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The Fashion Police

There has been a slew of ballyhoo lately concerning modified Mopars. Not wanting to feel left out, I am jumping into the fray. First of all, y’all can go and do whatever you want to your cars. It’s your right and it’s your car. Go ahead and put those “pimpstars" on it. Just don’t be too surprised to find them dated one day. You see, everyone knows about the big wheel deal by now; better handling yadayada ad infinitum. It is just a trend and one day those wheels are gonna go. Someday soon you'll look at the car and realize they are just plain wrong. They are out of proportion. Sure, they handle better, but so what. If handling is really what you are after then buying a ‘60s car to get it is barking up the wrong tree. You want modern? Go buy modern.

Try this for a concept: a vintage car is a time machine. When you roll in a vintage car you get to travel back in time. The sound, the feel, even the smells invoke the past. You drive differently and, yes, that can be due to an obsolete suspension. And here comes my next rub. What is the deal with gutting out the whole Chrysler T-bar system? Is it really that bad? Does your street going car suffer that badly by having a well-tuned vintage suspension? Just like the big wheel deal, the day will come when all that stuff gets ripped back out in favor of period-correct equipment.

What’s the deal with bad graphics or trim that’s been removed and then airbrushed back on? What is a DVD player doing in a Duster? What is up with engines covered in carbon fiber and billet parts? Ugh. Mixing and matching components and ideas from a three-decade period is like an Italian restaurant with egg rolls and sushi on the menu. Here’s another concept: a car should fit a definitive period or style.

Some trends of the past now look absurd and ironically some of the most absurd now look cool to us. Take on the late ‘60s through the mid ‘70s. With a detached sense of irony even lace paint and bubbles look cool. But are they really classic? Will they become part of our “pallet” from which to pick and choose design ideas for the next project? Maybe we’ll just look back and laugh the way we do with the splash graphics of the ‘80s that with any luck will stay buried forever.

Looking right is the key. Wheels, tires, interiors, colors, even gauges count. A Super Bee with plain steelies or a '65 Belvedere with torque thrusts looks right. It’s not rocket science. Twenty-inch euro-styled Autobahn crushers are just wrong. Getting into a vintage car with an "improved" modern interior is a bummer too. Velour? Don’t do it. It’s like a dash with digital gauges. Just stop it. Plum Crazy Purple is the wrong color for a '62 Dart. Are you gonna wear hip waders with a tuxedo?

If you are building a dedicated racecar then the doors of modification are wide open but some of the same caveats still apply. There is a big difference between a well-presented and executed racecar and one with a mishmash of styles. Some of the best are clones, or near clones of vintage brethren and even some of the old equipment can make for a pretty exciting car. Again, if being competitive is the goal then major mods might be the order of the day, then again, maybe not. Look at the “Mopete” car featured in the last issue or at Lee Sicilio’s record holding Daytona. These cars are competitive and they look right. Check out Bob Mosher’s cars. Concept: stop trying to re-invent the wheel.

The whole deal is about design and proportion. It’s like a deuce coupe with a three-inch chop, big ‘n littles, and a flathead with ‘97s. It’s right. The same car with a Camaro front clip, an '82 Vette motor and fluorescent pink paint is wrong. In the hot rod world cars are being “put back” constantly. The same will happen to the muscle cars. Everything period correct from wheels to engines and speed equipment will go back into the car. The tweed velour disaster will go to the dump and interiors will revert to an OEM or a custom variation on the theme. All the best ideas are already out there and waiting to be plucked, brought back and tweaked. Many cars are being built now that are telegraphing where this will go.

It’s not that modifying cars is inherently bad or that it will stop. This is not a call for a return to bone stock or go die. It’s a cry for taste and style. Realize that the room for individuality is there and it is in the infinity of details and within the confines of what is and will be considered classic design. Don’t go gilding the lily.  

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