Real Deal Steel from Woody’s Hot Rodz has filled the gap with complete bodies assembled stateside of pretty much any ’55-57 Chevy you could want. Up first are ’57 hardtops and convertibles, with ’55s and ’56s coming very shortly. More of the sedan type? No worries, Woody’s will have you covered with options for all three years. Prefer a full roller? Woody’s has Art Morrison packages for performance handling, Hot Wood chassis for cruisers, and Full Wood gasser-style chassis. We know these things have us pondering what we could do with a clean slate. How about a featherweight Tri-Five that handles? Make it look like Two Lane Blacktop, but ready to run One Lap of America. Sound good?

6. Lose Weight, Gain Performance

You’ve heard that old saying, “only steel is real.” Well, that may true, but only composites and alloys are light, and decreasing weight is just as good as adding horsepower. Actually, for those of us who like corner carving, it’s better, since it makes all aspects of performance easier. That’s one area where muscle cars have historically had a disadvantage: weight.

As the interest in bringing modern handling to vintage steel has increased, so has interest in shaving weight—namely aluminum and carbon fiber. That mix is part of what makes the ZR1 Corvette such a formidable performer. Once thought to be limited to high-end builds or race cars, high-end aluminum and carbon-fiber parts for muscle cars is now a burgeoning industry.

Auto Metal Direct and Classic Industries both carry aluminum hoods for ’67-69 Camaros, and even full front clips with bumpers for ’69s. From what we hear, that whole front end only weighs 54 pounds, or about as much as a stock hood and bumper. That’s a lot of weight off where it counts the most.

On the composite side, Anvil Auto has a fast-growing line of carbon-fiber body panels for Camaros, Chevelles, Novas, Firebirds, and Mustangs, as well as carbon/fiberglass blends that save significantly on cost. Either way you go, the weight savings is dramatic.

Lexan, another weight-saving material, previously thought of as “race only,” is appearing much more on street cars. The Harbinger Mustang in this issue has it, as does Rad Rides’ ’69 Talladega Torino, and CorteX Racing’s Mustang, both in the July ’11 issue. Glass is heavy stuff, and so is the mechanism in the doors to get it up and down. Sure, due to its propensity for scratching and lack of security, it’s still best suited on limited-use cars, but for anyone who likes to hit the track on a regular basis, it is an extra edge.

It’s not just for sprung weight either. Decreasing unsprung weight can have a dramatic affect on how well a car performs as well. We can actually thank the ZR1 Vette once again for this emerging product: carbon ceramic brakes for muscle cars. Wilwood’s new CC rotor not only shaves huge amounts of weight versus steel, it also has better fade characteristics under hard use. For now, 15 inchers (stock ZR1) are the only size available, but there are rumblings of creating more widely appealing 14 inchers.

7. Drag Racing: Not So Dominant

Hot rodding wasn’t born on the dragstrip, but there’s no doubt that it’s been a major driving force behind the culture of making cars faster. Some might even rightfully argue that the rise of quarter-miles across the country and the formation of the NHRA did more to advance the burgeoning culture than any other industry. For several generations the biggest factor behind guys getting under the hood in their garage was the pursuit of quicker straight-line acceleration.

But things are drifting in an undeniable direction. Telltale are SEMA surveys that continually show that the top items on the list for rodders to swap out on projects (or even daily drivers) are the wheels and tires. For several years now, wheel manufacturers have told us that the majority of their sales are in the 17- to 20-inch diameter range. And tire manufacturers tell us that it’s the Ultra High Performance Summer tires that are the fastest-growing segment.