Top Cars to Restore

Lincoln Continental

The Most Often Restored Automobiles

Restoration is a costly undertaking. Even if you can do the majority of the work yourself, the components, equipment, and paint supplies needed to change an old automobile from a worn-out relic to a dazzling display beauty will set you back a five-figure price.

We commend you if you’ve opted to restore an antique car because you have a long-standing affection for it and aren’t bothered about its value or if components are readily available; that approach should be the major emphasis of our wonderful pastime. If you appreciate antique automobile restoration but prefer tasks that are simple and inexpensive to complete-with the added plus of possibly generating a few cash when you’re finished-then these are the cars to consider for your next job.

Of course, the bulk of these cars won’t make you stand out in a crowd at a show or cruise-in, but you’ll be able to restore them much faster and for a lot less money than if you choose a car that was uncommon or only produced for a few years.

Another thing to think about is the car’s real purchasing price. While some of the cars on this list may be purchased for less than $5,000, others will cost four times as much, even if they’re total wrecks-but bear in mind that the higher-priced cars will also sell for four times as much, so it all balances out.

But the one thing that all of these cars have in common-and the main reason they’re on our list-is that they’re supported by a massive parts supply, making them far easier to restore than something uncommon like a Pierce-Arrow, a Forties-era De Soto, or a V-16 Cadillac. The availability of a large number of reproduction parts, particularly fresh body panels and external trim, makes restoring these cars a breeze. In fact, their restoration will be so simple that you’ll find yourself wanting to do more in the future.

Going with the flow has its benefits on occasion.

Classic Cars for Sale may be able to help you locate one of the cars listed below.


Here are our top 31 picks for the best cars to restore:

1. 68-69 AMC AMX: Clearly the most attractive of all AMXs produced, interest in these cars is growing as more fans learn how unique and fast they are. The Go Package versions come at a premium, but the non-Go Package 390 is just as desired. Even the smaller 343 V-8 models are in high demand, whereas the 290 V-8 is less so. Reproduction components are available, although the range isn’t as wide as the Big Three’s, despite the fact that it is growing, and many mechanical parts are interchangeable. Because the cars are so simple, they are not difficult to restore. These are regarded the AMC muscle vehicle to own among American Motors fans, followed by the 1970 version, therefore there will always be a market for them.


2. 63-65 Buick Riviera: Without a doubt, this is the best-designed American car of the postwar era-just it’s breathtaking. More people are starting to restore and collect these beauties as a result of their superb styling. The 1964-’65 vehicles with the dual-quad carb layout will set you back more, but all types are definitely worth rebuilding. Several firms are now offering reproduction parts, making future restorations easier than they are now if your car requires replacement panels and trim; reproduction seat coverings and door panels are now available and are superb.


3. 57 Cadillac Series 62: With over 32,000 units made, locating an excellent, operating, but restorable example of this Cadillac model is a breeze. The hardtop body design was used on all Cadillac sedans this year, giving them a wonderful Fifties look and superb flair. Although they can be a little challenging for first-time home hobbyists to restore, it is surely possible with a little guidance from the Cadillac-La Salle Club’s many members and specialists. You’ll have to make do with used body parts, but at least all of the mechanical parts are brand new. These ’57 Cadillacs are the most modern-looking of all the 1950s Cadillacs, and they’re a terrific alternative to the ’57 Chevy; believe it or not, they’re approximately the same price.


4. 65-66 Cadillac: These comfortable land yachts are described as “big, bold, and handsome,” and they give the best bang for the money of any Sixties-era collectible car. Although some trim pieces are difficult to come by, every mechanical part is available and at very cheap costs. You’ll have to settle for old body panels to replace them, but they’ll be less expensive than new panels (if they were available). The engines are powerful, and the interiors are large enough to accommodate a family of six. Best of all, buying one won’t break the bank; they’re significantly less expensive than you may imagine.


5. 53-54 Chevrolet Belair: These cars are a terrific alternative to the ever-popular Tri-Five models if you like Fifties-era Chevys, especially as more and more Bowtie lovers are beginning to appreciate their gorgeous yet conservative aesthetics. The collection of reproduction parts continues to grow, and the prices are very reasonable. All mechanical and electrical parts can be purchased quickly and at reasonable prices, and used parts are also readily available. There are also disc brake conversions and other high-performance improvements available.


6. 55-57 Chevrolet Belair: How could we not include the adorable Tri-Five vehicles when you can buy just about every single part to make yourself a brand-new model, including all-new body shells for the ’57? The vast worldwide following of fans means that these cars will always sell swiftly and for a good price; demand for them is unlikely to wane in our lifetime. There are still a lot of project cars available, thanks to their enormous production numbers; the ’55 vehicles are the most cheap. The 210s are the cheapest, but they’re also becoming increasingly collectible-no it’s longer just about the dolled-up Bel Airs.


