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Hagerty Employee

Restoring these 5 classics might not put you in the red

To restore, or to buy one fresh off the rotisserie? Common sense and history dictates it's almost always cheaper to purchase a gleaming, glammed-up completed restoration than it is to elevate a ratty example to the same level. Resuscitating that old junker under the tarp is often a pockmarked path fraught with tripled budgets and drained bank accounts.

The article says "in the wrapper" (aka pickled with no miles) examples may skew the data...

No, they totally skew the data.

Just like the frequent auction queen purple hemi cuda convertible skews that data.

If you take that data out, is there even a story here? (That actually is more interesting to me).

Some years ago, a restorer told me "the simple rule is expect to spend 35-40k to do a nice restoration on a car. Doesn't matter if you choose a 67 Camaro or a 77 LTD 4 door. 55-57 T-birds are a good example of a car you can make money on usually, if you get in under 12k to start with"

Now those numbers are way out of date, and maybe baby birds aren't the market bellweather (nice restored ones were around 50k at the time if I recall correctly), but this was spot-on at the time. Even most Camaro restorations if you really got into it weren't going to make you money at the time if it wasn't a special spec desirable model.

If you are restoring cars to make money, really know your stuff. So much easier if you just love that vehicle and want it nice, and don't care what it will sell for someday.
Pit Crew

I totally agree with your viewpoint. Metal is metal, and the cost is the cost. Buils what you love, so don't speculate.

Boy howdy! If you plan to restore a car with the goal of making money on it, lie down and take a nap. The current mantra in the hobby is for anyone who wants a restored car, buy one that is already done. It will be less expensive than trying it yourself. I speak as one who has just done a 6+ year restoration on a car from a basket case to #1 condition. It wasn't done because of financial considerations. This specific car was important to me. No other. If I hadn't found it, I wouldn't have bothered with the build at all.

Yep. Go to a more obscure brand like a Rambler or Studebaker that has limited aftermarket support and limited appeal (not popular). Cost as much or more to restore as anything else -- usually more as there are few repro parts, and a relatively high demand for the few remaining NOS parts still floating around. Since only a very few models are well known and desired in the general collector car market (like the SC/Rambler and Stude Avanti), sale prices tend to be low compared to their contemporaries. So you have a high cost for a true restoration (as close as you can get -- due to lack of parts availability you have to substitute or make some things, especially trim items) with a low finished product value. I'm a rather well known Rambler guy on the Internet. I caution people all the time about this! Forget monetary value -- get your ENJOYMENT out of the car instead, that's the real value. I also encourage not worrying too much about 100% originality. Build it to drive and enjoy! Few will notice that you have a different year/model rear view mirror... only a very few know Ramblers that well! You'll get more looks and comments simply because you're the only Rambler at the show than the row of Mustang guys...
Pit Crew

My 2 cents... I bought a 1966 Mark III Austin Healey in 1995 in very poor nonrunning condition for $8k. I bought it to restore , drive, and sell when the time came. I spent appx. $34k on restoration. I sold this lovely vehicle in 2018 for $65k . Mission accomplished...yes I miss it!

The Benz, Toyota ans Nissan all could be very cost prohibitive to restore vs buying on already done.

The Mustang on the other hand is not a real restoration project. Most are rebuilt into race or weekend hot rods and they are cheap to buy and cheap to find parts for if you go away from stock.

New Driver

The 1993 Mustang Convertible in question is a very limited special edition that was done for the last run of Fox Mustangs. That is why it is so much more desirable than other year Fox convertibles.
Pit Crew

Why not say MUSTANGS? First generation 'Stangs are still reasonable and parts are plentiful and cheap. Even Mustang II's from the 1970's are starting to get some love (they were a huge sales success when new). Any V8 Fox body is a no brainer, and you have to remember... the young folks coming up think anything older than they are is a classic.
Intermediate Driver

It would be nice to know which of these cars have galvanized bodies. This would make a huge difference in the cost of the most expensive part of any restoration--the body. I'm betting the VW's are not zinc coated....

