The 5 Best, and Cheap, First Try Project Cars


If this is your first vehicle restoration, there are a few things you want to keep in mind when looking for the best project cars. In the words of Dirty Harry, “a man has to know his limitations.”

There’s typically more to completing a project car than mechanical know how. Metal work, welding, painting and other skill sets that you probably will have to farm out may be required.

It’s going to take longer than you think it will and it will cost more than planned. Don’t get discouraged, because the end result will be worth it.

Generally speaking your first project car ought to be one that runs. Never buy an incomplete car. “Perfect condition, just add a transmission” type of ads are a dead giveaway for problems ahead.

Price is also a consideration, of course. All the cars on this list can be found for under $7,000. The more “value” you can buy, the less work and expense you’ll have in the project.

So make sure you’ve got the right tools in your garage and let’s get started. These are some of the best project cars. Some of these old RWD rides are going to surprise you. But once you see these and see the possibilities, we think you’ll get excited.

1979 – 1993 Ford Mustang

Yeah, everybody has one. But there is a reason why. Ford built a ton of them, so there is a good used inventory. And if you buy one made after 1987, you are getting the advantage of more effective fuel and air flow.

These rides are lightweight, in relatively abundant supply and have more support forums than most other brands. Toss in the fact that the aftermarket for Mustangs is massive and you have one of the project cars that’s halfway home when you buy it. Expect to pay somewhere between $1,500 and $5,000 for your pony.

1965 – 1970 Chevrolet Impala

Yes the Impala is a big honking car. Chevy sold over 1 million of them in 1965 alone. They are big, they are good looking, and if you can get a good deal, they make perfect classic car restoration projects.

Granted these behemoths will not carve up curves but you can shred rubber in the straightaway. Why? Because these sedans came with monster engines. The rumbling, thundering L-88 is a 427 cubic-inch big block V8.

Also in the lineup of Impala power plants are an array of small block V8s and of course the monster 452 cubic-inch big block that replaced the L-88. There is a fairly large support community and parts are relatively easy to come by, so it’s definitely one of the best project cars. An Impala without a big block engine should run between $1,500 and $7,000.

View on One Page