Are you looking for a project car to do up and make your own? It not only takes vision, but also patience and some funds to get it up and running.
It doesn’t have to be a hot rod or rare vintage car for you to achieve your own driving classic – it just takes some common sense tips and advice to get what you want.
I’d suggest having a look through used car websites such as carsdirect.com, cargurus.com, or carsforsale.com. Set your budget to cars under $5,000 and keep in mind cars built after 1985 will run on unleaded fuel which is an advantage, so perhaps set that as your minimum year. Then hit go!
Once you’ve reduced the list down to two or three, then it’s time to start setting more parameters. The first should be what transmission you want or can drive – either automatic or manual. Then the other settings depend on what condition you want the car to be in. If you are looking for a low mileage car, then you can set the maximum mileage to whatever level you would feel comfortable buying. If it’s not an issue, then leave the setting blank. For more info on buying a used car, check out:
If you’re not so worried about higher mileage cars, this opens up the market to either more –luxury, or more recent cars. You may want an older car to convert from petrol to electric using a DIY conversion kit, so mileage doesn’t matter so much, but keep in mind you will want a lighter, perhaps smaller vehicle so the weight of the batteries used is evenly spread and doesn’t slow down the car’s performance. Do a thorough search, and you can pick one up that still has a good body and interior with no rust. Look for cars that have always been cared for or garaged, and ask for all service records if available. Always get a thorough, professional check of the car, the undercarriage, suspension, and for previous damage or the written off status, and ensure the driver’s seat is in good condition. Expect there will probably be issues under the bonnet, but a professional check should give you an overall list of these, and give you an idea of what to expect.
Alternatively if you’d rather have a car with low mileage and a great engine, but the body and/or interior needs work, then you can pick up a great deal especially when the car has light hail damage, or has been in an accident that doesn’t compromise the engine bay or the car’s overall safety. Sometimes the color can be a bargaining point, as not everyone wants a bright pink or mud brown car. You may be able to pick up a late model vehicle if that’s what you want. However, some cars that are 20 or more years old with really low mileage need to be investigated as to why there’s such low mileage. If it hasn’t had a reconditioned engine put in, then often the car has belonged to someone’s mother or father that can’t drive anymore, hit or scraped the car against the fence or edge of the house trying to reverse or park, and only drove to the shops or church once a week. Have a professional mechanic check it over, take some photos and get a rough quote for body work to be done so you know what you’re buying is within your budget. So how much mileage is low? Anything under 75,000 miles should be a great find (as long as it has all the regular servicing records and has been driven carefully – check tire and accelerator/brake pedal wear and tear).
When it comes to interiors, half the fun is deciding what colors and style of seats, carpets, and accessories you want to inject to give the car a real unique flavor.
You may want to check out your local car auction or online salvage auction, as you can usually pick up a bargain for less than a private seller or dealer.
I recommend aiming for a car a little more modern than a 1968 Mustang or a 1979 VW Golf as the parts are more accessible and not so expensive. The following is a shortlist of cars (in no particular order) I’ve compiled that have been either solid, reliable beasts from the past, or something a bit different that may be of interest:-
Volvo S40 or S60 (2000-2009)
Mini Cooper (2002-2008)
Chrysler PT Cruiser (2003-2010)
Honda Civic (1990-1995)
Toyota Celica (1988-2000)
SAAB 9-3 (2002-2007)
Acura RSX (2003-2005)
Ford Mustang (1990-2005)
Dodge Ram 1500 (1995-2000)
Nissan Cube (2003-2010)
Fiat 500 (2008-2012)
Smart Fortwo/Forfour/Roadster (2004-2011)
Toyota Camry Solara (1999-2008)
Volkswagen Beetle (1998-2010)
Mercedes Benz C-Class (1998-2007)