Project Chevrolet Guide - Project Cars

The Next Generation of Affordable Street Machines

Sean Haggai Sep 27, 2011 0 Comment(s)
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Camaro

1111chp 05 O  Project Chevrolet Guide 1996 Chevrolet Camaro 2/8

There’s no question everyone loves the Camaro. However, not all of us can slip into a great-running first-gen without breaking the bank. Luckily, there’s always plan B. With what seems like an endless supply of third- and later, fourth-gen Camaros swimming around in Recycler ads, an educated eye can find a sweet deal.

From ’82-92, third-generation Camaros can supply you with fuel-injected small-block power and an overdrive or manual transmission; making these great entry-level project cars for cheap. Third-gens were light, too, and weighed 500 pounds less than the second-gens with platforms that translate easily into any drag, street, or autocross vehicle.

Stepping up to the fourth-gen (’93-96) bodies will give prospective Camaro hunters an all-new engine design (LT1) with increased power and antilock brakes, traction control, and made the T56 manual transmission available too.

Later fourth-gens (’97-02), again, got another revision. This time it got a completely new engine in the form of the LS1. The LS1s are all aluminum, meaning it’s superlight, and the aftermarket is flooded with bolt-on performance parts to make these mills scream with little work. What’s more, these sleds dipped into the 13-second marks from the factory. Minor tweaking with just intake and exhaust will net gains. Rearends are strong, too, and will support nearly anything you can throw at them.

Years Models
’82-92 (third-gen) two-door coupe
’93-02 (fourth-gen) two-door coupe
Expect to pay
eBay price: $630-$20,000

Malibu

1111chp 06 O  Project Chevrolet Guide 1979 Chevrolet 3/8

Their bland styling and lethargic powerplants haven’t made them the first choice when it comes to choosing an affordable project car. With most of the first- and second-generation muscle cars absent from the marketplace, the ’78-83 Malibus have become quite the underdog. This would include two- and four-door, and wagon models, too; although, the wagons are considered heavier. They’re quickly filling in for the traditional role of a muscle car and becoming the norm.

While earlier Malibus (’64-81) shared the same A-body platform as the Chevelle, the revised ’82-83 Malibu was renamed G-body. Powerplants varied through the years, however, any buyer in pursuit of one is bound to find it with a either the smaller, 305ci small-block (140 hp) or more desirable 350ci small-block (165-170 hp). Parts are easy to come by, and although many aftermarket companies don’t supply new OEM replacement parts, the local scrap yard will. Additionally, they’ll easily support nearly any traditional, small- or big-block engine, LS swap, and transmission combination.

Though most builders have turned these later G-body Malibus into drag racers, suspension components to transform these into autocrossers are also readily available. With room that comfortably seats four and the wagons holding even more, they’re quickly changing the game.

Years Models
’78-83 Malibu two-door coupe, four-door sedan, wagon
expect to pay
eBay price: $50-$24,900

C4 Corvette

1111chp 07 O  Project Chevrolet Guide 1985 Chevrolet 4/8

There’s no doubting the Corvette’s legacy as each generation introduced consistent improvements upon its predecessor. With any vehicle, as time goes on, its value will depreciate, making them more appealing to the few who couldn’t get their hands on one when it was new. Nevertheless, if you aren’t into its new-wave ’80s styling, the C4 Corvette superstructure underneath is where it shines. Sporting independent front and rear suspension, large four-wheel discs brakes on each corner, fat tires, and lightweight bodies, these fourth-gens could hook and go with ease.

Even though most examples will probably have over 100,000 miles on them, a mid-’80s runner, generally equipped with an automatic transmission are a steal at just around $4,000. Got more to spend? A later, ’92-96 version has the more powerful 300hp LT1 but fetches close to $8,000.

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