1 2
David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/14/09 11:01 a.m.

[Editor's Note: This article ran originally in our June 2007 edition. Some information, pricing, or car availabilty has changed.]

Let’s get one thing straight: Not every car is going to be rehashed in a single weekend. If you’re dreaming of investing a couple of days in a rust-to-race track rebuild, you might want to wake up. 

The key is to start with the right car in the right condition—something new enough to be solid, but still old enough to have completely depreciated in value. For the most part, we’re talking about cars that are about 15 or 20 years old.

Since the salvage yard is going to be your friend during this project, it’s also easier to rehash something built in large numbers—or at least a model that’s based on something very common. Sure, you can probably score a decent Mitsubishi Starion hood on eBay, but then you have to get the thing shipped—and that means a nice bill from a trucking company. Save the bucks and get some exercise; go visit your closest salvage yard, and they’ll likely have the same part for a Civic, BMW 3 Series or VW Golf in stock. 

Here are a dozen cars that can make easy resto projects. All of them were built in large enough numbers that they’re common on today’s market for two grand or less. They’re also all on the simple side, meaning most work can be done in the garage. And when done, each of them makes a great daily driver or fun weekend toy.

Read the rest of the story

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
9/17/19 9:59 a.m.

Ah, Saab. Wish you were still here. 

Robbie
Robbie UltimaDork
9/17/19 10:03 a.m.

this is just a list of basically my favorite cars of all time. What is wrong with me?

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
9/17/19 10:11 a.m.
Robbie said:

this is just a list of basically my favorite cars of all time. What is wrong with me?

Nothing, my good sir, nothing. 

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
9/17/19 10:14 a.m.

I have owned five on that list. 3 of them exact same color and option package as the pictures. 

Am i being stalked? Or do i just have great taste in cars?

Robbie
Robbie UltimaDork
9/17/19 10:21 a.m.
Dusterbd13-michael said:

I have owned five on that list. 3 of them exact same color and option package as the pictures. 

Am i being stalked? Or do i just have great taste in cars?

Ha! I just had to go count after this comment. I've also had 5. Plus two more REALLY close ones like a 99 Saab and a VW fox instead of a golf. 

Powar
Powar UltraDork
9/17/19 10:30 a.m.
Jordan Rimpela said:

Ah, Saab. Wish you were still here. 

Same.

I've had at least one example of six of the cars on the list and still have examples of three of them. I like this list.

Cooter
Cooter UltraDork
9/17/19 11:05 a.m.

I've had 9 cars on that list.

Unfortunately, they are all Saturns...

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
9/17/19 11:23 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:

The key is to start with the right car in the right condition—something new enough to be solid, but still old enough to have completely depreciated in value. For the most part, we’re talking about cars that are about 15 or 20 years old.

Might want to take another look at the calendar. The newest car on your list is 17 years old and the majority of them went out of production a quarter century ago. Of course, the article is 12 years old so maybe we should be more worried about that wink I'm going to say the answers have changed. E30 and NA Miata prices are on the way up - E36s and NBs are probably more appropriate answers now, or maybe even NC Miatas. And seriously, are there any running Escort GTs and Neons left?

As for cars on the list, I own four. Granted, it's four copies of the same car, but that counts, right? 

alfadriver
alfadriver MegaDork
9/17/19 11:33 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
David S. Wallens said:

The key is to start with the right car in the right condition—something new enough to be solid, but still old enough to have completely depreciated in value. For the most part, we’re talking about cars that are about 15 or 20 years old.

Might want to take another look at the calendar. The newest car on your list is 17 years old and the majority of them went out of production a quarter century ago. Of course, the article is 12 years old so maybe we should be more worried about that wink I'm going to say the answers have changed. E30 and NA Miata prices are on the way up - E36s and NBs are probably more appropriate answers now, or maybe even NC Miatas. And seriously, are there any running Escort GTs and Neons left?

As for cars on the list, I own four. Granted, it's four copies of the same car, but that counts, right? 

Probably better to just suggest an update.  For sure, swap the Escort for Focus- or something like that.  But a lot has been added and subtracted (based on availability) from that list in 12 years.

MazdaFace
MazdaFace Dork
9/17/19 11:37 a.m.

Yea an updated list would be pretty cool. Swap escort for focus, e30 for e46, put the sn95 mustangs on there. 

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
9/17/19 11:40 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

You can blame me. This article is... older. And while the Escorts and Neons might be light on the ground, they're still out there. But it's definitely a list worth revisiting. 

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
9/17/19 12:21 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:
And seriously, are there any running Escort GTs and Neons left?

I think my co-workers stockpiled the lot of the Escort GTs (and 323s, MX3s, etc) for Chump Car.

