Building a good-looking and fast street machine on a budget is easier said than done. Hop on any Internet message forum, and you'll find the information super highway is gridlocked with self-professed experts with quadruple-digit post counts-and they're more than willing to point a jaundiced finger at print magazines and the high-dollar cars they contain. Spendy parts and limitless checkbooks are the biggest gripes, and we here at PHR have taken the occasional haymaker from said sanctimonious sages. The battle cry: "Give us more real-guy cars. Give us fast cars on a ham-sandwich budget." To that we say, "Amen."

Turning the clock back a bit, last summer we asked you to send in pictures of your muscle cars. We told you we'd print all of them that were fit to print-which we did in our January issue. We opened the crates of mail, and we discovered gold. As we rushed our readers' rides to print, we felt a little sad that we couldn't delve deeper into some of the more bang-for-the-buck cars-the ones here in this story. These dozen were the gold at the bottom of the pan-the very same ones you've been dying for us to bring you.

As we said, building a fast street car on a budget is easier said than done-witness the fact that we agreed to publish all readers' rides in our January issue, then were only able to cull these 12 cars from about 275 total entries. Building on a budget ain't easy, folks. These examples range from a few thousand dollars, to just somewhere north of $30K. (Factoid: In our readers' rides photo contest, the median amount readers reported they spent on their finished cars was about $27K-and they were probably cooking the books at that.) What separates these from the rest is that these 12 owners all pound on their cars at the track. They've also done a great job visually-and in doing so have spent wisely. Beyond that, all 12 were willing to brave the winter cold, and get us some additional photography.

There will inevitably be cries of foul play. Other than one Chevy-powered AMC, they're all GM. If we had our druthers, there'd be equal parts Ford and Mopar. All 12 are also heavily street/strip biased. We'd love to see more Pro Touring action, but based on the pool of reader rides we got, we'd need to raise the cost bar to add the g-Machines. It appears that good-looking, serious-performing budget Pro Touring machines are still pretty rare. (Brent Jarvis' '68 Chevelle is probably the closest we're going to come-and can be seen on the previous page, our cover, and elsewhere in this issue.) That said, we haven't given up the search for Fords, Mopars, or budget g-Machines. Those guys are out there somewhere, and if they want to make themselves known to us, there's ink in our barrel and paper on our press just waiting for them.

One last parting thought. While most in this dozen are homebuilt, a few aren't. The lesson to be learned here is that there are bargains out there. All other things being equal, it's always better to have good bargain-hunting skills in addition to whatever other car-building skills you may have.