By Nick Licata
With all aftermarket parts available today to make our classic Chevy muscle cars hit corners like a modern track fiend and at the same time drive as smooth as a new La-Z-Boy Talladega Rocking Recliner (yep, it’s a real thing. Google it.) there are plenty of holdouts who prefer to keep their car’s technology in or near to the decade it was born … and I, for one, totally dig it.
Now, I’m all for employing the latest technology available to help make our vintage cars handle and perform to the best of their ability. Heck, my ’71 Camaro has LS power and updated aftermarket suspension and brakes, yet I can’t help but also love cars clinging to the spirit of the late ’60s and early ’70s. I especially admire the guys who build gasser-style cars and are willing to give up some driveability in pursuit of period-correctness. That’s dedication. Thankfully, their desire to preserve automotive history enables the older hot rodders to fondly look back on the past while offering the younger generation of hot rodders a peek at what it was like. With that said, should cars built with the influence of a bygone era comply to the past in every aspect? When referencing brakes and suspension, I think it makes sense to give up some nostalgia for safety. The aftermarket enables today’s engines to make big horsepower compared to what was available 50 years ago, which makes these cars go faster than ever with ease. So, it’s imperative they stop quicker with little effort, as well.
When it comes to powering these nostalgia hot rods, should we draw a line where only small- or big-block engines be allowed? I’ve seen LS power in plenty of Pro Street cars—some dressed in big- and small-block attire, while others blatantly let that LS flag fly.
Does a ’55 Chevy built in gasser motif need to abide by the same loose rules when it comes to the powerplant, or is that car held to a higher standard underhood? I’m pretty sure just about every muscle car purist would consider it sacrilege to power a vintage straight-axle car with an LS engine. But would it get a pass if a carburetor or eight-stack injection system were part of the mix? What if small- or big-block–style valve covers and some other old-school–looking accoutrements were on board? Asking for a friend. Seriously, would using a more-efficient mill absolutely destroy the spirit of the build? That same friend would like to know.
Being born in the ’60s and attending drag races at a young age is likely to blame for my attraction to the Gassers and A/FX drag cars, yet being so closely involved with today’s aftermarket I can’t help but embrace the newest parts designed to make our classics drive like late-model sports cars. Thankfully, we live in a time when we can have our cake and eat it, too!
All this cake talk is making me hungry. You in?