Project Car Guide

This guide was initially written during a bout of final exam procrastination for the subreddit r/projectcar as a response to the regular ‘what car should I buy’ posts. I’ve updated it through the years with new cars and better tips. But the reddit format was a hindrance and it was always my intention to move it over to a better platform. Well here it is: new, improved, shinier!

I appreciate any feedback about the content, suggestions for more cars, or corrections to my approximate valuation/rating system. Also feel free to drop a line if this guide helps you get into a project car!

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A project car is a great way to learn the ins and outs turning wrenches. It’s the first step into maintenance, restoration, or modification for many. However you would be crazy not to be a bit intimidated, particularly if you’ve seen jaw-dropping customs, ground-pounding race cars, or 100 point classics. But not to worry! Every journey begins with a single step and with the right hands on experience you too can learn the mysteries of the automobile.

This guide will mainly apply to those in the US as this is where I live and what I know.

Without further ado, enjoy!

Preparation: Know what you’re getting yourself into

So you want a project car. You’ll learn a LOT, it’s a great opportunity to bond with family and friends, and you get a cool car at the end. The first question to ask yourself is do you want a project or do you want the final product? Many people think about undertaking a project car when they really want the end product and think that going the project route will get them there cheaper. In my experience, those projects never get done or wind up costing more than buying a pre-built car to begin this. Just something to ponder and consider.

The first step is to really assess your resources and what kind of project you can take on. Some questions you should ask yourself: How much time am I willing to invest? How much money can I spend, both up front and continually (remember the cost of tools and parts)? What learning resources do I have? Do I have a shop or an under cover place to work on it? Who else will be working on it with me? Will I need this car for reliable transportation?

Really think about what you can actually bite off. It doesn’t matter how cool a project would be if it never has a chance to make it out of the garage. If you decide you aren’t in a place to take on a full automobile that doesn’t have to slow you down.

Sidebar: Little Projects

Or on to the cars!


Next step: Selection