The right vintage vehicle turns heads no matter where it’s driven. There’s just something about that old school cool of a classic car, even for people born long after the model’s heyday. Actually driving one, however, is a different story. Kindred Motorworks is working to change that by modernizing beloved models like the Bronco and VW Bus in a way that keeps the look of the original but updates what’s under the hood (and under just about everything else) to today’s high standards — including a fully electric powertrain.
“When people see our cars they are often nostalgic at first, then shocked to learn the cars are electric and have all the modern conveniences,” Rob Howard, Kindred’s founder and CEO, tells me over email.
Kindred’s process involves sourcing vintage vehicles and then using a standardized system at its home base in California to modernize it from top to bottom. Unlike the restomod cars that die-hard vintage car fanatics swoon over, Kindred’s vehicles don’t require owners to know how to custom build parts or retrofit old tech. If you can afford a Kindred model — not a low bar, with prices starting at $159,000 for a Chevy 3100, $169,000 for a Bronco, and $199,000 for a VW Bus or gas-powered Camaro — then you’ve already accomplished the hardest part of owning one.
Even the repairs are made easy. Kindred uses a custom shared tech called Blueprint that maps out what each model needs to meet the company’s standards and become a Kindred Bronco, say, instead of just a Bronco. Once vehicles start to ship out in 2024, Howard says Blueprint will also allow service providers to make repairs and order parts across the country. This opens the door for people who’ve always had their eye on a car that never seems to go out of style, but who also don’t have the time or interest in becoming a mechanic with a knack for sourcing instruction manuals from the 70s.
“Kindred works with cars that are immortal,” Howard says. “We believe they’ll be around forever and will need a rebuild every 30 or 40 years.”
And if you opt for the Kindred version of one of these immortal cars, that rebuild may not be all that difficult. Here, Howard talks price, longevity, and picking the first set of models to work with.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Cool Material: How much of the original vehicle is saved after it’s converted by Kindred?
Rob Howard: We save as many parts as possible from the original vehicles. In some cases we replace original parts every time to improve performance (suspension), safety (brakes) or convenience (Bluetooth stereo). We also can’t help but add some modern features to make the cars more enjoyable like Kindred designed cup holders, modern lighting and power windows.
Let’s talk price point: Obviously a lot goes into these vehicles, but can you break down the main factors that justify the price?
Our cars are built from relatively rare originals and we are relentless in creating the perfect vehicle. The result is a very high quality but rather pricey car. However, our scale and technology help us control costs relative to most other restoration alternatives out there.
How did the team choose the first set of core models?
We focus on cars that have a community around them and a parts ecosystem that makes it realistic to fully modernize them. There are dozens of models that fall into this category. Our launch models were selected with this in mind as well as with a desire to show the diversity of models that we can produce.
Can you describe Blueprint and what it’s able to do that makes the Kindred workflow possible?
Blueprint takes all the knowledge out of our master mechanic’s mind and puts it into our technology. That allows us to present the right information to the right person at the right time while restoring these cars. All the hard lessons learned during prototyping and test driving result in changes to the Blueprint so that mistakes are never repeated and improvements are captured and implemented in every build going forward.
What is it about the car market today that makes Kindred right for this moment?
The emergence of electric vehicles introduces a new powertrain option for restoration that is superior in many ways. EV changes the game as it’s hard for local shops and DIY restorers to handle these complex conversions. We also are seeing a trend towards drivers wanting to just enjoy a modernized vintage and not worry about all the challenges that come with a vintage car.
What has been the early reactions from the die-hard restomod community?
The die-hard resto-mod crowd are not our customers. Although, we generally begrudgingly get respect from them for our thoughtful craftsmanship.
Can you describe the driving experience for the vehicles? How similar is it to the driving experience of the originals?
Kindred vehicles drive more like modern cars than the originals. Our modernization removes most of the hassles of the original and allows you to just be present and enjoy the ride.