Old Versus New, as carmakers look to their past for future models, can modern recreations really be better than a classic? Unquestionably in terms of power, speed and performance yes, current engine technology is leagues ahead, turbochargers, superchargers and hybrid systems are all infinitely better and faster too. However, when it comes to retro-inspired styling, things are a little less straight cut.
Volkswagen’s Beetle versus the current car? Or perhaps Alec Issigoni’s iconic Mini against BMW’s not so small one? Both are hugely popular not for being the better-looking car, but based on the name alone. Smaller arguably the harder task, bigger cars given a 21st-century makeover are easier, and much prettier to boot. While not every retro-modern is a winner, we think these 9 look much better than the originals.
9 Ford GT (2nd Gen)
Rebooting an icon that has already been given a makeover is tricky, how to visually keep a connection over two generations could have gone one of two ways, fortunately, Ford nailed it and then some. In 2016 GT Generation 2 hit the streets, Ford’s iconic racer reborn as a stunning modern supercar, Carroll Shelby would have been proud.
The original was and still is a masterpiece of art on wheels, but times have moved on, Ford rolling out the big guns with a Christopher Svenssen-penned thoroughbred that rightly had Ferrari worried. In place of big-displacement V8s, the GT uses a variant of Ford’s EcoBoost motor, turbocharged naturally kicking out 647 hp.
8th Land Rover Defender
For decades, Land Rover filled two roles, the upmarket Range Rover taking care of VIPs who, let’s be honest, never venture off-road, and the mighty Defender, king of the mud pluggers. Green laners and farmers loved the rugged ladder chassis all-wheel-drive for its go-anywhere, climb anything dependability, right up until 2016 when JLR pulled the plug.
Waiting in the wings, a new modern breed of Defender that has more in common with the Range Rover, luxuriously appointed and built over a modern all-in-one monocoque chassis. Still a Land Rover, but better, with modern styling, improved suspension and on-road manners, coupled with terrain-busting agility, the Defender lives on.
7 Mercedes Benz SLS
This is a tricky call, on the one hand, Mercedes’s glorious 60s 300SL Gullwing is nothing short of perfection, little wonder prices can stretch as much $1 million in decent nick. However, if it’s the ultimate gullwing experience you’re craving, then just maybe the SLS will turn your eye. In many regards a modern upgrade, tow-seats, front-engined, and those doors.
Jaw-dropping from any angle, you’d struggle to find anything that mimics the original while adding a modern crisp designer suit, Mercedes turning the shock and awe factor up to 11. And it’s not just a case of all show and no go, under the hood 563 German horses await to launch the SLS occupants thanks to AMG’s tweaked 6.2-liter V8.
6 Nissan Z
Way overdue, but finally set to hit showrooms early in 2023, once again delayed, testing both gearheads’ patience and desire for the next generation z-car. Teased seemingly forever, the Z’s design and specification have been finalized, now the wait goes on to see if Nissan can capture the essence of its trend-setting 240Z
The first Z is an icon and set the standard for Nissan’s sports cars in terms of build, value, and performance, at one time the best-selling sports car on US shores. A mighty image to live up to, Zs body carries over the same long-nosed, rear-biased layout with added bulges for good effect. Tucked away under the nose, turbocharged VR30DDTT V6 engines are expected to deliver 400 hp, good for at least 155 mph.
5 Kimera Automobili EVO37
One of two reincarnated sports cars on our list, officially Kimera Automobili’s EV037 is a restomod built to mimic Lancia’s world-conquering Group B 037 racer, albeit using donor Lancia Scorpions.
Restomod might be stretching things a little far, aside from the Scorpion’s center chassis section, everything you see here is bespoke, Kimera evolving the 037’s body into a more muscular form, bulged arches and a reworked front end adding a dose of testosterone missing from the ’80s. Engines get a makeover also, Lancia’s 2.1-liter four-pot gaining an electrically driven Volumex supercharger pushing out 500 hp.
4 Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4
The most famous 70s wedge of all, pin-up poster of many a teenage gearhead growing up, the Countach is a drama-packed V12-powered monster that soldiered on into the 90s and is still adored by fans today. If we’re being brutally honest, owning one isn’t as glamorous as you might think, heavy controls and limited visibility. Still, we’d take one in a heartbeat.
Bringing back an icon, one with a modern twist in the form of a mild-hybrid assisted V12 engine putting down 770 hp, nearly double what you got with the original Countach. Peeling away the clean crisp retro lines, you’ll find the running gear and chassis of Lamborghini’s Sian FKP37 hypercar, and like its donor, production is strictly limited.
3 Alpine A110
Alpines return in 2017 evoked memories of a sporting pedigree all-but-forgotten, the A110 like its predecessor is all about minimal weight and powerful engines. From nose to tail the all-aluminum A110 on appearances could be a continuation car, the two differing in size being the biggest give-away, Alpine managing to hide an additional 12-inches
Size changes aren’t the only difference, the original used a mix of 1.3 and 1.5-liter engines, the latest Alpine packing a bigger punch thanks to a 1.8-liter mid-mounted turbocharged engine dishing out up to 288 hp.
2 Eagle E Type
Restomod time again, only what you see here is Eagle’s E-type reinvention, somehow managing to improve on perfection, Jaguar’s E-type lauded as the best looking car just got a lot better. Starting with tired Jag’s often neglected, stripping them back to basics, removing any corrosion, and lovingly improving on the breed. sounds impossible? Not if you have deep pockets.
Engines are still XK based, tweaked, settled, and available in 4.7-liter guise producing 330 hp, drive going to the rear axle via a 5-speed manual and limited-slip diff set-up. Eagle adds only on areas where improvement isn’t necessary, the bodywork was given a sympathetic streamlining that even William Lyons would have approved of.
1 Volkswagen ID Buzz
The bus is back, and not before time, gearheads alive in the 60s, 70s, and pretty much every decade since have come across one of these air-cooled hippy wagons at one time or another. Famed for giving free-spirits greater freedom to roam wherever they pleased. The Type 2 bus spawned dozens of spin-offs over 30 years before VW spoiled the recipe with the T4 from 1990.
There are some concessions, modern environmental concerns mean no air-cooled exhaust note, VW opting for a fully-electric drive-train made up of a single 201 hp motor and 82 kWh battery packs claimed to need charging once every 300 miles.