Time for some truth: Old cars don't drive well. Wait. Don't start tapping out that vicious email quite yet. Let us qualify that statement: Old cars don't drive very well compared to modern automobiles.
That's to be expected after about half a century of technological progress, right? Sure, but in this day and age of unprecedented performance delivered in vehicles that feel so solid and quiet—as if they were whittled out of billet titanium, it's difficult to hop in an archaic conveyance from Detroit's glory days and enjoy anything more than a drive down to the most local of cruise nights or a quick spin to the Dairy Deluxe.
Hey, there's no denying the tingle up the spine generated by a solid-lifter muscle car engine with some healthy camshaft overlap, but when it's matched to a three-speed automatic or four-speed manual and a set of 4.11 gears out back, your perception of high-performance perfection changes when you're driving on the highway.
Forget for a moment the non-existent fuel economy when you're cruising the Interstate with the engine taching around 3,000-3,500 rpm and the less-than-confident sound it elicits from a valvetrain that's much happier doing it's lopey-lope best in the Big Boy parking lot. No, the biggest item to deal with is hugging the right lane while even old ladies in Corollas whiz past like you've got a garbage truck stuck in the creeper gear. Modern cars are made to cruise comfortably at speed, which makes it a lot less comfortable to take your vintage car on a long drive.
Oh, sure. Old cars provide plenty of thrills—like the heart-stopping, "that's-it-I'm-a-goner" feeling induced by a panic stop with drum brakes, or the mind-bending, "will-she-or-won't-she" thoughts that enter your head when you enter a fast turn in a car with 1940s steering technology and no antisway bar.
But while driving technology left old cars behind like shoe-repair stores and candy cigarettes, the march of progress has never been able to improve upon heart-tugging designs of yesteryear. Improving the performance and drivability elements while maintaining the chrome-accented romance of the classics is exactly the ideology driving the restomod movement, and builder Robin Greenhagen is one of its most fervent champions.
"You can't beat the looks of an old car, but you can improve just about everything else," he says. "That's what's great about modern technology—you can adapt it and make it fit old cars to have an uncompromising blend of yesterday and today. It's definitely the best of both worlds."
Literally and figuratively putting his money where his mouth is, Greenhagen built this '67 Mustang fastback that wraps its timeless silhouette around a thoroughly modern, Coyote-fied drivetrain. It's a 620-horsepower, green-metallic calling card for his Independence, Missouri-based shop, the Restomod Store (www.restomodstore.com), which—as the name implies—is dedicated to the design and construction of vintage iron infused with late-model technology.
"Our philosophy is to deliver the driveability and features people have come to expect from newer cars in classic form," he says. "It really amplifies the enjoyment of these old cars, because you can take them anywhere."
Although Greenhagen sees the restomod movement as brand-agnostic—meaning it isn't centered on a particular manufacturer or vehicle model—he carefully selected the Mustang fastback for its iconic design. He was also trying to make a statement about certain restomod Mustangs that have dominated the landscape in recent years.
"I think the Eleanor thing has been done to death," he says. "We've attempted something that hopefully resonates with enthusiasts because they've never seen it before."
While he has no qualms about cutting up vintage tin, Greenhagen is also sufficiently reverent about the value and perception of certain cars.
"It wasn't a particularly rare, all-original car we started with," he says. "It was a pretty basic 289 car and a really rusted one at that. It wasn't anything that was going to be missed on the concours field."
Greenhagen pulled the rusty shell from his shop's store of project-car material, which includes additional Mustangs and some brand X vehicles, too. He then set his crew upon the transformation—it's a father-son-son team that came with the shop when he bought it a couple of years ago and transformed it from a run-of-the-mill, bump-and-paint business into the dedicated hot rod-building shop it is today.
Patriarch Mike McLin oversees his sons, Michael and Chris. Michael is the resident artist with an air gun, while Chris handles most of the mechanical and electrical work—and grinds on sheet metal when the need arises.
"They're great," says Greenhagen. "Each has easily a thousand hours into the Mustang and the results are stunning."
Indeed, they are. Michael's body- and paintwork is amazing. While retaining the classic '67 form, the car features custom front and rear spoilers, lowered rocker panels, custom sail panels, filled quarter-panel scoops and more. It's all steel, too—no fiberglass-formed body parts on this filly. The paint is a custom blend of the shop's creation, too. They started with Dodge Viper Snakeskin Green Metallic paint and mixed in some pearl to create a unique hue that looks simultaneously period-perfect and contemporary—and it extends to the inside of the body panels.
Asymmetrical black stripes also contribute to the period appearance, while the big Boze Forged 18-/19-inch wheels with outer rims painted to match the body color definitely lend a more modern appearance to the car's road-hugging stance.
It's the same mix of old and new inside the Mustang, too, where the original dashboard and basic design of the cabin were retained, but refitted with 21st century technologies and conveniences, such as a navigation-equipped Kenwood head unit and modern sound system, re-trimmed Procar seats, Vintage Air climate system, and Dakota Digital instruments.
The Restomod Store crew opted for contemporary materials, too, with Ultra suede complementing the leather trim for a rich, premium feel we haven't encountered too often, even in high-end Pro Touring cars.
"As I mentioned, we want our cars to make the owner comfortable, and cruising down the highway in these well-trimmed seats with the A/C on delivers the conveniences and comfort of a new car," says Greenhagen.
Driving performance is where the Restomod Shop's Mustang leaves even today's sophisticated sedans in the dust, because few can hang with the performance of a Sean Hyland supercharged Coyote engine in the comparatively lightweight body of a '67 Mustang. There's even a four-wheel-independent suspension system that gives this 'Stang the slither of a snake.