American males have long lusted after classic cars like the '66 Mustang, '69 Chevelle, '65 GTO, '67 Corvette, '70 Dodge Challenger, or any one of the other dear-to-our-hearts cars of the late '50s, '60s, or early '70s.
In fact, here are a few classic gems that land at the top of any gearhead's wish list—and tips for those brave enough to wield a wrench:
1964 1/2 - 1969 Ford Mustang
Locating parts for this job won't be a problem. Look out for rust and rot, but as long as you don't over-pay for the car, this isn't a big issue. All of the sheet metal parts are available. Replacing them is simply a matter of cutting, fitting and welding. As with most restorations, leave the upholstery, glass and body work to a pro—after all, it's all about having a sick looking classic car, so unless you have the experience let someone who knows what they're doing handle these jobs.
1963 - 1967 Chevy Corvette
These fiberglass bodies are prone to cracks, and it's not uncommon to find an old Vette that has been repaired previously using lousy aftermarket body sections. A bad 'glass body can be very expensive to repair. Closely inspect the full-length frame to check for rot or collision damage. Even if you find areas of concern, frames can usually be saved by a good welder. Parts (from stem to stern) are readily available from Corvette specialist parts suppliers. By the way, don't be conned into buying all GM parts. Plenty of quality aftermarket parts are available, and sometimes cheaper than the Chevy dealership prices.
1967 - 1969 Chevy Camaro
Like the Mustang, the early Camaro versions were and remain extremely popular, so any part you'll need will be easy to find. The most famous, and most collectible version is the 1969 Z28, which featured a high-output 302 cubic-inch engine, commonly referred to as the "Duntov" engine. This specific 302 engine is a little monster, and does require a few dedicated components (heads, crank, cam, etc.), so if you have the engine rebuilt (and you want to maintain the appearance of originality), don't replace the cylinder heads or the unique Holley carburetor if at all possible . . . have them reconditioned.
Think you're ready to tackle a restoration challenge? Read on for four tips to consider before you get your hands dirty.
Read More: Car Restoration Tips
If the idea of restoring a classic with your own hands appeals to you, here are some things to consider:
How long it will take depends on the quality and historical accuracy you desire. It may be as little as a few months or as long as several years. Face that reality before you commit. Don't create an insane deadline for yourself and end up crazed.
You'll save a few bucks doing it yourself, but there are a few tasks that you'll need to hire out: chrome plating, anodizing, and engine-component machining, for starters. You may also need to hire someone for upholstery, body prep, paint, and engine assembly, depending on your skill level.
You simply can't build a champagne car on a beer budget. Plan to spend anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000, not including the price of the car. That's a very broad range, but the final cost will depend on what you'll need, the condition of the car, and the extent of your detail fantasies.
Be honest with yourself. Do you want to produce a nice ride (looks decent and runs fine)? Or do you want a perfectly restored car that's historically accurate, down to every screw and clamp? Your answers will determine the kind of time and bank you'll need.
Read More: Classic Gems Worth the Effort