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The vintage cars that outrun time

Simon de Burton
April 15, 2024
8 min

Owners of classic cars (me included) are always careful to include at least one pair of rose-tinted spectacles in their toolboxes, together with a large helping of optimism and an unwaveringly stoic attitude. This is because, as much as I hate to admit it, they rarely get you from A - B without something blowing, boiling, breaking or bending. While they may not be as reliable as today’s electronically-managed, rust-resistant, safety conscious personal transport solutions, there’s no denying that old cars usually have a great deal more character, which is why the market for classics that appear to be from the ‘golden age’  but drive like new is currently booming.

Using modern manufacturing methods, superior materials and more efficient systems, numerous specialists now build "freshly built" classics that combine old school charm with 21st century reliability to create a car that’s attention-grabbing, good-looking, fun to own and, above all, entirely usable on a daily basis. Among those to have been fully converted to the idea is Bremont co-founder Nick English, whose restomod Porsche 911 defies its 43 years both in terms of looks and performance. “It started out as a standard, 1979 Targa that I used so much that it eventually needed a full restoration,” explains English.

“I really loved the car, but I have always preferred the look of the older models with smaller bumpers and longer bonnets. I also really liked the 911 conversions being done by Singer in California but one of those was way out of my budget. However, I'm lucky to have two local classic Porsche specialists nearby, Hillcrest Cars and Riviera Autos. Between them they re-modelled the body slightly, repainted it in stone grey, completely re-trimmed the interior and tweaked the engine and running gear. I now love the way it looks and it's absolutely superb to drive, and, since the base car needed a lot of work anyway, I don't think it was sacrilege to go down the restomod route.”

And if you fancy doing the same with anything from a Land Rover to a nifty, old-school Mini or a wind-in-the-hair convertible, there’s probably a ‘new classic’ that's up your street. Here are a few of the best...

Arkonik Land Rover Defender

Land Rovers are among the most popular vehicles for the Restomod treatment, and some of the best are built by Arkonik, a niche operation based in Frome, Somerset. The firm was founded in 2007 by engineer Andy Hayes who, after being hospitalised for two months due to a motorcycle accident, recuperated by restoring a beaten-up 1983 Defender and driving it around mainland Europe. He then built a second and, after selling it with little effort, realised the potential for a business that would not only restore original Defenders to better-than-new condition but would also improve them with contemporary enhancements to make them more practical and pleasurable to use in the modern world. Available upgrades include a 6.2 litre, 430 horsepower Corvette sports car engine conversion,  luxurious interiors, rustproofed and hand-painted chassis, better brakes and suspension set-ups bespoke paint finishes. An entry-level Arkonik will set you back around £120,000.

Alfaholics 105 GTA/R

When Richard Banks founded Somerset-based Alfahaolics as an Alfa Romeo repair and restoration business during the 1970s, the sporty Italian cars were a relatively rare sight on British roads, but as enthusiasm for classic cars grew, Alfaholics became the go-to place for anything to do with collectable Alfas. Now run by Banks's sons, Max and Andrew, the firm has become famous worldwide for its restomod builds of the much-loved Type 105 Giulia model from the 1960s and '70s. The range-topping Alfaholics GTA/R conversion blends 21st century brakes, suspension and steering with a modern Alfa Romeo engine tuned to produce 215 horsepower which, combined with the car's sublime looks, led BBC Top Gear presenter Chris Harris to describe it as a "masterpiece". Despite a starting price of £290,000 plus vat, the order book is full until 2029.

Frontline Developments MGB

In production from 1963 - 1980 and available in coupe and convertible form, the MGB was one of the most successful (and most quintessential) British-built sports cars of all time. Although still a popular and surprisingly reliable classic in standard form, the 'B' always offered plenty of room for improvement  - a fact that Frontline Developments has comprehensively addressed with its 21st century versions that combine brand new, corrosion-proofed  Heritage bodyshells with meticulously fitted panels, Mazda engines and gearboxes, bespoke interiors and upgraded electrics. The result? A £70,000-plus MG that looks standard, but tops 150mph, can be driven daily, and won't dissolve into a pile of rust at the sight of the first raindrop.


