Restoring a classic car can be an enjoyable hobby, a way to learn a valuable craft, or even a profitable way to make a living. However, it’s not all fun and auctions. The wrong project car can easily derail your motivation, and lead to an expensive time-waster. Here are some suggested classics, depending on what type of restoration you are looking at completing.
Easiest Classic Restoration: first generation Ford Mustang
The ‘60s Mustang is a no-brainer for easy restoration. The pony car was super popular back then, and remains so today, so restoration candidates in rough condition are everywhere. Aftermarket companies have responded to consumer demand, and produced tons of parts to get a stallion back on the road. With every part including the chassis in reproduction, it is technically possible to produce a late ‘60s Mustang using all new parts, essentially making a new car. One thing is guaranteed: you will never stress out hunting rare parts.
Maximum Profit Restoration: Plymouth Baracuda
Nash Bridges was a terrible show mostly remembered for its title character’s ‘Cuda. Not even that hour of “entertainment” was able to make a dent in the value of the big rumble fish. A well restored and documented Hemi version with matching numbers in a convertible will go for insane money at Barrett-Jackson, usually well over a million dollars. Professional flippers noticed, and bought up the supply of beaters years ago. This eliminated the restoration candidates, as there just are not any “barn finds” left out there. However, this demand has spilled over into the clone market. Just buy a cheap and ugly Valiant, and convert to ‘Cuda trim. While a clone won’t make you millions, it will sell for about the same price as a new Corvette.
Most Challenging Restoration: Jaguar E-Type
Yes, a 1933 Silver Arrow is probably even harder to restore than a mid-century Jag, but let’s keep this list realistic for the hobbyist. An E-type can be had on eBay for less than a new Chevy Spark, but it will need some work. However, once complete, a beautiful V12 example can command six figures. Not a bad profit on a car that drives as good as it looks, but there are many pitfalls to the old cats. Jaguar seemed to change things on a bi-yearly basis, sometimes resulting in parts that will not fit on two cars of the same year. While the drivetrain is simple, parts are not cheap. Lucas electronics have a bad name, and may require you to purchase replacement wiring smoke (seriously, a real item). Don’t worry if you do not buy any, as the car will likely supply all the smoke you could want.
Future Classic Restoration: Eagle Talon/Mitsubishi Eclipse
Hey, technically this is a classic, as it hit 25 years old in 2014. If you do not remember these cars, they were a result of Chrysler and Mitsubishi executives getting together, taking some illicit substances, and creating a joint venture called Diamond Star Motors. The result was the fun and sporty Mitsubishi Eclipse, Starion, and 3000GT, which were also sold as the Eagle Talon, Dodge Conquest and Stealth. These turbo cars looked great and were quick for their time, so owners promptly drove them into the ground. The less than stellar combination of Chrysler electronics and Mitsubishi thrust bearings resulted in many of these cars heading to the salvage yard. They are dirt cheap enthusiast cars now, but their prices are set to rise.