So you’re going to finally going to buy the testosterone fueled hot rod you have always wanted. While there are tons of segments of hot rod culture out there, this article should provide a helpful guide as an overview that applies when looking for your first one.

32 Ford coupeKeep in mind, prices will vary widely with demand. If you are looking for a beat up ’32 Ford coupe, expect to pay well over $10,000 for a non-running version that needs a lot of work. Professional shops have been snatching these up the last few decades, along with all the 1920s and ‘30s iron, in order to do high dollar restorations and conversions. They are rare these days, so prices are outrageous.

That brings us to the other big price factor: condition. Immaculate cars simply cost more as they appeal to more buyers. A common saying in the car community is to pay now, or pay later. Sure, you can save money by buying a rust bucket, but rust repair can be expensive if it is in the frame, firewall, or floor pan. However, look closely. Surface rust can be hideous, but easy and fairly cheap to repair. Body work can also be tricky. That paint the previous owner sprayed in his garage could be hiding inches of Bondo®, or it could be flawless steel under that junk. Look closely at everything.

Also, consider if you will accept a modified car, or if you are looking for a factory survivor. Are you okay with someone else’s modifications? This can save you thousands if they started an expensive project and gave up halfway through. It can also cost you when you have to change things the previous owner did incorrectly, or where they went a direction you don’t like. Buying a tri-five Chevy already plumbed for fuel injection sounds like a great idea, unless you already bought the carburetors.

For the best deals around, you might want to look into more of an avant-garde hot rod. Sure, your Aunt’s Geo Metro will never be cool. But look at the alternatives out there. If you’re thinking 1960s and ‘70s iron, it isn’t just Mustangs and Chevelles. The Mercury Cougar is cheaper than its Mustang cousin, and offers all the fun. A first generation Oldsmobile Omega is an unknown at car shows and cruise-ins, but consider it for what it is: a cheaper Chevy Nova with a better grille. For the best bang for your buck, take a look at the obscure wagon variations of classic muscle sedans. No one wanted the wagons for decades, so they are still cheap to buy today, and a mid ‘90s Chevy Caprice wagon has the same basic small block as the Corvette, and can feel every bit the muscle car while hauling all your stuff.

The key to being happy with your project long term lies in you knowing exactly what you are looking for, and exactly what you may have found.

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3 Responses to Buying Your First Hot Rod on a Budget

  1. You could do it for a few grand…If you already had a body and some decent frame rails that you could box and beef up yourself. I recently saw two 30 Model A bodies ( Coupes like mine) they were very rusty some of the lower part completely rusted away, no floor or floor frame. Just body shells. One sold for 2 grand and the other for 3 grand. I am not saying you can’t do it but it will be hard. A more realistic figure would be between 6 and 8 grand .

  2. Yes it is possible to build a hot rod on a budget! Check out Cboy’s journal. His rod cost about $5,000. Mind you he has the tools and skills that allowed him to do it. You can acquire the skills and tools over the years to do the same. Here is a link to his site. View it from the beginning to get an idea of what it is going to take to build you hot rod.…66&action=view

    The big problem you will find is that you will want to be driving it as soon as possible and if you can’t your project will stall and you may lose interest. Make sure you decide what you want to build, how long you will take to build it ( it will probably take 2 or 3 times want you think it will) and a reasonable budget.

    From the pics you chose it looks like you like Model A’s. Model A coupes and roadsters are a very popular body style, therefore they are commanding big money. In fact any of the pre 48 steel cars are no longer cheap. That is not to say that you can not find low priced bodies; it is just a lot harder to do so now. Good places to look are in the fields, behind and in barns, in the trees when the leaves are gone, in back alleys and your local paper and internet swap sites. Bodies that are not as desirable as the coupes and roadsters are trucks and the two and four door sedans and their price is less. If you look at this sites classifieds and other rod sites and their classifieds as well as Ebay you can get an idea of what you will have to pay for a body.

  3. Opinions needed- I know, very broad topic but is buying and building a true hotrod within a working man’s budget. I’m thinking of selling what I have which would get me about 10K and then throwing in some cash to start with a running project. Anything from mid 1930’s on up. I know the older the more expensive so I have opened myself up to the 40’s and even some 50’s models. I’d really like to do a traditional hot rod but don’t want to spent 25 years building it b/c of the cost. Any thoughts from those who have do it??? Thanks

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