So you've decided to start shopping for a project car, and for one reason or another, you've got a limited budget. There are always going to be economic lulls and discouraging situations, but when it forces you to lose out on your hobby and your passion, then hope can be hard to keep. It's still possible, even on a limited budget, to find a cool running and driving project car; chances are it won't be a '69 Camaro, a Mustang fastback, or a Hemi 'Cuda, but who said you always need one of those to be cool?

The initial project car purchase is the most important part of your hot rod, and a large part of how much you'll enjoy the car when it's done. The better the car you start with, the less you'll need to put into it. Conversely, the less you put into it initially, the more cash and sweat equity you'll need for upgrades. There is a lot to consider just like with any big purchase, so doing your research is of great importance. We're offering a list of 20 cars that are both affordable, and inspirational. (Please note that all our ratings are on a 1-to-5 scale.) Some are off-year models that come with a lesser price tag, and some are more plebian platform mates of more expensive models. You can get a car in decent condition for less money than the prime-year cars, or you can get a car in much better condition for the same price. Either way you look at it, you can spend less or work less. In either case, you'll have something that will stand out from the crowd of '69 Camaros. Obviously, our space is limited, and we couldn't represent every possibility here, but we hope we've given you some food for thought and some useful information for when you're shopping for your next project car!

1979-1993 "Fox" Mustang
This one may seem too obvious to be on this list, but it's such a prime example of what you can do on a low budget. Look no further than contributor Stephen Kim, and his Project Fox. These Mustangs were wildly popular since the day they came out and have quite a following. For the 1990 model year, Ford was redesigning the Mustang based on Mazda's front-wheel-drive MX-6. Letters from Mustang fans ultimately ended this idea, keeping the Mustang's traditional rear-wheel-drive with a V-8 option alive. (One exception was the SVO Mustang. Rather than a V-8, it came with a turbocharged four-cylinder, making nearly as much power as the V-8 in a lighter package. These turbo cars could easily be modified to make well more than that.) The 1987 production year brought styling and engine changes; improved fuel delivery and air metering meant more power. These third-generation Mustangs are being transformed into road racers, drag racers, and street cruisers. They are light, easy to work on, and have more aftermarket support than all of the cars on this list by far.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $1,500 - $5,500
Total model production: 2,608,705
Platform variants: Ford Fairmont, Mercury Zephyr and Capri
Available engines: I-4 144ci Turbo, V-8 302 ci
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 5
Availability: 5
Website resources: www.foxbodyforum.com

We Found It
The later years of this generation Mustang (often called the aero nose) are more valuable than the earlier ones because of improved body styling and performance. This '90 LX has already gotten quite a bit of attention with aluminum heads, thousands of dollars in new parts, and a new paintjob. The 38-bid race ended at only $2,700. Seems like a low price to pay for such a performer.

1965-1970 Chevy Impala
Chevrolet's redesign of the Impala in 1965 proved a brilliant plan when the sales figures came in. The '65 model year sold over 1 million Impalas, higher than any car ever. The next year had similar sales results. The Impala is a fullsize luxury model that came in two- and four-door versions. They were second only to the Caprice in options. It wasn't all about looking good though: They also packed some power. They housed the famous 409 big-block as well as the more traditional 396-, and 427-inch big-blocks. All of these years had the SS available except the '70, where the SS name was dropped and a 454 incher took the place of the 427. These powerboats use all of the drivetrain components that are common to Chevy-folk. Though they may not ever be canyon carvers, the aftermarket has brought a lot of great suspension and braking parts to the table.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $1,500 - $10,000
Total model production: 4,496,857
Platform variants: Buick LeSabre; Chevrolet Biscayne, Bel Air, and Caprice;
  Pontiac Bonneville and Grand Prix
Available engines: V-8: 283, 307, 327, 350, 396, 409, 427
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 6
Website resources: www.impalas.net

We Found It
This '66 two-door hardtop sold for $8,800 through eBay's "Buy It Now" program, where one bid wins the auction at the seller's asking price. The car is ready to hit the car shows with minimal work. Fully restored SS427 Impalas sell for higher than this example, while non-running project cars started around $1,500. The sheer volume of these cars makes them inexpensive and easy to find.

