Custom Car Builders USA | Classic Car Restoration

5 Best Cars and Trucks to Restomod (a completely subjective list)

Matt Holden

Well, since we got that disclaimer out of the way, let me give you a rundown of what I consider the 5 best cars to restomod! A lot of thought went into this list, and I used an ever evolving list of criteria to basically suit exactly what I wanted this list to be (kidding, kinda)! The main criteria I evaluated were reasonable purchase cost and availability, popularity and appeal in this moment, aftermarket support, and generally how cool I think they are.

Another disclaimer: The restomods I build and am most passionate about are not in this top 5 for the sole reason that I don’t want their market getting any more nuts than it is, and they’re kind of off the beaten path.

So without any further adieu, let’s get rolling!

 

1) First generation F Body (Camaro and Firebird, 1967-69)

1968 Pontiac Firebird 400 logo and front end

This is THE most commonly restomodded car on the planet. I state this under no factual basis, but I do see them absolutely everywhere. Every small car show at every McDonald’s in America will have 3=5 of these AT MINIMUM. There’s more than a few reasons for this. First reason is the popularity. Everyone knows the first generation Camaro. Everyone wants a first generation Camaro. That’s totally cool, and actually great for the aftermarket. In this day and age, you can actually build a brand new 1969 Camaro from the ground up using exactly ZERO original GM parts from 1969. The aftermarket support is second to none. Since these cars are immensely popular, every part you can imagine is a keystroke or phone call away. This popularity unfortunately leads us to the first generation F body’s biggest negative. Availability and affordability of the base car is not in a great spot nowadays. Extremely rotted and wildly incomplete examples can be found for as high as $12-15k in many spots across the country. All in all, if you’ve got the coin and want to be able to get parts anywhere in the world for your restomod, First Gen F Body is the car for you.

 

2)  Any Corvette Pre 1983 (C1-C3)

Ok, this is here SOLELY because they are so damn cool. Vettes already came from the factory with 4 wheel disc brakes, manual transmissions, independent rear suspensions, posi-traction, and fiberglass bodies. While all of these features were wildly better than the competition of the day, classic Corvettes are about as sporty as an early 2000s Subaru WRX. Similar to first generation F bodies, aftermarket support for these Vettes is ROBUST. LS swap packages, tubular suspension, the whole nine yards. This is yet another car that for the most part can be built from the ground up with ZERO factory parts. Definitely not the cheapest option, but an option nonetheless. The availability and affordability for these cars is all over the map.

C1 and C2 Vettes, those are going to cost you. C3 Corvettes, especially 1974-1982 on the other hand, good runners can be had in the $7-15k range basically anywhere. I personally had a 1974 Corvette, and loved every second of it.

3) 1st Generation Mustang (1965-73)

Ford Mustang logo

Let’s talk about sheer production numbers. Over 1.3 million of these pony cars were produced throughout the first generation. Like the two previous cars on this list, aftermarket support is MASSIVE. Couple this with the legacy and legend of the first gen Mustang (Eleanor from Gone in 60 Seconds, anyone?), and the first pony car is a wildly popular car to restomod. Comically enough, there are component packages to swap in a GM LS engine readily available. It is a truly versatile platform, with a variety of aesthetic and packaging motifs one can choose from to suit their personal style (SCCA Trans-Am, GT350/500, Mach 1, etc). Availability and affordability of first generation Mustangs, like early Vettes, is all over the place. For base model, six cylinder cars, the prices are still reasonable. $3-8k can get you a usable shell in most places. Now, if you’re hunting for an original 8 cylinder mustang, especially one with a big block or a stick, be prepared to pay way more than you’d like.

4) 967-72 Chevy C10 Pickups

1965 Chevrolet C10 Pickup Truck

Be still, my heart! The unobtainable for me. What was never intended to be a hot rod has turned into one of the most desirable hot rods in the world. These trucks were produced in vast quantities because, well, they’re trucks. These have taken the restomod world by storm because of their unique availability and ease of

modification. Up until about the past 10 years, these trucks could be had all over the south, Midwest, and southwest for pennies on the dollar. Nowadays, the market has caught wind of the venerable old farm implement’s value, and prices have jumped. As with the previous cars on this list, there is outstanding aftermarket support. If you have a long bed and want a short bed, there’s a kit for that. Frame notch kit? Be at your house tomorrow. The true beauty of the C10 as a restomod is that you have a little bit more leeway with styling cues, because they aren’t exactly the iconic muscle cars you remember from your childhood.

