Sports Car Modification

10 Best Classic American Cars For Your Next Restoration Project

The most important aspect of restoring a classic American car is the initial step, ensuring you purchase the right classic car in the first place. With a wide variety of vintage survivors, abandoned muscle cars and everything else in-between, choosing the right starting point can take a lot of time in research, as well as ensuring the project isn’t too advanced for your personal skill set.


We have taken on the burden of that research for you, and have comprised this list of superb candidates that offer a range of different appealing features. From superb parts availability to promising investment opportunities, these cars each bring something different to the table, so there ought to be something in here to entice everyone.

10 The 1970 Chevrolet Camaro Is A Cool American Classic

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Early second-generation Chevrolet Camaros are not only beloved American classics, but also perfectly attainable for most thanks to their relatively low buy-in price. They are particularly good options to consider when shopping around for a project, as solid original examples are still out there for sub $20,000.

Parts availability is another great attraction to the Camaro, with most components both cosmetic and mechanical all available immediately off the shelf, in addition to a huge supply of aftermarket modification parts for you to tailor the restoration to your specific wishes. Couple that with simple engineering, and this all makes the early Camaro an appealing candidate for your first muscle car project.

9 The AMC Pacer Should Be On Your Radar

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The unfortunate-looking AMC Pacer has been overlooked and ridiculed by the car community for long enough now, so long in fact that it’s become cool, with its own dedicated following of die-hard fans.

This compact car has all the makings of a great restoration project. It’s certainly interesting, with a fantastic ‘love it or hate it’ aesthetic. Plus, now that it’s almost half a century old, a clean Pacer is a rare sight indeed and with appreciating prices (especially for the later 304 V8 variants with a humble 124 hp), saving an original survivor could prove rewarding in more ways than one.

Junkyards up and down the country will prove invaluable for sourcing hard to find trim pieces, and as any project car veteran will confirm, scouring around for those ‘must-have’ parts is all part of the fun.

Related: A Detailed Look At The AMC Pacer

8 The Plymouth Superbird Is A Difficult But Rewarding Project

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird Hemi
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On the other end of the spectrum is the legendary Plymouth Superbird, a genuine icon from the glory days of American muscle, worth a serious fortune these days and therefore a fantastic restoration candidate – the 431 hp Hemi V8 is quite alluring as well, while we’re listing reasons.

You’re certainly not going to be picking up Superbird spares in your local junkyard, though, which is where the trouble lies. Such a scarce car is not easy to restore, as more often than not, original parts are difficult to find and impossibly expensive when you do come across them. That’s if you can even stumble across a Superbird project in the first place.

If you do get offered one though, and can afford it, the NASCAR legend is absolutely worth snapping up, as restored examples can easily fetch upwards of $200,000.

7 The Willys Jeep Is An American Icon Well Worth Your Attention

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While on the topic of American icons, here’s the Willys Jeep, a car famous the world over for totally different reasons than the aforementioned Superbird. With over 640,000 manufactured during the second World War, the classic Jeep is without a doubt the most influential 4×4 ever produced, and for this reason alone deserves saving.

Project candidates are plentiful and affordable, plus having ‘simplicity’ as a defining characteristic helps make this a really approachable choice for beginners. Not only that, but with a rugged 4×4, you needn’t worry about picking up stone chips on your finished restoration when you’re done – they only add character and taking them on beaches and rugged trails is all part of the fun!

6 The Chevrolet Corvette, America’s Iconic Sports Car, Makes A Perfect Project

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If we are honest, any classic Corvette makes a superb candidate for restoration and that’s for one very simple reason – the Corvette is an American icon that deserves to be cherished, preserved and celebrated.

This uber-popular muscle-come-sports car has a thriving fan base, with model specific car clubs across America catering to the needs of enthusiasts with regular meets and events. What’s more, these clubs also act as an invaluable source of knowledge for the amateur or even novice restorer, as with a Corvette, someone has always been there and done it before you.