1971-1977 Pontiac Ventura
Pontiac's entry to the GM X-body line was the Ventura II in 1971. In the '60s, the Ventura was a fullsize car as a fluffed-up version of the Catalina. The '70s name Ventura II was given to distinguish between the two. The first Venturas came in a variety of Chevy six- and eight-cylinder engines. It wasn't until 1972 that the Ventura came with a Pontiac 350 for the base V-8 model. A special GTO package was available in '74 that gave it a shaker hood and special trim. Plans to continue the GTO package through 1975 were dropped when GM decided to use a Buick V-8 instead of the Pontiac. Later they would also replace the Chevy 250 I-6 with the Buick 231 V-6 found in the '80s Regals. The Ventura shared skeletons with the Chevy Nova, Oldsmobile Omega, and Buick Apollo. This would make aftermarket parts readily available to transform the Ventura anyway you could want. Early Camaro suspension parts are also interchangeable. Unfortunately, the 1.5 milion Novas made verses the 350,000 Venturas made draws their values up. Unless you're a Pontiac fan, the Nova is a more economical choice.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $3,000 - $12,000
Total model production: 347,081
Platform variants: Buick Apollo and Skylark; Cadillac Seville; Chevy Nova;
  Oldsmobile Omega
Available engines: V-8: 307/350 Chevy, 350 Pontiac, 350 Buick
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 2
Website resources: www.pontiacventura.com

We Found It
We found quite a spread of prices for the Ventura. The earlier years were selling for well over $10,000, much higher than their sister Novas. The later years, however, are left without bids. This '77 is extremely clean with a 305 backed by an automatic transmission and a spotless interior. The starting price was $3,200 and no bids were placed.

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.

1965-1973 Plymouth Fury
Ordering this Plymouth fullsized car in '65 was pretty simple. It came in three flavors: Fury I, Fury II, and Fury III. The Fury I model was the bare-bones version usually ordered in fleets for taxis and other services. The other two were the popular models among the average consumer, each with an increasing option list. An extra-optioned VIP model was developed in 1966 and ran through 1969. It wasn't until 1970 that the Fury Sport GT model was released, and ordered with a 440 engine topped with a six-pack carb setup. These cars, like many other fullsize cars, don't make great road racers or autocrossers, but they sure have their place cruising the street and can get up and go if needed. Decades of supporting the nearly 4,000-pound Furys can destroy the rubber parts that soften the ride, but browsing the pages of Summit Racing's online catalog showed us there were enough parts to completely rebuild the suspension and braking system on these cars. Of course, the 440-cube powerplant is a popular engine, so no troubles there either.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $1,000 - $7,000
Total model production: 1,225,851 (two-door); 1,028,291 (four-door sedan)
Platform variants: Chrysler 300, Town and Country, Newport;
  Dodge Polara and Monaco, and Chrysler Imperial
Available engines: V-8: 318, 360, 383, 400, 440, 426 Wedge
Coolness factor: 4
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 2 (two-door), 4 (four-door)
Website resources: www.stockmopar.com

We Found It
Despite the numbers, it's nearly impossible to find a two-door Fury. About 90 percent of the listings we found were for four-door models and that's not exactly what we wanted. This baby-blue '70 two-door Fury III was left unsold. Because the action terms are so short, it's partially luck that the right buyer is looking at the right time. For $3,300, this was a good deal. It had a two-month-old paintjob, 440 engine, and a ton of options. If the seller lists it again, it will be a good find for someone in the market for a project.

