For the auto enthusiast, few accomplishments can match the satisfaction achieved from restoring a classic car to its former glory. It is a process that requires time, patience, some know-how, and, of course, a few bucks.
The ideal restoration for most gearheads is a model they drove in high school, or perhaps the car they longed to own in their youth. Finding that sought-after car in a reasonable condition and at an affordable price may be a challenge. However, for the car buff open to different makes, models, and years of classic cars, plenty of affordable restoration options are available.
Once the classic car project has been identified and purchased, the cost and availability of replacement parts become an issue. However, in recent years, several companies have begun offering an ample selection of official factory-licensed parts. These include detailed items such as correct taillight screws and engine decals. Some companies even offer entire bodies.
Here are fifteen classic muscle car projects that are affordable and will provide a tremendous sense of satisfaction to restore.
15. 1972 Dodge Challenger
The stricter emission standards of the early 1970s impacted most of the “Golden era” muscle cars, including the Dodge models. With no more big engines, the ’72 Challenger was offered with a choice of three small block engines.
While most Mopar zealots prefer the “Cuda,” the Challenger is actually more refined and better appointed. Experts recommend restoring the Dodge E-bodies to rigorous factory-original standards to maximize the resale value.
14. 1968 Chevrolet Nova
Via: Classic Digest
In 1968, Chevrolet upgraded the base engine of the Chevy II Nova SS to a 350-cubic-inch mill with a four-barrel carburetor that cranked out 295 horsepower.
The Nova is less popular than the Camaro, but models for restoration with the more powerful engine are easy to find at reasonable prices. The replacement parts are inexpensive, and the car requires minimal maintenance, making the Nova an excellent restoration project.
13. 1968 AMC AMX
In 1968, American Motors painted only one AMX a pink color before leaving the factory. The car was part of a marketing agreement with Playboy Enterprises, representing the Playmate of the year. Jay Leno’s Garage even rolled out an episode featuring the “bunny” AMX.
For the car enthusiast, AMXs are an excellent choice for restoration because they are equipped with 390-cu.in. engines, reproduction parts are readily available, and only one vehicle was ever painted pink.
12. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle
Via: Vanguard Motor Sales
Although the Chevrolet Chevelle is considered by many fanatics to be one of the "best muscle cars ever," a neglected and damaged model can still be restored for a reasonable sum (assuming the body and frame are not rusted beyond recognition).
Chevrolet offered the ’70 Chevelle with a 454-inch torque monster, an even bigger engine than its Boss and Hemi rivals. Lots of power and a variety of available parts in circulation make this project a winner.
11. 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Via: Classic Cars
One of the most popular cars among the “baby boomer” generation, the ’57 Chevy is perhaps the ideal choice for the nostalgic vintage Chevy buff.
The enormous following of enthusiasts worldwide guarantees inexpensive parts availability, (including all-new body shells), and the potential for resale at a high price. The 1955 and ’56 models are also available for restoration, with the former being more affordable to restore.
10. 1964 Ford Mustang
Via: Hemmings Motor News
The ’64 Mustang is an ideal project for the first-time classic car restorer as well as the seasoned veteran. The pony car’s popularity means every part and accessory has been reproduced and is available from numerous companies at an affordable price. Mustang clubs abound, so there are plenty of experts available everywhere, and project cars are easy to find.
9. 1975 Pontiac Trans Am
Via: Mecum Auctions
The 1975 Trans Am suffered along with all the other muscle cars of the era when manufacturers reduced power complying with strict emissions standards and higher gas prices. The Pontiac produced only 185 hp from its 400 V8.
For the enthusiast, the ’75 model offers a show-stopping project opportunity at an affordable price, and for the non-purist, an engine swap to upgrade the horsepower is always a possibility.
8. 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass
Via: Bring a Trailer
The 1968 – 1972 Cutlass models are in plentiful supply, and many of them are in good condition, requiring minimal effort to restore completely. With a little patience, the vintage car pursuer may also find a model with the big 455 cu in V8.
An excellent choice for the first-time classic car restorer, the Oldsmobile is an affordable project with good parts availability.
7. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
Via: Classic Cars
The 1967 Camaro offers a smooth and fairly affordable restoration project with fewer issues than most muscle cars. Hemmings Muscle Machines claims: “Everything you need to rebuild one, no matter how rusty it may be, is available brand new.”
Furthermore, once the project is complete, resale is made easy by the huge demand for the classic Camaro.
6. 1971 Pontiac GTO
The ’71 Pontiac offers an opportunity to own a GTO at a more reasonable price than the earlier (1964) models. Body and trim parts have been reproduced and are in plentiful supply. Classic car restoration experts recommend restoring the GTO to the factory-correct condition to maximize the resale value.
However, for enthusiasts who care less about the stock version, a huge aftermarket makes accessories for improving performance available.
5. 1973 Plymouth “Cuda”
Although the 1970-’71 Barracudas are in high demand by hardcore Mopar fanatics, the 1972-’74 models are also sought after, albeit at lower prices. The smaller engines, 318- or 340-cu.in. V-8s are the cheapest. Restoration is made easy with an extensive supply of body, trim, and interior parts from a variety of vendors.
4. 1982 Chevrolet Corvette
Via: Classic cars
The 1982 Corvette is considered by most enthusiasts to be the least desirable of the third-generation models and perhaps one of the worst “Vettes” ever made.
Equipped with a 350 cubic-inch, L83 engine producing a pathetic 200 horsepower, the sports car was available only with an automatic transmission. However, it is still a Corvette. A model in good running condition can be purchased for peanuts and parts are readily available from numerous Corvette specialists.
3. 1968 Dodge Charger
Production totals for the 1968-’70 Dodge Chargers were high (nearly 100,000 for the ’68 model year alone), meaning they are easy to find for restoration. Mechanical parts and reproduction body panels are also plentiful and can be purchased at low prices. The Charger style is popular among enthusiasts and promises to remain so for many years to come, making the muscle car restoration a sound investment.
2. 1965 Chevrolet Impala
The 1965 Chevy Impala holds the record as the best-selling car in America in a single year, with sales of 1,046,514 units. There is no short supply of Impalas, and collectors prize the SS model, making it the most valuable. However, the basic models with straight-six engines are also sought after.
1. 1967 Mercury Cougar
The first two generations (67 – 73) of Cougar were derived from the Ford Mustang, so exchangeable mechanical and electrical parts are easy to find. Restoration is made even easier with the availability of some body panels and trim pieces.
Aftermarket parts, including suspension parts and heavy-duty brakes, are available for restorers who want an upgrade from the factory version, and the ample supply Cougars provides restorers an attractive option for restoration.
Sources: legendaryautointeriors.com, standard.co.uk, hemmings.com, motorbiscuit.com