5 projects to keep you busy over the winter
WARNING: The following article includes major project-vehicle enabling by someone who can hardly finish a box of cereal.
As frosty conditions and snow tires become more frequent sights, plenty of enthusiasts are tucking their collectible vehicles in for the winter, readying them for a couple of months of storage. This is also the season when procrastination ends and projects can once again get underway, as there are long stretches of time perfectly suited for uninterrupted wrenching.
Perhaps you don’t have a classic car—or you do, and it’s been complaining of loneliness. Picking up a winter project can benefit sellers who don’t want to store an undriven car over the winter as well as buyers who will have the time to make the vehicle roadworthy.
We visited the Hagerty Marketplace to find vehicles that could be transformed over one winter (depending on your skill level and investment) and did some daydreaming to come up with the projects we’d tackle.
Here are five of our project-car frontrunners.
1963 Chevrolet Corvair
The listing for this solid coupe notes that the door cards could use some freshening, so this rear-engined runabout would likely just spend the winter getting some cosmetic upgrades to the interior as well as a good detailing.
The resprayed paint is said to have some flaws as well; maybe there’s enough to allow some of the orange peel to be wet-sanded and buffed back to a good shine. If not, this sporty little Chevy still looks like a heap of fun for backroad jaunts next spring.
1993 Ford Mustang
Since this Fox-body looks remarkably clean, we’d be tempted to leave it as is. However, we know we’d still spend the winter combing through eBay and various Mustang forums trying to scrounge up the perfect mid-’90s 5.0-liter speed parts to dress up the engine bay and get the small-block some additional performance with the right day-two looks. Perhaps we’d visit a wrecking yard and liberate a set of GT40 cylinder heads from an Explorer for a stealthy performance upgrade that’s still OEM Ford.
The aftermarket has not been slacking on Fox-body suspension, so we’d keep our eyes open there as well, with the goal of building a car that still looks appropriate for the era but performs a bit better.
1974 BMW 2002
Watching vintage racing has really put the BMW 2002 into the forefront of our minds, and this Teutonic two-tone had us from the moment we first saw it.
Unfortunately, there are some problem areas as the seller detailed several spots where rust is bubbling up. With this nimble two-door in-hand, our winter would be spent perfecting the art of trimming patch panels and MIG-welding them in place. Of course, a new paint job would be in order, and we’re not sure if we’d keep the Malaga and Pepper White two-tone or choose between the two for a more understated look. What say you?
1964 AMC Rambler wagon
We’re already suckers for wagons. Throw in the fact that this one’s from an orphan brand and we are pining even more.
The bodywork on this long-roof Rambler looks to be rather straight, although the paint, or what’s left of it, is losing its battle to the elements. If you’d like to brush up on your spraying technique, this would be a good candidate to strip down and coat in primer/sealer, provided you’ve got a place that would be warm enough to serve as a spray booth.
As for the powertrain, we think that AMC’s venerable 4.0-liter inline-six would make for an excellent upgrade while keeping things in the AMC family, although we wouldn’t say no to a 360 V-8, either.
1974 Dodge W200
There’s a whole lot of potential in this 3/4-ton 4×4. Apart from taking on any chore you could throw its way, this could be the platform for a great adventure vehicle.
The 440 V-8 that’s been swapped in could be treated to a mild roller cam and an aftermarket dual-plane intake to really emphasize the mid-range power of the big-block, while the rest of the effort could be put into filling the bed with camping gear. If you pray to the Craigslist gods, perhaps a vintage camper shell will find its way onto this 4×4 and help make it a retro overlander, previously known as a “hunting rig.”
The listing notes that the bodywork is not the best, so perhaps keeping this former DOT truck as a workhorse in one of these roles is the best option.
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The W200 and the Corvair are both projects I’d enjoy dabbling with. I honestly think that $6500 is three times what that wagon is worth, but maybe not to someone else. The Fox Body is just too “common” for my tastes. I remember those things being every other car on the road back then. And although I know I’ll tick off more than a few folks, I’m just not into BMWs.
What he said.
What they both said. Zero interest in that BMW, but to each their own.
Corvair’s are just so unique
Corvair are unique and actually are pretty comfortable and agile. Parts are expensive however. I got rid of my project. I’d like a stock Fox body with a 5.0 and a stick. Almost bought an LX with a 5.0 and a stick would have been a fun sleeper. BMW are expensive to fix so that’s out. The Rambler looks complete, but way too much money.
What he said that he said.
I agree that wagon is worth what one person showing up is willing to pay.
All of them were overpriced in my opinion. Way overpriced. Ridiculously overpriced, but that’s what I see today in the “hobby”, which I’ve been in for over 50 years. Way too much “investing “in old cars which is a fools pursuit. What cars are advertised for rarely sell for that price. My last project, a nice straight 72 GMC 3/4 ton pick up cost me $4800 and I drove it home. This was two years ago. He was asking $6k. I replaced the three speed with a three and OD (a $400 Craigslist find) reupholstered the seat myself, new brakes & tires. Reproduction floor mat & modern radio in the dash.
It’s done, and usable. Bet I don’t have $6,500 total, all in. The key is… do it yourself.
