1973-1976 Chevy Laguna
It's no secret that PHR editor Johnny Hunkins loves the Chevy Laguna. In 1973, GM redesigned the Chevelles and the name broke into several different models, one being the Laguna. It was the top-shelf version of the Chevelle, making it the most expensive. The S-3 model for '74-76 featured a body-colored grille surround and bumpers as well as a plush interior with optional swivel front seats. The Laguna was famous in its day for its efforts in the NASCAR series. Now you can do just about anything with a Laguna. It takes all of the same A-body parts of the era (there were over 7 million example made), so anything that works on its sister cars will work on the Laguna. There is ample room in the engine bay for big headers on a small- or big-block. The stock fenders can fit 325mm-wide tires before any rubbing, so big meats for drag or road racing is a big benefit.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $1,500 - $6,000
Total model production: 94,826
Platform variants: Buick Century, Regal, and Grandsport; Chevy Chevelle,
  El Camino, Malibu, and Monte Carlo; GMC Sprint; Pontiac LeMans,
  GTO, Grand Am, Grand Prix, Grand LeMans, Grand Am, and Can Am;
  Oldsmobile 442, Cutlass, and Hurst-Olds
Available engines: V-8: 350, 400, 454
Coolness factor: 3
Aftermarket support: 3
Availability: 3
Website resources: www.g3gm.com, Doc's 1973 - 1977 Chevelles

We Found It
Though rough, this '73 Laguna offered at $1,350 has a running 350 small-block Chevy with a TH350 automatic transmission. This car needs bodywork as well as an engine rebuild, but for under $1,500, what more can you ask for? The potential is there, it just needs the high-performance parts of today.

1970-1974 Ford Maverick
The Ford Mustang was running the Falcon's sales figures into the ground, and so the model was discontinued. To take the Falcon's place, Ford introduced the Maverick. The compact car was made in three variations: two-door, four-door, and the four-door wagon. Cool factor was very important in choosing the 20 cars for this list, so we're focusing on the two-door models. Production started out in 1970 only offering inline-six engines, but Ford quickly remedied that with a 210hp 302 option in 1971. The 302cu V-8 would prove to make the car fun to drive, something that the Chevy Vega didn't have from the factory. Next to the small-block Chevy, the 302 is one of America's most popular engines, making the modification endless. Global West produces tubular control arms for the Maverick, enabling it to hold its own in autocross and road racing venues.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $1,500 - $3,500
Total model production: 1,122,216
Platform variants: Mercury Comet
Available engines: V-8: 302
Coolness factor: 4
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 3
Website resources: www.fordmaverick.com

We Found It
Here is a car you could pick up and drive just how it is. If you don't mind the purple paint, this '71 Maverick is in remarkable shape. Some things need some work but if you want to drive your project while you make improvements, this is a good option. It's got a 302 backed by an automatic that is stated to be in perfect mechanical order.

1971-1977 Chevy Vega
General Motor's Ed Cole, designer of the Corvair, also claims the Vega as his baby. The sub-compact car hit showroom floors after only two years of planning and building. In many ways, the Vega was a glimpse into the future with its forward-thinking design. It came with an aluminum block, overhead-cam four-cylinder, electric fuel pump, and front disc brakes as standard equipment, a first for Chevrolet. The Vega's short-, long-arm front suspension with four-link rear coupled with a low center of gravity and near-perfect weight distribution gave it great handling characteristics. Nowadays, rodders scrap the aluminum lawn mower engine for a small-block Chevy. Hooker sells engine and tranny mount swap kits for around $370, and they have a couple of different header options for this application. Running low e.t.'s or fast lap times in the 2,300-pound Vega are easy to achieve, but it usually requires a differential swap to keep up with the power.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $1,500 - $6,000
Total model production: 1,988,933
Platform variants: Chevy Monza, Pontiac Astra and Sunbird, Olds Starfire
Available engines: I-4: 140 OHC, 122 DOHC
Coolness factor: 4
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 5
Website resources: www.vega-world.com

We Found It
As far as bang-for-the-buck goes, it's hard to get a better deal than with a Vega. Browsing the completed listings on eBay, there were half a dozen Vegas sold for under $2,000 with a small-block Chevy swap already completed. This particular '74 Wagon with GM crate 350, TH350, 12-bolt rear with posi, and a stack of extra parts sold for $1,650. A quick paintjob and some custom interior pieces would make this a fabulous custom muscle car.