Most of the project cars we deal with have been around for a while. Heck, even "late-model" stuff from the '80s is 15 or 20 years old. As such, many of these cars have witnessed numerous automotive trends over the years, and much like the guy who still wears his Members Only jacket with pride, some of these cars are stuck in the past. Maybe you built your car a long time ago and haven't changed it since. Maybe you've recently acquired a vehicle that hasn't received proper attention in a long time. Either way, by selecting the right parts, you can make major headway in bringing your car up to date without completely rebuilding it. The best part about a makeover is that you can enjoy the thrill of something new without expending the cash and effort required for an all-new project. Though we didn't spin any wrenches for this one, we did scan the local cruise spots and other automotive gatherings for fugitives from the automotive fashion police, while we gathered ideas for easy ways to freshen your image. Many offenses are quickly remedied, and we've compiled some suggestions for your perusal. What are you doing this weekend?
EngineOnce the hood is up, it might be apparent that paint and a few new accessories aren't going to cure the real problem. Maybe it's time for a new engine. But instead of replacing what was already there, this might be an opportunity to upgrade. This could be the excuse you've been looking for to go for that big-block. Another alternative is a high-tech engine swap using a late-model fuel-injected mill. These swaps have become quite popular in recent years, and this is yet another area where the aftermarket can help out.
It's probably a bit ambitious to think an EFI engine swap could be completed in a weekend, but it has been done. For these swaps, it's often best to acquire a donor car and transfer everything across. For common swaps like Chevy TPI and Ford 5.0 EFI, aftermarket kits are fairly complete. Keep in mind you'll have to have a fuel system that's up to the task of providing a constant flow of high-pressure fuel to the engine, complete with a rear-mounted electric fuel pump and suitable high-pressure feed and return lines. Sometimes this stuff can be pirated from the donor car, and in some cases the aftermarket can provide fuel tanks and plumbing for vintage vehicles being outfitted with late-model drivetrains.
Body TrimAlong the same lines as reproduction factory graphics packages is reproduction body trim. Since many of the cars we own have lived long and not-so-charmed lives, it's likely that much of the factory-installed brightwork has either been damaged or removed. Back in the '80s, after most of this stuff had disappeared from dealer shelves and before it was available from the aftermarket, it was common practice to either shave bright trim or paint it. Shaving trim can still produce favorable results, but many '60s cars look better with a little garnish. All those cars that had their grilles painted body color during the thick of the '80s monochrome period can be "updated" by simply returning them to stock. In the late '70s and throughout the '80s, lots of cars also received black-painted trim, which can be a bit of an eyesore today. Maybe all you need is a new chrome hood spear, an aluminum taillight panel surround, or a set of wheel lip moldings. Little details can make a big difference.
ExhaustOn most cars that have been subjected to high-performance use, the factory exhaust system was trashed long ago, and 30 years later, there might just be a real mess hanging in its place. That 15-year-old muffler shop dual-exhaust system, bent using 2-inch tubing that's crushed nearly flat in the bends, isn't doing much for your car's engine output. The headers and header mufflers routine isn't only illegal in nearly every state, it's really annoying to anyone that has to be in your car for more than 10 minutes. And that universal-fit side-exit system that hangs lower than anything else under your car probably sounds as crappy as it looks.