For many gearboxes “the perfect car” does not exist. There is always something to change and improve on, be it a classic Camaro or an everyday Corolla. After adopting a project car, we share the belief that making the car yourself is an achievement of a lifetime. And therein lies the real fun of working on a project car. Every time a highly tuned A80 Supra or a 240ZX comes along, we are left with the thoughts of making something like that. After all, what could be better than adapting the car to our use?
Any car can be a project. But after all, we have to take into account specific parameters before choosing a project car. A great project car should be affordable, easy to work on, built like a tank, and capable of taking in a lot more power than it originally had.
This is why most of us would accept that tuner-friendly JDM cars are great project cars. What many gearboxes overlook, however, is how many American cars are also ideal projects. Below is the list of five American cars that make the best projects and five that aren’t worth modifying.
10 Great project: Chevrolet Cobalt SS 2008
Chevy Cobalt SS is an everyday car with a lot of performance. It fulfills all the capabilities of a commuter and provides an enjoyable driving experience. It may not look appealing, but it can compete with a Mustang if properly tuned. Chevy Cobalt is reasonably priced on the resale market and you can expect anything but under $8,000.
Apart from this, there are tons of mods available for Cobalt SS, from body kits to performance upgrades. And the best thing is, everything is so affordable. This makes it one of the best project cars you can work on.
9 Great project: 1994-2004 Ford Mustang SN95
The Ford Mustang SN95 debuted in 1994 and is the 4th generation mustang made using Ford’s Fox Body chassis platform. Special/Sporty North American Project #95 is what the SN95 stands for. The New Edge design referenced a more modern looking Mustang SN95 and more powerful too.
The SN95 came with plenty of different engines offered, making it a great option for petrolheads as a project car. Not to mention the fair prices on the resale market adds to the ratings for a project car. Modifications are also available in a wide variety, making it even more valuable.
8 Great project: 2008 Dodge Challenger
The Dodge Challenger needs no introduction. The current models are real dragsters and not at all beginner friendly. It is fast and can cover a three digit speed in seconds. The Challenger, which first debuted in 1969, still rides strong and shows no signs of slowing down.
This is a true American Muscle car gearbox that you crave when choosing a project car. You can easily find a used 2008 Challenger for around $15,000. Adjustments are no problem for these either. There are many upgrades available for Challenger, from engine tuning to exterior and interior.
7 Great Project: 1979-1993 Ford Mustang Fox Body
The predecessor of the Mustang SN95, the Ford Mustang Fox body, debuted in 1979 and is one of a kind. Ford made the Fox chassis as one for all, which is suitable for 2-door, 3-door and 4-door designs. A 2.3 liter I4 produces 88 hp, a 2.3 liter turbocharged 132 hp, a 2.8 liter V6 produces 109 hp, a 3.3 liter I6 produces 85 hp and a 5 liter V8 produces 140 hp , were the engine variants offered on the Fox-body Mustang.
Because it is old, it doesn’t have many features and technologies, which gives us the room to make it better. You can do almost anything with the Fox body, and it’s happy to pack even bigger size bikes.
6 Great Project: 2000 Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler, which debuted in 1986, is a mid-sized SUV with WWII Jeep DNA. The public offering of the Jeep Wrangler came with a tidal wave due to its unique and distinctive design. Plus, this car can go anywhere, perfect for off-road use. It came with a 4.0 liter I6 that produced 181 horsepower and 222 lb-ft of torque.
You can easily find one for around $15,000 on the resale market. The Wrangler can have any mods you want to make on it. Apart from this, the availability of the parts is also ample. The prices are therefore relatively modest.
5 Best Left Alone: 1971-1980 Ford Pinto
The first subcompact car Ford offered in North America was the Ford Pinto. They developed it in just 25 months instead of the normal 43-month cycle. At the time, cars produced in Japan became a big hit. The Pinto was therefore one of Ford’s initiatives in the Subcompact segment. The Pinto came with a lot of expectations, but unfortunately had some flaws.
Some reports indicate that the Pinto caught fire several times in a rear-end collision. This was due to the placement of the fuel tank at the rear. Spending hard earned money and making a project car just to catch fire isn’t worth it.
4 Best Left Alone: 2004-2008 Chrysler Crossfire
The Chrysler Crossfire was an eye-catcher, but could not amuse the enthusiasts at the same time. The Crossfire is based on the first-generation SLK and shares nearly 80% components. This makes the Crossfire a bit difficult to maintain.
It shares the same powerhouse as the Mercedes SLK320, a 3.2-liter V6 with 215 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. While it seemed fun to drive, there was little point in paying Mercedes’ price for maintenance. So the Chrysler Crossfire may not be a perfect fit for a project car.
3 Best Left Alone: 1975 Chevrolet Monza
The Pontiac Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk and Oldsmobile Starfire shared the exact counterparts of the Chevrolet Monza. The Monza, which debuted in 1975, had had a lot of problems before it even launched. Chevy’s first offering was a rotary engine that they had to ditch because of its emissions standards and high fuel economy.
But the new V8 powerhouse wasn’t captivating enough either thanks to emissions regulations. It’s hard to find, which is why the modifications to this car can also be a bit of a hassle. Undoubtedly we can make the parts to measure, but for a project car it is not possible to keep the price affordable.
2 Best Left Alone: 1997-2002 Plymouth Prowler
The design of the Plymouth Prowler is very subjective. The Hot rod design language of the 1930s is what Plymouth wanted and offered the Prowler. It fulfilled all modern features such as airbags, keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning, etc.; however, it was not fun to drive at all. The V6 powerhouse under the hood could produce some 250 horsepower and did not come with a manual gearbox option.
Since Plymouth’s withdrawal from the market in 2001, it has become really difficult to find any support from the company. The changes can be visual or modify the engine a bit. Because of the very different design language, it’s really hard to even find the counterparts to its fit.
1 Best Left Alone: 2004 Chevrolet SSR
With some cars you wonder what the hell the given design assignment for the car was? One such example from the early 2000s was the SSR. It can be argued that it was a response to that of the Chrysler PT cruiser or the Plymouth Prowler. But the sales figures of those cars do beg the question: was one of the same kind ever needed again?
Aside from the funky looks, the SSR came with a lackluster 5.3-litre LM4 V8 engine and a 4L60-E 4-speed automatic transmission. Chevy chose this combo from a mid-sized SUV. It has a plethora of issues, including but not limited to overheating, multiple electric gremlins, exhaust issues, a very untidy interior, and transmission failures. Any amateur mechanic should shy away from choosing one of these as a project car.