The fully restored 1966 Corvair Corsa convertible pairs up quite nicely with the 1995 C2500 Silverado heavy 3/4 pickup with the 454 cid engine. It has good period audio equipment, air conditioning, automatic and comfortable seats. Though it's been my utility truck for 8 years or so, and is useful pulling the car hauler, I've recently been looking at it more closely. It's in pretty decent shape, and with only a little sprucing up, some new seats and a new coat of white paint (or maybe a nice vinyl wrap) would be a quite presentable vehicle in its own right. Maybe some new wheels. It wouldn't cost nearly as much as a new pickup if I did that.
Advanced Driver

The "buy restored" advice only applies to PROPER workmanship and an accurate restoration. Some years back I bought a restored car - done by a SoCal "marque expert" whose name is touted at Mecum auctions and a couple magazines - only to find poor bodywork and paint failure from work he'd sublet to apparently the lowest bidder. I had to dismantle most of the car, strip and re-do all the bodywork & paint, as well as rebuild the 4-speed, replace suspension, and correct a number of details. It's about as nice as they get now, but financially I'm lucky that the current market value just covers my expenses. Otherwise, I'd have been better off rebuilding a project car, as I've done previously a dozen times.
Advanced Driver

Anytime you consider buying a "restored" make sure you have another restorer with a positive reputation check her out as all to often we are blinded by the gleam.
Advanced Driver

Be leery of restoring older Mercedes.
Many parts are NLA from the factory, meaning you have to use questionable parts from questionably sources.
That goes not only for trim pieces but some mechanical bits. It you ever hope to having a#2 car, it better be all OEM, because those cars the car will be competing in the marketplace will be.
Will all due respect to Hagerty's data, you can still but a one-day owner late model 107 with 50k miles for about $50,000.
Nice higher mileage cars, but with still under 100,000 miles, are even less.

In these days of $10,000+ paintjobs, I don' don't see the sense of restoring one, unless it has special value to you.
Advanced Driver

Ahhh-to restore or Not to restore---that-is the Question- every Old car will increase in value given time-- your say-70s fairmont or G5 Will go up in value The nicer it is the more it will be worth-- when I was 14yrs old I was Given in the late 60s a 57 chev belaire & then was told it wasn't worth fixing up- old junk today Will become valued classics in the future---
Intermediate Driver

I understand the viewpoint of the author, but honestly most any restoration, from a cost standpoint is not a guaranteed money maker. I top to bottom restored a 70 mustang convertible in the 80’s, loved it, and sold it years later for about half what I put into it, not including my labor! Lesson learned. It was a fun process though. 9 years ago, I bought a 92 Corvette in better shape, and still lost money, because C4’s are still plentiful. Still regret selling it, but that made room for the C7 convertible I play with today. I also have a 98 Mustang GT ragtop at our vacation home, that is pure pleasure, inexpensive to buy, maintain, and increasing in value. So yes, buying the best condition you can, of what you want, and enjoy the daylights out of it, and you will be far happier than buying for just appreciation.

Yeah... if you want to make money on cars  --and even then this is still a gamble,


Pick something you know is popular (like Viper, high-spec Mercedes, top of foodchain Mustang, exotic, etc.) and watch them like a hawk for sales price for the 3-7 years old mark.


You need to buy the best one you can at the bottom of the depreciation curve. Miss the curve, miss the potential profit. Note that the places with 15 Vipers for sale are your competition.


The principle applies to anything, just the likely profits on a Toyota Camry handled this way aren't much.

Intermediate Driver

I say the title is misleading, as to me the title implied that the vehicles would be on the cheaper end to actually restore, but with the comments they made about the Datsun that sounds almost like it would be in the same category with unobtanium parts. Like with my 94 Buick Roadmaster Estate wagon, the Vista roof glass is junk yard only, a belt tensioner for heavy duty cooling equipped cars is junkyard only, pretty anything for the rear half of the car is junkyard only, even the rubber seals back there. It's also the same for my 1987 Pontiac Safari (not to be confused with the GMC Safari) another station wagon, but this one is even harder to find the wagon specific parts then for my Buick.

It sure doesn't help that these cars were loved by people for their longevity when it came to demolition derbies.