5) First Generation Ford Bronco (1966-77)

Vintage, first generation, Ford Bronco ranger wagon

Here’s another one that makes this top 5 for one reason. The reason for the Bronco’s inclusion: these things are HOT right now. Everybody needs one, and those who have them or build them KNOW IT. Don’t believe me? Check out Velocity Restorations out of Pensacola, Florida. Availability and affordability are pretty laughable right now. You can find original shells in the $12-25k range these days, and they don’t last. Aftermarket support isn’t as bountiful as the vehicles mentioned above, but the exploding popularity is forcing the market to adjust. Within 5 years, these little trucks will be more popular than early Ford F100 trucks in the realm of hot rodding. I’m not going to say I understand, because they aren’t quite my style. But I can see trends, and these things are trending to the moon! Like what I said about the 67-72 C10s, Broncos afford you a bit of leeway with your artistic direction because of the reality of the vehicle. Buy one, build it, hold on, and profit.

Some honorable mentions I excluded due to whatever reason, include:

  • Basically any MOPAR product due to price – though as late model Hemi engines come down in price, crappy 70s MOPARs will become relevant.

74 Dart Swinger, anyone?

  • 1969-72 Novas due to availability
  • Tri-Five Chevys due to price
  • Any GM A body due to price
  • Older Cadillacs due to lack of aftermarket support
  • Fox body Mustangs because they aren’t restomod cool, they’re just cheap race cars ● C4 Corvettes because they’re just cheap sports cars
  • Ford Galaxies due to affordability, availability, and aftermarket support. THEY’RE JUST SO DAMN COOL
  • Ford F100 pickups because they’ve been done 100 billion times.

Now I know I said I wouldn’t divulge my favorite cars to restomod, but I lied. I’ll let you into my little secret. Just don’t blow the market to pieces on me!

Outside of the southeastern states, the Chevrolet G body platform is criminally underrated. Monte Carlos, Malibus, El Caminos, Grand Nationals, Cutlasses, oh man so many. The aftermarket support is growing every year for these underappreciated hot rods, and so long as circle track guys don’t destroy them all, there’s still plenty of them hiding all over the country. Hell, you can still find these in some junk yards! Availability and affordability are still both fairly decent, though between people circle track racing them and guys like me who really understand and appreciate them, the market is starting to warm up. I won’t talk numbers, you’ll have to see for yourself!

Thanks for playing along. I hope you learned a little something about a personal favorite subject of mine. Maybe I helped you make some decisions. Regardless, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next one!

Matt Holden

Well, since we got that disclaimer out of the way, let me give you a rundown of what I consider the 5 best cars to restomod! A lot of thought went into this list, and I used an ever evolving list of criteria to basically suit exactly what I wanted this list to be (kidding, kinda)! The main criteria I evaluated were reasonable purchase cost and availability, popularity and appeal in this moment, aftermarket support, and generally how cool I think they are. 

Another disclaimer: The restomods I build and am most passionate about are not in this top 5 for the sole reason that I don’t want their market getting any more nuts than it is, and they’re kind of off the beaten path. 

So without any further adieu, let’s get rolling!

1) First generation F Body (Camaro and Firebird, 1967-69)

1968 Pontiac Firebird 400 logo and front end
This is THE most commonly restomodded car on the planet. I state this under no factual basis, but I do see them absolutely everywhere. Every small car show at every McDonald’s in America will have 3=5 of these AT MINIMUM. There’s more than a few reasons for this. First reason is the popularity. Everyone knows the first generation Camaro. Everyone wants a first generation Camaro. That’s totally cool, and actually great for the aftermarket. In this day and age, you can actually build a brand new 1969 Camaro from the ground up using exactly ZERO original GM parts from 1969. The aftermarket support is second to none. Since these cars are immensely popular, every part you can imagine is a keystroke or phone call away. This popularity unfortunately leads us to the first generation F body’s biggest negative. Availability and affordability of the base car is not in a great spot nowadays. Extremely rotted and wildly incomplete examples can be found for as high as $12-15k in many spots across the country. All in all, if you’ve got the coin and want to be able to get parts anywhere in the world for your restomod, First Gen F Body is the car for you.

2) Any Corvette Pre 1983 (C1-C3)

Ok, this is here SOLELY because they are so damn cool. Vettes already came from the factory with 4 wheel disc brakes, manual transmissions, independent rear suspensions, posi-traction, and fiberglass bodies. While all of these features were wildly better than the competition of the day, classic Corvettes are about as sporty as an early 2000s Subaru WRX. Similar to first generation F bodies, aftermarket support for these Vettes is ROBUST. LS swap packages, tubular suspension, the whole nine yards. This is yet another car that for the most part can be built from the ground up with ZERO factory parts. Definitely not the cheapest option, but an option nonetheless. The availability and affordability for these cars is all over the map.

