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Customize Your Dream

John Thompson
From the Print Edition:
Sopranos, Mar/Apr 2007

Maybe you abandoned your youthful dream of transforming a beat-up '68 Camaro into a street rod when it occurred to you that you could barely change the bag on a vacuum cleaner, let alone rebuild a carburetor. Or maybe, you gave into the whim to buy a fixer-upper motorcycle only to have your dream mock you from under a tarp in your garage. Whichever wannabe you are, you can still find fulfillment with the help of specialty shops, which provide the necessary TLC to get your baby on the road.

Say you've popped for a Commando, the Bristish bike introduced by Norton in 1967. Just contact Colorado Norton Works (www.coloradonortonworks.com). Matt Rambow's two-man shop has been breathing new life into Commandos for 10 years, not simply restoring bikes, but modernizing and customizing them while retaining their original feel. Rambow, who consecutively numbers his projects, is now working on bikes 60 through 63. (Bike 13 is pictured here.) The engine, drive train, brakes and chassis all get updated. Rebuilds start at $21,500, if you provide the bike. Or Rambow can throw it in for an additional two to three thousand.

For help on almost any automotive challenge try the Guild of Automotive Restorers (www.theguildofautomotiverestorers.com), near Toronto. It tackles restorations of concours d'elegance—quality classics, hot rods, and even what the owner David Grainger calls "heirloom cars"—vehicles that have been passed down the generations of a family. Current rebuilds run the gamut from a 1901 Opera Bus to a 1982 Camaro Z28. The shop's most esoteric project is the re-creation of the 1935 Bugatti Aerolithe, using the photos and drawings that are its only remnants. The body of the Guild's version, like the original, is being crafted from magnesium.

If you want an instant collector's item, check out Dallas-based Unique Performance (www.uniqueperformance.com), a manufacturer of limited-edition custom cars styled by the famed automotive designers Carroll Shelby and Chip Foose. Its cars are crafted entirely in-house, some so heavily modified that only the body shell of the original car remains. Unique's newest offering is a Foose-designed rod based on the 1970/'71 Dodge HEMI Challenger. Seventy-five of these cars will be built; number 001 just sold at the Barrett-Jackson automotive auction for $346,500.

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