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So, Ive always been a muscle car and hot rod enthusiast, but never been able to break into the hobby. My goal is within the next 3 years to bring home a project and start working on it. I dont have the income to be able to afford a GTO or 1st gen camero, but would be happy with almost any 2 door, rwd muscle car in the 60s and 70s. A close second would be an 80s g body 2 door coupe, last gen trans am, third place would be a mustang right before the retro body or mk3 supra (what I consider a Japanese muscle car).

A few years ago almost complete and modded novas could be had for around 8k, but I think those days are gone. I can do mechanical stuff but body work escapes me, so whatever I got would have to have minimal rust/body work as I would have to sub that work out.

I fiqure I would save 5-6k for a body, and then over time build up an engine, get rear end/tranny etc. For that price what kinda muscle cars would I realistically be able to get, assuming they come from the general market and not barn yard finds. Just trying to get an idea of what to expect.

Thanks.
 

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Race it, Don't rice it!
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For a first, you might look into a truck. Generally simpler in design, more room to work, etc.
There isn't a good way to say this......Keep saving up, keep an eye on the classifieds and something that will steal your soul will show up in your drive way.
Like jumping into a pool, the best way is time, money, motivation and desire.
 

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1979 Chevrolet Malibu 496-TH400-9" (cruiser). 1992 Chevrolet S10 355-700r4-7.625" (daily driver).
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I always tell folks to start with a vehicle you really like. Aside from just being a 2 door, something must stand out as far as a style is concerned. I have a friend that really does "like them all" and he pretty much tinkers with whatever he can get a deal on. It's possible to stay passionate about anything but I always thought really loving the car you choose would increase the likelihood that it gets finished and not turn into an unfinished money pit.

Your close 2nd. My favorite car from any time and any manufacturer is my 2 door Malibu G Body. For a beginner and depending on your mechanical skills, the downside of that platform is finding a cost effective solution to the weak rear end. If you can fabricate, it's not an issue. The same goes for a bit of modification to the frame to strengthen that a bit and although not totally necessary to allow for a larger rear tire. Lightweight (really easy to make even lighter) and any engine/transmission combo fits easily. This platform offers body styles that really lend themselves to a beginner with body work. Straight edges/body lines make for being able to block sand things pretty straight.

The last generation Trans Am is a pretty good buy too. The 98-02 version has a killer engine in the LS. You can put power in front of the manual or automatic. The 4L60e is a better unit than people give it credit for. The rear end is an improved version of what you find in a G Body but still can be the weak link depending on the power level.

The Fox body. I'm a Bowtie guy but I don't think anyone can sensibly argue against building on that platform. Many consider that to be the best one going. Very light, better rear end, stout powertrain and a great bang for the buck in total.

The modern stuff has such advantages that if I were starting out today it would be difficult to not go in that direction to start. A novice with limited skills would fit here very well. Especially with something that already runs and drives.

The older stuff has advantages to a beginner in that basic building, fabrication and tuning all go a long way there. Building a 3 speed automatic is ideal if you're interested in building your own transmission. Basic leaf spring or triangulated 4 link rear end suspension makes upgrading a rear end pretty affordable.

A 5-6k budget on a body should get you something very nice to start. Some of these options 5-6k can get you a complete, running and driving car that would be a great start. Making upgrades on something you can already enjoy driving is a big plus.

I think an idea about any of your favorites would help to steer the choice. Also some idea about your mechanical ability would help too. If you can already rebuild engines, transmissions, rear ends and weld...you can go in any direction.

The overall use of the vehicle is important. Are you building for a car you can cruise, have a/c and some comforts or are you looking at more of a race style car that can be driven on the street with less focus on comforts?

Before any considerations can be made, the first question should be...do you have a place to work on a project car? A driveway would mean one thing and a garage means another. The 2nd question would be the availability of the tools required for this kind of project.

Sorry for rambling on here. The aspects of undertaking a build are many to consider. Builds in magazines and on TV tend to make people think it's much easier than it actually is. I hope this rambling, yet incomplete, list doesn't give the impression that it's much harder than it actually is either. Tinkering with cars has always been my hobby and I still consider myself a novice in nearly everything involved. For better or worse I have always done all of my own work and always had a lot fun learning and doing my best. Hopefully the folks that really know their stuff can chime in with better information.
 

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Two pitfalls come to mind. First, don't get something you really don't want. Money pit that goes unfinished. Second do not get something that doesn't have a title. Some states are worse than others but generally it's a giant headache.
 

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More for Less Racer
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73 - 76 Nova's are pretty nice. They are usually cheaper but they will be going up soon, I'm sure.
I think the '73-77 A-body's are going to be the same way, especially the curvier years '73-75. Malibu's, Monte Carlo's, El Camino's, Buick Specials, Pontiac LeMans and Grand Prix.
They all just need attention in the bumper department, narrowing the bumper slightly and tucking it back close to the body
 

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Get something you can get parts for out of a book.
Or be willing to make your own parts.

Consider weight of the thing. 70's muscle cars were often in the 3200 to 4200lb range and power to make up for that weight was kind of sad by todays standards.

I am on my 14th s10 for a reason. Things are lightweight, easy to work on, handle good, parts are easy to find used, and insurance is cheap. They are also a truck so if want to throw some slicks or strap a engine down in the bed you can.
 

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Ok, so maybe it is not what you mention in your post, but have you considered a wagon?
They are usually cheaper than the same model 2-door, but share frame and engine/trans, which means that "performance"/aftermarket mod ( engine, brakes, suspension...) will work on the wagon.
A wagon is also quite convenient, to haul friends, camping gear...
Dream of a '70 Chevelle SS (for instance)? Get the '70 Chevelle wagon, which will use all the improvements the SS would have accepted.
Some guys will tell you that a wagon is too heavy for drag racing, but then, some guys will tell you the weight distribution is better (more weight on the rear wheels)...
 

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As stated before....get what you want. Accepting "second" best will always be just that. Take your time thinking about what you want, how you want it to look and how you want to drive it. If you chase the latest trends you will be running that chase forever! Hot rodding is a very personal thing to me and many others. Some want to chase trophies, I want to drive, the two are not compatible. Design, engine and finish are all in my head and do not reflect any other persons opinion. It's my car, built the way I want it and powered the way I want it. Good luck with you journey!
 
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