Transforming an old car from a worn-out relic to a dazzling show star is not an easy task. There’s a lot of money to be spent, many sleepless nights, and long hours spent scouring the internet for the right parts. Car enthusiasts who want to look unique on the road and don’t care much about costs, we salute you! Because some of the best-looking restored classic cars cost a lot of money and time.
That said, this article is particularly for enthusiasts who prefer a rather easy-to-work-on car, costing a mere fistful of dollars to complete. The vehicles featured here are easy to find and cheap to acquire. And with most manufacturers now offering OEM parts for their classic cars, restoring them should be a rather quick and affordable process.
10 Ford Mustang (1965-’70)
Kicking off this adventure is the king of the pony car kingdom, the Ford Mustang – America’s most iconic pony car of all time. The Mustang single-handedly spearheaded the pony car segment in the 1960s and powerfully pushed the pony car arms race. The vehicle sold over 2.5 million units in the first five years of production, which means the classic car market has plenty of them on sale.
Amazingly, Ford is now building over 9,000 officially licensed parts for classic vehicles, dating back to 1909 Model Ts, and their catalog includes complete shells for 1967 to 1970 Mustangs. With this kind of support and reasonably priced parts, as well as plenty of how-to books available, an old Mustang project is a great way to get into the restoration business.
9 Dodge Charger (1966 – ’70)
The Charger is among the most iconic muscle cars and a great Dodge car to buy used. Decades after so many of them were damaged during filming of The Dukes of Hazzard TVseries, surviving examples sell at very high prices.
The good news is that the Charger is a very nice car to restore. So, even a wrecked General Lee example can be brought back to life effortlessly. And Dodge still offers original parts for these half a century old cars, from the smallest engine label to the entire body.
8 Chevrolet Chevelle (1970-’72)
Between 1968 and ’72, Chevrolet sold over a million units of A-bodied Chevelles, and almost 100,000 examples of these were Go-Fast SS models. About a quarter of the SS cars came equipped with the big block 454 V8 engine.
Today, nearly every Chevelle on display at motor shows is not only an SS model but an SS 454, complete with a “Cowl Induction” bulged hood. The aggressive look of the A-bodied Chevelle has made it every customizer’s dream project car for years, and as a result, parts have never been a hurdle.
7 Pontiac 2 + 2 (1964-‘67)
Between 1964 and ’67, Pontiac unleashed a full-size 2+2 coupe based on the famous Catalina model. The 1965 and ’66 models came equipped with a mighty 421 cubic-inch V8 engine. The high-output version availed 376 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque, enough to rocket the beast from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds.
The Pontiac 2+2s were rarer than other cars from the brand, and for this, they suffered parts unavailability for decades. But that’s not the case today. Original Parts Group offers right about every part required to bring a beaten down 2+2 back to life.
6 Chevrolet Impala SS (1965-’70)
By the late 1960s, the American performance space was dominated by mid-size muscle and pony cars. But that didn’t stop The Big Three from squeezing serious performance out of their big vehicles. By the mid-1960s, the Chevy Impala was the best-selling car in the United States. Its Super Sport trim came equipped with the 427 cubic-inch L72 engine with a whopping 425 horsepower.
For gearheads looking to enjoy the 1960s classics but with a little more comfort, the Impala Super Sport is the best option. The car features simple and highly intuitive mechanicals, and many new parts are on the market. The ease of restoration and medication means the big machine can be transformed into anything.
5 Pontiac Firebird(1977-’81)
The 1960s were massive for the muscle car segment, but by the late 1970s, the muscle car was near dead. Only a few examples were left. While all these machines were dying off, the Pontiac Firebird was still breathing fire. It was in its second generation, offered between 1970 and 1981.
While most of these cars are available and affordable on the used car market, models produced in 1976 and ’77 have skyrocketed in value since they appeared in the famous film, Smokey and the Bandit. Later models of the second-generation Firebirds are the perfect entry into the restoration hobby. And the healthy supply of OEM parts means the process is a lot easier and quicker.
4 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
Chevrolet introduced the Monza in 1959 for the 1960 model year, and it featured a long option-list that Ford widely copied when building the Mustang in 1965. The Monza Spyder arrived in 1962 as the second turbocharged production car ever built.
The second-generation Corvair Monza was launched in 1965 – and it was pretty. And for those who can’t afford a cool air-cooled classic Porsche, the Corvair Monza could be an option. The best part of the story is the availability of original parts. The active enthusiast community makes it a breeze to acquire and restore a classic Corvair from a beaten-down relic to a star of auction events.
3 Buick Gran Sport
The Buick Gran Sport was the brand’s entry into the muscle car space. It, however, didn’t receive as much love as its A-bodied counterparts like the Chevy Chevelle and Pontiac GTO. As a result, Buick approached the market differently. They called the Gran Sport “The Gentleman’s Hot Rod.” Its interior was very accommodating, and under the hood lay the 455 cubic inch V8 with the Stage 1 package.
The hottest Gran Sport, the GSX, was powered by a 360-horsepower engine with 510 pound-feet of torque, the most torque any American production car had ever produced until the 2003 Dodge Viper was released. Not many Gran Sports were made, but a good search would reveal perfect project models. And with the good aftermarket supply, despite the sorry state of the car, bringing it back to life would be a breeze.
2 Dodge Super Bee
The Dodge Super Bee was officially launched in 1968 as a no-nonsense beast with a trio of V8 engines and a heavy-duty suspension. But the best of the Bees was built in 1970. It came with a bumblebee-wings split grille and cool cartoon graphics.
Today, the Super Bee is one of the best restoration project cars, and Dodge is remanufacturing virtually every part needed to bring a dead one back to life.
1 Mercury Cougar (1967-’70)
The Mercury Cougar was officially introduced in 1967. It was a more luxurious sports coupe based on the famous Ford Mustang. Also, available with Ford’s big block 390 cubic-inch V8 engine, the Cougar won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award in its first year of production. It had quickly caught middle-class buyers’ attention and was becoming the darling of every block.
The car survived some serious hurdles during its 35 years of life. And although all Cougars are excellent restoration projects, most gearheads agree that the best ones are the beautiful models produced between 1967 and ’70. For restoration, the aftermarket offers virtually every component needed to get an old cat back to the road. And compared to the skyrocketing Mustangs, most Cougars are still a bargain to acquire.
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