Our Two Cents: Our ultimate offbeat restomods

Try harder and they will interchange. Sajeev Mehta

Sure, cars like the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro are great candidates for a slick retro-fit to modern powertrains, high-tech suspensions, and all the other bits that make restomodding so popular. But what if you want to get a little weirder? I wanted to see if my co-workers would channel their inner Project Valentino, and consider something akin to the insanity of my restomodding of a Fox-body Lincoln Continental. Even it doesn’t feel that insane after you’ve done all you can to a Fox-body Mustang but I digress.

Let’s ask our team about their ultimate offbeat restomod: What would they make if they had all the money and labor in the world to create it?

Model T EV

I really think an EV Model T would be so much fun. It doesn’t need to go fast, and technically you only lose the need for the timing adjustment. The throttle lever could be a rheostat and then the driver uses the same three pedals of the stock ‘T. It would be perfect for popping around town. — Kyle Smith

Honda-powered Corvair


Here’s one that I’ve been pestering Kyle about for a while: a Honda K-series swapped Corvair. Why, you ask?

Honda K-series are the LS equivalent of 4-cylinders and are easy to come by. The Corvair’s transmission requires a counterclockwise rotation engine, and that’s precisely how the K spins its crank. You can keep it simple and build a high-RPM screamer that makes 200–300 hp, which is way more than stock, or you can add a turbo and crank the wick WAAAAAY up for some extra danger. — Greg Ingold

“But, but boxer Subie swap!” — Sajeev Mehta

“Nah, that answer seems too obvious.” — Greg Ingold

A Fighting Fit Boxster


I’ve always thought it’d be fun to build my 986-generation Boxster the way I think it should’ve left the factory. The chassis would be set up as a modern equivalent GTS-spec—more capable than the base cars, but not as stiff as the GT3. Light-weighting with carbon body panels and a front end updated with 996.2 headlights and GT3 front bumper. Expensive leather and stitched interior surfaces to make it feel less budget-oriented. Add in a Mezger 3.6 from that generation GT3. Grab the wheels off the original concept car. And then finish it all off in a subtle ’50s Porsche color like Azure Blue. — Eddy Eckart

A not Lil’ Red Dodge


I had a 1979 full-time four-wheel-drive, short bed, stepside Dodge pickup in red—sort of an anonymous Lil’ Red without the embarrassing side graphics and exhaust pipes. It was during the gas crisis so I got a four-speed manual with the 225 cubic-inch slant-six, thinking it would save me money. It did not.

I got 10 miles per gallon sitting, driving, off-roading: No matter what, it got 10 miles per gallon. Still, I loved that truck and always wondered what it would be like with a proper V-8. I’d drive a restomod version of that pickup every day. — Steven Cole Smith

Lamborghini E-Spada

1970 lamborghini espada birthday 2

Already doing it (or I will when I get around to it): EV powertrain in a Lamborghini Espada. The E-Spada if you will. I want one that I can daily drive on short trips, and the gas Espada is singularly terrible for that, what with 17.5 quarts of oil in the engine to warm up. It takes 10 minutes before the oil temp needle is even off the peg, and you can’t really run it hard until the needle moves.

Also, they stink. And leak. The engine is both the best and worst thing about any old Lamborghini. Electrifying is a perfect solution, and with a 100-mile battery, the weight distribution works out about the same as a fully fueled gasser. Got the rolling shell donor, just need the time and money, and for the EV conversion industry to develop a bit more. — Aaron Robinson

Front-engine C8

Sajeev Mehta

I’d pay some angry Corvette purist to build a C8 Corvette with the engine up front. I don’t really think the packaging would allow for a big V-8 beneath that low nose, so maybe I’d spec it with an Iron Duke four or a 13B rotary, just to make that angry purist even angrier. — Stefan Lombard

All Corvettes are red … block.

C4 Corvette
Brandan Gillogly

Stefan, you’ve inspired me. I love Corvettes, and I love 240-series Volvos. I also love Corvette-swapped 240s—but we gotta do something with all those jettisoned Swedish four-cylinders. Lord knows they have a lot of life left in them. (This is true no matter how many miles the engine may have. Any 240 owner will back me up.) Why not a Redblock-swapped Corvette? I’ll be generous to the purists and pick a C4—the least sexy of the breed, and the squarest. — Grace Houghton

Project Hermès?