7. 67-69 Chevrolet Camaro: Same as the Mustang: 67-69 Chevrolet Camaro Everything you’ll need to reassemble one, no matter how rusted it is, is brand new. “The ’69 Camaro is the ’32 Ford of today,” says Terry McGean, editor of Hemmings Muscle Machines, implying that there will always be a high demand for these automobiles. You can’t go wrong with restoring one. Best of all, they’re enjoyable to drive, dependable, and, thanks to a large aftermarket for performance parts, they can be made extremely powerful. The only drawback is that rustbuckets and rollers are no longer available for under $2,500.


8. 71-72 Chevrolet Chevelle: Aside from the early Mustang, GM’s A-body cars have had more parts duplicated than any other. The 1966-’70 Chevelles are already very expensive to purchase, so choose for the more affordable 1971-’72 hardtop or convertible variants instead-they’re far less expensive, and nearly all of the parts are interchangeable. Because of their fundamental body-on-frame structure, restorations are simple. They’ll sell quickly and for a reasonable price because they’re popular, but like most muscle cars today, they’ll need to be restored to factory specifications.


9. 78-82 Chevrolet Corvette:   The late-seventies Corvette is one of the best-styled Corvettes: its powerful, aggressive lines never fail to make a statement, and you can get one in fine working condition for less than $10,000. There were a lot of them made, so selecting a good one is simple. Restoring one is a very simple operation, with hundreds of Corvette specialists supplying just about every part needed, including new replica parts and high-performance speed parts. It’s no surprise that demand for these models is increasing, thanks to good club support and specialists-but only cars restored to original specifications will fetch top premium.


10. 65-66 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa: If you want to repair a car that has a lot of parts and is inexpensive to buy, the Corvair is the way to go. Almost every part has been duplicated and is available from a variety of sources. They have simple mechanicals and are straightforward to operate on, and there are plenty of experts and club members who can assist you. The four-carb 140hp Corsa engine, as well as the 180hp Turbo engine, are more coveted than the ordinary 110hp version; these models sell for the greatest money. Even first-generation four-door sedans, however, have a fan base. Corvair restoration, regardless of the model you pick, is a lot of fun, relatively inexpensive, and highly satisfying, plus they’re also a lot of fun to drive.


11. 61-64 Chevrolet Impala: Since the majority of 1961-’64 Impalas were either customized or converted into low-riders, the 1965 Chevrolet Impala was the next cheap full-size Chevy, followed by the ’66s, ’67s, and ’68s, and so on… The ’65 has a sporty spirit in fastback form, thanks to its slanting roofline and six independent taillamps. While reproduction parts aren’t as plentiful as they were for the early models, there are enough new parts to complete even the most rusted job. Mechanical parts are fairly cheap and can be found almost anywhere. Of course, the SS model is the most valuable, but straight-six engines are also becoming increasingly desirable. The large Chevy fan base assures that values continue to rise.


12. 67-70 Chevrolet Nova: For Chevy aficionados, this model Nova is the Duster’s equal. The Nova is a good first-time restoration project for individuals on a budget, because to its large production numbers (over one million made). Just avoid the four-door variant due to low demand. This car may be the cheapest to restore on this list, thanks to its abundance of low-cost Chevy parts. To improve its drivability, a variety of performance accessories and huge disc brake upgrade kits are easily available. Keep it looking stock, though, and it’ll be much easier to sell later, especially if it’s powered by a small-block V-8.


13. 65 Chrysler 300L: The L is the most economical and easiest to restore of all the Letter series cars, as it shares many body and trim pieces with other mass-produced Mopars.  L models, like their predecessors, are well-built and well-appointed, with distinctive trim and durable mechanical components. These cars will continue to appreciate in value, albeit locating one to buy and restore may take some time due to the limited production of 2,405 hardtops and 440 convertibles. That means, however, that there will always be a market for them. More significantly, restoring a 300L is no more expensive than restoring an Imperial or Fury, so go for it if you can.


14. 55-56 Desoto FirefliteHemi: Hemi-equipped Fireflite De Sotos may be the cheapest Hemi-powered Mopars on the market, which is why they made this list. Although it lacks the power of the later 426 Hemi, the smaller 291- or The automobile retains some of its dominance thanks to the Firedome Hemi. Because reproduction components are nearly impossible to come by, you’ll have to look for used body and trim pieces if you need them. However, the car’s build quality is excellent throughout, making restoration a breeze. Running project vehicles are still available for purchase, and for a low four-figure sum-yet their rarity will set you apart from the crowd.


