The word "restomod" has been part of our Mustang vocabulary for nearly 20 years. In fact, the term was born in the Mustang hobby when we found a need to describe restored Mustangs with modifications. When owners began upgrading older Mustangs with modern equipment like fuel-injected engines, overdrive transmissions, and amenities like CD-changer stereos and power windows, the restomod movement found new meaning as "restored and modernized." Over the years, restomod has slipped into common usage for the entire vintage auto hobby.
For Ron Bramlett, the mainstream usage of a word he helped create is highly satisfying. In the early 1990s, Ron and Mustang & Fords editor Jim Smart (now senior editor with Mustang Monthly) conspired to invent a term to describe modified vintage Mustangs. Jim began using it in magazine editorial and Ron plugged it into his advertising and promotional campaigns. The term took root and today is used to describe any older car, particular 1960s musclecars, with modern updates.
With restomod, Bramlett, a long-time Mustang enthusiast and a co-owner in the family-owned Mustangs Plus, has found his niche within the huge Mustang community. He has helped design and produce restomod products. The Restomod Shop, an out-growth of Mustangs Plus, builds restomod cars in an adjacent building. Ron has also been instrumental in Restomods in Reno, a show primarily for modified Mustangs and Fords. He's built a number of restomod Mustangs, from track cars to The Ronster roadster. When the Mustang Club of America decided to incorporate a restomod class, the club approached Ron for input. Ron later became an MCA board member and currently serves as the club treasurer.
In this exclusive interview, Ron talks about how he came so involved in restomod and where the movement goes from here.
1983: Ron's wife, Cindy, with children, with the black hardtop that led Mustangs Plus down
MM: You're a big proponent of restomods. Where did that come from?
Ron: In 1981, we were selling used cars and parts. I had a little '66 GT Hi-Po coupe. Still have it, as a matter of fact. It was always a star at the shows. People would see the 289 High Performance badging and crowd around it. The problem was, on Monday morning the phone didn't ring. Later I bought a red coupe at the auto auction - it's now the black coupe that Cindy and I drive all over the place - and we modified it with a fiberglass deck with a spoiler, Shelby hood, and a different front apron. At its first show, we got put in the modified class. You actually had to go across the highway from the main show to see the modified cars. I thought we had gone from hero to zero. But people would wander over and we kept a box of business cards with the car. On Monday morning the phone started ringing. People said they saw our Mustang at the show and wanted to know if they could buy one of the hoods. What about the deck lid? What about the tires and wheels? That's how we got into selling what became known as restomod parts.
MM: It wasn't called restomod at the time, was it?
Ron: It was called modified then. If you wanted to insult someone in the early 1980s, you said they had a modified Mustang. The whole mind-set back then was taking everything back to original. The Mustang Club of America was writing all of its rules and judging the cars for originality. And here we were selling parts to modify Mustangs.
MM: Do you think part of it was your California location?
Ron: Yeah. In California we use our cars year-round. In the winter, if it hits 30 degrees, that's considered really cold. In a lot of places that's a heat wave. We live in an area where if it's not raining, we can get out and use our cars. There's no salt on the roads. People tend to drive their cars more than they do on the east coast. That prompts people on the east coast to restore their cars as opposed to building them to drive. In California, we just drive the wheels off of them.