MODERN PERFORMANCE MEETS ATOMIC STYLING: 1950s Resto-Mods to Cross the Barrett-Jackson Block

Credit: Original article published by Barrett-Jackson.

We all love the Space-Age atomic styling of the 1950s cars, but what makes them even better is when they have been given modern performance upgrades to make them perform as good as they look.

Cars from this decade had adopted a flowing design that echoed the look of rockets. Finished in pastel shades of pink, blue and green, they received lots of chrome, ornate hood ornaments, wraparound windshields and their most iconic feature: large tailfins with elaborate taillights. The automatic transmission became more popular and widely available, as did other luxury items such as power steering and brakes.

Designers quickly began drawing influence from other sources, especially from the space race and fighter planes such as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. The era’s most radical concepts moved from automotive show floors and into every American’s driveway. It had become the new norm, and all major auto companies jumped in on the craze.

Resto-Mods have always been an incredibly popular segment at Barrett-Jackson auctions, and this year is no different. Among the coolest 1950s Resto-Mods about to take off at the auction are Chevrolet Nomad wagons, custom Corvettes, the always-popular Chevrolet 210 and the Ford Thunderbird.

See the best Resto-Mods representing the 1950s at the 2023 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction, January 21-29 at WestWorld.

This 1958 Chevrolet Corvette custom topless roadster debuted at Darryl Starbird’s National Rod & Custom Show in February 2022, where it received a Fine Nine Award for its peerless combination of design, execution and craftsmanship. Power comes from a GM Performance 7.0-liter LS7 V8 engine rated for 550hp, mated to a Supermatic 4L75E automatic transmission. It is equipped with a DeWitts aluminum radiator with dual SPAL electric fans, and the Holley Sniper electronic fuel injection teams up with Hooker shorty ceramic headers, polished stainless-steel exhaust and Borla racing mufflers.

The custom-calibrated Art Morrison GT Sports chassis is equipped with C7 Corvette independent front and rear suspension and Strange coilover adjustable shocks. Wilwood disc brakes with 6-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers clamp down on 14-inch rotors, and a Flaming River steering column connects the driver to the road. An American Auto wiring harness handles electrical connections from the four-across Vintage Car LED headlights, and Vibro Solution floor sound-dampening material reduces noise. Flush-mount chrome bumpers and billet trunk spears accent the PPG custom paint.

The custom red leather interior features a Sparc Industries steering wheel, Dakota Digital HDX gauges, LED lighting, a Vintage Air system and an Alpine touchscreen audio system. Nu-Relics power windows and locks sync up with I-Key proximity entry recognition. This custom rolls on one-off, billet, three-piece, polished aluminum wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires.

This multi-award-winning 1955 Chevrolet Nomad received a 3-year, no-expense-spared professional rotisserie restoration and custom Pro-Touring build with modern technology infused throughout. This custom Nomad sits on an Art Morrison GT-spec chassis with a 4-link rear, coilovers and power rack & pinion steering. Power comes from a Connect and Cruise Chevrolet Performance 6.2-liter 376/525hp LS3 crate engine paired with a 4L70E 4-speed automatic transmission turning a 3.70-geared 9-inch posi-traction rear end. A custom-fabricated dual-intake system sends spent gases through a set of long-tube headers feeding a dual stainless-steel exhaust system.

Some key customizations include a smoothed and recessed firewall, modified core support, and one-piece front and rear bumpers. More subtle mods include a smoothed dash, hidden tailgate hinges, extended wheel tubs, a raised transmission tunnel and smoothed floors. This car has a Wilwood braking system with master cylinder and 6-piston calipers up front clamping on 13-inch drilled and slotted rotors with 4-piston in the rear using 12-inch drilled and slotted rotors.

Finished in two-tone House of Color Root Beer Candy with a custom-mix Caramel top, it rides on Billet Specialties SLD89 wheels wrapped in Nitto NT555 G2 tires. The custom leather interior features a smoothed dash, Dakota Digital gauges, hidden controls in a custom console, Ididit tilt column, CON2R steering wheel, power windows and door locks, a Vintage Air system and custom stereo system. It has 1,100 shakedown miles since completion.

This fully custom 1959 Chevrolet 2-door Brookwood wagon was one of only 20,760 produced in 1959, with a fresh build completed in 2022. It is powered by a LS3 480hp engine mated to a 4L60E transmission. Updates to the car include a highly detailed engine compartment, including a smooth firewall, custom wheel wells, dual radiator fan shrouds, a core support and radiator cover, a one-off 348 air cleaner, one-off Offenhauser Brookwood valve covers and one-off hood hinges.

This car was televised on “Bitchin’ Rides” Season 8 Episode 3, and has received multiple accolades, including the Kindig’s Builder Choice Award and 2022 First Place winner of the Grand National Roadster Show’s Radical Class. The highly detailed chassis features a custom boxed and curved frame hidden behind the 4-inch channeled floors and rockers. It has one-off lower and upper triple-plated control arms, a one-off 9-inch independent rear suspension with floating big Wilwood disc brakes, a polished stainless-steel exhaust with MagnaFlow mufflers and a custom stainless-steel gas tank.