After Project Valentino, there’s only one choice. Bugatti

Since I am already answering this particular question with my Project Valentino, it’s hard to top what’s currently emptying my wallet. Then I thought of other designer editions, and the Bugatti Veyron Hermès edition is the only thing crazier than what’s currently in the hopper. Unlike the Valentino-fettled Fox-body, I doubt you can squeeze any more out of that Bugatti’s factory engineering, but perhaps more aero would be worth it. I’m thinking a fan in the back like that Chaparral race car.

But wait, there is more power afoot: Gut the powertrain and slam in the EV-guts from the Rimac Nevera. It would chop off a second from the Bugatti’s 0–60 time, be even more silent/train-like than it currently is, and it’d ensure I never deal with camera-laden gawkers at the gas station. Not that I’m famous, but I ain’t got time for that. — Sajeev Mehta




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    That last GM EV-1 that was sitting in a parking garage for decades, somehow defying the crush order.

    Restomodded with an Olds quad 4, awd and done so it isn’t obvious it’s all cut up underneath. Give it a 60s hot rod black interior while you are at it, and an Ed Roth level funky paint scheme.

    Nobody else has one…

    Best on I have seen in last couple of years is a circa 1972 MGB GT with a complete Honda S2000 drivetrain including 6 speed. Built by retired Michelin engineer…

    I have considered RWD conversion of the Cadillac Allante with a Porsche/Corvette style transaxle in the rear. Seems like the approach that would require the least amount of body modification

    When I worked at Chrysler, a co-worker had done all the math and determined it possible to drop a 2nd gen Hemi into a Fiat 500. Seemed like a good idea to me.

    I guess I just wasn’t thinking big enough. I always thought it would be fun to put a Vortec 4200 I-6 and a 5 or 6 speed into a Firebird Sprint. Maybe turbocharge it. Add new suspension. Bigger 4 wheel disks and proportionally larger wheels and tires. To me, this sounds like the ultimate canyon carver, money losing proposition.

    I like this idea really well…. an improvement over the OEM pontiac OHC 6. That said, I still love my
    first new car…. a ’69 LeMans Sprint 4 spd., with added triple webers and headers….

    There have been a few Opel GT’s done up with a small V8. Wonder how a potent V6, such as what Buick offered, would do?

    I never thought of a Corvair with a Honda swap. That sounds bizarre and possibly awesome. Would a B series motor work if a K series does?

    Yes, the B-Series also turns counterclockwise. My thinking for the K-Series is that they are way cheaper in general plus there is really good support to longintudinally mount them where I am not sure whether the B-Series does or if it’s affordable.

    A friend of mine had a Honda S 800 and he removed the Honda engine and installed a Toyota 1600cc 20 valve engine but when he started it up he discovered that he had 4 reverse gears and only one forward! The only way he could overcome it was to turn the rear axle over, which he did, but this meant that the forward motion was now running on the unhardened differential teeth and reverse was now on the hardened side of the teeth so the crown wheel only lasted for about 100 miles before it was whining like a sick pig.

    Back in the day, Corvair swaps were not uncommon and well supported by the aftermarket community.
    If memory serves (which it rarely does), there was a company (Crown perhaps) making a kit to reverse the rotation that placed ads in the back of many sporty car mags of the time.
    I always thought an complete Olds Jetfire 215 V8 would be a good choice to put in to make a real honkin’ Turbo ‘Vair.

    There were two companies offering mid engine V-8 swaps. The Crown conversion used a modified transaxle in the stock location. Also required a fiberglass panel the the seats molded in place. The room was very tight. The Kellmark set-up simply rotated the transaxle 180 degrees. That saved something like 10 inches of room and a whole lot of complications.

    Another set up was to drop an Olds Toronado 455 drive train in. With the stock Toro muffler it was super quite…until you floored it

    I always thought an El Dorado transaxle in the back of any late 60s-early 70s muscle car would be pretty radical. Sort of a GM Pantera.

    I built one of those as a teenager. The hard part was getting the suspension so it did not try to swap ends on deceleration.

