AutoShack.com recently got the chance to check out a few automotive events, and we notice that a lot of the same types of vehicles appear at these events in mint condition, despite being built over 50 years ago. So what’s the secret?
Some older model cars are simply easier to restore than others. This can be for a number of reasons, either the car can be disassembled and reassembled easier, or some cars have stood the test of time better than others. One of the major factors that goes into how easy a car is to restore is how available replacement parts are. A car that has more parts available will be easier to fix should any parts need replacing.
Choosing The Right Car
So you’ve decided to restore a classic vehicle. Chances are good you’ve already got the exact vehicle in mind. While many people choose to restore a car based on their personal connection to the vehicle, some will choose a restoration based on simply wanting to complete a project. With advice from AutoShack.com, you can figure the most straightforward cars to restore for a great beginners project. As the weather gets nicer, spending an afternoon in the driveway sounds better and better. There are a few important facts to consider when restoring a car:
Your budget: A car may seem like a steal at $2000, but if the car needs $15,000 in work, then the budget you set should reflect that. Factor in everything, from any towing or shipping on the vehicles, into the budget. Most importantly, factor in your time. If you’ll need to work on the car for 10+ years just to get it to run, there may be a better option out there.
Your skill: You’ve changed your tires a few times, so now you’re ready to rebuild a transmission and perform an engine swap. This probably isn’t true. While it can be easy to overestimate our own abilities, knowing when to seek professional advice can make your project go much smoother. Imagine putting hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into a project car only to completely ruin it because you couldn’t ask for some advice.
Know when to walk away: A big problem with project cars is they quickly become a money pit. If a completely restored car sells for $15,000 and you buy one for $2000 but end up putting $14,000 worth of parts, plus all your time, then you are at a major loss. While not everyone is buying a classic car to sell, knowing when a car is costing you negatively in terms of time or resources is important.
A lot of easily restorable cars are muscle cars. This is because parts are incredibly common and continue to be reproduced for these vehicles. We’ll look at some classic muscle cars, as well as others that are easy to restore cars. Let’s start with what is widely regarded as the most popular car to restore, with the most accessible parts.
The Ford Mustang – 1964-1968 & 1987-1993
Mustangs top the list because they feature all of the criteria for an easy to restore car. Project cars can be had anywhere from $2000 (in need of A LOT of work) to $15,000 (able to drive as is) to $50,000 (almost completely restored). With the popularity of the classic Mustang, several companies produce replication parts that are indistinguishable from OE parts. With the age of the car, it also means that the systems that drove it were mainly mechanical, making replacing parts a breeze.
For younger generations, the 97-93 Mustangs, known as “fox body” Mustangs offer incredible value when it comes to performance vs. horsepower. While they have yet to attain the legendary status that the classic 60’s Mustangs have, they have quickly grown to become a very sought after vehicle. Like the classic Mustang, a wide variety of parts are readily available due to the cars popularity and relative young age.
AMC AMX – 1968 – 1970
If you’re set on the classic muscle car look, then it would be hard to beat a classic AMX. The now defunct AMC produced the original AMX for just 2 years, but in that time it quickly became a leader. Having set speed records and introducing many industry firsts, the AMX was also limited to only 20,000 models. These factors, paired with the fact that these cars are just starting to be remembered, means that if you wanted a car to restore and sell for a profit, then now is the time to look at an AMX.
Pricing on the AMX can range as widely as the Mustang, and given that the vehicle was made domestically parts are still widely available from various aftermarket sources. The AMX is perfect for someone looking to restore a classic but who doesn’t want the same Mustang as many others.
Chevrolet Bel-Air – 1957
So muscle cars aren’t your thing, but you still feel like getting your hands dirty and fixing up an old car. The 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air is the picture of the 50’s. Restored with long fins and white walls, this car looks like it came straight out of your local drive-in.
Like the other vehicles listed so far, the iconic image of this vehicle has led to a large amount of aftermarket parts being produced, so parts are readily available. While the cost of a completely restored Bel-Air can be upwards of $65,000, project cars (in need of more than a little bit of work) can be found for as low as $3000. While a car at that price range may seem like something that isn’t easy to restore, the age and simplicity of the vehicle make a restoration do-able.
Datsun Z Series – 1970’s
There’s no reason a restoration needs to be a muscle car or something from the 50’s. For those looking for a more elegant vintage option the Datsun Z series vehicles (including the 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z) offer simple restorations on an early racer. Nissan (the owner of Datsun) continues the Z series today with the 370Z.
One of the major advantages of the early Z series vehicles is the low cost. Z series vehicles that can be driven home can be found for around $5000. Restored version of the early Z series vehicles can go for as high as $40,000.
Volkswagen Beetle – 1930 -1970
It wasn’t until 1997 that the Toyota Corolla finally surpassed the Beetle to become the bestselling car in the world. That leaves over 60 years of the Beetle as the global bestseller. More so than any other car on this list, this means that parts for the little bugs are incredibly popular and very easy to find.
Depending on the year you choose, the price of an entry-level model in need of some work can vary. Expect to pay anywhere from $4000 – $10,000 for a working model. A properly restored 50’s Beetle can be sold for over $20,000.
The Journey Off The Road
Without a doubt the most popular type of car to restore is the muscle car. This is because these vehicles were mainly produced domestically, which means parts are readily available. That doesn’t mean that you can only restore a muscle car though, as proved with the Bel-Air, Z series, and the Beetle. No matter what you choose nothing beats being able to drive down the road in a vehicle you were able to restore yourself.
We have tons of helpful tips on our blog, be sure to give them a read!