Maybe it’s hipster culture hitting the mainstream, or maybe it’s a wider movement of anti-establishmentism, but like no time before we are increasingly looking back into history to find the way forward. Bands like Tame Impala are having unprecedented success recreating the sounds of Hendrix, and young professionals are raiding Red Cross stores searching for that perfect 60’s dinner jacket. Given that automotive trends reflect societal trends at large, it’s no surpise that the interest in classic cars and racing culture of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, particularly from younger demographics, is all of a sudden cool again.
But the reality of the classic car is often quite different to the dream. Rattles and vibrations, breakdowns, no air conditioning and slower performance is all part of the deal. Or is it? There are several companies who have identified this niche, and are filling it with updated and thoroughly re-engineered classic cars that capture and enhance the spirit of days gone by without the often uncomfortable reality. We’re not talking about some backyarder putting a Gen 3 and a VT dash into an old FX Holden, we’re talking about exemplary cars that seriously rival their modern counterparts for your dollar and for your heart. Here are Any Given Reason’s Top 5:
Number 5: ICON FJ40 Baja Edition
ICON’s own motto sums their creations perfectly – ‘The most advanced form of simple’. Created by the man responsible for designing and building the first prototypes of what became the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jonathan Ward, ICON take a whole range of classic American off-roaders and re-designs them into simple, tasteful creations with incredible attention to detail.
With a design discipline that would make even Dieter Rams proud, ICON have a range that includes designs based on the BR Ford Bronco and Jeep CJ Wrangler, however it is their Toyota FJ Baja Edition cars that strike me most. Created to celebrate Toyota’s first off-road race victory in the 1973 Baja 1000 and the 40th anniversary of the SCORE BAJA 1000 race, the ICON FJ40 Baja seems to retain the original’s intentions, and develops them a little further. I could think of few things better than barreling through the Californian desert in an ICON FJ40.
ICON cars aren’t built as a design statement, they’re built to be used. The hand brushed aluminium body is powder coated in a durable clear velvet powder coat, and the trim accents are finished in black crocodile powder coat. The textured pewter finish dash has a Racepak digital display and Lowrance navigation, and it also has full recovery gear including a racing jack, ARB air compressor, Warn cradle mount winch and an IPF HID lighting system. Power comes from a 450hp alloy LS6 V8 running through a modified 4L65E automatic with a shift on the fly Atlas II transfer case, delivering the power through one-ton Dynatrac axles.
See the ICON website for more details.
Number 4: Morgan 3 Wheeler
Morgan first began building 3 wheeled cars in 1909, and more than a hundred years later they’re back at it. The modern 3 Wheelers aren’t technically refurbished original cars – they’re brand new with modern technology, however they so perfectly capture the spirit and design of the era that they justify a place on this list.
The 3 Wheeler doesn’t hang about either. The motor, proudly on display out the front, is a 2000cc V-Twin made by American specialist builder S&S. That’s an awful lot of power and torque for something weighing just 550kg.
The 3 Wheeler will do the 1-100 sprint in 4.5 seconds, and head to a top speed of 200km/h. Given it is missing a wheel and how your elbow almost rests on the exhaust system, I’d say that feels even faster than the numbers suggest.
The 3 Wheeler currently doesn’t meet Australian design rules, but rumor around is that Morgan are developing an Australian model, including crash testing a 3 Wheeler, and will have it on sale this year.
Number 3: Alfaholics GTA-R
With over 30 years experience in restoring and racing 105 series Alfa’s, UK based specialists Alfaholics have gradually designed and built up enough of their own bespoke parts and experience to offer their own fully completed, turnkey cars. Inspired by the famous Alfa GTA racers of days gone by, the Alfaholics GTA-R takes this and mixes it with modern knowhow to produce a series of road going trackday cars that are a lot quicker than you’d expect – the GTA-R is faster around the Nurburgring than a BMW E46 M3 CSL.
