Hooniverse Asks: Has there ever been a good new-car-modified-to-look-retro?

Old cars rule. Plenty of new cars are cool. Can you combine those two worlds and make something special? No. No you cannot, at least with respect to vintage looks from a modern machine. Swapping modern internal bits is great. Putting a real old body on a modern chassis can make for a fun ride. But every time I’ve seen an example of a modern car made to look retro, I find it never really works.

I’d love to be proven wrong here. I’m open to the idea  of this sort of modified car, yet I’ve never found one I think actually looks any good.

And it seems that’s not changing anytime soon.

See, for example, the latest offender. A builder has created an old K5 Blazer look for a modern Chevy Tahoe. The result is almost there. I actually like the blue and white two tone paint. The metal bumpers are weird but also sort of work. But the rest of the proportions are off.

Have you found any examples of a modern car made to look old, where the finished product looks good?

37 Comments

  1. Almost. There have been a few that would seemingly look good in a vacuum. Had the inspiration vehicle never existed, they might look cool. Unfortunately, that is a double-edged sword. The modern retro designs are at once reliant on the original to offer an emotional connection to the past, while being relegated to the “uncanny valley” by the same.

    I kind of like the Mitsuoka Rock Star. Being based on a Miata, it feels like it’s “in on the joke.” The styling is clearly evocative of the C2 Corvette, but it straddles a line between homage and parody that seems to work.

    https://static.pressfrom.info/upload/images/real/2018/10/11/a-close-up-of-a-car-mitsuoka-rock-star__659719_.jpg

    1. There’s no need to modify Mercurys when the spirit of the Edsel lives on in Toyota and Lexus. The Edsel’s ugly mug is almost elegant in comparison to the Avalon’s front end.

  2. http://singervehicledesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/01-singer-911-milwaukee-540×320.jpg

    There’s one blatantly easy option, although it’s more “new(er) car modified to look retro,” and benefited from the relatively minimal development over the 911’s first 35 years.

    http://www.overseaslane.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/00V0V_2K0IT3pAyYo_600x450.jpg

    I’m also fond of the VW Bus front end on assorted Kei vans – since it’s not meant to be serious, it doesn’t matter if it’s imperfect, it’s just a fun, goofy little thing.

      1. I didn’t want to specifically say Sambar knowing that it could be any number of small vans, but exactly.

    1. With you on the Sambar conversions because they’re tongue in cheek, and while Singers are lovely, not sure how I feel about visually backdating a 964.

  3. Almost. There have been a few that would seemingly look good in a vacuum. Had the inspiration vehicle never existed, they might look cool. Unfortunately, that is a double-edged sword. The modern retro designs are at once reliant on the original to offer an emotional connection to the past, while being relegated to the “uncanny valley” by the same.

    I kind of like the Mitsuoka Rock Star. Being based on a Miata, it feels like it’s “in on the joke.” The styling is clearly evocative of the C2 Corvette, but it straddles a line between homage and parody that seems to work.

    https://static.pressfrom.info/upload/images/real/2018/10/11/a-close-up-of-a-car-mitsuoka-rock-star__659719_.jpg

    1. I never understood the popularity of the pink pig livery. I wouldn’t even paint my daughter’s bicycle in that scheme– it’s heinous.

      1. Must be a German thing, every butcher had these in the shop, and even grandmothers* chuckle when they see it the first time.

        *) Number of samples: 2.

  4. Does “modified from the factory count?” I believe the Nissan Pike cars were pretty much all based on the Nissan March hatchback

    https://www-europe.nissan-cdn.net/content/dam/Nissan/global/experience-nissan-refresh/pike-cars/nissan-pike-cars-pao-advertisement-19tdigbpace101-3000×1250.jpg.ximg.l_12_m.smart.jpg

    Or the Honda N-One which is a retro styled version of the N-Box

    https://car-images.bauersecure.com/pagefiles/77097/1040×585/honda-kei-01.jpg

    1. The Pike cars succeeded because they were not made to imitate a specific car but were simply intended to look old. This saved them from being poor imitations like so many tribute cars

      1. True, though the Pao riffs on the Renault 4, the Figaro on Wolsely and the Austin A35, while the S-Cargo (escargot, geddit 😉 ) makes the most obvious homage to the tin snail – the 2CV van.

        1. Which proves my point, the Pike cars are like a jazz variation, homage but not imitation, while the “K5” and some of the other horrors are a bad cover band

  5. I think windshield angle and greenhouse height are the biggest obstacles. Classic windshields are much steeper, and windows taller. This is the problem on the K5 homage you noted above, and why the Vettes don’t look quite right. The Trans Ams do a better job pulling off the look because they weren’t modified to look retro, they’re simply a Pontiacized version of an already retro-themed– but modern– Chevrolet design.

    1. My thoughts exactly — the glass/greenhouse seems to oftentimes be the Achilles heel, and yes, the Trans Ams avoid that nicely since they’re more a modernized version of an older look. (I actually like those better than the Camaro…)

      1. So do I! I’ve seen one up close like that in the image P161911 posted below, and preferred the Pontiac front and rear design elements much better than those of the Camaro. I’m not a fan of the screaming chicken, but otherwise the car was pretty sweet.

    1. I agree. There’s one in town where I live, and for such a simple modification, it really grabs your attention. I assume this is a dealer-performed conversion?

    2. Luther Buick/GMC in Fargo has a similarly two-toned red/white late-model Sierra on runabout duty, and it’s an eye catcher for me whenever I see it in traffic.

    1. I agree, they have good proportions, but that’s because they’re simply facelifted Camaros. There’s hardly more work in them (other than painting the screaming chicken) than there was in creating the G8 from the Holden Commodore.

  6. Retrobuilt Motors pulls off some respectable S197-based Mustangs with throwback styling. Like the modern Challenger, they’re a little chunky compared to their forebears, but overall I don’t think they look too contrived. I particularly like the homage to the ’70 Shelby.

    https://i.wheelsage.org/pictures/r/retrobuilt/fastback/retrobuilt_fastback_1.jpeg

    https://www.mustangevolution.com/forum/attachments/31823d1316128187-image-3285892560.png

  7. Has there ever been a good new-car-modified-to-look-retro?

    Many Easter Jeep Safari concepts would say yes.

  8. The wheels on that Suburban are terrible. No. Just no.

    I have mixed feelings about the Corvettes. These are done by CR Coachworks and the build quality is excellent and the bodies are carbon fiber. The proportions are all wrong but, they are seriously well done. I find this C6 based split window somewhat compelling. Then again, at $174K to start (plus the C6 donor), it ought to be.

    https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/5c141dbfe17ba358eff629ab/1545338873174-8DYW4G00HDZ4C066JERZ/ke17ZwdGBToddI8pDm48kPLerjwc9T00S19UIx4D7DV7gQa3H78H3Y0txjaiv_0fDoOvxcdMmMKkDsyUqMSsMWxHk725yiiHCCLfrh8O1z5QPOohDIaIeljMHgDF5CVlOqpeNLcJ80NK65_fV7S1UWQaL5Zc965r8V2AH38PHUO8HP8IE1QJFP1I8jNvddiftNpR-oeFwj2Ae_lbqFbpxA/CRC_Corvette_Gallery-2.jpg?format=2500w

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here