Eagle E-Type Low Drag GT

The Best of the Restos

No, You Can’t Afford a Singer or an Eagle, But There is Hope…

Sadly, I don’t have half a million dollars handy, the starting point for a Singer, but for me, it's the only 911. When I look at the latest iteration of Porsche’s flagship sports car, I see a frog's face, connected by dull, predictable lines to a bulbous rear end, not unlike a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica. It is still possible to pick up a strikingly gorgeous example from the late ’70s for under $100K, but I wouldn’t, because, regardless of how dull it is to behold, a modern 911 remains a superb car to drive, whereas a Porsche from the ‘70s is exactly that, and thus tends not to stop, corner, or go, like a new one. The Singer 911 RestoMod is the perfect Porsche for enthusiasts who crave the analog driving experience and stunning aesthetics of a classic 911, but prefer to spend their Sunday driving it, as opposed to lying under it... and also happen to have half a million bucks handy.

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RestoMod | noun /restəʊˈmɒd/: a classic car that has been restored, but modified with contemporary parts and/or technology. Where the outward appearance of the car is faithfully maintained, if sometimes enhanced, and key mechanicals, such as the engine, drivetrain, suspension, brakes, etc. are replaced with modern and/or upgraded examples.

From One-Off to Show-Off

The restoration and modification of classic cars is far from new. Enthusiasts have been turning up at mechanic’s shops with all manner of far-fetched ideas to improve (or simply extend the life of) their beloved autos for decades. Enterprising pioneers, such as Ringbrothers in the USA, evolved in response to the growing demand for parts, ultimately building some of the first ‘in-house’ RestoMods to showcase their business at the annual SEMA show, setting a new bar for quality as they went. Indeed, owing to the exceptional standards and extraordinary detail incorporated into their early creations, Singer Designs, and Eagle GB would see an influx of interest and demand leading them to specialize in a single marque and model. Singer Designs, based in Los Angeles, are classic Porsche 911 specialists, and Eagle, operating out of Sussex, England, are renowned for their flawless E-Type reincarnations.

They were also among the first workshops to offer clients a standard template from which to order. Marking a subtle but significant shift from the manufacture and installation of parts for existing classic car owners, to building complete RestoMods for wealthy admirers of classic cars, hitherto dissuaded from owning them because of their inherent reliability and performance limitations. The level of work involved (Singer states over 4000 man-hours per build), the cost of exotic parts, and finite availability of donor cars, all ensure that RestoMods will always be expensive - an Eagle E-Type will set you back close to a million dollars. Nevertheless, as demand grows, new shops are opening, and firms like Super Cooper (reviewed below), are still depressingly expensive, but at least worthy of adding to your dream purchase list - if you’re reading this, I know you have one.

The Petroleum Spirit Top Five Best of the Restos:

No. 5

Super Cooper S

 

The Super Cooper Sport

The Super Cooper Sport by Super Coopers

I have no evidence, but it seems entirely likely that the fellow who first uttered the phrase, 'It will always be more fun to drive a slow car fast...' had probably just stepped out of an Austin Mini. It may be time for a new maxim. Super Coopers, operating out of Buelton, California, specialize in restomodding BMC’s 60’s icon and offer buyers six customizable templates to choose from. The most hair-raising of these is the Type S, where the familiar, mild-mannered exterior belies a ferocious, supercharged V6, shoe-horned into the trunk, and capable of producing an insane 502 bhp at the wheels. For context, the famously frisky Lancia Stratos produced about 180 WHP when first released. Super Coopers are limiting production of this mini monster to ten, and despite costing at least $150,000, I doubt they’ll have any issues finding buyers. Don’t despair Mini lovers, on paper at least, the Type S will attempt to kill you every time you drive it, whereas the more reasonable Sport package, with upgrades including a 200 bhp Vtec engine and coil-over suspension, will provide more than enough thrills for even the handiest weekend 'trackster'. With a price tag of around $60K (plus a Mk3 donor car), the Super Cooper Sport is one of the most affordable RestoMods currently available.

The Super Cooper Sport

Engine

Power

Curb Weight

0 -60 mph

Price

2.0L straight-4

200 bhp

4.9 seconds

-

$60,000+

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No. 4

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The MGB Abingdon Edition

 

The MGB Abingdon Edition by Frontline Developments

Based in Oxfordshire, England, Frontline’s focus on classic MG’s and the culmination of numerous restorations of the MGB led to the realization of the Abingdon Edition. An MGB Roadster donor car is completely rebuilt using new body panels, strategically strengthened, and a house-tuned, 2.5-liter Mazda crate engine replaces the old BMC B Series unit. In order to prevent you from wrapping it around the first tree you encounter, sizable all-round disc brakes and coil-over suspension help to harness the 290 horses now straining at the bit under the hood. Frontline left the live-axle in place, ensuring some of that ‘60s feel remains, and from the outside, the only obvious signs of the immense tinkering that has gone on below are the surprisingly effective Dunlop magnesium wheels. At just under $100,000 a pop, the MGB Abingdon is still a very expensive MG, but if it drives anywhere near as well as it looks, I might have to sell a kidney. Although, given the choice, I’d take Frontline’s more modestly specified MG LE50, based on Pininfarina’s glorious MGB GT design. Producing 204 bhp per ton, it’ll still be plenty of fun, drop-dead gorgeous, and there’s a lot you can do with the $30,000 you’ll save.

