If you’re on the hunt for a new project, trying to figure out if the potential starting point you’re looking at is worth building can be tough. For most projects, you can resign yourself to the fact that you will have more invested (both time and money) than what the car’s actual list value is. But then you have to ask yourself if you are building it with dreams of a fiscal windfall at a big-money auction or for the fun of it and sunny-day cruising enjoyment?
If you’re resurrecting a car to sell, then you’ve got to start with a vehicle that has a high, sentimental-free (for you) inherent value. Some examples would be a ’69 L78 Camaro, ’66-67 L79 Nova, any ’66-72 Chevelle SS396 convertible, etc. These cars all have rarity and high performance to boost their value, making them more attractive for the profit-minded restorer/builder. A six-cylinder anything will never be as much as these cars unless it has some bizarre provenance, like it once belonged to Zora Arkus-Duntov or Vince Piggins himself used it for some purpose.
Now, if you’re building a car for fun, nostalgia, to have a cruiser, or a more sentimental reason, you end up with more things to consider. First, how plentiful are parts for the car you’re looking at? Hand in hand with that is how expensive are said parts? Take sheetmetal for example. If you’re restoring a ’55-57 Chevy, most metal pieces are going to be readily available and at reasonable prices. But say you’re working on a ’58 Chevy? Metal parts are tough to find, and usually much more expensive. The same could be said for things like trim pieces, interior parts, and so on. This is especially important to consider if you’re on a tight budget.
Second, the work your project car (or potential project) needs can you handle it? If you’ve never really used a welder before and are looking at buying a rust bucket, weak metal working skills are not going to help your cause. Now, the same project can be a great way to learn those metal skills, but you have to figure this into your expectations for how long the project will take. A good shop could install a whole floor in a ’69 Camaro in a day or two, but the DIY’er at home is probably gonna take a month or two for said installation.
If you’ve already bought a car, but get the sense you’re in over your head, STOP! Do a serious evaluation of where things are and the work you’re looking at doing. If it’s going to be too much, selling the project so you can get one that’s more in tune with your skill set, bank account and available time is a viable option to consider. We see it all the time where guys get far into a build, then lose interest, or get frustrated, and sell it for pennies on the dollar to another enthusiast who has the ability and/or resources to pick up where the former left off.
Third, how long do you want to spend working on the car before you can actually drive it? If the itch to get behind the wheel of something isn’t too bad and your patience good, then a car with more work to be done, that’s also cheaper, is a viable option. Some people don’t care how long a project will take and may only work on it a few times a year. This is an important consideration and you have to be honest with yourself. Heck, we know some people who have worked on the same car for decades. But if you are dying to hit the local cruise night and area car shows, a vehicle closer to turn-key condition would be more up your alley.
Another note on this one: Working on a car that’s actually drivable can be a great boost to motivation. From personal experience, we know too well how easy it is to put off a project once it becomes inoperable. Keeping a car roadworthy is a big help along the way, until you absolutely have to tear it down for a long-term installation.