The 6 Best Classic Cars to Restore By Yourself

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Reviving a classic vehicle from its worn-out state is an endeavor many automotive enthusiasts cherish. But despite popular misconceptions, restoring a classic car isn’t just a hobby for those who are willing to spend $100,000+ on a restoration. Car restoration is relatively accessible (as long as you choose your project wisely).

For those classic car enthusiasts on a budget, you’ll want to choose a vehicle model with parts that are easy to source. Rare cars equal rare parts, meaning you’ll have to pay hand-over-fist just to have the parts you need shipped to you. Plus, with the age-old adage “time is money” in mind, sifting for hard-to-find parts at a salvage yard, car show, or swap meet means more time (and money) lost.

If you plan to re-sell your classic car after it’s been restored, spending extra on rare parts translates to a lower profit margin.

Luckily, there are classic cars that are easy (and affordable) to restore.

What Are the Best Classic Cars to Restore?

Classic car restoration is a glimpse into automotive history (Not to mention, it presents a compelling investment opportunity). Now, let’s explore some of the best old cars to restore with ease. 

**Note: Compared to other classic cars, these spotlighted models are the easiest to source parts for during a restoration. 

Ford Mustang (1964-1968)

  • Project cars: from $15,000
  • Average cost of restoration: from $100,000

The Ford Mustang is one of the most iconic muscle cars to grace the automotive world. It was the pioneer in the league of pony cars that offered sporty styling. Even today, it remains a top choice for classic car restoration. 

Its iconic design, available in coupe and convertible models, made it a significant player in the classic American muscle car movement. The Ford Mustang presents various engine options, from a 170 cu in (2.8 L) Thriftpower I6 to a rare 427 cu in (7.0 L) FE V8.

The exceptional availability of replacement parts is a major contributor to the Ford Mustang’s ongoing popularity for restoration. Massive aftermarket performance parts have been reproduced, making it easier to find the components you need for your restoration project.

Mustangs have a consistent demand in the market due to their iconic status and enthusiast following. Rare models or those with special features tend to command higher prices.

Chevrolet Camaro (1967-1969)

  • Project cars: $10,000 
  • Average cost of restoration: $20,000 to $50,000

The Chevrolet Camaro debuted in 1967 as a response to the Ford Mustang. With its sleek design, such as its small rectangular side marker lights and a V-shaped grille, the Camaro offers a unique blend of style and performance.  

Its range of engine family, from inline-sixes to high-performance V8s, means there’s a Camaro for everyone. From the upscale door panels with armrests to the upgraded controls and stylish seats, the Camaro’s interior exudes luxury and sportiness.

The ’67-’69 Camaros hold a strong position in the classic car market. Their popularity among collectors and muscle car enthusiasts ensures a steady demand, especially for well-restored or rare models with special features.

Plymouth Barracuda (1970-1974)

  • Project cars: $15,000 
  • Average cost of restoration: $30,000 to $60,000

The Barracuda, particularly the third generation (1970-1974), underwent a significant design overhaul, contributing to the car’s upswing. Known for its iconic style and engine power, it offered various trim levels and engine options, including the iconic ‘Cuda models with high-performance V8s.

One of the most exciting features of the Plymouth Barracuda is the shaker hood package. This allows direct airflow into the engine as the vehicle accelerates, increasing the horsepower, torque output, and overall performance. Replacement parts for the Barracuda are readily available, from new body panels to interior components, trim parts, and engine and suspension components.

The ’70-’74 Barracuda holds a respectable position in the classic car market. While it might not have the same level of demand as some other muscle cars, well-restored models with high-performance packages stir decent market demand.

Oldsmobile Cutlass (1968-1972)

  • Project cars: $8,000 to $12,000
  • Average cost of restoration: $15000 to $30,000

Between 1968 and 1972, the Oldsmobile Cutlass was available in various body styles, including coupe, sedan, convertible, and station wagon. It featured a sleek design, offering comfort and performance with various engine options. 

The Cutlass is renowned for its big-block era power and peak horsepower of up to 455. Its body parts, powerful engines, and combination of speed and power make it a classic muscle car worth restoring. Oldsmobile Cutlass from this period are among the cheapest classic cars to restore

One of the great advantages of restoring an Oldsmobile Cutlass is the interchangeability of parts it offers. The chassis parts of the Cutlass are interchangeable with other GM A-body cars, making it easier to find and replace parts during the restoration process. This ease of finding mechanical parts not only makes the Cutlass a more accessible option for restoration but also more cost-effective compared to other classic muscle cars.

The ’68-’72 Oldsmobile Cutlass garnered interest among collectors and enthusiasts, especially high-performance variants like the 442.

Save up to $1,200/year on car storage

Pontiac GTO (1964-1972)

  • Project cars: from $15,000
  • Average cost of restoration: $30,000 to $70,000

The GTO, introduced in 1964, became an icon in the muscle car realm. It was based on the Pontiac Tempest and featured a powerful 389-cubic-inch V8 engine and optional tri-power setup, delivering exceptional performance.

Enthusiast support and aftermarket reproduction parts make finding components relatively accessible, though some specialized or rare parts might be pricier or harder to find. However, with a wealth of resources available, including online forums, interior and exterior parts suppliers, and restoration guides, restoring a GTO has never been more accessible.

The ’64-’72 Pontiac GTO is revered among the best muscle cars. Well-restored GTOs, especially models with high-performance options, enjoy strong demand compared to the Pontiac Firebird and can command premium prices.

Volkswagen Beetle

  • Project cars: below $10,000 
  • Average cost of restoration: $10,000 to $20,000

The Volkswagen Beetle features an air-cooled rear-engine layout, making it less complex than many other classic cars. Its mechanical simplicity, with fewer components and easier access to parts, makes it one of the easiest classic cars to work on.

Carrying out performance upgrades and restoring a Beetle to its former glory is cost-effective, with project cars available for a few thousand dollars. Enthusiast support, reproduction parts, and a thriving aftermarket industry ensure easy access to components at affordable prices.

The Beetle maintains a steady demand in the market, and well-restored models tend to garner attention and decent resale value.

Summary

Restoring a classic car involves various factors that can significantly impact the process and the outcome. Key considerations include:

  • Budget
  • Scope of restoration
  • Timeframe
  • Safety and Compliance
  • Future use and goals

If you’re planning to restore your classic car to extend its life and maintain or increase its value, it’s crucial to store it properly. This will protect parts prone to rust and extend the car’s lifespan, ensuring you enjoy your money’s worth. 

Also, if you’re not planning on using your restored classic car daily, you may want to store your project car in a place other than your garage. In that case (or in the case that you don’t have a garage on your property), renting an indoor car storage or a climate-controlled facility will ensure your vehicle maintains a decent market value in the long term.

Neighbor —a self-storage marketplace— provides safe, nearby, and budget-friendly indoor and climate-controlled storage spaces for your classic car. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Profitable to Restore Classic Cars?

Restoring classic cars can be a great investment if you want to sell them afterward – you could make tens of thousands of dollars off one restored car.

What Is the Most Expensive Part of Restoring a Car?

Restoring a car’s body and paintwork, alongside mechanical overhauls, typically drives the highest costs. Sourcing quality parts and skilled labor for specialized tasks like interior restoration also hike up the total costs significantly. 

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