1967-1973 Mercury Cougar
In 1967, the Cougar was born. It was basically a Mustang with a new body and a 3-inch longer wheelbase. Mercury was known to be more luxurious than Ford, and the Cougar reflected that. The XR-7 and GT models were their most prized. The XR-7 was Mercury's extra-high luxury model with special gauges, leather seat option, and a wood grain steering wheel, among other upgrades. The GT option replaced the standard 289 small-block for the 390 FE motor. In '68, three engines were added to the XR-7 option list including the 302, 428, and the 427. The Cougar was not dramatically changed until 1971, when it gained an inch on its wheelbase, and ditched the hidden headlights. Production numbers were half of what the first generation were, so these '71-73 models are more difficult to find, but somewhat less expensive. These cars weigh between 3,200 and 3,400 pounds, and all came with V-8s, making it a great car to work with. Like the Mustang, this car fits in the road racing, drag racing, show, and street scenes.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $1,000 - $6,000
Total model production: 614,225
Platform variants: Ford Mustang
Available engines: V-8: 289, 351, 390, 429
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 5
Availability: 3
Website resources: www.mercurycougar.net

We Found It
This car won't win any shows in its current condition-as stated in the auction description-but that's not really what you're looking for in a project. This is a clean, reliable '69 Cougar that sold for $3,500. The listing didn't say which engine is in it, but it's a V-8 for sure.

1968-1970 AMC AMX
The American Motor Company's mid-1968 model year edition, the AMX, was a two-passenger sports car thrown into a market dominated by the Corvette. The AMX was fashioned by sectioning their ponycar Javelin body, arriving at a smaller 97-inch wheelbase. The AMX came optional with AMC's newest engine, the 390. It came with a forged crankshaft and connecting rods giving it the durability needed to support the 315hp and 425 lb-ft torque output. Starting out with the stout bottom end makes life easier for the at-home builder. Edelbrock has got the aluminum cylinder heads covered with their Performer RPM series for all AMC V-8 engine options. COMP Cams has a whole line of cams available for these engines to optimize power with the new cylinder heads. As far as the styling of the car goes, no upgrades are needed: It's a great-looking car that will probably just need a fresh coat of paint. The AMX's downfall as a project car is the production numbers; it makes the parts hard to find and more expensive.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $3,000 - $15,000
Total model production: 19,134
Platform variants: none
Available engines: V-8: 290, 343, 390
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 3
Availability: 1
Website resources: www.theamcforum.com

We Found It
We found this red '68 AMX on eBay, which recently sold for $6,600. This may be a little expensive for a project car, but this car was in amazing shape with very little work needed. We also found a comparable car with only 15,000 original miles that sold for $15,000. Previous swap meet visits showed us that rough versions can be snagged for around $4,000.

1972-1974 Dodge Challenger
The Challenger was born in 1970 and was instantly a hit. The first two model years are treasured classics of the ponycar era. The Challengers did their part in the Trans-Am series of the early '70s and made their mark at the dragstrip as well. The Challenger was aimed at the more affluent buyer in the market for a ponycar. It offered a more luxurious interior and slightly longer wheelbase. Unfortunately, that popularity translates into big bucks when shopping for a project car. The alternative is to take a look at the less popular '72-74 models. Their production numbers are few, but sellers will let them go for significantly less than the older Challengers. The '73 and '74 models dropped the big-block Hemi, and '74s never came with a six-cylinder. Both the 426 Hemi and the 5.7L late-model Hemi fits between the shoulders, so there are more than enough options when it comes to the engine. More people restore these Challengers to showroom condition than radically modify them, but there is still some room to play. Hotchkis has taken special attention to the Challengers with their tubular upper control arms to give better suspension geometry to the ponycar.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $2,500 - $15,000
Total model production: 75,691
Platform variants: Plymouth Barracuda
Available engines: V-8: 318, 340, 360
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 2
Website resources: www.cuda-challenger.com

We Found It
One thing about Mopar owners is they think their cars are worth a fortune. People will pay. This $5,500 '74 Challenger is rough, to put it nicely. The body is all there, which is definitely a bonus, but most of the interior is unusable as-is. The upside is the original 318 still can move the car around.

