Reportage: Visiting Velocity - Modern Classics : On the old way

Velocity is not based in trendy Los Angeles, near wild Miami Beach and certainly not in the New York metropolitan area.

Reportage: Visiting Velocity - Modern Classics : On the old way

Velocity is not based in trendy Los Angeles, near wild Miami Beach and certainly not in the New York metropolitan area. You don't need to know Cantonment, in the far northwest of Florida, because there isn't much to see there. People meet for breakfast at 7 a.m. at George's Bistro or at True Grids, but otherwise the greater Pensacola area has nothing more to offer than a gigantic Air Force base and a stately port. Every fifth building in the decidedly rural regions is felt to be a meeting place for a religious community. Church isn't just for Sundays. Tourism? Rather less, but if you have a thing for classic off-roaders, then Velocity is the place for you, about 20 minutes north towards Cantonment on the border with Alabama.

Velocity - Modern Classics - what sounds like any tuning workshop on the outskirts of Long Beach or Detroit provides more than an aha experience, not only on the first visit. The company premises are large, the main hall is huge with more than 12,500 square meters and Tom Maxwell, as Chief Revenue Officer, is not only happy to give VIP customers a factory tour - of course with the off-road golf cart. "We moved here some time ago because we simply needed more space for our production," he smiles and rattles past the aged Rattlesnake Building, "no, we don't have any rattle snakes here. But there used to be an alligator in the pond.” Well then.

A bumpy natural path leads to the rear, secluded part of the company premises. There, classic fans' eyes are wide open, because not only dozens of wrecked Ford Broncos are parked here like in a scrap yard, but also a few tattered Mustangs, an International Scout and a few Chevy pickups, whose good times are several decades gone. Right next to it, neatly stacked countless axles, ladder frames and body modules - many Restomod fans would love to rent a tent or mobile home here for a whole week. “We rebuild all these models. But for most of them there is a new frame and for the Broncos in particular we are also getting new bodies,” explains Tom Maxwell.

In the first hall next to it, the rusted bodies and frames are sandblasted and cleaned - some things can be saved - many things cannot. When you enter the second, newer hall, the difference to other conversion companies becomes clear. Almost everything at Velocity is much bigger and more professional than other restmod companies. Almost 130 people currently create around 110 vehicles per year - in dark green, grey, blue or orange according to customer requirements - with bikini top or fixed body. Currently, two to three vehicles go out to customers every week, who, in comparison to the competition, do not have to wait a year or more for their desired vehicle. "A normal converted Ford Bronco costs us 250,000 to 300,000 US dollars," explains Maxwell, "the vehicle is ready after 14 weeks. With us, nobody has to wait forever, because we have simplified production with our signature series and made it significantly more professional.”

If you look at the various production lines, you will quickly see why things are faster here than with so many others. The undisputed bestseller is the Ford Bronco from the 1960s, but off-road vehicles such as the International Scout or a Toyota Land Cruiser are also being transformed from rusty junk boxes into dream off-roaders that shine equally off-road and on Rodeo Drive. The individual models are individualized in terms of color, equipment and interior, but as a model of the so-called Signature Series they are largely standardized off the shelf - new body, new engine, leather seats, off-road axles, studded tires, navigation and a sound system - so most customers are more as happy. But even the exclusive conversions for 600,000 US dollars or more take less than half a year at Velocity. "Most customers are looking for a specially tailored Ford Bronco with a modern V8, off-road package and high-quality equipment," explains Tom. "They already drive modern cars and simply want something different when they're on the road at the weekend."

Surprisingly, interest in such electric models has decreased in recent years. Two to three years ago, there were multiple requests for historic Broncos with electric power. But the black and gray prototype is fully developed, is still owned by the company and is eagerly tested when a customer nods. Ultimately, almost everyone interested in the restomods wanted the powerful Gen III 5.0-liter Coyote V8 from the Ford Mustang with around 450 hp. The sound: spectacular. The trend, even among cult climbers, has long since moved away from the bony manual gearshift with the long linkage. So the customer has the choice between a four-speed automatic and one with modern ten gears, with which it can be casually cruised on the boulevards. By the way, anyone who comes to Velocity with their own dream classic and would like to have it converted should look into the tube. "We only rebuild our own frames and bodies, otherwise the labor is incalculable," admits technician Jim, "but we'll trade in the old Bronco or F-250 at a real price."

So far, most customers have come from the USA, some from Asia or even from Europe. Velocity is planning a branch in Germany for the coming year because inquiries for historic Broncos have been increasing since Ford has offered its current model here as well. It remains to be seen how great the demand in Europe will ultimately be - he is a legend in the USA alone. Perhaps the new edition of the electric Scout in the Volkswagen Group offers another opportunity for expansion. Otherwise, Velocity relies on the restoration of classic Ford Mustang models. The trend is unlikely to die down any time soon, because almost everyone wants a Mustang – says Tom Maxwell.