Externally, GTA-R’s can be built exactly to the customers specs. Some customers have two sets of seats and different steering wheels to retain the classic look on the road, and then transfer across to race spec for the track. Underneath is thoroughly modern – Alfaholics bespoke dampers act on a range of Alfaholics own products including rose jointed anti-roll bars, specially cast lightweight aluminium wishbones, camber arms, coilover springs, titanium shock mounting pins and lightweight trailing arms. Alfaholics have even had their own bespoke 6 pot brake calipers and aluminium bonnets made, as well as their own range of cast magnesium GTA replica wheels.
The engine is a highly tuned version of the 2000cc twin cam originally found in these cars, albeit running a twin spark plug per cylinder variable vale timing head from the Alfa 75. Power depends on spec but around 216hp is typical in full race trim, and Alfaholics are working on their own bespoke cylinder head to push that number up further. And this is the detail that Alfaholics go to – they’ve even cast their own valve cover that fits the later head, but looks like the stock one that came with these cars.
… and the Ti Super-R. See the Alfaholics website here.
Number 2: Eagle Speedster
Jeremy Clarkson says a lot of things I don’t agree with, but in the case of the Eagle Speedster, I think he’s nailed it on the head. “I think this, by a long way, is the most beautiful car I have ever seen. It might actually be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen”
Just look at it. Created by longtime E-Type specialists Eagle in Sussex, the Speedster is the ultimate interpretation of the E-Type’s ultimate potential. This is a car that’s not about speed, it’s about the experience. And what an experience it must be.
Its unbelievable beauty doesn’t mean that performance has been forgotten – the Speedster has a thoroughly modified and fuel injected XK straight 6, an engine that can easily produce well into the 450hp range with some work. Bespoke suspension and AP calipers ensure it stops and handles as well as it looks, too. And being mostly made of aluminium, it is very light, with a better power to weight ratio than a new 911 Turbo.
Handmade cars don’t come cheap, and in Australian dollars the Eagle Speedster works out costing $765,000, putting it squarely in the same price range as something like a new 458 Spider or Aventador. I’d argue that the Speedster would almost be more fun, and at the end of the day, it’s all about the experience, right?
See the Eagle Speedster website here.
Number 1: Singer Vehicle Design Porsche 911
The idea of backdating 911’s isn’t a new one. Any 911 up to the 964 model can be backdated, however what sets the Singer 911’s apart is the fanatical attention to detail. Even after looking at the Eagle Speedster, the Singer 911 almost beggars belief. These cars are perfect. They fit the exact definition of that word. Perfect.
Singer start with a 1990-1994 model Porsche 964 911. The engine from that car is enlarged to 3.8 litres and rebuilt by Cosworth. 360hp is the result – ‘We feel it is the ultimate compromise between a high revving, high horse-power Porsche racing engine and a torque rich, tractable and durable engine for the road’ says Singer. All fenders, the front bumper, bonnet, engine cover and roof are made from aerospace grade pre preg carbon fiber, and the entire electrical system is replaced with motorsport and military specification connectors and wiring upgrades. The regular suspension system is from KW, however a bespoke, Singer specified Ohlins damper system is also available.
Singer employed the services of an aerospace acoustics engineer to ensure that the Singer 911 scores better NVH (noise, vibration & harshness) than most new cars. The interior takes its inspiration from the famous road/race 911’s of the 70’s, and in my opinion is the final word in competition inspired taste and elegance.
I had a real hard time picking a number one out of the final two cars, and whilst the Eagle Speedster is an object of beauty and desire, the Singer 911 won because of the way it so perfectly treads the path of sports car, road car and track car. 911’s have always been famous as durable cars that can be driven to the track, raced all day and then driven home, and the Singer 911 simply amplifies this to unheard of levels.
But at the end of the day I can wax lyrical all I like about the Singer 911, but you’d be better off watching this video. Urgently find half an hour of your time, and watch Chris Harris wax lyrical about it too. You’ll be awe-struck.
See the Singer Vehicle Design website here.#Alfa Romeo #Alfaholics #Classic Car #Eagle E-Types #ICON #Jaguar #Morgan #Porsche #rebuilt #Retro #Singer #Toyota