1971-1972 Dodge Demon
The Dart started off as Dodge's economically priced fullsize car in 1960, but that would evolve into a compact car for the '63-76 model years. The particular model we're looking at is the '71-72 Dart Demon, which was nearly called the Beaver. The Demon/Duster fastback body set it apart from other more utilitarian-looking A-bodies. The Demon could be ordered with a black hood and scoops with a performance theme. Like the Plymouth Valiant, the aftermarket hasn't taken to the Dart as a car to run through the twisties, but there are plenty of parts out there to rebuild the originals for a tighter feel. The engine, on the other hand, has had its home in many popular cars, creating a lot of available part combinations. Many racers used the 318 and 340 small-blocks for a quick-revving high-rpm motor, often topping it with the famous six-pack carb setup. Cylinder heads, cam kits, intakes, and whatever else you might need are available to up the horsepower level.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $1,500 - $5,000
Total model production: 128,589
Platform variants: Dodge Dart, Plymouth Duster, early Barracuda, Scamp, and Valiant
Available engines: V-8: 318, 340
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 3
Availability: 2
Website resources: www.valiant.org

We Found It
This '71 Demon was toward the top of the price scale of sold vehicles on eBay. There were dozens of auctions that ended with no winner because the asking price was too high. That's no surprise to Mopar lovers! This particular car was all original, in really great condition, though it would need a new paintjob. It had the cool hoodscoop option and it held a 24-bid race to the finish at $4,800, which was below the reserve price.

1963-1965 Mercury Marauder
The early Marauder had a very short three-year run as a special-edition Monterey. This fullsize was a sister to the Ford Galaxie, possibly being to blame for the Marauder's decline in sales figures. In 1964, the Monterey was the entry-level fullsize offering, but they all came with V-8s. The life of the Marauder is spotty across the century, coming back in the late '60s then again in 2003 as a special-edition Grand Marquis. The early Marauders came with all the same engine options as the Galaxie. Also like the Galaxie, the Marauder got the fastback roof that helped it's aerodynamics for the NASCAR series. If you're looking for a big cruiser with a potent powerplant, but want something off the beaten path, this is the car for you. If you can't afford the Marauder, grab a base-model Monterey and you can do all of the same things with it.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $4,000 - $15,000
Total model production: 49,442
Platform variants: Ford Galaxie, LTD, and Custom; Mercury Monterey
Available engines: V-8: 289, 292, 352, 390, 406, 427, 428
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 2
Availability: 2
Website resources: www.mercurymarauder.org

We Found It
This was the hardest car to find for sale at a reasonable price. Every listing we found was either for a completed car at a ridiculous price, or unsold project cars where buyers were asking too much. This '64 is a complete car in need of a total restoration. There was a lot of bidding activity on eBay, but the reserve price of $4,000 wasn't met. The auction expired with a high bid of $910. This would have been a good project car, but the price was too high for the condition.

1960-1970 Ford Galaxie
The first-year Galaxie was adorned with the trim and style typical of the '50s. The following year, 1960, brought a complete redesign. Like the Impala, the Galaxie name was given to all of Ford's fullsize models. It later broke off into Galaxie 500 and XL. Midway through 1963, Ford decided to improve the car's aerodynamics to gain a better advantage in the NASCAR series. This new slope-back style was called the Sports Roof, or Scatback hardtop. Ford also introduced the 427 into the option list. They were very performance oriented. There were 212 special lightweight versions produced with next-to-no options and a lot of aluminum and fiberglass body parts. Later years would bring the 428 motor to the Galaxie and the styling would change significantly in 1968. It's clear the early to mid-'60s cars are more expensive than the rest. There is very little support in the way of aftermarket suspension components, but the car doesn't really need to go racing through the hills. A big 427, drag shocks, and a 9-inch rearend is all it needs to go fast.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $800 - $9,000
Total model production: 2,426,456
Platform variants: Ford LTD, and Custom; Mercury Monterey
Available engines: V-8: 289, 292, 352, 390, 406, 427, 428
Coolness factor: 3
Aftermarket support: 2
Availability: 5
Website resources: www.galaxieforum.com

