Best Old Cars To Restore
There's lots of great project car choices. Having a good idea of what you want will help target your research efforts better. There's pony cars and muscle cars from the sixties. Or perhaps a cool cruiser from the seventies? A classic British sports car?
If you are absolutely in love with a particular year and model car, your choice is already made. However, choosing from several types of old cars allows you to pick the better bargain.
With availability, driveability, and cost being equal factors, here are my choices for the ten best classic cars to restore.
No, it's not a Javelin, but the shorter-wheelbase, V8-powered, two-seater that's one of the best handling muscle cars of the era. Interest in the original AMX is growing, as more enthusiasts are realizing just how fast and nimble they are. Less than 20,000 two-seat AMX's were sold in the three years produced. While they will never command the same price, an AMX with the 390ci motor will shred tires like a big-block Camaro, at a third of the cost.
1958-1961 Austin-Healey Sprite
Measuring nearly two feet shorter and weighing three hundred pounds less than a 60s Beetle, the bug-eye Sprite is positively tiny. Designed to be simple and affordable, they are also great fun to drive. It's not surprising to see, fifty years later, that Sprites are not only popular as collector cars, but also competitive in many vintage racing venues.
1963-1965 Buick Riviera
A beautiful two-door sport-coupe that is surprisingly fast for its size, the early Rivs could out-corner, out-brake, and out-accelerate their rival, the Ford Thunderbird. Although all models are worth restoring, the Gran Sport option included the dual-quad 425ci Super Wildcat V8. A total of 3,354 Rivieras were so equipped.
1967-1969 Chevrolet Camaro
Reliable, fun to drive, and easy to work on, first-generation Camaros make a great choice for restoration. Parts availability is tremendous, with Camaros sharing many parts with other Chevys as well as the same-year Pontiac Firebirds. Literally everything needed to rebuild one is available brand new.
Consider yourself very lucky if you find a real SS or Z/28 with the original motor. However, all models are still worth your time.
1978-1982 Chevy Corvette
With the advent of emission controls and safety regulations, the diminished horsepower of 1978-1982 Corvettes are often lamented by classic car snobs. What they fail to realize is these later third-generation Vettes, developed and refined for over a decade, are the smoothest and most reliable of all the C3 Corvettes. They still provide a fun and uniquely American driving experience.
There's dozens of Corvette specialists selling just about every part needed for a full or partial restoration. Although there's plenty of engine and suspension upgrades offered, Corvettes that are restored back to original will always be worth the most.
1968-1970 Dodge Charger
In the muscle cars category, early Dodge Chargers are a great choice for a restoration project. Aside from the base 318ci V8, the 383ci motor was offered in both two or four-barrel versions, producing 290 and 330 horsepower, respectively. On the top of the engine option list was the 375 horsepower 440 Magnum and the legendary 426 Hemi.
Sharing the B-body platform with the Coronet, the Charger's suspension consisted of torsion bars up front with leaf springs in the rear. Drum brakes were standard with power front disc brakes optional, as was power steering. Most any part needed for restoration is readily available.
1979-1985 Fiat Spider
If you're looking to restore an affordable classic sports car, consider the Fiat Spider. Aside from the changes brought about by safety and emissions regulations, the Spider changed little in its 18-year production run. There are several aftermarket suppliers, parts interchangeability is good, and most maintenance can be done by the owner.
The 124 Spider was one of Fiat's most successful models. Alongside the Alfa-Romeo Spider, MGB, and Chevy Corvette, the Fiat Spider is one of the longest-running production sports cars in history.
1964-1966 Ford Mustang
The pony car that started it all, the first-generation Mustang has always been a restorer's favorite. You'll find nothing complex on these cars, and parts availability is great.
Early Mustangs have many internet forums as well as excellent club support. Convertibles, fastbacks, and original V8s will always be worth the extra initial cost.
1961-1966 Ford Thunderbird
There's no grey area here - you either like the the early 60s T-birds or you don't. The standard and only engine offered was Ford's FE big-block. Transmission was a three-speed automatic. With a unibody construction process that allowed T-birds to sit long and low, the ride is still smooth and refined.
On the convertible Birds, the forward end of the trunk lid is rear-hinged, which raises and lowers through hydraulic cylinders. With the top down and trunk lid lowered, there is no sight of the soft-top. Demand is growing for these early four-seat Birds, yet prices are still relatively low.
Marketed as an affordable, six-cylinder sports car, the Triumph TR6 rivalled similar classics such as the MGB-GT and the Triumph Spitfire. While most sports cars at the time were designed with sleek, curved lines, the TR6 was squared off at both ends, making it stand out from it's competitors. In it's seven year history, the Triumph TR6 grew to become a true British classic.