Cop Motor, Cop Shocks, Cop Tires ...
1992-Present Ford Panther Platform
The Ford Crown Vic is the best-loved police and taxi car of all time. Want to know why? Cost and performance. Seemingly unchanged from '92-10, the aero-nosed Crown Vic and its Mercury Grand Marquis sister model were seen as too large and grandma-like to be considered hot rod fodder. But a few people are seeing the inexpensive, V-8-powered four-doors for the performance potential they possess.

Most people wouldn't notice, but the '98 model saw a revised four-link rear suspension with a Watt's link. The exterior was redesigned, with a taller grille and rear deck ledge, giving the car better proportions. Engines have included the venerable Windsor V-8, and the current 4.6L mod motor.

The Mercury Marauder was Ford's attempt for '03 and '04 to show how cool the car could be. With a blacked-out appearance and a few performance mods (including the four-valve 300hp Mod motor from the Cobra Mustang), the car had the right mechanical stuff, but couldn't shake the blue-haired stigma.

We think that people building a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis into a hot rod will ignore the appearance of the car and focus on the performance bits that earn the car a place on this top 10 list.

BY THE NUMBERS
Model years: '92-10 Crown Vic and Mercury Grand Marquis
Most desirable: any
Engine you want: V-8 Windsor or Mod motor
Why you want it: With the right paint scheme, people will move out of
your way on the highway. Also one of the least expensive, newest
V-8 rear-wheel-drive cars you purchase
Price range: $2,000-$7,000

The Last F-Body
1993-'02 Chevy Camaro
Even though the all-around performance of the fourth-generation Camaro was the best of any ever produced, the styling and the decline in the two-door sport coupe market sealed the fate for the F-body's future, at least as far as anyone could see at the time. (Note: Technically, the current Camaro is not an F-body, so the 2002 was the last of the F-body breed.)

The awesome handling, braking, and acceleration of '93-02 Camaros and Firebirds combined with the underwhelming demand for the styling make them an affordable option for someone looking for a car of this caliber. One key factor in the bonus equation is the six-speed manual trans, which was cribbed from the Viper. This box was nearly indestructible, and is still considered the transmission to have-even in new cars today.

The LT1 5.7-liter was the engine to have through '97, after which the all-aluminum LS1 was introduced, raising the bar again for performance. Either the LT1 or LS1 can be built to produce extremely high power, with the LT1 cars being the budget-oriented targets when you're shopping. (A friend of ours recently bought a loaded '96 Ram Air Trans Am for $2,000.) The '98 models received the breakthrough LS1 from the Corvette and a mild exterior redesign. This model is considered better looking than the previous, and also demands a little more money when shopping.

Through '99, an RPO 1LE package was offered that included double-adjustable Koni shocks, performance coil springs, baffled fuel tank, and larger sway bars. If you can find one of these with the LS1 engine, you'd have quite a car that's perfect for a nice turbo.

BY THE NUMBERS
Model years: '93-02 Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird
Most desirable: Any V-8 with a six-speed manual trans
Engine you want: LS1 V-8
Why you want it: "World class" is overused, but you can build a world-
class performance car for under $10,000, including the price of the car.
Price range: $2,000-$7,000