Restoration or Modification?
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.