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.
1969 to 1978 Datsun Z-Car
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.
Most Corvettes older than this one are ridiculously expensive, and newer cars are boring. The C3 was a stunner in the days of disco, and it still is today. In fact, it was probably the last of the really striking Corvettes produced up until very recently. Fairly cheap to buy if you look for one in restorable condition, and they share almost every major mechanical component with contemporary Chevrolet vehicles. That makes C3s pretty cheap to restore. Just make sure to get a complete car with all the trim bits; those things will nickel-and-dime you to death.
1980s Buick T-Type
Grand Nationals have always been cool, but they're not getting any easier to come by, and those who own them rarely want to sell. However, the Grand National's "lesser" sibling the Turbo T can be just as awesome, as well as much cheaper to buy and to restore. Plus, parts tend to be more widely available and even come with a cool T-Top.
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.
#61 on The Ultimate Dream Garage