15. 68 Dodge Charger: When beauty and brawn come together in one package, it makes for a really special car, like these Chargers do. The Charger’s exceptional design, which many consider to be the best-styled muscle car of all time, will ensure its popularity for decades to come. Every mechanical component is available, and the list of reproduction body panels is constantly growing. Rust is an issue, as it is with many cars of this era, but all patch panels are available. Because the production numbers were rather high, they are easy to locate. The larger the engine, the higher the price, but it will be worth more in the long run. Chargers are a blast to drive, handle well, and look great regardless of which engine delivers the power.


16. 72-73 Dodge Challenger: The story is the same for the 1972-73 Dodge Challenger as it is for the Plymouth ‘Cuda listed later. While most Mopar enthusiasts prefer the ‘Cuda, the Challenger is more equipped and finished, with a more upmarket appearance. Parts reproduction continues to improve, allowing even the most rusted project car to be salvaged. These latter vehicles with small-block V-8 engines are the most economical and simplest to locate, but they sell rapidly because to an ever-increasing desire for E-bodies. To be worth anything, this is one of those collectible automobiles that must be restored to factory-original specifications.


17. 28-31  Ford Model A: The Mustang of the pre-war era is the Ford Model A. Every part, including replacement body panels and all trim pieces, is available. There’s also a burgeoning aftermarket for performance cylinder heads and five-speed transmissions. A large production run means a large number of cars to choose from, all of which are reasonably priced. Experts willing to assist are everywhere thanks to the support of two major international clubs. Best of all, the automobiles’ simplicity makes them very simple to reassemble. The most money seems to go to roadster and coupes, but even a Fordor sedan has a market. Still, don’t expect to earn any money restoring one because, due to its popularity and availability, the Model A market is and will most likely always be a buyer’s market.


18. 57 Ford: The popularity of these great-looking Fords is growing. Because they were built in great numbers, finding one to restore should be simple. And because they’re backed by a sizable selection of authentic body, trim, and interior parts, as well as easy-to-find, low-cost mechanical components, repairing one will be a breeze. Their straightforward body-on-frame design keeps things simple, and a wide choice of high-performance accessories will only add to the car’s fun factor. While it may take longer to sell than a ’57 Chevy, that is changing-enthusiasts are beginning to appreciate exactly how unique these cars are, and how rarely they are seen.


19. 64-65 Ford Falcon: The inner structure of the 64-65 Ford Falcon is identical to that of the Cougar, therefore braking and suspension elements are nearly identical. Many body, trim, and interior elements have been replicated, and there is a sizable aftermarket parts line for increasing power. Because so many Falcons were made, they are still readily available today. They’re also a wonderful project for inexperienced people because of their simple design. The hardtops and convertibles, particularly the better-performing GT versions, will return the greatest money. Consider the 1960-’63 Falcons as well, as many fans favor the rounded design of the early Falcons over the later, squarer body.


20. 65-68 Ford Mustang: Mustangs are excellent first-time projects because almost every part you’ll ever need can be found in a catalog or on the internet. We can’t think of a single part that hasn’t been replicated. There are literally dozens of companies that can provide you with all of the parts and accessories you’ll require. Mustangs also have outstanding club support, with various professionals located throughout the country. Early Mustangs virtually sell themselves when restored, and projects are still plentiful.


21. 61-66 Ford Thunderbird: If you can’t afford an early ‘Bird, these models are the next best thing, and they’re also a lot more stylish. We like the square ‘Birds, but they don’t quite have the same appeal as the early 1960s models, though that is changing. Each year, more and more components for these 1960s Thunderbirds are produced, making restoration easier, though not as straightforward as it was for the 1955-57 ‘Birds (for which nearly every part is available). Although demand for these ‘Birds is increasing, prices are still very cheap. They also sell swiftly.


22. 67-68 Mercury Cougar: The Cougar is essentially a Mustang underneath the skin, which makes acquiring mechanical and electrical parts a breeze. However, several body panels and trim parts for the early Cougar have been recreated, so restoring one is not difficult. Complete interiors, as well as a plethora of performance items, brake improvements, and suspension parts, are all available. There are plenty of competent enthusiasts to assist you, as well as a strong demand from both Mercury and muscle car collectors, thanks to strong club backing. There are plenty of restoration-ready cars available; additionally consider the 1969-73 models, particularly convertibles.


23. 68-72 Oldsmobile Cutlass: While muscle car fans prefer the more expensive 4-4-2, the less powerful Cutlass has the same outstanding ride and inspiring beautiful looks. Because its chassis parts are interchangeable with all other GM A-body cars, locating brake and suspension parts is a breeze, and it’s also quite economical. Exterior body and trim parts haven’t been replicated to the same level as a comparable Chevelle, but lower production numbers imply these are more rarer-but not so rare that you won’t be able to find one to repair. They’re out there, and they’re available at reasonable costs.


