To Kit or Not to Kit?

kitcarIn a perfect muscle car restoration world, there would be no kit cars. Everything would be all original and every enthusiast would drive their dream with pride; elbow jutting out the window and sunglasses blocking the glare of a sun drenched open road.
Unfortunately for car lovers, not everyone has the cash to pull that off, and not every auto restoration projects are bound for Barrett-Jackson big bucks. When the question to kit or not to kit comes up, you simply have to do the math and determine what is realistic in your financial world and what other resources are available to you. If all original isn’t affordable or tracking down the parts is downright impossible—kit it. We won’t tell.
Here are a few of the most popular models for kit rebuilds:
1969 Chevy Camaro
Kits for this legendary vehicle are readily available in a variety of stages, all the way from bits and pieces to fully assembled. Please don’t shell out the cash for a fully assembled kit, you will break our muscle car lov’n hearts—it’s truly not necessary.
1968 Ford “Eleanor” Mustang
If you don’t like it, blame Nicolas Cage. The fact of the matter is this kit is popular all across the globe. If you have the engine and the frame, the body essentials will only run you about 8k. If you want the whole shebang, expect to spend upwards from 40k.
Early Sixties Corvettes
The early Corvettes are undeniably gorgeous and extremely popular. Deep down, we hope you don’t do this, but if you want to be a miser, kits that fit onto the frame of a Fiero or Miata are available. But come on, you’ll always know that you’re sitting on an itty bitty Mazda. Realistic kits cost 20k plus, but with them comes pride.


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Image: tang-aholics.com

Hot Rod History: It Started in California with Full Service Restoration

Hot Rod History: It Started in California with Full Service Restoration
Photo Credit: hotrodhomepage.com

Considered just as American as baseball and apple pie, all hot rods start with something old. ut did you know that the sports surrounding them are almost one hundred years old?

While many associate drag racing and cruising with the grease monkeys of the 1950s, the sports actually predate the Second World War. Bored and broke teens in Southern California started buying up old Model T frames and souping them up to race in the dry lake beds north of the city. Street racing was also prevalent in the late 20’s and into the 30’s, but the desert lake beds are where the community and the movement really took root. Plus, during the Great Depression, new cars were too expensive, so many teens and young adults refurbished old cars from junk yards and swapped out their engines to build their own self-styled hot rods. They also stripped away heavy, unnecessary components to make them lighter and faster.

While hot rods have evolved significantly over the years, most of the cars from the old school days that were churning up dust were four-cylinder Ford Model Ts and Model As. They were cheap and easy to get, lightweight and easy to boost up. Simple fixes like higher compression and timing adjustments made for big speed increases. And, of course, the even simpler speed fix—strip off EVERYTHING you don’t need.

Today hot rod culture is a national obsession. Those old Model T and Model A, Ford’s are still top choices. Imagine the looks today’s rides would get from those desert racing Southern California teens!

Hot rod culture is still alive and well in Southern California. Look no further than our full service restoration garage to see the amazing work being done by Southland enthusiasts!

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The Classic 1964 Pontiac GTO

los angeles classic cars

The 1964 Pontiac GTO is the very essence of what American muscle cars are all about.  It dominated the market throughout the 1960s and 1970s and was considered to be one of the first mass-produced muscle cars. The GTO blazed the trail for countless future hot rod restoration projects. To this day, it continues to be one of the most influential vehicles ever developed.

Packing a 325 horsepower 389 cubic inch V8, the GTO is a force to be reckoned with. Its three-speed Hurst manual floor shifter, dual exhausts, and sport suspension all gave the GTO unrivaled performance during its heyday. It is so powerful, in fact, that some people simply couldn’t handle it.  According to Pontiac, “To be perfectly honest, the GTO is not everyone’s cup of tea. … Its suspension is firm, tuned more to the open road than to wafting gently over bumpy city streets. Its dual exhausts won’t win any prizes for whispering. And, unless you order it with our lazy 3.08 low-ratio rear axle, its gas economy won’t be anything to write home about.”