    I ended up walking away from it when I moved across country.

    I remember seeing a Porsche with the Olds Toronado drivetrain visible through the rear glass. It was featured in a magazine specializing in engine swaps.

    Back in the 60s, there was a “funny car” (Oldsmobile Cutlass) that had the big Toronado V8, supercharged, one in the front and one in the back. I was in the Army at the time; so, I never got to see it run. In Hot Rod Magazine, there were photos of the car with all four tires smoking away, down the strip!

    In the 70s, Tommy (TV) Ivo campaigned a dragster that had 4 Buick engines. One for Each wheel. It was strictly “Show”. No racing. I read in one of the car magazines that on his first test run he dug 4 holes in the asphalt. Never saw it run but in the pictures I saw it was awesome.

    There was some great footage of TV Tommy’s “Showboat” in the movie “Bikini Beach” – the sound it made was incredible.

    Some weird stuff here, indeed. Most dangerous? Potentially the Honda/Corvair, or the electrified Model T.
    Worst? Undoubtedly the C4 Corvette – the last really low, sleek-looking Corvette (and yes, I do like the C6 and C8, but still) – with a four-cylinder *gag* Volvo *gag* engine, a boat anchor if there ever was one – no matter how long they live (a friend has one with well over 300,000 miles).

    Done! My dad put a 445 wildcat running gear(’67?) in a ’52 International long bed 1/2 ton pickup. I got to drive that beast at 16 years old!! Doing 140 on the freeway, passing Corvettes, was FUN!
    Truck was never painted, so it just looked like an old pickup.

    In the late 70’s the parts manager at our local Cadillac-Pontiac dealer had a 1960 Ford 1 ton, 4X4 long bed step side pickup (including a side mount spare) with a 472 caddy engine and a hydromatic trans. Jack was a machinist/hobbyist. That thing would idle in gear at about 1 to 2 mph. True stump puller. It also had power windows!

    I would be happy if I could find out what I need to install Chryslers 3.6 into my 1999 Dodge Dakota. It is a 5spd 4×4 with the 3.9 v-6. The 3.6 has more power than even the stock v-8 of that era. I have a3.6 in my Journey all wheel drive , it’s quick, smooth, and I get around 26 mpg . Seems like all pluses ++++ to me . And since they use the 3.6 in the Jeeps and other rear wheel drives. Of course I realize you need all the electronics to go with it

    My sister’s ’20 Grand Cherokee has that engine with the 8-speed behind it. It is surprisingly peppy for a 3.6 liter.

    My dream is a Lotus Elite Mk 1 but made in modern materials, ie carbon fiber in place of fiberglass. And all that has been learned about composite construction over the years. The hard part? What drive train to use? Since this is my dream, it has to be small and lightweight. And 150 – 200 hp would be fine. The other hard part? Narrow wheels and tires of an appropriate diameter. But a guy can dream. Granted, this is sounding more like a recreation than a resto-mod.

    Okay, this one’s really off the wall and esoteric, but I’ve always wanted Fiat X1/9 or Lancia Scorpion with a Mazda rotary.

    A friend who owned a body shop in the 70’s had a Chevy LUV 4×4 with Mazda rotary in it. Amazing machine. He eventually pulled the rotary and stuffed a Chevy small block in it. It was on the cover of one of the off road magazines back in the day. he built it in 8 days.

    There have been lots of weird ones in my head for years, so here are a couple: Honda-powered original Minis are cool, but almost blase nowadays. So take it up a notch or two by dropping a GTi drivetrain in the middle to power the rear wheels with. 1.8T, 2.0 Turbo, VR6? Take your pick, they’d all be seriously cool. Another one I’ve been dreaming about for a while… Take a Subaru 360 van and put something compact but potent like a RWD supercharged GM 3.8L in the middle for some fun. Flares with short fat wheels and tires on all four corners would make it kind of look like a 3/4 scale version of the English Ford Transit Supervans from the sixties. There are plenty more in my head – like gasser versions of various small 50’s or 60’s Euro coupes and sedans. Love me some straight axle front, ladder bar rear suspensions under funky cars. I could go on, but I’ll attempt to maintain my thin veneer of normalcy and stop now…

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