Thursday, November 17, 2016

Stock, Modified or Retro-Mod Of The Tri-Five Chevy That is the Question?

Stock, Modified or Retro-Mod

The Tri-Five Chevy

That is the Question?

-Alan Arnell

I have loved the Tri-Five Chevy since they were just cars and not classics. [Check out my Classic Car Bio (HERE)]  When I started messing with cars at 16 years of age, around 1972, my friends and I didn't modify our cars, as much as, we just souped or customized the car to make it faster and unique. Back then air shocks, Mag wheels and fat tires were about average for modifying a teenager’s car.

The late 60’s models we could afford, still had the same basic parts of a 1955, ‘56 or ‘57 Classic Chevys  A ‘69 Chevelle, like I played with, had not really changed all that much from the 1955 model.  

Image result for jay leno's shelby cobra

Driving has changed a great deal since 1955 and for that matter the mid 1970’s.  We drive our car today much faster and in more traffic-urban settings for the most part.  Cars have come a long way in development and engineering the last 60 years.  The old saying, “They don’t make them like they used to” is so true!  Today’s cars are much more reliable, faster, ride and handle better, and stop better than even 30 years prior.  For proof, just watch a video of Jay Leno where he races his souped up Shelby Cobra against a little old lady in a Tesla (LINK).  Jay got whooped!

I had played with Chevelles from 1973 until 1985.  In 1985, I fulfilled the need for my second passion and bought a 1978 Corvette Pace Car.  So, I can’t speak for Tri-Fives during the mid to late 1980’s, but us Corvette guys were stock only.  I did not dare change one thing on my Vette during the 5 years I drove it as my daily driver and 100K+ miles as modifying would decrease the value of the resale of the vehicle.

Years later in the 90's, I remember classic car guys, without knowing it, put themselves in either keeping their car completely stock, modify it a little or going all the way out by completely changing a car to a totally new drive train, brakes, steering, etc. Not quite retro-mod but getting closer.

At the dawn of the 21st Century from my experience, I would say modernizing, the Tri-Five to where only the body was stock as the new up and coming trend.  Since then, I believe most Tri-Fives were going modified, because of the age of the Tri-Five Chevy.  Up until the last 20 years an enthusiastic could find a local salvage yard to buy stock parts for repair and replacement.  That source has dried up for the most part, yet there was still plenty of private persons and retail outlets that sold “old new stock” that made keeping your car stock still a viable option.  However, the retail outlets of the last 15 years or so began making new parts for the Tri-Five Chevy making it easier to place a mod on your car.  Sometimes the new and better parts could not be identified from an old stock part.

For example:  The brakes of a 1955 Chevy were a marked improvement over the 1921 Chevy, However, after driving a modern car in 70 mile and hour stop and go traffic, then switching to a that same 1955 Chevy, most drivers have the feeling, “ I am going to kill myself with the 50’s technology stopping gear!” [Read about Power Booster Front Disc Conversion Tri-Five Late Model Part 1 at (LINK)]

My grandfather never worried about the stopping power of his old 51 Chevy.  He only drove it from the farm in Missouri to town and rarely exceeded 50 miles an hour, even on the major highway Route 63.  He didn’t even have a side-view mirror on his car.  Can today’s urban dweller even imagine not having two side view mirrors and not checking the blind spot when changing lanes?  Let me put it this way, I have a disk brake conversion kit for my 1957 Chevy that I plan to install, for safety sake as much as anything else and I have 2 side mirrors.

I am wondering what will be the 21st Century's commanding philosophy for restoring a Tri-Five? From my experience in recent years, I would say modernizing the Tri-Five to where only the body was stock as the new trend. However, when I checked  on average there is generally 115 viewers on the stock page and only 75 on the modified page.

So I ask on line,"... in your opinion what is the current or next trend, Stock, Modified or Retro-mod?" My questioned was posed in what may be arguably the best source for Tri-Five info in a chat room format,

I was directed from by thread post to a poll conducted by (‘56 Sedan Delivery). The results of the poll at the time of this writing was that 54 (17.36%) surveyed members chose the stock style and 257 (82.64%) chose modified.

