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Five Great Choices for Muscle Car Restoration

January 17, 2014

Live the Dream with a Muscle Car Restoration

From the moment muscle cars roared onto the automotive scene in the early 1960’s, it was love at first sight for America’s baby boomers. Overflowing with the exuberance and invincibility of youth, young America immediately adopted the muscle car as the symbol of its generation. Cruisin’ became a social event and victory in the quarter mile determined bragging rights.

Built for speed with savage good looks, the legendary muscle cars continue to capture the imagination of generations of quarter mile enthusiasts. For more than 50 years, car buffs of all ages have dreamed of owning a classic muscle car. Unfortunately, the realities of cost and availability can make buying a completely restored muscle car out of range for most. A more affordable option could be a fixer-upper and a muscle car restoration.  

Five Great Choices for Muscle Car Restoration

Determining which muscle car should be at the top of the heap has been the subject of many heated discussions. We’ve selected 5 great muscle car restoration candidates based on overall cost and parts availability. After all, what good is a restoration if it is a Frankenstein creation of scavenged parts or it has become so expensive that you may have to live in your muscle car once it’s been restored.

Two General Motors muscle cars made our list.

The 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS was designed to be noticed. When first presented in 1966, it added a new dimension to the muscle car mystique. A built-for-speed profile, black-out grill, racing stripes, and unique tires and wheel covers made the Chevelle look sleek as a racehorse. But looks can be deceiving. The real beauty of the SS was under the hood. Initially rated at 350 horsepower, the 1970 LS6 upgrade increased the engine to a huge 454 cubic inches. Now boasting 450 horsepower, the SS was propelled from 0 to 60 in an amazing six seconds flat.

The body-on-frame construction of these A-body GM cars makes restoration easy and replacement parts are readily available. Since the 1966 to ‘70 models have become quite pricey, you might consider the similar, but less expensive 1971 or ‘72 models to restore.

The 1965 Pontiac GTO, with its iconic, split-grill design, is the quintessential muscle car. Its 389 cubic inch, 335 horsepower, V-8 could reach 0-60 in just over 6 seconds. Fast and inexpensive, the GTO was a favorite of the muscle car crowd, even though its weight made braking and steering a challenge.

Finding a 1965 GTO at an affordable price would take a miracle, but the iconic look of the “Goat” can still be yours in the 1971 and ‘72 models – same look…better price. Body and trim parts are plentiful, as are mechanical enhancements to beef up the engine.

Two Chrysler muscle cars also made our list.

The 1968 Dodge Charger is the bad-boy movie star of the muscle car clan, appearing first in the 1968 classic “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen, followed by the 1980’s TV series “Dukes of Hazzard”, and then again on the big screen in the “Fast and Furious” action flicks. The early R/T Charger was a powerhouse with a 440 Magnum, 375 horsepower, engine as standard issue. For the truly power-crazy, a huge 426 Hemi was also available. This nearly half ton engine cranked out 425 horsepower, making the Charger a formidable competitor.

The immense popularity of this beauty of a beast has made it a prime candidate for restoration. High production totals make the 1968 to ‘70 Chargers relatively easy find. Cost is determined by engine size, but mechanical parts and body panels are reasonable and easily obtainable.   

The 1970 Plymouth Barracuda offered buyers a choice of 5 high-powered V-8 engines. The favorite was the 426 Hemi, capable of cranking out 425 horsepower. Although a heavy front end made handling difficult, a 5.6 second 0 to 60 and a low 13 second quarter mile made the Hemi ‘Cuda a force to be reckoned with.

Although most Mopar enthusiasts prefer the 1970 and ’71 Barracudas, the 1972 to ’74 models are far less expensive. Interior, exterior, and mechanical parts are plentiful and reasonably priced. FYI - the ‘Cuda lacks a frame, so be sure to check the body closely for twisting from serious rust.

One Ford Motor Company muscle car made the list, and it is truly a classic.

The 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, with its high rev V-8 rated at 290 horsepower, could easily turn 0 to 60 in just over 6 seconds and regularly clocked the quarter mile in less than 15 seconds. 

As a restoration project, the Mustang is a dream. Everything you need has been reproduced in abundance and there are plenty of Mustang Clubs and experts available for support and restoration advice.           

Do-It-Yourself Muscle Car Restoration….Or Not

Deciding which muscle car is your favorite is the easy part. The choice of do-it-yourself or hire-it-done is much more difficult. The answer lies in your knowledge and skill, the availability of necessary equipment, and the time you are able to spare for the project. If any of these are questionable, consider hiring a professional to do the job.

Located just outside of Austin in Liberty Hill, TX Classic Cars, has been helping muscle car enthusiasts live the dream for over 25 years. Our dedicated staff is passionate about muscle car restoration and our goal is to turn back time and rekindle the fire in your blast from the past.

Contact us today for more information about muscle car restoration.  

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