We Found It
It's amazing what $2,800 can get you. This '64 Galaxie has got a newly rebuilt 390 (to 406 cubes), new transmission, and the factory 9-inch rearend. The car's body is wearing primer, but the whole thing has been jammed; it just needs the matching paint on the outside. The interior is trashed, but for the price, it's a good deal.

1975-1980 Chevy Monza
The Monza was derived from the Vega, which was produced two years into the Monza's lifespan. It's a four-seater subcompact car that was taking sales numbers away from the Vega, and ultimately replaced it. Unlike the Vega, the Monza came from the factory with a V-8. Naturally, this makes it easier to get high-performance parts for the car that otherwise might have been a guessing game. The Monza won Motor Trend's prestigious Car of the Year award in 1975. Another special car for '77-79 was the Mirage, built by GM-contracted aftermarket company, Michigan Auto Techniques. It's got a special striped paintjob and front and rear air dams. At only 4,097 produced, they are rare, but very desirable. All of the Monzas got a torque-arm rear suspension that was eventually incorporated into F-body cars. They've even got some race breeding in them, participating in the IMSA GT series. You'll see many of these with the Vegas at the dragstrip as well.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $1,000 - $3,000
Total model production: 762,539
Platform variants: Chevrolet Vega, Spyder, and Mirage;
  Oldsmobile Starfire and Firenza;
  Buick Skyhawk, Roadhawk, and Nighthawk;
  Pontiac Sunbird, Astre, and Formula
Available engines: V-8: 262, 305, 350
Coolness factor: 3
Aftermarket support: 2
Availability: 3
Website resources: www.v8monza.com

We Found It
Offered for a starting price of $2,950 and no reserve, the auction for this '75 Monza hatchback ended without one bid. The car is in great shape with a perfect interior, 350 engine, TH350 trans, and 3.73 gears out back. The custom hoodscoop and factory body was covered in Plum Crazy paint. If you can swallow the paint, you've got a swinging deal.

1967-1976 Plymouth Valiant
The first generation of the Valiant had a very bubbly look carried over from the '50s. The 1967 model year brought a huge redesign to this compact car, giving us the more boxy style more relevant to the '60s and '70s. The entire range of years have a very similar look. In 1973, the government pressed automakers to achieve higher safety ratings, ultimately bulking up the car quite a bit. If you can find an earlier model, they are lighter, and have the tighter-fitting bumpers. In 1974, the Valiant was basically a Dart with minor cosmetic differences including badging. This is a good thing when it comes to restoring because that means twice the parts are available. One of the most common models to be found at the car shows and dragstrips is the Valiant Scamp. It borrowed from the two-door hardtop '70 Dart Swinger. These later years made up almost half of Plymouth's sales, so they produced a lot of them. These cars have extremely clean lines, lending themselves to any style from Pro-Touring to Pro-Street.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $1,000 - $8,000
Total model production: 1,684,120
Platform variants: Dodge Dart, Lancer, and Demon;
  Plymouth Barracuda, Scamp, and Duster.
Available engines: V-8: 273, 318, 340, 360
Coolness factor: 5
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 5
Website resources: www.valiant.org

We Found It
This '72 Scamp looks great in the main image but there is a lot of hidden damage. Lots of rust is bubbling through this fresh paintjob, hiding who-knows-how much damage. Aside from the rust, the car has a rebuilt 383, and some other upgrades, however, the problems scared any bidders from touching the car at $2,500.

