofed. That can be done by replacing petroleum-fueled internal-combustion engines with electric motors and batteries. Thus, the electro-mod.

Now don’t freak out. At the recent SEMA Show, ClassicCars.com and the Journal hosted an educational panel presentation on the subject. Among those on the panel were Dave Pericak, chief engineer on both the Gen-5 Ford Mustang and on the Mach-E version, as well as Craig Jackson of Barrett-Jackson, an early booster of resto-mods, as well as Michael Bream of EV West, Mark Davis of Moment Motor, Kirk Miller of AEM Performance Electronics and Adam Roe of Zero Labs, folks to do EV conversions or supply the parts for those conversions.

Since I was moderating the panel, I couldn’t take notes, but I do recall being surprised that one of the things panelists noted that improves with an EV conversion is safety, especially compared with vintage vehicles still equipped with their original parts.

SEMA recorded the session and as soon as that digital video is available, we’ll do a report on precisely what was said and by whom. 

By the way, the room was packed and when we opened things up to questions from the audience, several shop owners said they’re getting electro-mod conversion requests from car owners and wanted to know how to get trained on dealing with electric motors and batteries. 

Even after the formal session was over, panelists were detained by those with questions for a good 20 minutes or more.

So, remember in The Graduate, when Mr. McGuire tells Benjamin Braddock the future is “plastics.” Well, we’re telling you now, to keep classics on the road, it’s “electro-mods.”

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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