car models The Best Cars to Restore Without Going Bankrupt  

Richard Rowe
713 votes 143 voters 12.8k views 25 items

List Rules Vote up the car restoration projects that provide the most bang for your buck

If you've ever been anywhere near a car show in the last 30 years, then odds are good that the words "restored car" bring to mind visions of Shelby Mustangs, Yenko Camaros, and  Hemi Whatevers. Yeah. Those are all very nice, but let's get real here: They're not exactly the best cars to restore. 

A good car restoration project should first be a car worth restoring. It should be a piece of history worth preserving. Those classic cars all fit that bill, but a good project should also be one you can actually start and complete, preferably without mortgaging your soul. That means looking for cars that are fairly rare but still available, relatively cheap to buy without massive rust holes, and which share a lot of components with other, cheaper, and even more readily available cars. Preferably those in your local junkyard. 

This is our list of 25 cars that would make great restoration projects for gearheads who are also cash-conscious. Some are antique cars that would make for showpieces and others are more recent models you can still see on the streets. Some are investor cars, for sure, but most are just plain fun from wrench to road, and won't drive you homelessness in the process of getting them there. 
1 31 VOTES

Mazda RX-7

Mazda RX-7 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Cars to Restore Without Going Bankrupt
Photo: Michael Gil/Flickr
RX-7s were the best cars in the world 10% of the time - the other 90% of the time, they were broken. Bad for original owners using them for daily drivers, but absolutely fantastic for restorers in the market for cheap, low-mile examples. Parts are fairly cheap to come by, and even as bone stock restorations, these can prove to some of the best drivers' cars you can get.

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2 43 VOTES

1969 to 1978 Datsun Z-Car

1969 to 1978 Datsun Z-Car is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Cars to Restore Without Going Bankrupt
Photo: Georg Sander/Flickr
Classic Japanese sports cars are getting cooler and cooler every year. They don't get much more classic than the original Z-Car. Do a "visual" restoration on this one, using all new components where possible. And for your own sake, at least install a chassis stiffening brace under it. Z-Car chassis were wet noodles when they were new, and haven't gotten any better in the four decades since. 
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3 30 VOTES

Old Hot Rods

Old Hot Rods is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Cars to Restore Without Going Bankrupt
Photo: via Twitter
Same principle as old race cars, but even more so. The fun part about restoring old hot rods is that you don't have to buy any stock components. And that's always the most expensive part of any restoration. Re-creating someone's art - something built 40 years ago or more - is a great way to really put yourself back in the day and connect to your gearhead roots. 
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4 32 VOTES

1993 to 1998 Toyota Supra Turbo

1993 to 1998 Toyota Supra Turb... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Cars to Restore Without Going Bankrupt
Photo: via Wikimedia
Whether you like them because of a movie or you're just looking for a strong investment piece, the 2JZ Supra is a winner. It might seem weird to "restore" a car from 1998, even though that was almost 20 years ago, but that's the genius. Nobody left Supras stock, and a lot of racer crashed them, which means that clean originals and factory-spec restorations are sure to become big-ticket items in the next ten years or so. 
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