The MGB Abingdon Edition

Engine

2.5L straight-4

Power

289 bhp / 241 lb/ft

0 -60 mph

3.8 seconds

Curb Weight

1706 lb (774 kg)

Price

$96,000

No. 3

CR GT350CR

 

The Shelby GT350CR

The Shelby GT350CR by Classic Restorations

Classic Restorations has been restomodding first-generation Shelby Mustangs for over a decade. This Oklahoma-based outfit offers clients a choice of nine, customizable templates. The most outrageous of these is the Shelby GT500CR 900S. As with all CR’s ‘Stangs, each donor car is stripped down to the frame before a complete rebuild. However, the fully optioned GT500CR is rebuilt using carbon fiber body panels, slicing over 600 pounds (280 kg) from the suspended weight. The other common CR element, a Ford 427ci crate engine is endowed with an F1-R Pro supercharger, amongst other specialist parts, resulting in a ridiculous 900 bhp in a car that weighs a little over a ton. Needless to say, CR has beefed up the brakes, now large enough to stop an airliner and fitted it with race-spec suspension, and inevitably, a price tag to suit: $380,0000. But, for a relatively modest $184,000, CR will build you a GT350. The normally aspirated 427ci crate engine produces 545 bhp and will provide plenty of grins, and (in my hands) soiled underwear, despite the upgraded suspension and brakes. Frank Bullitt can only look back in envy.

The Shelby GT350CR

Engine

Power

Curb Weight

0 -60 mph

Price

7.0L V8

545 bhp / 530 lb/ft

3.7 seconds

3420 lb (1551 kg)

$184,000

No. 2

JIA Jensen Interceptor FF-R

 

The JIA Interceptor FF-R

The JIA Interceptor FF-R by Jensen International Automotive

When launched in 1966, the Jensen Interceptor FF was remarkable as one of the first sports cars to be equipped with permanent four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes. Additionally, a pioneer of the modern hatch-back, and above all, a timeless, bold design. It was also hideously unreliable and tended to rot at an alarming rate. Not many examples of this stunning grand tourer survive, which is just one of the many reasons why JIA’s Interceptor FF-R RestoMod will set you back over $350,000. The other reasons include a giant 6.2L V8 LSR crate engine, an LSD, adjustable multi-link suspension, and a sumptuous interior akin to something you’d expect in a new Bentley. The live rear axle is gone, and probably for the best since this is still a two-ton tourer now capable of reaching 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. A new Bentley Continental GT V8 is still $70,000 less but given the choice, I’d take the FF-R.

The JIA Interceptor FF-R

Engine

Power

Curb Weight

0 -60 mph

Price

6.2L SC V8

556 bhp / 551 lb/ft

3.6 seconds

4135 lb (1876 kg)

$350,000+

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No. 1

Alfaholics GTA-R Carbon

 

The Alfaholics GTA-R Carbon

The GTA-R 300 Carbon by Alfaholics

In a perfect world, my poky garage would be free of garden tools, paint splats, and oily motorcycle parts, and would instead be the sprawling pristine home to an example of each of these stunning RestoMods, but if I could have only one, it would be the GTA-R from Alfaholics. There is something about the understated Bertone design that is truly special. She’s not the sort of stunner that quiets the room when she walks in, she’s the one you meet later, and wonder how you could have ever overlooked her. Unfortunately, owning an original ‘60s GTA would be a labor of love for which I am ill-equipped, but if I could sell my home and live in a trailer with an Alfaholics GTA-R at my disposal, I would. When a donor GTA arrives at their workshop in Somerset, England, Alfaholics strip it down to the frame. Their most affordable option is a faithful rebuild utilizing aluminum and steel body parts. Into this, they drop Alfa’s four-cylinder twin-spark engine, and in this aspect, they differ from all the RestoMods reviewed here, in that the twin-spark can trace its lineage back to the GTA's original 1.6-liter ‘twin-plug’ powerplant. The rebored T-Spark produces a healthy 240 bhp from its 2.2-liters. The live-axle and wishbone suspension also remain, and perhaps more than any other RestoMod, Alfaholics have endeavored to maintain not just the look, but also the experience. If your pockets are deep enough, you can elect to have some, or all, of the body made from carbon fiber, and since the A, in GTA stands for ‘Alleggerita’ - lightweight, even this seems like an enhancement, as opposed to a modification. All you need to know about this wondrous marvel can be learned from a video of Chris Harris driving it around a track. You don't even need the sound on, his expressions say it all. Lucky b-----d!

The GTA-R Carbon

Engine

Power

Curb Weight

0 -60 mph

Price

2.2L straight-4

240 bhp / 200 lb/ft

-

1746 lb (792 kg)

$400,000 (est.)

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Guy Pickrell