The 1964 GTO was so popular, in fact, that GM sold 6 times as many cars as predicted within the first six months. Demand far exceeded production capacity, which further added to the mystique of the vehicle.  This demand came from a combination of low retail price and rave reviews in magazines.  According to Car and Driver, the GTO was “virtually as good as the Ferrari GTO”. This is where Los Angeles car restoration shops like Brauns really shine. There are countless variations of the GTO on the market as hot rod enthusiasts have had decades to improve and upgrade their vehicles. Also, its legacy still lives on today with the recently released GTO models. This is one vehicle that has stood the test of time, and for good reason.

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Your Next Car May Drive Itself

Interested in a self driving car? We hope so because your next car will probably drive itself. The technology is already here, with Google’s Driverless cars! While that may sound exciting, it will probably be several years before autonomous cars available in major markets.

“Why so long?” you ask. Well, that’s a simple question with a complicated answer so we’ve documented a few reasons that cover some of the major points brought up in this debate.

First, consider the ethics that need to be hashed out and the subsequent laws that would have to be in place based on this ethical code before making these cars legally operable. Legal liability. Who is going to be responsible for a car that ‘T-boned another car by itself’? Yeah, right. The chances of an alibi like that holding in court? Unlikely it seems… but who knows! If the car is totally autonomous, the point is that they drive themselves…

Right? Well, that’s just it. Currently, these cars aren’t completely autonomous. There will still need to be some user involvement in the driving process. Essentially, it’ll be easier to deal with things like sitting in highway traffic. But other instances, like switching lanes, may still require some human interaction. So unfortunately, no snoozing on the way to work for you, but hopefully one day we’ll get there.

How will regular cars fare with autonomous cars on the road? That’s a great question—we’re not sure. But apparently the ominous, constantly progressive ‘they’ may be working on aftermarket systems that one can integrate into an older car (e.g. some classic muscle like a ’68 mustang) — giving it wi-fi capability and whatever it needs to communicate with autonomous systems. Talk about some serious auto restoration procedures. We’re certainly interested in that topic.

So these are just a few of the reasons it’ll take a few years to get our hands on these cars, but it’s all for the best. Hopefully by then, Brauns Automotive will be experts at aftermarket wi-fi system installation so we can continue to serve our customers with the best and most badass muscle car restoration services available.
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Muscle Car of the Week—The 1964 Mustang Convertible

los angeles classic carsAs experts in restoration in Los Angeles classic cars, you can take our word for this—the ’64 Mustang Convertible is one of the most sought after restoration projects around. This week, we’re taking an in-depth look at the specs on this baby. We bet that by the time you’re done reading this short post, you’ll understand what all the hype is about.

The Innovators

The Mustang was the brain child of two executives working at Ford during the early 1960s: the renowned Lee Iacocca and Donald Frey. They wanted to offer Americans a sporty yet affordable car to compete with the huge inflow of European models in the market—and it’s safe to say that they exceeded everyone’s expectations. The original price tag on the Mustang was $2,320, and on the very first day that it was available, Ford sold 22,000 of them. By the end of ’64, they sold over 400,000 Mustangs! (Not all were convertibles, but you get the picture) As a result of this demand, they manufactured a ton of cars, which means that they shouldn’t be too hard to find if you want to take one on as an car restoration project.

The Original

The 1964 Mustang is the original muscle car. While it’s not quite as powerful as some of our other auto restoration choices, it was definitely no slouch. It came standard with a 170 cubic inch six cylinder engine that produced 120 horsepower. However, you could upgrade to a 289 cubic inch V-8, or, for even higher performance, a 289 cubic inch 4-bbl V8 with their “Cruise-O-Matic” automatic transmission and 271 horsepower.

Parts for these pony cars are readily available at almost every junkyard in the country. The good news is that once you restore one, you can get up to $40,000 for it!

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How to Excel at a Muscle Car Cocktail Party

chassis dyno testing in a live event
Photo Credit: myrideisme.com

By “muscle car cocktail party,” we mean a bunch of dudes standing around, drinking beer and talking about horsepower. When you and your buddies are talking shop, which one of you is the trivia champ? Are you the guy who knows every spec from every model of classic American muscle cars?

Here are a handful of facts that may stump even you. Use them to show your buddies just how deep your knowledge runs.

