In a dreary row of econoboxes, being recognised as a connoisseur of the world’s finest cars isn’t difficult. If you rock up in anything that has carburettors and a decent paint job, you’ll be considered a person of taste.
When the “herd” you wish to distinguish yourself presents a far greater challenge (like a classic car club or breakfast run), only a handful of cars can achieve the delicate balance of being distinctive without being garish.
Enter the tasteful restomod.
There has always been an audience of petrolheads who respect the need to preserve the very best examples of each type of car, but who won’t chase originality at the expense of driver experience on cars that are already “flawed” (in comparison to their concours contenders).
Until recently, those petrolheads have often kept their dark desires to themselves, too scared to mention it at the monthly club meet. They keep themselves in check with a few changes to the car, but nothing drastic. Selected petrolhead friends are invited to the “dungeon” (aka garage) where these dark desires are shared and enjoyed.
50 Shades of Grey should’ve been a movie about John from the local car club, who is secretly building a matt grey restomod in a hidden garage that even his wife doesn’t know about. They missed a trick there.
The relative lack of restomods at the end of year club run in recent years was probably because resale values would plummet if extensive changes were made to the car. For many years, originality was the main criterion applied by buyers.
But, times change. Enter Instagram and YouTube. Enter the outlaw.
Being original and being period-correct aren’t the same things. Making your buddy in his GTI whimper into his turbo at the sight of your car won’t be achieved by having every perfectly original trim piece in place, but an underpowered engine and ineffective brakes.
Modern performance wrapped in classic lines and irresistible road presence sounds like an effective way to get a younger generation of petrolheads to pay attention to their motoring elders.
The likes of social media sensation Magnus Walker – Urban Outlaw have cemented this culture among younger enthusiasts and older enthusiasts who are young at heart. Magnus focuses exclusively on Porsches, but the principle remains the same.
We think that the recipe for “Outlaw Stage 1” looks more or less like this:
Take a car that has an iconic shape. Choose a best-of-breed engine from that manufacturer around the same time period and rebuild it (ideally with performance parts). Fit heavily upgraded brake and suspension kits. Hook up a set of replica wheels that pay homage to the racecars of that time. Source buckets seats with tasteful trimming.
These modifications all have something in common: the car can be returned to original if needed. You aren’t crossing the Rubicon from a valuation perspective, as the audience chasing originality over performance won’t be entirely alienated.
Outlaw Stage 2 is where there’s no going back. A risqué choice of colour, fitted roll cage and flared body arches are the order of the day. The car ends up as a road legal classic racecar. The concours fraternity with their chequebooks won’t pick up the phone to you, so you best be sure that this is a passion project that you intend to drive for a long time.
Of course, there are buyers who recognise the value of what you’ve done, but this is still a small audience. Build a high-quality outlaw and you’ll still have a decent investment on your hands.
The Alfa Giulia’s boxy shape has not always been loved. Practicality is hardly ever a factor when considering a classic car, so many Alfisti and general collectors have historically preferred the 105-series GT Juniors or GTVs to their 4-door stablemate. To this day, the coupes still fetch more than double the price of an equivalent quality Giulia.
In a world where outlaws have become insanely cool, the iconic shape of the Giulia comes alive. The signature straight-cut rear fenders create an alluring profile when combined with bigger, period-correct wheels (in this case 15x6J GTA replicas).
105-series Alfas are great driver’s cars even in stock form. The raspy soundtrack of the period-correct Nord 2000 in this car (vs. the original 1600) is made even sweeter by GTA replica ram pipes and Pipercross socks feeding air into the 40mm Webers. The car runs C&B camshafts with 12mm lift, oversized valves, ported and flowed cylinder head and a blueprinted bottom-end. The pistons, liners and rings are new but are not high-compression.
The full stainless-steel exhaust, from headers to tip, plays its part in immersing the car’s occupants in delicious noise.
As you sink into the Cobra Classic bucket driver’s seat and rest your hands on the Hellebore steering wheel with thicker rim and classic wooden appearance, you immediately feel connected. The aluminium pedals feel fantastic and offer great grip for your driving shoes.
Once the synchros have been rebuilt on the gearbox, all Alfas of this period offer a satisfying and engaging throw. The 2000 engine delivers the perfect combination of weight and power, resulting in a beautifully balanced package that is best enjoyed on twisty country roads, but is perfectly capable of crawling around town looking for parking.
The snap-crackle-pop soundtrack while braking for a corner encourages spirited driving. The sport brake kit, Alfaholics fast road handling kit and Koni yellow shocks allow you to attack the apex with the same ferocity as the corner exit. The limited slip differential is also period-correct, as 2000 GTVs came standard with these (yes – once upon a time, Alfa Romeo built the working-class hero’s performance car of choice).
Over a cup of one of Cape Town’s finest flat whites in ultra-trendy Kalk Bay, we discuss why outlaws are so damn cool. Undoubtedly, they play a critical role in making classic cars desirable for younger petrolheads who didn’t grow up with these cars around them. It becomes a purchase of pure desirability, rather than partial nostalgia.
Outside, onlookers stop and stare at the piercing profile of the orange Giulia. If the colour and stickers aren’t clear enough signals of performance-related intent, the lack of chrome bumpers and the tasteful headlight mesh on the inner headlights gives more clues.
This car won’t win a concours, but it will win the hearts of 20-something car enthusiasts who had no idea something from the 60s could look this sexy.
You can decide for yourself which of these goals is more important for the future of the classic car.