Best Old Cars To Restore

1968 Dodge Charger

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? And don't rule out a classic Jeep or pickup truck.


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.


Traditional thinking says that the initial price for a car, house, or any other investment is where the profit is made. But that's not necessarily true with classic cars. When you're buying something that you expect to appreciate, the price is of secondary importance.


Rare And Desirable

High-dollar collector cars are typically rare, limited production models. Several factors play into desirability, including year, model, engine, and color combination. Options such as air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, power windows, etc., are nice to have if you're planning on driving the car. They also add value. Original components and historical documents also increase an old cars value.

Maintenance Costs

Classic vehicles don't need to be expensive to maintain, but you just don't know what will go wrong with a 50 year-old vehicle. It would be wise to factor in annual maintenance costs. Classic car maintenance includes tune-ups, oil changes, and annual brake inspections. Popular brands like Fords, Chevys, and Dodges will always be cheaper to maintain because of greater parts availability.





With availability, driveability, and cost being equal factors, here are my choices for the ten best classic cars to restore.

1968-1970 AMX

1968 AMX at classic car show

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

Austin-Healey Bug-eye Sprite at classic British car show

Measuring nearly two feet shorter and weighing three hundred pounds less than a sixties 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

1965 Buick Riviera at car show

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

1967 Camaro at classic car show

Reliable, fun to drive, and easy to work on, first-generation Camaros make a great choice for an automotive restoration. Parts availability is unbelievable, with Camaros sharing many parts with other Chevys as well as the same-year Pontiac Firebirds. Literally everything needed to rebuild one (including new 1969 Camaro bodies) are available.


Consider yourself lucky if you find a real Camaro SS or Z/28 with the original motor. However, all models are still worth your time.


1978-1982 Chevy Corvette

1982 Chevy Corvette

With the advent of automotive 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 C3 Corvettes. They still provide a fun and uniquely American driving experience.


read 1982 Corvette Restoration

There's dozens of specialty companies selling just about every part needed for a full or partial Corvette restoration. Although there's plenty of engine and suspension upgrades offered, Corvettes that are restored back to original will always be worth the most, and models with their emissions systems still intact even more so.


1968-1970 Dodge Charger

1968 Dodge Charger R/T

Dodge Chargers are a great choice for a muscle car 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

1979 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.


read 1979 Fiat Spider Restoration

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 automotive history.


1964-1966 Ford Mustang

1965 Mustang fastback

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 second to none.


Early Mustangs have dozens of 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

1962 Ford Thunderbird

There's no grey area here - you either like the the early sixties T-birds or you don't. The standard and only drivetrain was Ford's FE big-block with a three-speed automatic transmission. With a unibody construction process that allowed third-gen Thunderbirds to sit long and low, the ride is still smooth and refined.


On convertible T-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 has been growing for these early four-seat Birds, yet prices are still relatively low.


Triumph TR6

Triumph TR6 at classic British car show

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.


Properly restored and maintained, classic cars make good investments that appreciate over time, but there is no guarantee. This is why should follow your heart and restore an old car that you love.



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Ten Best Classic Cars To Restore - article by Mark Trotta