Excellent parts availability and easily affordable models make this a very attractive proposition indeed, and you’ll certainly have fun cruising around when you finally finish the project.

Related: 454 Swapped C3 Corvette Finally Gets The Performance It Deserves

5 Grab A Ford Bronco Before Prices Rise Even Further

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The sixth-generation Ford Bronco has been proving incredibly popular since launch, which coincidentally has initiated a knock-on effect with the prices of vintage models, which have been soaring in recent years.

The first and second generation models command a serious premium these days, so our recommendation would be the definitively square third generation. Produced between 1980 and 1986, many surviving models are crying out for restoration and these iconic 4x4s certainly deserve it, having paved the way for modern SUV design.

All third-generation examples came equipped with V8 motors, the largest of which produced 210 hp, so just go for the most original and solid example you can find. Power can always be increased if you decide to go the restomod route, as so many people do with these Broncos, including some celebrities.

4 A Chevrolet Impala Lowrider Could Be The Coolest Restoration Project Yet

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If you’re looking for something cool to restore, look no further than the 1964 Chevrolet Impala, as cars just do not get cooler than these ice-cold coupes and convertibles. The absolute epitome of the lowrider scene, finding an original survivor or abandoned project could make a super interesting restoration, plus cruising around afterward in the result of your hard work would be incredibly rewarding.

No need to worry if your budget doesn’t stretch to a tricked out motor, as these muscle cars came equipped from the factory with a GM big block V8, punching out 431 hp and 425 Ib-ft of torque – more than enough to keep the drive interesting, even in standard trim.

Attractive examples are available for around $25,000, with rusted or non-running examples commanding much lower prices.

3 The Humble Pontiac Fiero Deserves A Second Chance

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This may seem like an unusual suggestion, but hear us out. When not cheaply modified or botched into a sub-par Ferrari look alike, the ugly duckling Fiero is actually an excellent starting point for a young gearhead looking to revive a cost-conscious entry level sports car.

Parts are easily affordable, as of course are the cars themselves, and it’s refreshing to see these largely unloved coupes being restored from the ground up to live again. Thanks to exclusivity and nostalgia, these baby-sports cars are beginning to appreciate in price, so act now and snap one up to restore before values soar even further.

2 The Most Influential Car In American History Is A Perfect Restoration Candidate

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Performance and value aren’t everything. Occasionally, a particular model is just so important it justifies preservation purely, so it can exist for future generations to enjoy – the Ford Model T is one such model.

Prior to its introduction, cars were built in small numbers and available only to the wealthy classes within society, so when Henry Ford came along in 1908 with the Model T priced for the middle class, it revolutionized the automobile industry and changed things forever. So overwhelming was the success, by 1918 the Model T had sold 15 million units worldwide – an unthinkable number even today, let alone 100 years ago.

Thousands still survive to this day, some restored into awesome V8-powered ‘T-buckets’ while many are brought back to life in their original conditions and specifications. A thoroughly worthwhile restoration for any American vintage car enthusiast, which will turn just as many heads as even the most exotic modern hypercar.

Related: The Most Important Models Henry Ford Ever Built

1 The Ford Mustang Is An All-American Icon Which Deserves Preservation

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The best candidate for a restoration project, though, simply has to be an iconic American classic muscle car, and the original Ford Mustang is just that – a true classic muscle car, instantly recognizable and beloved the world over.

Perfect for all skill levels, parts availability is unrivaled (some companies even remanufacture parts to original specification) for novice restorers looking to take on their first project. Experienced restorers, on the other hand, may look for a more challenging project, such as an original Shelby, which is, of course, historically significant and has many unique features not found on the standard model.

A whole host of engines were available in the first Mustang, including bulletproof six-cylinders and highly tuned V8s, with power outputs peaking at 335 hp in the 7.0-liter Cobra Jet powered Mustang from 1969.

Values range massively, but keep patient and seek a solid base with all original parts – you may end up spending less than you’d first think, with V8 ’60s projects available at under $8,000.

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