Member comments to my question was:
All the tri-fives I've owned have been "modified" in one way or another!  Way back,we wanted bigger tires,floor shift, more power ,better exhaust, etc. Pure-stock is a rare thing nowadays! Everyone wants theirs to be special and different. Reto-mod?  Who doesn't like to drive down the interstate next to a new car knowing you can keep up because you have the same modern drivetrain? Mike (100%Chevy)

IMO the trend is going to modified and the new term is Rerto-mod. Most of the comforts of a new car but with the original looking body. It also seems money is going to the retro-mod's over the stock cars, except in a few instances. (Zbad55)

Alan, I don't subscribe to any basic philosophy except to build it to satisfy what I want in my ride. At the moment, my suspension is stock with the exception of sway bars and polygraph bushings. The engine is an early 90's 350 with factory TBI injection. I like mine dependable to drive and that was my goal. Terry(Chevyman57)...Agree 100%. This is about fun. It is not about pleasing what other people like to see or maxing out the market value sometime down the road but is about maximizing the enjoyment that one gets from the total experience. (Roger1)

Retro-Mod I think is the latest craze. I love it. My 57 is stock apart from being lowered. Retro modding it could be on the cards soon. (Machev)

Modified works for me, as long as it’s not a survivor (there only this way once). (Carl 56)

Even my very first 57 Bel Air 2 dr hardtop was slightly modified with a 3-speed Hurst, dual point distributor, paint, etc. Then I restored 6 more and modified all of them. About two years ago, I bought a stock 57 Bel Air. It's just too common! Now I'm restoring a modified 57 GMC truck! It looks like a Chevy and I drive it everyday that's nice. The fun is back again!!! (rmalott).  Similar experience to what I had.  Before my Bel Air, I restored a numbers matching 1969 Corvette convertible. I kept it 100% stock. It was a pretty fun restoration but the fun kind of stopped when I finished it. I had all kinds of plans to drive the car but quickly realized that was not going to be that fun after all.  I ended up selling it only because I wasn't giving it the attention it deserved. (Roger1)

Well, I looks like the pure-stock guy is going the way of the American Buffalo not the Dodo Bird. Still, I have to say, I still see Buffalo, but in a fenced in field.  Dodo Birds, not so much.  There will always be stock Tri-Five guys.  Like my friend Marvin who bought a 1957 Chevy and took off the modern master cylinder to put on a stock model, because he wanted to.  You can't argue with that logic and you don’t see that done much anymore.  And of course, there will be museums and concourse cars that will be kept stock.

The mod guys will always be around, I feel, for years to come.  I, for example, have made/kept my car a modified [See a blog about my car, “Candy the Dandy 57 Chevy” (HERE)].  I chose to just to modify my car, because I wanted a period correct car.  I wanted a ‘57 like I would have made in 1975.  I have had the car now for 16 years.  She is getting ready to take a new step in her life and it looks like retro-mod or close to it will be the next wave of my installed improvements.  Why?  I live in a large metropolitan area.  Having a car that looks like a 1957 but drives like a 2016 model with better than 14 mpg would sure be nice.

For the next 20 years retro-mod looks to be the new thing.  However, what is great about the classic car hobby is that you are free to do with your car as you wish!  But what is modifying or retro- modding?

Retro-Mod vs Restore

What is the difference between retro mod and restoration? And which is the better option for your automotive? It is true that the two terms often cause confusion, but the explanation is fairly straightforward.

Restoration essentially refers to taking a great classic car and bringing it back to life with all (or most) of the original factory parts. The process involves repair of the visible parts (e.g., body trim, interior, etc.), as well as the parts not easily seen (e.g., electrical, suspension, brakes, etc.). The result is a beautifully preserved automobile in factory-new condition with authentic parts – just like it came off the showroom floor decades ago.

Retro-mod (restoration + modern parts/technology) draws from all the amazing advancements in automobile technology over the past 40+ years to enhance the performance, comfort and safety of the classic car. A retro-mod car has the timeless appearance of the original, but the outdated guts of the car have been replaced with the more modern, high-performance parts of today. You achieve the same great look, but your vintage car will be revved up with all the latest bells and whistles to create a much better ride for the owner. Learn why we prefer retro-modding over auto restoration: SPEED Philosophy

Here are a few examples of the difference between restorations and retromods:

Retro Mod
Relative cost to build
Resale value
Only high if it’s an extremely rare car
Budget Distribution
Safety and  performance
Intricate details, original parts
Value appears to be the main argument over which option is better than the other. The fully restored classic is most often going to be worth more financially. But you also will spend significantly more time and money finding all the necessary, yet virtually extinct, parts to get the car back to its original form. The retro mod car might not be quite as valuable, but will have a much better, smoother performance, brought about by the latest technologies. With the same beautiful outward appearance as the original or fully restored model, the retro mod will also give you a more comfortable, enjoyable driving experience.

Both options are appealing for different reasons, so the decision between the two primarily rests on two critical factors: budget for the project and the desired outcome or purpose for the car. Should you have an unlimited budget and the yearning for a fully restored, collectible show car, then restoration might be the way to go. If you want a restored vintage car, but with all the power and modern conveniences of current models, then the retro-mod would be the better choice.

Whichever option you choose, the project promises to be an exciting and personally rewarding experience for you, as the car owner. (

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