When will the restomod market bubble burst?

Road Cars

The restomod market up to now has been the domain of boutique independents – but with manufacturers entering the fray, is the pie big enough for everyone?

Singer 911

The Singer 911 is a poster child for the blooming restomod market: but when will the bubble burst?


It may be a term we’ve only recently become familiar with, but ‘restomods’ are nothing new. Indeed people have been updating older cars with modern technology for as long as there’s been the modern technology with which to do it. But it seems it’s only been in the last few years that the once fringe restomod scene has become a fully fledged member of the recreational car market.

It’s not hard to see why. The truth is that many wealthy enthusiasts have become tired of playing what is known as ‘the game’, whereby they are invited to spend huge amounts of money with a manufacturer, buying cars that will ensure they remain on its favoured customer list so are first in line when its next limited edition million pound hypercar breaks cover. They then discover this car is so fast and expensive to repair they can’t use its true performance on the road and don’t dare do so on the track.

Whereas if you were to spend the same or probably quite a lot less on a beautiful, sonorous, comparatively compact classic which has been given more power, better brakes, sweeter handling, modern conveniences and decent reliability, you can drive a car you can actually use and will enjoy far more, far more of the time.

Eagle E-type

The Eagle E-types have also become popular – but now Jaguar itself is entering the restomod market, offering models for a much higher price


There are, of course, many which will need no introduction here: Henry Pearman’s Eagle E-types, the Banks brothers’ Alfaholics cars, the Singer 911s, the GTO Engineering Ferraris among others, whose products are known and respected the world over. But now they’re popping up from all over the place, and it makes me wonder: where and when will it all stop?

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From the manufacturer point of view, the appeal is no less clear. There’s money in them thar restomods. Huge amounts of money. Consider this: just before Covid, I drove a brand new Lister ‘Knobbly’, a continuation car, made by Lister Motor Cars. I guess it wasn’t technically a restomod because it was a facsimile recreation of Archie Scott Brown’s famous 1958 racing Lister, but the point was that here was a car that didn’t even start with a donor vehicle, which was so accurate it was eligible for FIA historic racing papers and, with a brand new Crosthwaite & Gardiner motor could be bought for £300,000, and presumably return a tidy profit at that level. Now compare that to the continuation C-types that Jaguar announced in the autumn. Not very different cars I think you’ll agree, and with very similar powertrains, but rather different price points: between £1-2million as Jaguar rather coyly puts it, and at which end of that scale do you think it is most likely to be found? Yes, it’s only making 16 and, of course, a Jaguar badge has a lot more resonance than that of a Lister, but even so… The point is that, like all luxury goods, these cars are not priced based on what they cost to make plus a margin, but what their makers think they can persuade the customer to pay.

Lister Knobbly

Lister Knobbly – a restomod so accurate it’s eligible for historic events (Moss edition pictured)


And in just the most recent cases, that’s been £474,000 for a restomod Austin-Healey by ‘new British luxury brand’ Caton, or £550,000 for a Thornley Kelham Jaguar XK120 (but you provide the donor vehicle), or £1.65 million for one of 25 carbon bodied continuation Bizzarrini 5300GTs.

There are so many different kinds of restomods. There are re-creations, re-imaginings, cars with transformed mechanicals but unchanged visuals, continuation cars and that’s before we’ve even mentioned the ‘E’ word and all those myriad classic cars currently undergoing extensive surgery to their internals to make space for batteries and electric motors.

But there is one thing they all have in common: they’re all competing for a slice of the same pie, and while I have no empirical evidence to back this up, my strong sense is that more and more knives are appearing at the table at a time when the pie, if anything, is getting smaller.

Which is why I think companies that are either start-ups or little known are being brave indeed when launching themselves into this world. Plans made when all seemed quietly brewing are coming to fruition at a time when the market is now boiling over with new arrivals.

Even so, I still like the idea and spend more time than I would care to admit speccing my own fantasy restomod. And here’s the thing: it wouldn’t be very expensive and actually isn’t that fantastic at all. I’d source a 1960s Alfa Romeo Giulia saloon, all of which came with five speed gearboxes and all bar the earliest with disc brakes too. I’d fit a 2-litre engine from a later Spider, GTV or Alfetta, and warm it up from a standard 130bhp to about 165bhp, which is easily and affordably done. I’d uprate the suspension, fit bigger discs, a limited slip differential, keep the skinny tyres and spend a lot of budget replacing all those parts most likely to give trouble, like fuel and brake lines, the radiator, fan and so on with a view to ensuring the closest thing to modern car reliability I could. Being a 1960s Alfa, I’d probably spend a bit on Waxoyl too. And the rest would go on fitting period-looking but brand new infotainment and somewhere to plug in my telephone.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 06: 1967 Alfa-Romeo Giulia Super. Shoots in the hills above Los Angeles, California. The Giulia Super a prime example, The solid little four-door has all-around roadability that will match a first-rate sports car, yet offers the comfort, ride, roominess, and weatherproofing of the best European sedan examples. Served up for $3,000, it's indeed a desirable car, as practical as it is exciting. (Photo by Pat Brollier/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images)

The writer has his own fantasy restomod mapped out in his mind’s eye – based on a ’60s Alfa Romeo Giulia

Getty Images

The result would be a car which looked indistinguishable from the original but which would be faster, go more sideways, be more fun and whole heap more reliable. And if it did break or need repairing, I’d know there was a plentiful supply of cheap parts and expert experts upon which and whom I could rely to get me moving again. I’d hope to keep the all-in cost south of £50,000, which is a lot to pay for a Giulia saloon, but nothing compared to what is routinely being asked for many restomods today. And I just love that it would not just be fabulously understated, but that it could be enjoyed by family and friends over whatever distance you choose to cover. If growth remains in the restomod market, and in my opinion alone, it is in projects like this that lies.