“To upgrade with modern technology or not to upgrade…”
This pressing question may just resonate as the “to be or not to be” for classic car enthusiasts. After all, that authentic look and nostalgic feeling is what draws many collector car owners to the hobby in the first place.
But while the decision to modernize a collector car means that it won’t be in its exact original condition, there’s much to be said for the comfort, convenience and safety of modern upgrades. There’s a big difference between the features and driving experience of autos from the 1970s, 60s and 50s and today’s cars.
Fortunately, restomods — or modified restored vehicles —offer the best of both worlds: That vintage look and feel, with today’s safety and performance features. Here are three modern technology considerations for your classic car.
Breaker Points vs. Electronic Ignition
Let’s start at the start-up: The ignition. Most vintage collector cars employ breaker points ignition systems. These traditional starters work by turning coils on and off, sending a spark at the right time to ignite fuel and get the engine fired up.
But breaker points have limitations. Contacts deteriorate as they age and with normal wear and tear. Over time, this can limit the amount of power that reaches the coils. If points get wet — or the temperature is cold — they simply don’t work as they’re supposed to. Plus, breaker point ignitions are simply harder to repair and maintain.
In contrast, upgrading to an electronic ignition system offers a smoother start with faster acceleration. You also enjoy increased fuel efficiency, and lower exhaust emissions. Your car will start up on cold mornings, and your spark plugs will last longer.
Overall, installing an electronic ignition falls into the category of relatively affordable upgrades that offer a more efficient, smoother ride with improved reliability.
Drum Brakes vs. Disc Brakes
Before the 1970s, most cars relied on drum brakes. Usually installed on rear or all four wheels, drum brakes create a lot of friction when they work. Over time, all that friction results in brake pad problems, overheating, and other issues. When roads are wet, drum brakes can also take on water, reducing their efficiency and decreasing your safety.
Replacing drum brakes with modern disc brakes makes sense from a safety standpoint, as they offer superior stopping power and can reduce stopping distance. They’re also easier to maintain and tend to experience less wear and tear.
Keep in mind that if you upgrade your classic car with disc brakes, you may want to switch single master cylinders for dual. In case of leaks or damage, a dual master cylinder will allow both front and rear brakes to function. Consider replacing rubber brake hoses with stainless steel for improved safety and better pedal feel.
Manual vs. Power Steering
When driving a classic car, one feature stands out immediately: Lack of power steering. As anyone who’s ever attempted to parallel park a car into a tight spot using manual steering will attest, power steering simply makes life easier.
But it’s not just about upper arm strength. Manual steering can present safety issues, too. Imagine yourself in a tight parking lot or crowded pedestrian area, where not being able to turn fast enough can be a huge problem. Power steering makes it easier to turn precisely at low speeds. It’s not only more comfortable for the driver. It’s safer, too.
If you’re worried about car shows, consider a bolt-on electric steering unit. Bonus: Electric is lighter than hydraulic, so you’ll up your fuel efficiency.
You may feel torn between originality and modernity. Restomod cars offer an ideal balance between the vintage look and feel you love, and the safety and performance features offered by modern technology.