24. 51-54 Packard:  The very best-built models are those with the Packard nameplate. Fifties automobiles continue to soar in terms of desirability, and the absolute best-built models are those with the Packard nameplate. Aside from the Caribbean, which is too expensive to list here, these are attractively styled automobiles that are well-built and feature plenty of exquisite workmanship. Almost all mechanical and electrical parts are available fresh, and at cheaper prices than you may expect. Body and trim parts can be tough to find, but if you know where to look, you should be fine; solid club support means you’ll be able to locate what you need quickly. A well-restored Packard will never be difficult to sell. Of course, once you’ve driven it, you might never want to sell it because it makes you feel so unique behind the wheel.


25. 72-74 Plymouth Barracuda:  Hardcore Plymouth Barracuda The 1970-71 versions are sought after by Mopar aficionados, but the later models, particularly the 1973-74 automobiles, are the most affordable (and even more so with the smaller 318- or V-8s). Restoration is a snap because to a large supply of replacement body, trim, and interior parts. Because there is no frame, ensure sure the body isn’t twisted owing to severe corrosion. Later versions, as well as those with small-block engines, will appreciate in value over time. Because of their attractiveness and wide appeal, demand will always be high.


26. 67-69 Plymouth Barracuda: Although reproduction body panels for the 1967-69 Plymouth Barracuda aren’t as easily available as they are for the 1970-74 E-body Barracuda, more and more parts are being duplicated each year. Factory-correct interiors, as well as other trim components, are now available, making restoration of these attractive pony cars a little easier than before.  All mechanical parts, as well as a vast range of aftermarket performance items, are available. Depending on the body design, project vehicle prices are still in the $3,000 to $6,000 range. The fastback body appears to be the most popular, and with E-body values out of reach for most young enthusiasts, these Barracudas offer a good substitute.


27. 70-73 Plymouth Duster:  If you want a Mopar but can’t afford a ‘Cuda, Charger, Challenger, or other muscle car, the Plymouth Duster is the next best thing. Dusters are simple to work on, with a plethora of professionals and parts suppliers on hand, and because they were mass-produced in large numbers, they are easy to come by, with many well-used examples for sale all over the place. As fans are pushed out of the more expensive part of the Mopar hobby, Dusters (and Demons) are considered as the next best thing. The 340 model is the most desirable, although 318 V-8 automobiles are the most common.


28. 62 Pontiac Grand Prix: This appears to be the favorite Grand Prix of every Pontiac fan: If you had to repair a GP, this would be the one. Its popularity does not appear to be waning. It’s essentially a full-size muscle vehicle for half the price of a GTO, but it’s still powered by a V-8. Reproduction parts are becoming more widely available, although every mechanical part (as well as many performance parts) may be purchased fresh and at reasonable costs. Interiors have been recreated, including door panels. These first-year Grand Prixs are the ideal Sixties-era Pontiac for people looking for something different, thanks to its attractive appearance and racing background. They’re not hard to come by, with over 30,000 built; as an alternative, consider the Catalina, which is a little less pricey.


29. 70-73 Pontiac Firebird: Early second-generation Firebirds, like the Camaro, have become extremely desirable in recent years as a result of the skyrocketing costs of first-generation F-bodies, which are now out of reach of the average fan. Although the high-performance Formula and Trans Am variants are the most desirable, their higher prices prevent them from being as widely available (if you can find one for a good price, though, those would be the models to buy). Many reproduction parts, including many new body panels, are available. The cars are simple to restore and sell if they are restored to factory specifications.


30. 71-72 Pontiac GTO: Even while the pricing of early GTOs, especially those with Tri-Power and Ram Air-spec V-8s, are out of reach for the average Joe, you may still buy a Pontiac with those three little letters on the front grille: 71-72 Pontiac GTO Consider the models from 1971 and 1972. They’re an extension of the redesigned A-body that debuted in 1968; except from a few minor tweaks, they preserved the GTO’s intimidating appearance. A slew of body and trim elements, as well as a slew of go-fast goodies, have been replicated to help you tune your automobile for optimum performance. Because there are so many GTO lovers in our nation, values will continue to grow, but only for factory-correct cars that have been well restored.


31. 56-58 Studebaker Hawk:  The classy Golden Hawk is coveted by more than just Studebaker fans: it’s one of those automobiles that everyone hopes they could own. There were a lot of these built, so finding one to restore shouldn’t be difficult. A large number of body and trim pieces have been replicated, and there is still a significant supply of NOS parts available. Golden Hawks aren’t any more difficult to restore than your normal Chevy or Ford due to their high-quality construction. A well-restored Golden Hawk will attract a premium price due to its posh character and show-stopping excellent looks.

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