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posted: 11/26/2012 6:00 AM

Modern retros are throwbacks to a treasured time

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  • Corvette by Karl Kustom Corvettes.

      Corvette by Karl Kustom Corvettes.

  • Today, some high-end custom car shops can take a new model, preserve all the safety features and modern technology, and give it the classic lines and styling of their favorite oldies. This new Corvette now features mid-1960s styling.

      Today, some high-end custom car shops can take a new model, preserve all the safety features and modern technology, and give it the classic lines and styling of their favorite oldies. This new Corvette now features mid-1960s styling.
    Photos Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography

  • Trans Am Depot in Florida is re-creating that Pontiac made famous by Burt Reynolds in "Smokey and the Bandit."

      Trans Am Depot in Florida is re-creating that Pontiac made famous by Burt Reynolds in "Smokey and the Bandit."

  • Trans Am Depot in Florida is re-creating that Pontiac made famous by Burt Reynolds in "Smokey and the Bandit."

      Trans Am Depot in Florida is re-creating that Pontiac made famous by Burt Reynolds in "Smokey and the Bandit."

  • The LTA Camaro by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering emulates the 1970-73 Trans Am body style.

      The LTA Camaro by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering emulates the 1970-73 Trans Am body style.

  • Modern GTO, by Trans Am Depot.

      Modern GTO, by Trans Am Depot.

  • Retro-style 1969 Camaro by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering.

      Retro-style 1969 Camaro by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering.

 
By Matthew Avery
Special to the Daily Herald

It's not unusual for an enthusiast to wrap-up a lengthy and expensive vehicle restoration and realize his yesteryear classic still rides and drives like a decades-old car.

For many, this is the pleasure of participating in the hobby. But increasingly, expectations are changing. When it comes to a special ride, more and more enthusiasts are desiring the creature comforts, safety, technology, performance and fuel economy of a modern car, while still capturing the looks and style of their favorite motoring icons.

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At the 2012 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals held last Saturday and Sunday in Rosemont, we encountered some exciting automobiles that combine the best of both worlds

If you're eager to relive your favorite "Smokey and the Bandit" scenes or you still mourn the loss of the Pontiac brand, you'll want to check out Trans Am Depot's new classics from its Tallahassee, Fla., shop. Bring them a 2010-13 Camaro and just four months later, they'll roll out their Hurst Edition Trans Am.

"We're very pleased to have secured the exclusive worldwide marketing rights to the Trans Am brand. We're Pontiac guys so that's something we hold in the highest regard," said Tod Warmack, who along with his brother Scott owns the custom shop. Candidate vehicles are stripped and rebuilt with numerous retro styling cues that will leave spectators wondering if they time-warped to 1977.

After the process, you'll find unique touches like restyled front and rear body clips, functional side vents and the iconic "screaming chicken" hood graphic. Removable T-tops are even an option.

"By the time we're through, only the doors are left untouched," Warmack said.

For those who want the grunt to go with the muscle image, engine upgrades and swaps are readily available. If you're merely a Pontiac fan and not too interested in outrunning Sheriff Buford T. Justice, the company does offer 1969 and 1977 Trans Am conversion kits. Also on display at the show was their eye-catching 6T9 Goat, built on a modern Camaro platform.

Lingenfelter Performance Engineering has its own modern interpretation of Pontiac's beloved Trans Am. They call it the LTA Camaro and it emulates the 1971-73 body style.

"We set out to build a vehicle how we thought a proper modern Pontiac muscle car should look," said Nathan Sheets, marketing manager for the Michigan-based company. In a 10- to 12-week time frame, a customer's contemporary Camaro can be transformed. Retro hints include a functional shaker hood, side cap spoiler, snowflake wheels and distinct front nose clip with headlight tunnels.

Inside the cabin you'll find comfort weave fabric on the seats and loop-pile carpeting. Powertrains can remain stock or be fitted with a whole host of Lingenfelter high-performance engine options. LPE is also offering a version of an iconic Chevrolet in the form of their Retro-Styled 69 Camaro.

"As soon as the new Camaro came out in 2010, everybody was anxious to make it look old," Sheets said.

To give it a proper dose of nostalgia, a front clip with hideaway headlights are installed, along with period badging. Options even include the distinct faux "ice cube tray" hood vents and chrome bumpers.

"These vehicles have all the styling and elegance of the past with the performance and technology of the present," he said.

Few cars are as iconic as the 1960s Corvettes. Des Moines, Iowa-based Karl Kustom Corvettes has tweaked the current C6 generation to reflect that sensational '60s styling.

Drawing on both the 1963 split window coupe and the 1967 roadster, the shop offers customers both coupe and convertible reiterations.

"The midyear '60s Corvettes are simply gorgeous cars but for a lot of people, that beauty ends when you get behind the wheel," said Jim Hedy, sales and marketing manager. Now, customers don't have to suffer as their modern sixth-generation Vette can have all the right yesteryear curves, but still retain the engineering of a contemporary cruiser.

Transformations are even available for the recent Gran Sport and ZO6 models.

"When a vehicle comes in, it goes up on jack stands, the wheels are removed and the body is completely stripped," Hedy said.

When it emerges 15 weeks later, the only panels left untouched are the roof panel, gas cap door, rocker panels, roll bar cover and exterior mirrors. The interior can remain stock or have some throwback designs worked in in the form of pleated seats and door panels. A customer can choose to leave the factory correct powertrain or have tire-smoking Lingenfelter engine packages installed.

"We currently have customers from coast to coast driving our cars on the road," Hedy said. "We even have one in Puerto Rico and we're currently building our first car headed for Canada."

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