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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

8 Best Mods and Upgrades for Your Classic Truck

There are a good number of collectors and classic truck enthusiast that think their truck is perfect just the way it was produced.  And often all-original, number-matching classic cars & trucks will fetch a higher price when it comes time to sell.

This might be true, but I bet most of those collectors don’t drive their classic trucks on a regular basis.  That is why more and more enthusiasts have a different perspective on modifying their classic trucks.  They want to be able to enjoy them to the fullest potential and sometimes that means adding an air conditioner, upgrading suspension or converting the braking system.

If you plan to drive your classic car or truck for enjoyment, then you might want to consider some modern upgrades. Yes, a slick paint job and a muscular motor make for an attractive classic, but it is upgrades to the braking, steering and suspension that can make the vehicle much more safe, comfortable and enjoyable to drive.

The upgrades we suggest were once considered performance or luxury upgrades. In modern-day trucks these upgrades are pretty much standard features. Here are the upgrades we suggest you consider when restoring or modifying your classic truck.

1. Disc brakes

If you are going to actually drive your classic truck, then safety supersedes originality every time.  That is why our first upgrade we highly suggest is converting a drum brake system to a modern-day disc brake system.  Not only do they provide superior stopping power, they are also much easier to work on and quite inexpensive to replace and repair.

2. Suspension

There are almost an infinite number of ways you can upgrade your classic truck’s suspension.  Rest assured even a basic upgrade will have you noticing a big difference.   For example:  Spend about $1,000 and you can get all the rubber bushings replaced with polyurethane bushings.  The polyurethane bushings will give the truck a stiffer ride but are certainly going to outlast the rubber ones.  Rubber bushings tend to dry up, crack and deteriorate after just a few years.

If you are upgrading to a powerful engine, you certainly need to upgrade the suspension to handle more horsepower.  While budgets for suspension upgrades can quickly inflate, it is one of those systems in your truck where the right parts will make all the difference.

3. Power steering

Tired of getting an upper body workout when cruising your truck around?  Then try upgrading to a new power steering system.  Of course, like any upgrade it depends on the vehicle you are working with.  On average we would say you can count on spending upwards towards $2,000 depending on the system you get and what will be involved with the installation.

4. Air conditioning

No A/C in the summer?  No thank you!  This upgrade is almost a necessity especially if you live in southern states.  It is the one investment that you will thank yourself for over and over again.  So will your passengers!

The one (very small) issue with upgrading a classic with A/C is that you may still have a hard time cooling down the passenger cabin.  Older trucks might still have a lot of gaps and venting coming through the doors.  Many classic cars and trucks are not sealed off very well, so you could still be drawing in hot air from the outside.

5. Lose Some Weight

I’m not talking about your waistline; I’m talking about your truck.  There are many parts that once were made of iron or steel can be placed with much lighter aluminum versions.  If you replace enough of the heavy stuff with aluminum or carbon fiber, you can seriously lose hundreds of pounds doing it.

6. Install an Electronic Ignition

Almost every classic truck came with a points ignition system.  In theory they are an ingenious system, but in reality, the contact points deteriorate over time which can really mess with firing up your truck and its performance.

The solution?  Upgrade your ignition to electric.  It is typically an inexpensive upgrade that most home-garage mechanics can tackle on their own.  It is safer, will be super dependable and your performance will not suffer.

7. Electric Engine Fan

If you don’t already have an electrical fan, you should get one.  Mechanical fans work in accordance to the engine spinning.  The problem with that is the fan doesn’t work fast enough when your truck is idling.   This is when your motor needs the fan the most!  Upgrading to an electric engine is quick and reasonably priced.  Your truck will thank you the next time you get stuck in traffic.

8. Get Bigger Wheels

Cool wheels are more than just an aesthetic investment, they also are a major factor in performance.  Common sense tells us that the wider the tire, the better the traction as there simply is more rubber on the road.  The diameter of your wheels also makes a big difference.  The bigger the wheel, the bigger the brakes you will be able to fit which in turn can give you some serious stopping power.  Especially if your truck has lost some weight from tip #5.  There really isn’t much of a need for a 16-inch wheel anymore.  17-inch wheels are really the new minimum today, especially when trying to fit modern day tires. We prefer 18-inch wheels to work with.  They typically still provide steering clearance yet have lots of options for performance brakes and tires.

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