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The Best Project Cars For Beginners And Expert Mechanics

It’s a life-changing moment when hit with the glorious epiphany that one is a gearhead. A revelation so powerful, it's reminiscent of falling in love for the first time. Eager greenhorns and n00bs may find themselves wanting to jump headfirst into full-on project cars. That enthusiasm is wonderful and will get you through the late nights, early mornings, blood, sweat, and tears that come with any car restoration project. However, it’s prudent to plan ahead so as to set yourself up for success with starter project cars. One of the ways you can do this is by choosing good project cars for beginners that you can build fond memories with, over models that will give you nightmares. This list goes beyond just the top ten and has a great combination of fun, cool, and cheap project cars that will surely spark your interest.

The best, fun project cars for beginners are user-friendly, generally inexpensive, have easy-to-source parts, and an active community you can turn to for support and guidance. The model you ultimately choose will also depend upon your personal tastes, driving style, and budget. You might be looking for a drifter that won’t break the bank, a complete frame-off restoration, an off-road vehicle, or a customized daily driver. We’ve gathered the opinions of the internet’s most experienced gearheads to rate the best classic project cars and imports, awesome project muscle cars and trucks, and best first project cars for those just starting their wrenching journey.

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  • The Miata is one of the greatest project cars for all levels, but n00bs especially benefit from it. For those craving a canyon carver, the simple layout, near perfect weight distribution, and fun factor make this model an ideal first project car. If you want to get extra crazy, you can build your very own “Monster Miata” by cutting into the firewall and shoving an 8 cylinder into the engine bay.

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  • Bimmer fans wax rhapsodic about all three of these models, and endlessly debate over which is the best project car. The E28 is the predecessor of the M5, the E30 revolutionized the 3 Series, and the E34 offers sedan and hatchback body styles as options. Regardless of which one you choose, these legendary BMWs offer user-friendly layouts with large aftermarket support. They are also low maintenance with relatively inexpensive parts, which makes them perfect for greenhorns looking to build their own ultimate driving machine.

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  • Photo: Edward Perez Photography / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The good ‘ole WRX is a great option for those with an adventurous spirit. The optional wagon body-style and standard all-wheel drive make it an ideal platform for those who live in mountainous areas, crave cross-country driving, or rally or road-racing. They are reliable, simple to work on, easy to source, and fun as all get-out. Plus, there are a plethora of bolt-on upgrades available from Subaru Tecnica International.

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  • Photo: BrownGuacamole / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    This is a great project car for those looking for a budget-friendly driftmobile. They are much easier to acquire than the coveted AE86, and lower maintenance than an RX7. Parts are inexpensive, and there is massive aftermarket support. They have enough room to hold extra tires, and feature low-key cool Japanese styling. A limited amount were even transformed into convertibles by American Sunroof Company - so you can have your drift, and lower your top too.

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