When it comes to older cars and trucks, the ranks of pure restoration aficionados have long been outshadowed by the flash and thunder crowd. But the space in-between the two is widening. Restomodders update yesterday’s hot rides using the coolest technology from today, without performing major sheet metal changes … vehicle bodies look close to period stock, with faded paint on the skin hiding state-of-the-art mechanicals.
Valvoline’s Reinvention Project takes restomodding to a whole new level, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson – two of today’s biggest NASCAR stars given free reign to reimagine two classic Chevrolet pickup trucks with the resources of Hendrick Motorsports, one of the biggest baddest race car shops on Earth.
I had the remarkable good fortune to attend the Reinvention Project reveal event at Hendrick’s 100+ acre facility outside of Charlotte, NC last month, courtesy of the kind folks at Valvoline. Over the course of two days, we had a full tour of Hendrick’s amazing shops and museum (no cameras were allowed throughout most of the facility), hung out at Zmax Dragway, got a ride along in Dale Jr’s truck on the autocross course, and took part in an Engine Builder’s Boot Camp competition. That’s yours truly in the photo above, working with Eric the Car Guy on the first shift of the Boot Camp.
I’ve always wanted to build an engine from scratch. Bolting on the bits under a ticking clock under optimal conditions, aided by the top Chevy V8 builders in America was a truly surreal experience. There’s no denying a hot rod heart. I’m hooked.
While some folks are perfectly content with a car or truck as it rolls off the dealer’s lot, other folks are on an endless quest for perfection through modification. Generations of customizers, hot rodders and tuners have lifetimes nipping, tucking and tweaking their rides – smoothing out sheet metal for better looks, shoe horning bigger engines between the fenders for better performance, tuning suspensions for a quicker run through the twisty stuff.
There’s a similarity between Valvoline’s Reinvention Project and MPGomatic’s Ain’t Fuelin’ video series that goes right to the core. It’s all about making an old car or truck cool again using today’s technology. While Dale Jr. and Jimmie’s classic Chevy pickups are big buck builds with a low key appearance, Ain’t Fuelin’ projects are similarly stealthy, but require minimal investment. The big difference, of course, is the contrast between the quest for more horsepower and higher fuel economy. But both share a slammed aesthetic.
Here’s Valvoline’s autocross video …
While it’s taken a more time than I anticipated, Ain’t Fuelin’s finally underway with our first comprehensive low-buck build. While we won’t drop a screaming Chevy V8 under the hood of SLAMBO, she rolled into the driveway with the first set of lowering springs installed (and without scraping). I’ll weigh in on that note in the next installment …
– by Daniel Gray
Disclaimer: Valvoline provided transportation and lodging to attend the Reinvention Project reveal event and is a sponsor of MPGomatic’s Ain’t Fuelin’ video series pilot.