1973-1976 Chevy Nova
The Nova started out in 1962 as a compact model. Like the Mustang and other similar unibody models to come, the early Novas incorporated the suspension-mounting points into the body. In 1968, that changed when the Nova got a front subframe that was more like that of a full-framed car. The X-body platform began that year, using the same front suspension as the '67-69 Camaro. The same front end was used through 1979, making it easy to swap suspension parts since the aftermarket has fallen in love with the early Camaros. Many Novas came with small-blocks from the factory and can even accept Chevy big-blocks (which did come in earlier models). In '73, Nova's got big bumpers to comply with government regulations, but the damage was minimal. Though this era of Nova came in four-door and wagon variations, we're omitting those from our production numbers. Novas are one of the most common cars to find at the dragstrip because they are cheap to buy, easy to modify, and don't weigh very much.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $1,500 - $4,500
Total model production: 750,999
Platform variants: Buick Apollo, Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Ventura
Available engines: V-8: 307, 350
Coolness factor: 4
Aftermarket support: 3
Availability: 4
Website resources: www.chevynova.org

We Found It
If you're brave enough to start with a primered car, this one is a good option. It runs and drives on its 144,000-mile original engine. This '74 needs quite a bit of work, but being one of the more desirable years, along with '73, it's a good project car. This particular car sold for $1,700, and wasn't even the lowest priced one out there. No-engine, no-trans cars were going for under $1,000.

1979-1986 Mercury Capri
Mercury's take on the Fox body Mustang chassis has become a truly love-it-or-hate-it affair for late-model enthusiasts. The bulging fenders seem to be universally accepted, while select few appreciate the more aerodynamic "bubble back" hatch. You either love the Capri, or swap out the bumper covers and turn it into a Mustang. The '79-82 models were nearly identical and their interiors matched the Mustang's year-for-year, with only minor differences. The year 1983 got a hatchback rear and new taillights. The Capri weighed in at around 2,500 pounds, making it a prime candidate for racing. They came with five different engine configurations from turbo fours, to V-8s. Mercury decorated the years with special models including the Black Magic, White Lightning, Crimson Cat, Turbo RS, and the ASC McLaren coupes and convertibles. These models are rare and more valuable than the base model, but still cost less than the Mustang alternatives with all the same bits and pieces.

By The Numbers
Typical Price Range: $1,500 - $3,000
Total model production: 370,752
Platform variants: Ford Mustang and Fairmont
Available engines: I-4: 144 turbo. V-8: 256, 305
Coolness factor: 3
Aftermarket support: 5
Availability: 3
Website resources: www.foureyepride.com

We Found It
Toward the top of the price scale, we found this '83 Capri RS with a modified 5.0L engine and five-speed manual-the most desirable of the options. The car has lots of upgrades including aftermarket gauges, headers, 3.73 gears, and a bumpin' sound system. It's a little rough around the edges, but for $2,500, it's understood you'll need to do some work yourself.

1963-1969 Mercury Comet
The first two years of the Comet, 1960 and 1961, were badged solely Comet, with no divisional claim. In 1962, Mercury put their name on the car and styled the rear to match their other cars. It wasn't until 1963 that a V-8 was offered after complaints of the lack of power. The 260-inch V-8 wasn't much better at 164 hp, but it was an improvement. The compact unibody car got a boxy redesign in 1964, as well as improved engine and transmission options. This was also the year that the Cyclone was introduced as their high-performance model. They produced 50 special edition Cyclones to race Super Stock where they did extremely well. The next batch of Comets would grow to be mid-sized, similar to the Fairlane and Torino. With this growth, bigger engines were offered, including the 302, 351, and 428. These engines are being modified all-day long for some insane horsepower levels. The Comet's sister cars open it to all of their aftermarket parts as well. Their history in drag racing makes the Comet a perfect car to restore and bring to the track.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $2,000 - $7,500
Total model production: 515,663
Platform variants: Ford Falcon, late Fairlane and Torino, Mercury Meteor
Available engines: V-8: 260, 289, 390, 302, 351, 428
Coolness factor: 4
Aftermarket support: 3
Availability: 3
Website resources: www.cometcentral.com

We Found It
With a $3,150 final bid, this '64 Comet was won. The car was 100 percent complete, running, and driving. The '64 was the first year of their redesign, and it's when they started getting big into the A/FX class drag racing. This would be a great candidate to build as a modern-day tribute car to their Super Stock heyday.