C1 and C2 Vettes, those are going to cost you. C3 Corvettes, especially 1974-1982 on the other hand, good runners can be had in the $7-15k range basically anywhere. I personally had a 1974 Corvette, and loved every second of it. 

3) 1st Generation Mustang (1965-73)

Ford Mustang logo

Let’s talk about sheer production numbers. Over 1.3 million of these pony cars were produced throughout the first generation. Like the two previous cars on this list, aftermarket support is MASSIVE. Couple this with the legacy and legend of the first gen Mustang (Eleanor from Gone in 60 Seconds, anyone?), and the first pony car is a wildly popular car to restomod. Comically enough, there are component packages to swap in a GM LS engine readily available. It is a truly versatile platform, with a variety of aesthetic and packaging motifs one can choose from to suit their personal style (SCCA Trans-Am, GT350/500, Mach 1, etc). Availability and affordability of first generation Mustangs, like early Vettes, is all over the place. For base model, six cylinder cars, the prices are still reasonable. $3-8k can get you a usable shell in most places. Now, if you’re hunting for an original 8 cylinder mustang, especially one with a big block or a stick, be prepared to pay way more than you’d like. 

4) 967-72 Chevy C10 Pickups

1965 Chevrolet C10 Pickup Truck
Be still, my heart! The unobtainable for me. What was never intended to be a hot rod has turned into one of the most desirable hot rods in the world. These trucks were produced in vast quantities because, well, they’re trucks. These have taken the restomod world by storm because of their unique availability and ease of modification. Up until about the past 10 years, these trucks could be had all over the south, Midwest, and southwest for pennies on the dollar. Nowadays, the market has caught wind of the venerable old farm implement’s value, and prices have jumped. As with the previous cars on this list, there is outstanding aftermarket support. If you have a long bed and want a short bed, there’s a kit for that. Frame notch kit? Be at your house tomorrow. The true beauty of the C10 as a restomod is that you have a little bit more leeway with styling cues, because they aren’t exactly the iconic muscle cars you remember from your childhood.

5) First Generation Ford Bronco (1966-77)

Here’s another one that makes this top 5 for one reason. The reason for the Bronco’s inclusion: these things are HOT right now. Everybody needs one, and those who have them or build them KNOW IT. Don’t believe me? Check out Velocity Restorations out of Pensacola, Florida. Availability and affordability are pretty laughable right now. You can find original shells in the $12-25k range these days, and they don’t last. Aftermarket support isn’t as bountiful as the vehicles mentioned above, but the exploding popularity is forcing the market to adjust. Within 5 years, these little trucks will be more popular than early Ford F100 trucks in the realm of hot rodding. I’m not going to say I understand, because they aren’t quite my style. But I can see trends, and these things are trending to the moon! Like what I said about the 67-72 C10s, Broncos afford you a bit of leeway with your artistic direction because of the reality of the vehicle. Buy one, build it, hold on, and profit. 

Some honorable mentions I excluded due to whatever reason, include:
  • Basically any MOPAR product due to price – though as late model Hemi engines come down in price, crappy 70s MOPARs will become relevant.
  • 74 Dart Swinger, anyone?
  • 1969-72 Novas due to availability
  • Tri-Five Chevys due to price
  • Any GM A body due to price
  • Older Cadillacs due to lack of aftermarket support
  • Fox body Mustangs because they aren’t restomod cool, they’re just cheap race cars
  • C4 Corvettes because they’re just cheap sports cars
  • Ford Galaxies due to affordability, availability, and aftermarket support. THEY’RE JUST SO DAMN COOL
  • Ford F100 pickups because they’ve been done 100 billion times.
Now I know I said I wouldn’t divulge my favorite cars to restomod, but I lied. I’ll let you into my little secret. Just don’t blow the market to pieces on me!Outside of the southeastern states, the Chevrolet G body platform is criminally underrated. Monte Carlos, Malibus, El Caminos, Grand Nationals, Cutlasses, oh man so many. The aftermarket support is growing every year for these underappreciated hot rods, and so long as circle track guys don’t destroy them all, there’s still plenty of them hiding all over the country. Hell, you can still find these in some junk yards! Availability and affordability are still both fairly decent, though between people circle track racing them and guys like me who really understand and appreciate them, the market is starting to warm up. I won’t talk numbers, you’ll have to see for yourself!Thanks for playing along. I hope you learned a little something about a personal favorite subject of mine. Maybe I helped you make some decisions. Regardless, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next one! 
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