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Owning a classic car, particularly a V8 is all about power, performance, and the exhilarating driving experience it provides. To take your car to the next level and truly unlock its potential, upgrading key components is essential, here are our Top 8 must-have upgrades for performance.
1968-1969 HOLDEN MONARO GTS327
Arthur Patras' Holden HK Monaro GTS327
featured by Unique Cars, Photo by Ellen Dewar

Navigating the world of classic car upgrades involves appreciating (and passionately arguing) about the distinctions between two popular styles: "restomod" and "pro touring." Whether you're eyeing the nostalgic charm of a restoration with a few minor mods or the high-performance edge of a purpose-built machine, the choice of upgrades is endless. In this article, we'll highlight important upgrades, help you choose the modifications that suit your preferences, and showcase some remarkable examples.

What Does "Restomod" Mean?

The term "restomod" is a fusion of "restoration" and "modified." Think of a restomod as a vehicle that embraces two parts restoration and one part modification. The primary goal of a restomod is to preserve the original aesthetics while upgrading performance, safety, and overall driving experience to modern day standards. For instance, enhancing brakes, tyres, and safety features ensures your classic machine remains enjoyable and secure on the road.

Unlike a full-scale restoration, which returns a car to its factory state, a restomod introduces contemporary elements to bridge the gap between vintage appeal and modern functionality. It strikes a balance, allowing enthusiasts to relish the charm of a classic ride with enhancements that make it suitable for daily driving.

Why Not Just Restore It?

While a restoration might be the preferred route for those seeking a time-capsule experience for collectible value, restomods appeal to individuals who want a blend of vintage aesthetics and enhanced performance. Restomods are cost-effective, especially for popular models with readily available aftermarket parts. They offer a balance between classic authenticity and modern practicality, making them a popular choice among enthusiasts who rather 'driven not hidden' cars!

The Pro Touring Machine

Distinct from the restomod, a pro touring car takes modifications to a higher level. Where the restomod recipe is typically two parts restoration and one part modification, the pro touring machine is one part restoration and two parts modified. Emphasizing the "pro," these machines are purpose-built for more than just the streets, making them built for competitions. Crafted by performance shops, pro touring cars feature custom-built chassis and suspension for optimal geometry, on-track safety, and unparalleled stiffness. These cars prioritize performance over street compromise, delivering an experience closer to a race car than a daily.

Restomod Vs. Pro Touring At A Glance

  • Affordability: Restomods are typically more affordable and can be built in stages. Pro touring projects often require significant planning.
  • Brakes: Restomods upgrade brakes to modern passenger-car standards to keep you, others, and your investment safe on the roads, while pro touring machines boast bigger race-ready rotors, pads and calipers.
  • Wheels & Tyres: Both can feature larger-diameter wheels, but pro touring cars lean towards aggressive rubber compounds and lighter, pricier wheels.
  • Chassis: Restomods retain the stock chassis, while pro touring cars often boast a ground-up custom chassis.
  • Suspension: Restomods, well-supported by low cost aftermarket parts, can quickly bridge the handling gap. Whereas pro touring suspension is often adjustable to tune for performance.
  • Overdrive: Both prioritize street driving which calls for overdrive transmissions, both automatic and manual opting for a taller gear ratio.
  • Safety: Both must pass a RWC inspection, however pro touring machines, seeing potential track use, necessitate significant safety upgrades, including rollbars or rollcages, and fire suppression systems.

Top 8 Must-Have Classic Car Upgrades for Performance

Owning a classic car, particularly a V8 is all about power, performance, and the exhilarating driving experience it provides. To take your car to the next level and truly unlock its potential, upgrading key components is essential.

Performance Exhaust System:

Revitalize your classic car's performance and sound by upgrading its exhaust system. Opting for a high-performance exhaust system, from headers or a cat-back system, not only makes your car sound great but also reduces exhaust back pressure, facilitating increased airflow. This modification results in increased horsepower, torque, and throttle response, creating a more hefty or aggressive exhaust sound.

Cold Air Intake:

Maximize your car's engine capabilities by incorporating a cold air intake system. These systems replace the factory airbox and filter, allowing a greater volume of cool air into the engine. The outcome is more horsepower, improved fuel efficiency, and better throttle response. Cold air intake upgrades can sit under the hood or external via scoops, bug catchers and air cleaners.

Power Steering:

Power steering significantly reduces the effort required to turn the wheels. This is a popular upgrade to improve the drivability of over a tonne of steel!

Some classic cars were also offered in the market with a choice to have power steering or not. That means those car models will already have parts for power steering available. And if not, there are also DIY parts available so you can upgrade your steering.

Upgraded Suspension System:

Navigate Australian roads with improved handling and cornering capabilities by upgrading your car's suspension system. Performance coilovers, adjustable shocks, and sway bars enable fine-tuning to match your driving style. Upgraded suspension components deliver enhanced stability, reduced body roll, and superior control, ensuring your classic or muscle car becomes a joy to drive on twisty roads or challenging racetracks.

High-Performance Tyres:

Maximise the potential of your street machine by equipping it with high-performance tyres, a crucial modification for the diverse Australian terrain. Performance-oriented tires with features such as wider tread, optimized rubber compounds, and aggressive tread patterns provide superior grip, traction, and handling characteristics. Upgrading to high-performance tyres ensures you can unleash your V8's power without compromising control, making it a perfect fit for our roads.

Brake Upgrades:

With increased power comes the necessity for superior stopping capabilities, particularly on Australian roads. Upgrading your car's brakes is essential for enhanced safety and performance. Consider installing larger brake rotors, high-performance brake pads, and stainless-steel brake lines for superior stopping power, reduced brake fade, and improved pedal feel. Brake boosters and master cylinders are a must-have direct replacement or upgrade, whether you're building a hot rod or simply restoring a classic car.

Limited-Slip Differential:

Enhance your car's traction and handling by incorporating a limited-slip differential (LSD). LSDs distribute torque effectively between the drive wheels, reducing wheel spin and enhancing acceleration, especially during high-powered launches. This upgrade is particularly valuable for muscle cars with rear-wheel drive, ensuring efficient power transfer to the street or track.

Upgraded Fuel System:

For those planning substantial power upgrades, enhancing the fuel system is paramount. High-flow fuel pumps, larger fuel cells, and higher CFM carburettors provide the necessary fuel flow to support increased horsepower and engine modifications. Proper fuel system upgrades ensure optimal fuel delivery, preventing fuel starvation and maintaining engine reliability, crucial for all driving conditions.

These performance upgrades are tailored for the Australian market, promising to elevate your car to new heights. From the distinctive sound of a performance exhaust to the reliability of an upgraded fuel system, these enhancements are sure to capture attention on Australian roads and racetracks. Prepare to dazzle the crowd when you unveil your revamped and improved classic restoration, American muscle car, Aussie V8 or British sports car.

By Thomas Kiu


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