Exterior modifications included 4-inch channeled floors, custom 1956 Nomad trim, shaved and channeled bumpers, a frenched-in rear bumper, shaved rain gutters and a tubbed rear end. The interior features modified glide bucket seats, Alcantara leather, original-style 1959 plaid inserts, a custom door, Mercedes carpet, Classic Instruments gauges, a Vintage Air system and power windows. The sound system includes an original 1959 radio converted to include Bluetooth.

This fresh 1955 Chevrolet 210 received a professional restoration and custom build by Whipple Motorsports Speed & Custom out of Spokane, WA. This vehicle was a SEMA featured car, Modern Rodding Magazine feature cover car and Goodguys award-winner. It has over 2,000 labor hours put into this no-expense-spared build.

The power plant is a Southern Performance Systems built 567hp LS3 Corvette engine equipped with a Chevrolet Racing hot cam, Inglese 8-stack EFI induction and ceramic-coated headers. The engine is fitted with Clayton Machine Works rocker covers and a Concept 1 accessory drive, and is mated to a TREMEC 6-speed manual transmission. This Chevrolet sits on an Art Morrison GT Sport chassis and suspension and has clean-sheet IFS with Strange coilovers, power rack & pinion steering, mandrel-bent frame, 4-link 9-inch rear end, HD sway bars front and rear and Wilwood power disc brakes on all four corners.

This 210 rides on custom Raceline Desperado wheels wrapped with Nitto NT555 tires. The primarily stock body is modified with mini-tubs, a custom core support and fabricated firewall. The custom leather interior is color-matched to the exterior and features a bench, Tilton peddle assembly, Vintage Air system, cut-down steering wheel on a tilt column, electronic e-brake button in place of the lighter, Classic Instruments cluster gauge package, Kenwood/Kicker audio system with four speakers and many other custom features.

This 1959 Chevrolet Impala received a professional full frame-off build with no expense and time spared by Northwest Extreme Motorsports out of Springfield, OR. This custom Impala was featured at SEMA 2018 in the Arc Audio booth and is also a Goodguys award-winner. Since then, the car has been further improved and has just over 500 test miles.

It is powered by a GM 502ci crate engine equipped with a Borla 8-stack fuel injection system and mated to a GM factory 4L85E 4-speed automatic transmission, all controlled by a Holley Dominator computer. The engine has a Billet Specialties serpentine front-runner system, custom headers with stainless Borla exhaust and a Ron Davis custom black ceramic-coated radiator with dual fans. This ’59 sits on a RideTech air-ride system with a custom 4-link rear suspension and C-notched frame housing a Moser Ford 9-inch with 3.88 gears. The car has power steering, and stopping power is handled by Wilwood disc brakes.

The custom red leather and Alcantara interior features a fully wrapped French-stitched dash, Alcantara headliner, Mercedes wool carpet and SoundSkins sound-deadening treatment. The SQ ARC audio system features reference 3-way front custom kick panels with three 10-inch woofers behind the seat and dual ARC 1000-watt processor amplifiers with an XS power battery flush in the trunk floor. The interior also has Dakota Digital HDX gauges, Nu-Relics power windows and a Restomod Air Bantom air system.


This 1955 Ford Thunderbird convertible is powered by a Ford Gen II Coyote engine mated to a 4L80E automatic transmission. It rides on an Art Morrison frame with independent suspension, and has Wilwood 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors with disc brakes (six pistons in front and four at the rear), and JRI adjustable coilover shocks at all four corners. It is equipped with a 9-inch Ford rear end, Rick’s fuel tank, and the frame and all components are powder-coated in black with ARP fasteners throughout. Keeping the engine cool is a Ron Davis radiator with two electric fans.

The interior features a Vintage Air system, custom side trim with a machined Thunderbird emblem that lights up, a Flaming River tilt steering column, Classic Instruments gauges, and power windows, brakes and steering. The all-leather interior also has an Alpine radio with AM/FM, XM, navigation and backup camera, electric e-brake, Lokar shifter, Dynamat sound-deadening front to rear, and German square-weave carpet and mats. This car also has new chrome and glass.

This custom 1955 Chevrolet Nomad went through a 5-year, frame-off build. This car is powered by a balanced and blueprinted Chevrolet 383ci stroker V8 engine pushing 500hp, mated to a B&M TH350 automatic transmission that features a shift kit and a Hughes 2,500 rpm stall torque converter. The engine is topped with a custom-polished Borla intake topped with a polished Borla 8-stack fuel injection run by a Holley fuel management system.

This car also has Sanderson ceramic-coated exhaust headers hooked to a custom Borla stainless-steel exhaust. It has Art Morrison power rack & pinion steering and rides on an Art Morrison GT Sport chassis with chromed 4-link rear suspension, a Currie 9-inch rear end and PAC Racing Springs with adjustable front and rear coilover shocks. The Wilwood power disc brakes use slotted and cross-drilled brake rotors. Up front is an Art Morrison chromed independent suspension, polished tubular control arms, 2-inch drop spindles and a chrome front sway bar.

Exterior custom modifications include gray tinted glass, a chrome rearview mirror and dual chrome side mirrors. This multiple-award-winning wagon also features smoothed and tucked one-piece front and rear bumpers, with a custom-built chrome grille. The interior features a Vintage Air system, AutoMeter gauges, a Flaming River chrome tilt steering column, a Billet Specialties steering wheel, Lokar pedals, Nu-Relics power windows, polished billet knobs and controls, a Kenwood stereo head unit, Alpine amplifiers and Kicker speakers with a subwoofer.