5 exotic ’70s project cars—and one wacky three-wheeled pickup
As temperatures finally rise above freezing, you’re probably itching to roll your favorite classic back out into the sun and prep it for a weekend road trip. It’s a yearly ritual. Maybe you have a spare garage spot for a new project car and, like many in the hobby, are a self-proclaimed glutton for punishment. Well, we have just what you need: five exotic project cars from the ’70s, two of which are notoriously complex vehicles, and all of which are available at Classic Car Auctions’ upcoming event March 28–29 in the UK.
If none of those are quite your speed, there’s also a 1961 Moto Guzzi Ercole 500 Motocarro (translation: a closed-cab trike with an open bed). Yeah, it’s crazy.
Pick your poison below.
Estimate: £20,000–£25,000 ($25,556–$31,945)
Hagerty Price Guide #4 (Fair) condition: $38,800, #3 $55,000
Several of the cars on this list lay claim to some odd, desirable specifications. This ’76 Montreal is a less-common right-hand-drive example. In addition to roughly 3700 left-hand-drive models, only 180 right-hand examples were built over the 1971–77 production run.
Alfa offered a single engine in this car, a 2593cc, dry-sump, 90-degree V-8 based on the 2.0-liter unit in Alfa’s gorgeous Tipo 33 racing prototype. Though the Montreal wasn’t strictly a homologation prototype for the Tipo 33—that was the 33 Stradale—it helped offset the new engine’s development cost. And with a 2800-pound curb weight and 230 horsepower channeled through a ZF manual gearbox, the Montreal was anything but boring.
Riding on a Giulia GTV platform, the Montreal wears perhaps the most ’70s body ever penned by Italian hands. Vented headlight hoods, NACA duct in the hood, and stacks of vents on either generously-sized B-pillar. However, before you can achieve peak ’70s Italian glamour in this red-over-grey example, you’ll have some work on your hands. Though it turns over freely, the listing notes, the engine doesn’t run.
“The Montreal is a little scary,” says Brian Rabold, VP of Hagerty Valuation Services. “These are very complex cars and ‘needs reassembling’ should give anyone pause. Since the auction description says it’s currently not running, pricing it at about two-thirds of our #4 values sounds about right.”
If you’re looking for an intense project car and don’t mind the right-hand-drive configuration, this Montreal is a remarkably affordable way to get into a classic, eight-cylinder Alfa.
Estimate: £14,000–£20,000 ($17,889–$25,556)
HPG #4 condition: $46,000, $64,200 Good
The Maserati Merak was a smorgasbord of late-1970s Citroën and Maserati and is essentially the Bora’s less-loved little brother. If you have Italian taste and want to explore the more obscure corners of ’70s performance in comparable luxury, this Merak SS might be destined for your garage. (Again, intense project car takers only.)
Compared to a standard Merak, a Merak SS is more desirable stateside for its heavier ratio of Maserati parts to Citroen ones. The interior is the most obvious differentiator; the later Merak SS models, such as this one, got the Bora’s three-spoke steering wheel and dashboard. Since, by 1979 Citroën’s partnership with Maserati had ended, this Merak SS also had the misfortune—or the blessing, however you see it—of using a traditional hydraulic suspension rather than Citroën’s hydropneumatic system.
The listing assures us that the triple-Weber, 3.0-liter V-6 is original to the car and that this SS “could be an exciting project.” Depends how you define exciting. If you brave the Merak, you’ll need to cope with a completely disassembled car. The good news: the panels are stripped to bare metal for ease of inspecting the body, and there’s reportedly minimal surface rust. Originally this SS was finished in red over black with gold wheels. Note to whoever buys this, this paint scheme is an excellent idea.
Estimate: £10,000–£12,000 ($12,778–$15,333)
HPG #4 (Fair) condition: $5100, #3 12,000
Enough with the niche Italian GTs, you say? Head on over to this ’76 Rangie, pictured here doing its best Carolina squat. A British-build example with the standard 100-inch wheelbase and 3.5-liter V-8, this truck’s main selling point is its purported connection to reggae legend Bob Marley. Unfortunately, aside from various puns and a sprinkling of ya, man, this listing doesn’t provide hard data on the car’s celebrity connection. However, with only 65K miles, the engine clearly hasn’t been driven into the ground. There is that small problem with the suspension, though.
Estimate: £20,000–£25,000 ($25,556–$31,945)
HPG #4 (Fair) condition $41,100, #3 (Good) $71,700
Distinguishable from the Interceptor by the twin vertical vents in its front fender, the Jensen FF is a fastback of many talents. The luxury GT was one of the earliest production cars to boast four-wheel drive and was also graced with Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes. They’re not only curiosities; with a 1966–71 production total of only 320 cars, FFs are also relatively rare.
What will your money buy you? An extremely uncommon Jensen. What those funds will not get you, as of now, is an extremely uncommon Jensen anywhere close to working order. Classic Car Auctions reports this car was recovered in pieces—chassis, engine, and gearbox—which have only recently been reunited. You’ll also need to reinstall the steering rack. The listing reports that this FF is in “true garage-find condition,” which would be more exciting if it weren’t shown in the listing to be outside, wearing obvious rust and the remnants of a recent rain shower.
Needless to say, this FF isn’t a running example. Its 383-cubic-inch V-8 hails from Chrysler, so engine parts and resources won’t be the worst of your problems, but Hagerty’s Rabold still offers a word of warning: “The FF is cool, but it’s a basketcase.”
HPG #4 (Fair) condition: $9000, #3 $18,100
Classic Car Auctions is most proud of this offering, although ironically this ’76 Jaguar XJC carries one of the lowest values on this list and will be auctioned at no reserve. Its claim to fame? It’s the cover star of The XJ Series Jaguars.
We also listed this V-12 cat on our list of the 8 Greatest Jaguars That Aren’t E-Types, but unfortunately this accolade did not make this listing. Most of the 6500-odd XJCs were built with Jaguar’s 4.2-liter inline-six, but 1800 cars featured double the cylinders. These 5.3-liter V-12 coupes were extremely stylish, thanks to their pillarless greenhouses and excellent proportions. And thanks to the vinyl roof, you won’t have to worry about rust on that part of this Regency Red-over-Cinnamon example.
Unfortunately, this numbers-matching XJC doesn’t run, and despite the listing’s insistence that it’s “now sufficiently valuable to justify a decent restoration,” even an Excellent (#2) condition car only carries a £26,100 value in our UK-market-specific valuation app. As-is, this Jag is a four-figure car at best; you’ll need your heartstrings seriously plucked by The XJ Series Jaguars to overhaul this beast.
1961 Moto Guzzi Ercole 500 Motocarro
Estimate: No reserve
Last and certainly not the least interesting is this crazy contraption: a 500cc bike-based “delivery wagon.” This model year fell roughly halfway through the Motorcarro’s production range and cribbed the horizontally-mounted 500cc unit from its two-wheeled Falcone sibling. You’ll have five gears to row through on your way forward and one reverse gear plus the luxury of an enclosed cab. The listing doesn’t offer any specifics about the drivetrain, so you’ll have to research it yourself.
The best part, though? Ercole, in Italian, means Hercules. This probably won’t clean out any mythical stables, but it’s a delightfully eccentric name for a quirky vehicle.
Which vehicle from this eclectic mix would you take on as a project? Let us know below.