Trends: Building Cars From Cars

There are a number of events in the days leading up to the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, but one of the more notable is the Carmel by the Sea Concours.

The event comprises a tour through and around the Monterey Peninsula by the drivers and owners of a wide cross section of classic, vintage, racing and modified cars that arrive to park on Ocean Ave in downtown Carmel. In addition to the expected German, British and Italian classics, custom and modified cars – cars built from other cars — are becoming a popular category.

At first glance, this 1948 Series 40 Buick Super Convertible ‘survivor’ seemed odd and out of place amongst some of the most coveted marques in the world. Upon closer inspection, it became apparent that this “derelict Buick” was anything but.

Handmade by ICON of Los Angeles — a company more typically known for their conversions of old Toyota four-wheel drive off-road vehicles — the 1942-Series Buick features a fully modern chassis and suspension and mechanicals lifted straight out of a 2014 Cadillac CTS-V. The supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine generates 556hp — not bad for a 66-year-old fastback body with ‘Airfoil’ front fenders — and the interior was fitted with a modern navigation unit and a touchscreen interface.

Walking further down the street we were drawn to a car that appeared to be a Nash, and we came in for a closer look. As we discovered, the car was an amalgam — a Nash Rambler body married to a modern Mini Cooper platform, complete with a new Mini interior.

The concept of creating new cars by fitting modern mechanicals into donor vehicles is an old practice, acutely demonstrated in this 1956 Rometsch Beeskow Sport Cabrio owned by Erik Meyer in San Louis Obispo, CA. As the story goes, Frederich Rometsch and Johannes Beeksow formed their Munich-based Karrosserie in 1950 and built a series of Cabrios and Coupes using VW components on VW platforms. Eventually, Beeskow was hired by VW to manage the development of what became the Karmann Ghia.

The resurgence of this trend was arguably reignited when Hollywood types decided that they wanted the reliability and power of a modern car without the common, buy-it-at-the-dealership, off-the-shelf aesthetic. In breathing new life into an older, often iconic car, they’ve created the epitome of self-expression in the land of ‘you are what you drive’.

But it’s not just individuals that are going out and doing this. A company called Zelectric Motors is another example of the trend, blending the romantic memories of the past with modern technology — in this case an electric powertrain.

Company founder David Benardo will either convert a client’s existing rust-free Volkswagen Beetle to run purely on electric power or, if a client desires, deliver a turn-key finished vehicle to its new owner for about $40K.

This category of cars that have been altered, improved and modified from new was formerly known as customs, hot-rods or race cars. In the future, it is not unlikely that such vehicles will become more popular as bland, self-driving cars become more common.

Looks like there’s hope for automotive aficionados after all.


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