There was no 1983 Corvette
Like a 13th floor, it just isn’t there. The third generation Corvette had a long and glorious run from 1968 to 1982. Chevy waited until 1984 to release the C4. Some thought they had a radical redesign in mind, while others thought it was due to emissions complications. In the end, for whatever the reason, all but one of the 1983 prototypes were destroyed. And no, you can’t get your hands on that one, it’s in the National Corvette Museum.

The Original Transformer Camaro was a ’69
The modern area Camaro made a badass Bumblebee in the Hollywood blockbuster, Transformers. But it wasn’t the first mad science success; that belongs to the 1969 COPO Camaro. Chevy’s COPO series was meant for fleet sales, cop cars and taxi cabs. A few clever auto dealers figured out that the 9560 COPO all-aluminium ZL-1 427 V-8 could be ordered as a Camaro package, creating a light and mean muscle car that pumped out 550 horsepower during chassis dyno testing. Only 69 of the ZL-1 Camaros were made and they command as much as $400k at auction.

Too Much Engine, Not Enough Body
In the late sixties and early seventies, NASCAR insisted that manufacturers make 500 of their race vehicles available to the public. Was this safe? Probably not, but it was good for muscle car geeks everywhere. The 1969 Mustang Boss 429 was a prime example. However, there was a tiny production problem: the engine was too big for the chassis. In order to fit the king-sized engine into the engine bay, Ford had to make a variety of alterations, including relocated shock towers and a smaller brake-booster. The retrofitted Boss 429 is a rarity among muscle cars and worth a mint.

Go forth and astound with your new found knowledge! Or brush up a little more with this quiz.

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History Making Muscle Cars

muscle car restoration shops
Muscle cars—they all have a certain allure that has garnered attention around the world for decades. They’re depicted in movies, used in commercials and raced in venues across the globe. There are many history making muscle cars and muscle car restoration shops, but for this week’s post, we’re focusing on three all-time favorites that we see all the time in our auto restoration shop. While there is a blurry line for many between muscle cars and hot rods, we love both—so one of these may just fall into the hot rod category for some classic car lovers.
These are just three classics among many that had an impact on the culture and manufacture of big engine cars. Tell us your favorite history makers if you think we missed some important ones.
1. ’49 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 – You have to give credit to a pioneer even if it doesn’t stack up against later generations. The Rocket ’88 was built in response to the post World War II hot rod craze. It took 12 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour. If we had dyno tested it, we bet it would have topped out at 135 bhp. But in its day, it was a beast.
2. ’68 Dodge Charger – You can ask someone who doesn’t know a single thing about muscle cars to name one and there is a good chance they will say, Charger. This bad boy cut the Rocket 88’s 0-60 time in half. It was the bad guy’s car in Bullitt, and a year later, it became the one and only General Lee. History on top of history.
3. 2013 Shelby GT500 – We started with something old and we’ll finish with something new. This car is an embarrassment of riches; 662 horsepower supercharged V-8, 0-60 in 3.5s, a top speed of over 200 miles per hour. Many consider it to be the most powerful vehicle ever produced by an American automaker.

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image: mygenerallee.com

 

Airless Tires? A Closer Look at “Tweels”

auto restoration projects

In 2015, new technologies come and go like waves on the beach. They can be so present in our daily lives one day only to be washed away by something very similar but upgraded the next. Less often we see a technology that may represent a full paradigm shift.

 
Today I’d like to highlight what I predict will be a true paradigm shift in an underrated, yet extremely important piece of muscle car auto restoration projects—the tire.
 
One of the most ancient technologies known to man, the wheel, has remained relatively unaltered in recent years. On our cars, we currently use tires, modified wheels that prove to be much more useful than a standalone wheel itself. In addition, we have tires that allow you to drive when punctured, tires optimized for use in cold, slippery weather, and even tires that roll without making a sound. However, we haven’t seen a true paradigm shift in this technology since Robert Thomson used vulcanized rubber to provide a stable coat for the first pneumatic tires in 1839. Since then, we have expanded on that basic formula in automobile tire creation: a rubber outer filled with air that encapsulates the circumference of a hubcap equals a tire.
 
