Suspension And BrakesMaybe the part of your car that needs changing is its very foundation-the chassis. If you're rolling around on a clapped-out suspension, you don't need us to tell you to rebuild it. This may be yet another opportunity to upgrade. Performance gas-shocks are a no-brainer-they're just too simple to install and relatively inexpensive to purchase. If you're still riding on oil shocks, you'll be astounded at the difference. If your car doesn't have antisway bars, you absolutely need them, at least in the front. The reduction in body roll will be dramatic if you use a fat aftermarket bar, and the number of applications available is amazing. Then there's urethane suspension bushings, readily available for most American cars from the mid-'60s-on. The ride will get a little harsher, but if you like to corner hard, it'll be worth it.
What about brakes? Still relying on the manual four-wheel drums? Shame on you. Most cars assembled back when they were still building cars with four-wheel drum brakes can be upgraded to discs by swapping on parts from a newer model. If junkyard scrounging isn't your thing, the aftermarket has you totally covered with nice, new components.
Even if you've already got front discs, you can upgrade to rear discs by sourcing the aftermarket. If you need really brutal stopping power, go for a mega-inch disc upgrade with trick calipers, as offered by Baer Racing, Master Power, Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation, Wilwood, and others. These companies have most popular vintage musclecars covered and are adding new applications all the time. You really can't have too much braking power.
Flames And Paint GraphicsCar crafters have been dabbling with paint and graphics since the beginning. Rather than repainting your entire car, which for most of us takes a lot more than a weekend, consider complementing the existing paint with graphics of some sort. Flames have been popular forever and are currently enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Licks can be laid down freehand with a grease pencil or chalk (some guys like to do one side and then make a stencil of it to flip to the other side for symmetry) and then outlined with tape and paper before painting. Precut flame stencils are also available if you don't trust your artistic ability. Paint can be applied from rattle cans or a proper spray gun. The design, coloring, and shading are all up to you.
Alternatives to flame jobs include airbrushed detail stripes, stenciled rally stripes, or a simple blacked-out hood or taillight panel. If you've got some creative talent, try something a little more intricate. Just remember-the overall idea is to enhance the car's appearance, not destroy it. Sketch your ideas on paper first. Better yet, use your computer and alter photos of your car onscreen using Photoshop or similar image-manipulation software like we did for the illustrations that accompany this article.
An even simpler way to accent a car's finish is to utilize factory stripes. Most of the cool muscle-era stripe packages are available today as reproductions. Some of the more basic stripe schemes were painted on, while the more intricate stuff was usually done with decals. These days, repro stencils and decals are offered for even the most obscure musclecars. Some outfits also offer computer-designed replicas of factory stripes with custom lettering to suit phantom models, e.g., an SS502- or 451-powered Road Runner.
StanceStance goes hand-in-hand with your ride's wheel and tire combination, and it may be just as critical. Even the coolest rollers won't keep a car from looking dorky if it sits wrong. Are you still running that tail-up stinkbug rake from the '70s? Are the rear springs hopelessly sagged? Do you regret opting for the A/C-equipped big-block front springs for that aluminum-headed small-block car? All situations can-and should-be remedied ASAP.