Pro Touring Without Muscle Cars or V8s? How About Engine-Swapping and Modding '80s & '90s American Cars?
When it comes to modifying vintage American cars, the Pro Touring approach has stood the test of time. After all, what’s not to like about taking a classic muscle car or pony car and upgrading its performance to keep up with the times? By and large though the Pro Touring style has been limited to vehicles from the ‘60s and ‘70s, with a few examples of 1980s pony cars and body-on-frame vehicles also getting the treatment.
But what about giving the same treatment to different types of newer domestic vehicles from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Given the rising appreciation for cars from this era we’ve come up with five ‘80s and ‘90s American vehicles that could be used to reimagine what pro touring could be. Here they are:
Let’s start off with that funky little pickup that Chrysler produced in the early 1980s called the Dodge Rampage.
While its front-drive layout and unibody construction didn’t earn it much favor with the “real truck” crowd, it would be awesome to see a 1980s Rampage updated for today.
Imagine, for example, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and manual gearbox from the Jeep Renegade swapped into one of these, lowered suspension, tasteful wheels, subtle exterior mods and you’d have a fun, quick, ultra-unique street machine.
First Gen Dodge Caravan
The original Dodge Caravan of the 1980s is one of the most groundbreaking vehicles in the history of the American auto industry, and something that many of us rode around in as kids, but today they are few and far between.
So how cool would it be to take an original 1980s Caravan and upgrading with something like the 3.6 liter V6 and nine-speed automatic from the current Chrysler Pacifica.
Upgrade the suspension and brakes to match the newfound power, refresh the interior, add a modern stereo and other conveniences but keep the classic ‘80s minivan style alive. Extra points if it has woodgrain on the side.
Chevrolet performance cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s are quite popular these days, particularly V8-powered ones like the Silverado SS 454 and Impala SS, but what about the Chevy Lumina?
It may have been front-wheel drive but the first generation Lumina was a handsome machine when it launched, available in both coupe and sedan forms and in the hot Z34 trim.
A first gen Lumina with either a turbocharged 2.0L GM four-cylinder or a modern 3.6L V6 would be great. These also get extra credit for being Chevy’s NASCAR platform of the era.
Ford Escort GT
Here in North America we sadly didn’t get many of the hot Fords that were sold in Europe, but we did get the rather stylish looking Ford Escort GT.
And while most ‘80s Ford fans in the sates are going with Fox Body Mustangs, Broncos and pickups, it’d be awesome to see and ‘80s or ‘90s Escort with some modern upgrades.
For this the plan would be pretty simple, basically take the classic Escort and swap over as many parts from the modern Focus ST as you can, including its 2.0L EcoBoost engine and six-speed manual transmission.
Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser
If you were going to modify an American station wagon, then your first choice will probably be something with a V8 from the ‘60s or ‘70s, but what about a newer Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser?
These front-drive station wagons were quite popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and while they may not be the classic American wagon most people think of first, they have plenty of charm today.
There’s plenty of newer GM hardware that could be swapped into one of these, either a modern V6 and automatic for cruising in comfort, or a turbocharged EcoTec engine and manual for the street sleeper route.
The biggest barrier for these or any other similar builds to become a reality is going to be the fact that isn’t even a fraction of the demand for one of these as there is for a ’68 Camaro with an LS swap—but could that change?
Time will tell if these interest in these ‘80s and ‘90s car ever goes beyond quirky nostalgia and into a larger movement.