1982-1987 Olds Cutlass Supreme
The Cutlass name was spread out quite a bit in the '80s. Instead of it applying to one model, it was used for several cars accompanied by a second name like Supreme, for example. This middle-weight G-body metric was rear-wheel drive, not to be confused with the front-wheel-drive Cutlass Ciera and early Calais. Strong sales of the rear-wheel-drive Cutlass urged GM to produce both versions simultaneously. The last year of the rear-wheel-drive Cutlass was 1988. The final year Supreme was badged as the Cutlass Supreme Classic, and only 27,678 of them were produced. The engine options through the years were the Buick V-6, also found in the Buick Regal, the Chevy 305, and a selection of Olds V-8s. The G-body platform is shared with many other popular models, making the interchangeable parts list lengthy. These cars aren't common canyon carvers, but they make a great budget bracket car.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $500 - $3,500
Total model production: 932,590
Platform variants: Buick Regal, El Camino, Malibu, Monte Carlo,
  Bonneville, Grand Prix, LeMans
Available engines: V-6: 231 (Buick) V-8: 260, 305, 307, 350
Coolness factor: 3
Aftermarket support: 5
Availability: 4
Website resources: www.oldsmobileforum.com

We Found It
Sometimes it's better to find a car that is totally stock because oftentimes modified cars have issues. This '87 example sold for $2,400 with very little damage. A fresh coat of paint and a rebuilt engine and it would look as good as new. Maybe swap in a turbo Buick motor. We know they fit.

1964-1974 Plymouth Satellite
The Plymouth Satellite started out as the mid-sized Belvedere's top-of-the-line model in 1964. It remained the top lux model until 1970 when it replaced the Belvedere name, and the GTX took its old spot as top dog. The early Satellites only came in two-door hardtop and convertible models. It was also the only Belvedere to come standard with a V-8, and the option to upgrade to the 426 wedge-head motor. In '66, the Satellite was available with the new 425hp street Hemi. In 1968, four-door and station wagon models were added, relieving it of its smaller customer base. The Satellite name was dropped mid-year 1974, and became the Plymouth Fury. As far as working on these cars goes, there are tons of options. The B-body platform is shared by millions of cars of the era, whose performance parts are all interchangeable.

By The Numbers
Typical price range: $2,500 - $13,000
Total model production: 269.904
Platform variants: Plymouth Belvedere, Roadrunner, and GTX;
  Dodge Coronet and Charger
Available engines: V-8: 273, 318, 361, 383, 426 Hemi
Coolness factor: 3
Aftermarket support: 4
Availability: 4
Website resources: www.forbbodiesonly.com

We Found It
You really don't get much for $2,500 when you're looking for a Satellite. This '68 Satellite Sport is dilapidated. The body is rusted, the engine is missing, the interior looks as if a pack of hyenas were let loose inside. If you are looking to spend upward of $6,000 for a project car, you might be able to find something running in better condition.

Must-Have Resource
Obviously this was a research-heavy story. Not everything online can be taken as truth, and even what you might think of as common knowledge has to be double and triple checked. The Internet is a great tool, but sometimes you need a good old-fashioned book. We used the Encyclopedia of American Cars by the auto editors of Consumer Guide. The cover says: "A comprehensive history of the automakers and the cars they built, including every major American automobile and scores of minor makes." Much of the historical data and all of the production numbers came from this book. We highly recommend it for any American car enthusiasts as a good read and an even better resource.

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