Modernizing Classic Cars: Great Ways to Update Your Ride


Modernizing Classic Cars: Great Ways to Update Your Ride


There are many ways to go about modernizing classic cars. It comes down to where on the vehicle you focus. This isn’t a binary decision – the proposed modifications featured here can be combined to have a truly transformative effect on your old-school muscle car, fat-fender pickup, or any vintage automobile. Many times, the vehicle will tell you where it needs attention. The key is to recognize the need as an opportunity to improve your ride.

Injection Perfection

Transport your vintage car to the modern era with an electronic fuel-injection conversion. Holley Sniper carburetor-replacement EFI systems offer a unique blend of modern EFI technology with the simplicity of carburetor installation. Sniper EFI systems utilize a throttle body injection design, which relies on the manifold runners to distribute the air-fuel mixture to the engine. This setup eliminates the need for individual injectors, fuel rails, or complicated sensors, which simplifies installation and reduces potential issues.

Sniper fuel-injection systems are available in 1-, 2-, and 4-barrel configurations to suit different engine setups and performance expectations. You also get convenient control as the system’s engine control unit (ECU) is cleverly integrated into the throttle body assembly, further streamlining the installation process because there are fewer wires to run. Typical systems include the throttle-body assembly, wideband oxygen sensor, main harness, and a handheld monitor. The handheld monitor serves multiple functions, including setting up the base tuning map, overseeing the self-learning tuning feature, as well as displaying gauge data.

When upgrading to fuel injection, the vehicle’s fuel system also needs to be brought up to EFI-spec as throttle-body injection requires a considerable jump in fuel pressure compared to a carb setup. Holley has upgraded fuel pumps and even vehicle-specific fuel tank kits that include an uprated in-tank pump. Also, a fuel system master kit can be added via drop-down menus when ordering a Sniper system at

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New Shoes, New Attitude

A wheel-and-tire upgrade will modernize your classic in two ways. First, it’s an opportunity to update the look of your vehicle by kicking lame stock rims or ratty old aftermarket wheels to the curb. You can roll 18-inchers or more if you’re ready to add fenderwell tubs out back. Secondly, the low-profile tires you’ll likely run with your new wheels will deliver superior handling and traction due to their larger contact patch and reduced sidewall. Also, larger wheels allow larger brakes for improved stopping power. A wheel like the Flare from Rocket Racing Wheels features a modern concave five-spoke design with four different face profiles to accommodate the large brake calipers found in many big-brake kits. There are also modern takes on classic designs like Halibrand-style kidney bean mags, as well as fresh designs from Halibrand.

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Master Your Brakes

Bringing your brakes into the modern era addresses both safety and performance. You don’t have to go straight to a big-brake conversion either – you can improve and update the original system. Detroit Speed & Engineering has brake booster and master cylinder kits for popular ‘60s and ‘70s muscle cars that take a manual brake setup and convert it to vacuum power assist. These kits work with stock or aftermarket brakes, feature a dual-diaphragm design, include a low-fluid-sensor plug-in, and have accommodations for a Baer Brakes adjustable proportioning valve to further dial in front-to-rear braking bias. You get a more solid pedal feel and improved reliability.

And while you’re at it, ditch the drums. Converting to discs is a well-known path to braking bliss. There are two types of conversions: front brake conversions for early vehicles that ran drums exclusively and rear conversions kits for classics that feature front disc and rear drum setups.

Of course, you can take the upgrade-instead-of-replace route and bolt-on a bigger than stock kit. These kits improve performance by upsizing the rotors and calipers to produce more swept area which increases clamping power. Typical kits are vehicle- or platform-specific and are designed to upgrade the front brake system. They include one- or two-piece cross-drilled-and-slotted rotors, high-quality forged billet aluminum calipers with 4, 6, or 8 pistons, brake pads, brackets, stainless braided brake hoses, and mounting hardware.

Shop brake upgrades and big-brake kits here

Underperforming Underpinnings

Even something as simple as a proper alignment can make a classic car drive better. One way to make up time in a vehicle suspension is performing overdue maintenance. The act of replacing old bushings ball joints, control arms, and steering components can reinvigorate tired suspensions, giving a vintage car owner a tighter, more confident driving experience.

Going aftermarket with your suspension game plan will pay huge dividends – a payoff you can feel when the road gets twisty. The possibilities are wide and varied, consisting of items as simple as shocks and sway bars or as sophisticated as front subframe assemblies, four-link rear end conversions, or mini tub kits for running big wheels and tires. As is often the case, it comes down to intended usage – Is the vehicle a cruiser? Will it do some autocrossing or canyon carving? Are romps down the drag strip in its future?

Of course, like any project, budgets are always looming like a vulture on a power line. When prioritizing upgrades for improved handling while maximizing the bang-for-the-buck quotient, aftermarket sway bars emerge as a top recommendation. The benefits abound. Sway bars, sometimes also called stabilizer bars or anti-roll bars, effectively reduce body roll during cornering. This improvement enhances the vehicle’s stability and responsiveness, especially during aggressive driving where the lateral g-load switches from side to side quickly.

Sway bars impact at-limit handling behavior by mitigating both the understeer (front-end sliding) and oversteer (rear-end sliding) tendencies of the vehicle. Lastly, they’re a cost-effective way to enhance handling performance and they’re super easy to install – typically a couple direct bolt-on brackets are all that’s needed. Team the bars with some quality, performance valved shocks and lowering springs or a set of high-tech coilovers and you can lower the vehicle’s center of gravity and take handling and car control to a level your ride could never dream of in stock trim.

Shop Holley performance suspension solutions here

The Cool Zone

The only thing worse than a hot-running car is a hot-running driver. Modernizing classic cars can include upgrading your ride with air conditioning. Cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and especially early vintage pickups – which were built for the farm not the fam – were never equipped with air conditioning. All these vehicles make great candidates for air-conditioning conversion kits. Holley offers dozens of vehicle-specific kits that include everything you need to install a great performing and proper looking A/C system in your old-timey ride.

Shop Holley air conditioning kits here

A Bright Future

Light the way with Holley’s innovative RetroBright LED headlight conversions. RetroBright headlights come with OEM connectors, allowing for easy plug-and-play installation. This means enthusiasts can simply plug their factory wiring directly into the new headlight housing, eliminating the need for cutting, splicing, or wiring in current-limiting resistors. For vehicles with non-standard H4 wiring plugs and pinouts, Holley offers adapters to ensure full compatibility and seamless installation.

RetroBright headlights are offered in 7-inch round, 5.75-inch round, and 4x6-inch, 5x7-inch rectangular sizes, which cover a broad spectrum of American, European, and Japanese vintage vehicles. Enthusiasts can choose between two different color temperatures – 5700k for a modern white light or 3000k for a warm classic color. Clear and yellow “Euro-style” lenses are available to further personalize the lights. The days of headlights that darken and brighten when you get on and off the throttle are gone. These LEDs shine brighter and draw about half the current verses traditional headlights. Style and safety never looked so good together.

Shop Holley RetroBright LED headlight conversions here

This simple road map for upgrading any vintage machine will allow savvy owners to evaluate their ride’s needs and start the updating process, while also planning out future mods. Modernizing classic cars is attainable for everyone, and the updates outlined here can have a profound effect on the enjoyment and satisfaction you experience behind the wheel where it counts the most.


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