In little more than a decade, Singer Vehicle Design has grown from one man's hobby in to a firm that's widely recognised as probably the best Porsche 911 modifier in the world. Norfolk-born Rob Dickinson (the former singer, songwriter and guitarist with British rock-band Catherine Wheel) set-up the business in Sun Valley, California,  after his own, modified 1969 car – "the Brown Bomber" – incited numerous enquiries for something similar from other Porsche enthusiasts. Each Singer is based on an early 1990s 964 model Porsche 911 that's worked-on in minute detail for an average of 4,000 hours in order to transform it into what has been described simply as "the ultimate car", with everything from the engine and suspension to the bodywork and interior being comprehensively re-modelled and  improved – at a cost of as much as  $1m plus. Look out for the up-coming 'Turbo Study', the first turborcharged Singer.

Corvette Grand Sport Evocation

Superformance is an American company that holds the licence to build genuine 'continuation' versions of the famous Shelby Cobra and Daytona sports cars developed during the 1960s by Texan racing driver Carrol Shelby. The firm also makes so-called evocations of the rare and fabulous Corvette Grand Sport from 1962, just five of which were originally built for an aborted factory racing programme. Buyers of the evocation cars may choose from a range of modern General Motors engine options, while bodies are made from specially made, lightweight glass fibre panels and interiors closely replicate those of the 1960s cars, complete with wood-rimmed steering wheel and 'Muncie' style gear shifter. Prices start at £225,000, with the cars being available in the UK through Sussex-based Le Mans Coupes.


Jonathan Ward abandoned a career in the Hollywood movie business 15 years ago in order to pursue his lifelong passion for cars by setting up a company called TLC that specialised in restoring and lightly modifying examples of Toyota's classic FJ  Land Cruiser from the 1960s and '70s. A trained industrial designer, Ward subsequently re-named the business Icon4x4 and began to offer not just restoration work, but a comprehensive upgrade service that combined the Land Cruiser's aesthetic appeal with a package of improvements that brought everything from the engine and brakes to the instruments and the entertainment system right into the 21st century, making the once rough-and-ready Land Cruiser one of the coolest and most practical vehicles on the block. Icon also performs similar conversions on classic Ford Broncos with prices starting at around  $150,000.

Morgan Plus Four/Plus Six

Morgan has been building four-wheeled sports cars since the 1930s (the firm was established in 1910 as a maker of three-wheeled cyclecars) and their appearance remains little changed, but, with the latest Plus Four and Plus Six models, looks are entirely deceptive. While the car retains the supple and eco-friendly ash wood framework for which Morgans are famous, they features an aluminium bonded platform fitted with a choice of  BMW engines that punches out as much as 335 bhp. That gives  the lightweight roadster a top speed of up to 166mph, while mod cons include an eight-speed, switchable automatic transmission, central locking and puddle lights. It is, essentially, a factory-built restomod. Prices start at £64,995.

Mini Remastered

A product of David Brown Automotive, maker of the Jaguar-based Speedback GT luxury tourer, the Mini Remastered is exactly that - an original 1980s Mini that's been dismantled down to the last nut and bolt before being fully rebuilt to a standard that's far higher than could ever have been imagined 40 years ago. Based on new bodyshells supplied by official manufacturer British Motor Heritage, the cars are de-seamed for a smooth appearance and heavily braced and soundproofed for a much improved ride. New, upgraded suspension is fitted and engines and gearboxes are fully rebuilt using top-quality modern components, while the seats, dashboard, headlining and doors are trimmed with the same meticulous care seen on the Speedback GT. Interior comforts also include Bluetooth connectivity, sat-nav and a bespoke dashboard. And all for a not-so-Mini starting price of £75,000.

Ares Design Wami Progettodue

One of the most gorgeous Italian sports cars never to have made it into production was surely the Maserati 150GT of 1957. Intended to be a high-performance roadster capable of taking on competition such as the Porsche 550 Spyer, the 150GT featured an engine from Maserati's 150S racer and lovely, aluminium bodywork designed by Medardo Fantuzzi, but just one was created after plans to build the car commercially were scrapped. The unique prototype sold at auction in 2013 for $3m but, for a fraction of that amount, Modena-based Ares Design will build you a modern-day evocation that's just as beautiful, more comfortable, more practical and considerably faster. The Wami Progettodue's large, egg-crate grill, taut lines, wire wheels and side-exit exhaust leave no doubt as to its inspiration. All it needs is a Maserati trident on the bonnet and it could easily pass for the real thing. Price depends on specification.