Humans have one very particular emotion that you cannot find anywhere else in the animal kingdom – nostalgia. We feel drawn to the past, regardless of whether it has been good to us or not. We even forget most of the bad stuff to make nostalgia even easier.

On the other hand, we are also very fond of the future. Most of us want the next innovation, and we want it now. But when it is here, we brush past it and continue looking forward. Actually, I would say we have trouble living in the present if anything. And this clash of realities is presented quite well in the trend of reviving vintage cars by installing a modern engine in them. But is this the best of both worlds or a complete disaster?

Today we are going to explore the weird world of modernized classics. With the recent buzz about the 1968 Jaguar E-Type Zero, I thought we have to say a thing or two about this trend. Perhaps this is the start of something new and beautiful. Or possibly, it is an attempt to ruin a piece of history that is better left unscathed. Shall we see?

The history of modernizing classic cars

You may think that modernizing attempts have just recently sprung up, but you would be wrong. In fact, the only new thing about the E-Type Zero is the electrical engine. However, similar overhauls have been done in the past. There is even a niche community that enjoys these kinds of things.

Of course, here we are not talking about classic car collectors. If you are looking at old vehicles as an investment, you would want them as close to a stock condition as possible. However, some people just enjoy the vintage look and want to drive around in such a car. Sadly, most vehicles of old age cannot really hold up well over time, so driving them is a bit tricky. Unless… you modernize them.

Overhauling old vehicles in such a manner has been around for at least twenty years, if not more. To a lot of people, this is sacrilege. Collectors see such attempts as a crime to the whole car enthusiast community. That is because classic cars are a limited resource after all. In response, the modernization enthusiasts point out how few classic cars actually are in pristine stock condition. Many of them have been restored, for example. Which leads us to my next point!

The difference between modernization and restoration

I have to make this clear – restoration and modernization are different in many regards. While both use modern tools to service old vehicles, they do it to a different end.

You already know what modernization is. At the most basic level, you replace the engine and retool the car. However, you can extend that to adding smart technologies as well. Some take it even a step further and install modern audio systems, enhanced suspensions, and special lighting kits, among other things.

Then we have restoration – a much more gentle practice altogether. Instead of changing everything but the body of the car, it focuses on maintaining the original look as much as possible. For instance, you can attempt to restore the upholstery of the seats. However, instead of going for shiny new materials or crazy colors, you only fix what needs fixing and do it in an authentic manner.

To put it shortly – with modernization you get a pretty much new ride. With restoration, you lift up the spirit of the old one. In light of the above, should we blame the overhaul community then? Are they really stripping the soul away from the vehicle?

In defense of modernizing your car

I would not blame you if you think that modernization is horrible. It does come awfully close to a desecration of artwork. It seems as if you are attempting to “fix” a Van Gogh painting by doodling over it, right? Well, perhaps not.

See, unlike artwork, most vintage vehicles are not unique. There may be hundreds, if not thousands of them out there. So modernizing one of them is definitely not on the level of ruining a one-of-a-kind piece of history.

Furthermore, there are many people who just want to ride the car they have. You know, as much as I love modern vehicles, I would not mind to break things up a bit with a vintage ride. Why do we care about cars so much after all? Is it not because we love the feel when we use them?

Of course, there are people out there, for whom driving around is just a tiny fraction of a car’s purpose. But for me at least riding the car is the very essence of it. That should apply to new and old vehicles alike. Sure, they are not just tools, but they should not be giant paperweights either. You know, modernized or not, it really brings a smile to my face when I notice someone driving around in a classic car. That way I know the person has a particular sense of taste that suits my own.

What other modernized vehicles are out there?

It is possible that the mentioned Jaguar E-Type is the first modernized car you have heard about. Nevertheless, there are many others like it. In fact, there are companies, which modernize and resell vintage cars. That means you can get one for yourself too. Sadly, it will undoubtedly cost you a pretty penny. Still, let’s look at some options!

The classic Mustang climbs all the way up to the top of overhauled vehicles. There are many awesome versions of this car around. It is also among the cheapest to modernize, or so they say. You can get it as a convertible as well if that is what you want. Sadly though, maintenance would be a nightmare, in my opinion.

You can also find plenty of Porsche models with modern engines. I would not be too hopeful about their price though. With them being luxury vehicles even when they came out, these Porsches tend to be seriously expensive.

As an alternative, you can consider purchasing a cheaper classic and then getting it overhauled. This is actually the most popular approach. There are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, it is usually cheaper, especially if you strike a good deal with a tuning shop. Secondly, that is perhaps the only way to get something rather unique. After all, you will be the one, who decides how the car will end up looking. But if you do not want that…

When you do not want to ruin a classic

Maybe you dig the idea of riding in a vintage auto. However, I know that plenty of people would feel uncomfortable to modernize such a car. If you are among them, I have good news – you can actually have the cake and eat it too. Sort of, at least.

Did you know that there are services, which can reconstruct a vintage car? I am not talking about modernizing, nor restoring. Instead, I mean constructing the body of a car from the ground up. That way you can enjoy the vintage looks, without “ruining” a true classic. To do that you would need two things – a used car to serve as the platform and a good chop shop to handle the construction. I should warn you though – this ordeal is expensive. Perhaps even more than getting the classic itself.

But what do you say? Would you get a classic with a modern heart, or would you opt for reconstruction instead? Alternatively, you may just want a vintage car to sit in your garage, where you can admire it in peace. Which would it be?


  1. “I have to make this clear – restoration and modernization are different in many regards. While both use modern tools to service old vehicles, they do it to a different end.” – I agree! Not all classic cars have the same repair techniques. It depends on the owner. Some people prefer classic cars to modern cars.


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