Restora­tion or Mod­i­fi­ca­tion?

Hot Rod - - Contents - hHOTROD. COM/ Johnny-Hunk­ins

Here we are about 50 years out from the ini­tial mus­cle-car boom of the 1960s. What we see is a pretty in­ter­est­ing di­vide right down the cen­ter of the hobby, with re­stored cars on one side and mod­i­fied cars on the other. Of course, when it all started, there was no one on the restora­tion side; you sim­ply had guys who drove their stuff as built from the fac­tory, and hot rod­ders who souped up their rides to suit their tastes. The bal­ance changed with the pas­sage of time, with more cars get­ting mod­i­fied and still more find­ing their way to the junk­yard.

The bal­ance be­tween restora­tion and mod­i­fi­ca­tion—I’m happy to say—is ac­tu­ally a fairly even split nowa­days. You have one camp that en­joys pre­serv­ing the past and dis­cov­er­ing the in­ter­est­ing lives th­ese cars have led, while the other side loves the per­son­al­iza­tion and per­for­mance that hot rod­ding pro­vides.

Re­stor­ers and hot rod­ders for their part do a pretty good job at not step­ping on each other’s toes. The preser­va­tion­ists don’t hoard too many in­line-six rust buck­ets that hot rod­ders like, and the horse­power junkies do a pretty good job of not butcher­ing rare 1-of-1 Su­per Duty Pon­ti­acs. I’ve never re­ally un­der­stood peo­ple who bag on shops that res­cue rust in the shape of a car with a tree grow­ing through it. Th­ese cars are al­most never worth pre­serv­ing and get a sec­ond lease on life. Yet if you lis­ten to some purists, you’d think cars were be­ing chucked di­rectly into the gap­ing mouth of the shred­der.

Some mo­tor­heads do a fair amount of snip­ing at the restora­tion guys, too. I can see the smoke com­ing out of their ears ev­ery time a re­stored mus­cle car crosses the auc­tion block fetch­ing an all-time high price. Col­lec­tors are uni­ver­sally de­spised as the root of all evil in the hobby, driv­ing up prices beyond reg­u­lar-guy money.

The re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is there’s an im­por­tant place for ev­ery­body in this hobby. It’s big enough for all, and the more peo­ple who join in—restora­tion guys, col­lec­tors, rod­ders, rac­ers, and cus­tom builders—the big­ger our col­lec­tive voice and the stronger we are as a group.

Serv­ing as a back­drop to our timeline is the fact that young peo­ple are en­ter­ing our hobby con­stantly. What they of­ten think is cool doesn’t even jibe with older hob­by­ists. Ja­cob

Davis, a 24-year-old HOT ROD Net­work staffer, is a per­fect ex­am­ple. His 1972 AMC Hor­net Sportabout wagon wouldn’t qual­ify to some as be­ing a hot rod, but to Ja­cob, it’s the coolest thing on wheels. I’m in­clined to agree with him, and not just be­cause it’s af­ford­able and out­side the “box,” but be­cause the style is pretty sweet. It also has that amaz­ing old-car smell. Look, a lot of the cars we love are the re­sult of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing them as kids, rid­ing shot­gun with Dad or sit­ting in the way-way back of a lon­groof.

Once you un­der­stand how nos­tal­gia drives your ir­ra­tional love of ma­chin­ery, you can then un­der­stand why Mike Mancini of Amer­i­can Mus­cle Car Restora­tions and car owner Joe Iuo­rio have spent the last two years turn­ing back the clock on per­haps the most iconic mus­cle car of all time: the 1969 Dodge Day­tona. I have per­son­ally seen our cover car up close and can tell you it looks like it just rolled off the semitruck at the Dodge deal­er­ship in 1969. If you should ever be for­tu­nate enough to breathe in a car like this, you will feel the rush of his­tory as it trans­ports you back in time through all your senses. It’ll put a smile on your face just as sure as bang­ing high gear at the dragstrip or hit­ting an apex per­fectly at Watkins Glen.

[ When they were new, even “car guys” hated the 1969 Dodge Day­tona. It’s a won­der any of them even sur­vived. Joe Iuo­rio’s was saved from the crusher in 1982; it’s been a long road back.

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