In recent years, however, there has been a monumental shift in tire technology and research. Researchers have begun foraging into the new territory of non-pneumatic tires, or tires without the current key ingredient – air pressure. Nicknamed the “tweel”, these experimental wheels use a strategic architecture of flexible polyeurethane spokes that support an outer rim while also absorbing shocks. Funded by the Department of Defense, Wisconsin researchers Resillient Technologies, LLC are currently experimenting with different types of “rims” to use with these wheels. Two major issues that are being addressed are lack of heat dissipation and noise.
Currently, tweels generate 5% more friction than a regular radial tire. This causes lots of heat buildup when rolling around—and without the air pressure inside the tire to help with dissipation, the tweels can overheat and cause structural damage. In addition, when rolling above 50 mph, the tweels apparently begin to vibrate, causing an unpleasant and loud noise.
 
As with any new technology, the tweel still has a few kinks to work out, and while the wheels are currently available for bikes and slower moving vehicles like the latest, the lunar rover, it’ll take more time before they are widely available for automobiles. The latest advancement we’ve seen comes from Hankook. Their i-Flex design is advertised as bringing lighter weight, greater fuel efficiency, and greater shock absorption to the ‘tweel’ market. The cherry on top? These wheels are made with 95% recyclable materials. They are also working on a new tire called the e-membrane, which is capable of physically changing its structure to be more efficient under different driving conditions (e.g. busy city traffic versus a race track).
 

Our final thoughts: how long before this new technology becomes outdated? With research into magnetic roads and hovering cars, will this technology serve too little too late? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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image: auto.howstuffworks.com

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Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last Ride

A 1966 Lincoln Continental convertible is part of some great auto restoration projects. This car exudes class and is rife with American history — the one pictured above is particularly special. It is known to be the last car owned by the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and currently resides at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

According to an Indiana news article, the car had been lent to King by a wealthy Civil Rights patron named Cornelia Crenshaw. This is the same car that King used the day of his assassination, April 4, 1968. Crenshaw later went broke due to a loss of her wealth in a court hearing against the city of Memphis and could not afford to fix a blown head gasket. Thus she left the beautiful piece of history for over 20 years in the lot behind Haye’s Auto Shop in Memphis, TN where the owner of Haye’s held onto it even after she had passed away. Unfortunately the car was neglected in the back lot where it began to rust and eventually became interwoven into a den of plant life that had taken root in and around it.

The car was discovered in 2002 by Rich Fortner, the owner of Al’s Auto Body Experts, in St. John, Indiana and has since performed one of the most interesting and important auto restoration jobs in recent history. He restored the car for use by the National Civil Rights Museum in their 40th anniversary celebration, that occurred on April 4, 2008.

We’ve found more images of what is said to be the same Lincoln Continental after it’s most recent auto restoration. The photographer claims that this is the verified authentic car owned and driven by Dr. King. He claims to have taken these pictures 2 days after it’s restoration was complete.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day to all and may we not forget our history. Google

First Looks at Dodge’s “Hellcat” Equipped 2015 Challenger

auto restoration Brauns Automotive 2015 Dodge Challenger

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT is rumored for release at the ongoing 2014 Detroit Auto Show (January 13-26, 2014). The upgraded Challenger will contain a Supercharged Hemi V-8 engine in the SRT model. This all aluminum Hemi v-8, dubbed the “Hellcat”, is a 6.2 liter engine that is supposed to be far more powerful than the 6.4 liter version.

From an auto restoration standpoint, things get interesting when you check out the physical specs of the new engine. Despite popular belief, the Hellcat is not just a modified version of the 6.4 liter Hemi V-8. It’s reported as structurally different to the point of using different motor mounts, heads and few interchangeable parts. It is believed that this will be the engine to usher in a new generation of Hemi’s that would be smaller, incorporate efficiency upgrades, be lighter weight but all the while producing more power. Engineering at it’s finest. We’re excited for the future!

The price tag on the Hellcat equipped version of the new Challenger hasn’t been officially released but we can speculate that this will be considered a special model meaning it’s price should fall well above even the Challenger SRT 392’s starting price of $46k.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the new Hemi’s in the arena as we may consider using them in future hot rod restoration projects. Google