The Rambler is a torque tube…pretty hard to do any swapping. Also the six you mention was a 199/232, later 258. It was introduced in the Typhoon in 64, replacing the old overhead valve Rambler six. That basic 232 derivative ran for decades in Jeeps. This “4.0” metric nonsense; give me cubic inches.
You’ve obviously never driven a BMW
I wasn’t a fan till I got the deal of the year on 2008 330i M sport and figured what the heck I can always sell it for a profit
Needless to say that 5 years later I still have and absolutely love it
All I’ve done is a dyno tune ($450)
And it’s a 420 HP beast that handles like it’s on rails and stops on the and even makes change
I have a few American made high hp toys
But as a daily driver you cannot beat the BMW and 30 mpg
I have driven a BMW. And a Z06 Corvette (my current driver) and a base Corvette, Cadillac, Lexus, first gen Mustangs and various high performance cars. BMW’s are expensive to maintain and IMO not worth the bother. There are lots of other very fun cars to drive that you don’t have to pay a premium for. Just my opinion . . .
I have to agree with this. It’s the Corvair or the truck. I’m not into BMW’s at all and the others don’t interest me for various reasons.
Sorry not one of them is a head turner as is or when completed. I go for the 50’s styles if I am going to invest dollars and time.
I agree. If I’m going to spend lots of time and money on an old vehicle, it really needs to be a lot more exciting (and older) than these uninspiring dogs. Pretty tone deaf on the selections, Hagerty 😉
FOX 5.0 for me. Done with old rusty messes, and I agree – BMWs don’t speak to me. EFI is nice too.
Sure, but $15 large for a fox body project?
Only the Corvair.
I had a ’64 in high school.
Really loved that car….
2002 bmw a great car. However, parts for them has gone into the stratosphere. It will end up a money pit for an unsuspecting enthusiast.
The wagon has a lot of potential “upside” given Hagerty values. With a lot of your own time, you might keep the bills down to another $10,000 on paint/cosmetics and $5000 on mechanical for a car that would fetch those Hagerty prices — or you could just freshen it up in your own garage and drive a shabby car with massive appeal to Gen Xers who were little kids when this wagon was a second-car grocery getter (my parents were offered one for a dollar in 1969 to carry around us four kids, but passed because it was American-made and Canadian horror at the Vietnam war was at its peak… so they bought a tiny little three-door Corolla wagon instead! A missed opportunity, in my mind.) I have always wanted a Rambler wagon as a kind of redo, but it’s just too far away, and over CDN$ 10,000 to buy it and get it home is not realistic.
Instead of the common mustang get a ASC McLaren for a similar price like mine which can be had and is the only one in its paint and trim. I also don’t see a reason to modify a fox mustang. Just drive an older car for 10 minutes before you drive the Fox and it won’t seem so bad. Buy a newer Mustang if you want a newer driving experience. Leave the 6 in the AMC also. If you want a V8 car buy an original V8 car and it will probably be cheaper to get on the road and more valuable. Most BMW’s don’t speak to me either. The Corvair seems like the most interesting choice here
I love the fox body but the LX appeals more.
All of the candidates are greatly overpriced. The Rambler is best forgotten and left in history.
Where is the Fiat X1/9 on the list?? Best project ever.
If you can keep it from eating valves. I gave up after it happened to me twice.
I restored two cars in the 1990s. By “restored,” I mean, I worked long, difficult hours on my daily job and paid body experts and engine rebuilders substantial amounts of the money I earned to bring my cars up to local award-winning condition.
Many of you guys can do the work yourselves. My hat is tipped to you folks, who soldier on all year long, scraping your knuckles on recalcitrant nuts and bolts. I just can’t. Not enough time, insufficient expertise, and honestly, no aptitude for it.
So, unless your skillset could you get a job working for Chip Foose, or you otherwise have unlimited time on your hands to match your workable skills, my advice is this: buy the car you love, at a fair market price, from the guy (or his estate) who invested 1000 hours into the restoration. Then you can spend your limited precious hours on this little blue planet driving it and maintaining it.
Jesus Thomas! I read your comment and suddenly I feel the urge to kill myself.
I guess my feeling is if you truly love working on, and investing in, whatever car you choose, then you have happily spent your limited time on “this little blue planet” doing something that brings you joy and what can be wrong with that?
PS…….these are all way overpriced, but I would go for the Corvair. Hopefully Thomas won’t rear-end me……
The Corvair for sure!
I have enough work to do this winter, thanks.
I believe that a Hagerty writer lives fairly close to Lime Rock and has a heated garage, If they buy one of these cars they can feel free to contact me and I will stop by with tools, and my VFW card so we can go there after a day of working on cars.
As a Rambler/AMC fanatic (having owned over 25 of them), I can say that the price of that wagon is optimistic (to put it lightly). Regardless of what the price guides say, that is not a hugely desirable car (even in AMC circles) largely due to the antiquated inline six in it. That is NOT the far more modern, seven main bearing AMC six that so many have come to know and love. The engine in this one is of old design, and is not desirable. The “retail” price is for one that is finished and ready to go and this wagon would take many many thousands to get there. There are far better ones to start with for less money.
Like the 1974 Dodge pickup.
My first car was a 65 Rambler American wagon, a smaller, simpler car. bought it for $100, drove it for a while and sold it for$250 I think. I liked the look, and the three-on-the-tree was fun. Burned oil like crazy.