Hot rodding at its core is about building unique-looking cars that go fast. You can argue the details of that definition and go off in a thousand directions, but it comes down to looks and performance. Why do you lower a car? To make it look better and handle better. Larger wheels and tires? All the better to hook up and grip the road around corners. Do readers of this magazine leave their engine's stock? No way! In fact, most of you have shared with us a laundry list of things you've done underhood and another list of components or modifications that you are saving up for. But there is one more extremely important element in hot rodding: what car to start with.
The generic response to that open-ended question is usually a first-generation Camaro, a '64-71 Mustang, or your favorite Chrysler B- or E-Body. That's fine if you've got a bankroll to buy a decent one or rebuild the body on a basket case. Nevertheless another basic element of hot rodding is looking for cars with potential-the inexpensive alternative. This is usually an overlooked model that has the right stuff. The true hot rodder has always looked at the affordable pool of used cars that lurks just outside of the realm of what average consumers desire. Sometimes it's a little too old or a little too rough to be considered much more than an eyesore by the Joneses, and that's when it becomes great fodder for us.
We've identified what may be the next era of hot rods: the top 10 classics of tomorrow. OK, so maybe they aren't all potential classics, but they are great foundations for building an affordable hot rod today. For this article, we're defining the right stuff as being rear-wheel drive, and available with a V-8. The reason for this is cost. In order for these orphan models to have hot rod potential, they must be affordable, and have an engine room big enough for real power.
Because of the era that these cars are coming from, they all have better brakes and better handling than the more favored muscle cars from the '60s. They are also more likely to have functioning creature comforts. How about an 11-second driver with factory air conditioning and power windows? You won't touch that in a classic car for less than $20,000, and you can pick up four of these future classics for less cash than that!
Of course, what most of these cars gain with luxury items and entry-level pricing, they lack in power. Most of the beauties we included here were lucky to have more than 200 horses underhood. Most of the cars you'll find in the local paper will probably have a couple-hundred thousand miles on the odometer and a pathetic original powerplant that will be wheezing like a two-pack-a-day smoker taking harmonica lessons. That's where you come in to give new life to some of Detroit's most overlooked models. We included V-8 vehicles to make it easier for you to swap in a good engine, not because the engine that came with the car was necessarily desirable.
While you could find basket cases without titles for hundreds of dollars, we give a price range for each model that would net you a driveable, registerable car-something that a reasonable hot rodder could buy, use as a driver, and build. Every car included here can be had for under $10,000, and most of them for far less than that.
These forgotten cars are finding favor with today's hot rodders because they're cheap, rear-wheel drive, and can house a V-8. Even with exhaustive research and much bench racing, we realize that we may have missed a few more potential classic cars from this era. If you have one that you think has the right stuff to become a future hot rod, drop Editor Hunkins a line at email@example.com.