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
9/17/19 12:23 p.m.

Generally speaking the newer equivalents gained power roughly commensurate with their weight gain, but of course tires and brakes get a little more expensive. 

The F-body upgrade is huge. A 4th gen goes circles around a 3rd gen until you get pretty far from stock.

On the other hand, the 2nd gen Neon is just...worse than the 1st gen. Unless you get an SRT4. devil

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
9/17/19 12:24 p.m.

I apparently don't belong in this crowd, I've only owned 5 out of the twelve.

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
9/17/19 12:39 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

Well I've owned zero. I've had Volvos instead of Saabs and Mercedes-Benzes instead of BMWs, but that's as close as I get. 

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
9/17/19 12:49 p.m.

Here's a cool update on what the Camaro used for the lead image looks like today from the same owner:

Tyler H
Tyler H UberDork
9/17/19 12:56 p.m.

I remember this article from the mag...seems like ~10 years ago.  What a difference a decade makes.  The pedestrian entries on the list almost don't exist any more, and the rest are classics and have appreciated.  

When was the last time anyone saw a clean SE-R, Protoge or Escort GT?

RevRico
RevRico PowerDork
9/17/19 12:58 p.m.
Jordan Rimpela said:

In reply to BoxheadTim :

Well I've owned zero. I've had Volvos instead of Saabs and Mercedes-Benzes instead of BMWs, but that's as close as I get. 

I thought you got a miata as a sign on bonus at GRM? 

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
9/17/19 12:59 p.m.
RevRico said:
Jordan Rimpela said:

In reply to BoxheadTim :

Well I've owned zero. I've had Volvos instead of Saabs and Mercedes-Benzes instead of BMWs, but that's as close as I get. 

I thought you got a miata as a sign on bonus at GRM? 

They were out of stock. I got a Mercedes instead!

spacecadet
spacecadet Dork
9/17/19 1:18 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:
David S. Wallens said:

The key is to start with the right car in the right condition—something new enough to be solid, but still old enough to have completely depreciated in value. For the most part, we’re talking about cars that are about 15 or 20 years old.

Might want to take another look at the calendar. The newest car on your list is 17 years old and the majority of them went out of production a quarter century ago. Of course, the article is 12 years old so maybe we should be more worried about that 

That explains a bunch of why it felt old. I didn't catch the date first time I read it earlier. These were/are all good cars. But my first thought was how bad parts availability will be for some of these. 

Having owned an EF, you can find some parts easily. But hard parts are getting more difficult to source and moving to a EG or really an EK chassis is the best choice just for the support level still available from those double wishbone cars. 

The 8th gen civics I would argue are the new Honda hot ticket for a cheap project/track day car. Hondata makes a tuner for the R18 and there's parts for them on the aftermarket like crazy. 

Thinking domestics, the early MK3 focus are starting to hit the lower end of the depreciation curve and because of the RS and the ST there's a bunch of aftermarket support for the chassis. 

I realize I own the performance versions of both the 8th gen civic and the Focus MK3 so I'm a bit biased. But they're capable. 

Its too bad the early Mazda3 had so many rust issues. They'd feel like a good Grassroots candidate to me as well. 

 

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
9/17/19 1:53 p.m.

Where's the list of terrible platforms to start from?  We need to start saving these kids from their Scion TCs and Grand Ams!

If you are updating the list, consider the Cobalt SS in place of the Neon. It was a hell of a platform, there is support out there, and its reasonably priced. You can get it NA, super, or turbocharged in 2 door or 4 door.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
9/17/19 1:59 p.m.

I currently own three of the cars on that list.  One I bought new, and another I own four versions.

GCrites80s
GCrites80s Reader
9/17/19 8:41 p.m.
Vigo said:

 

The F-body upgrade is huge. A 4th gen goes circles around a 3rd gen until you get pretty far from stock.

 

An '82 vs. a 2002, yes. An '87-'92 5.7 car vs. a '93-'96 not so much.

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
9/17/19 9:10 p.m.

An '87-'92 5.7 car vs. a '93-'96 not so much.

Maybe a track with no straightaways? Or, if you put a  self-imposed 4500rpm rev limit on an LT1 then i'm sure it's no faster than a 5.7 TPI car.  I think that's called the Lemons Limiter because nobody can keep an SBC alive in Lemons if they actually rev it, right? angel

In all seriousness i don't see where you're coming from. I also dont think in stock form an LS1 fbody is that much faster than an LT1 Fbody. They're certainly closer together than the LT1 car is to the TPI car.

1 2
Our Preferred Partners
pFFhEsSHAZnx91kvOzQKaHVfvbLGVknLGkD2Bm8Q9MOhMyUa5qiZfweAFxz3coUZ