I love Fox bodied Mustang LX's but not the wet noodle chassis strength convertibles. Coupe's for me!

The MK3 Supra is definitely not as "big" as the MK4 but it is every bit the great car. Parts are harder to come by but are still out there.
Community Manager

Convertibles are fine after adding $500 of subframe connectors and a strut tower brace. Don't fear the drop tops. 


I adopted the mantra "Don't fall in love with the car" because, as stated, it'll cost as much to restore your "love" as most any other car, in general. In the end, my cars would never return the investment. How about AMC Javelins or 1962 Dodges, my faves for personal reasons, that wouldn't support the cost of full restorations? When I hit the lottery.....
Advanced Driver

The 68 and up VW crowd can be subdivided into more or less desirable models. Sunroof models, and convertibles are coveted, and they are special models like Baja bug's Sun bugs etc.. Super Beetles (with the troublesome McPherson strut front end) are generally less desirable to the VW crowd, as well as Automatic Stick cars.
Descending order of desirability: convertibles- '68-'70 have the torsion bar front, the '71-2, Supers, have flat windshields with Mac struts, '73 on (Supers) have curved windshields.
Sedans- 68-70 sunroof, '71 and beyond standard beetles are more attractive than Super sedans. Sunroof helps any beetle.

What's nice is when the way you'd want one isn't the "top investment spec". Sunroofs don't do it for me for example.


I had to replace the struts in my 1972 Super Beetle back in 1977 at maybe 70,000 miles, but that didn't seem so bad. How has the front end proven troublesome?

For me, 1968's (with the stick) are undesirable, mainly because of the swing-axle rear-end. The 1969's came with the new semi-trailing-arm rear, as well as many desirable detail changes.
Advanced Driver

These aren't what I personally perceive as desirable Volkswagens, but what I ascertain from enthusiasts on The Samba, for example. I personally don't like sunroofs on anything, but I'm not the "market".
There's commonly known "Super shimmy" strut problems by ACVW people. Supers are often denigrated with rude names.
Every marque has snobbery; the air cooled Volkswagen people are no different.

I had a Mercedes that I bought out of a car port in California, sent it to Mercedes Benz Classiche in Irvine at the time, and they returned a new car to me (same car but excellent)
which I drove for many years trouble free with running costs being normal maintenance and
insurance. The number to do that at the time was $5000.00. Which is probably $10,000.00
now if not more; my point is I spent the money once, using M-B parts, and had no issues.
I have a few Chryslers among other things, I drive my cars, and I have a local Mopay freak
mechanic who loves to work on them. I have just returned from an 850 mile trip in the '65
and it was very enjoyable.
Once again, I have a policy of giving the car what it needs first, then, with the exception of
oil changes and so on, that's it.
If you financially manage it that's the best advice I can give. If you can't, don't worry about
it, take your time and enjoy the journey.
I'd pick the Mercedes and maybe the Nissan; but not at these market prices.
Advanced Driver

Now--about those '68-'75 Beetles in #1 Condition for $62, 300.....I am waiting--I am waiting...I am waiting! I've been on The Beetle Scene for over 46 years and...I am waiting... Am I going to be stood up, once again? Rats! Now where'd that car go?

The subject field in your email message stated "...without breaking the bank"
Somebody included the Mercedes SL. Really? That will break most anyone's bank.
Advanced Driver

Did a frame on restoration on my 87 MCSS and never thought about the possible sell price as I have had her since she was new. I think that is perhaps the biggest driving factor as if you have a long relationship with your car it's darn the cost full speed ahead. I could have bought another one for what a spent but it never would cover the many hours looking for and finding all the parts etc.
Pit Crew

Of course, there is always the BMW 2002.
Advanced Driver

Bought a 560SL for cheap as the person just wanted to get rid of it because he knew nothing about cars. I fixed a lot of items and spent about 4 grand to get where it is now. A nice driver, with a decent repaint at one time. It is all worth it, when the top goes down, and driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway or driving on country roads. People comment on how nice it is, etc.. It is old enough that they do not think I am a snob. I prefer to DRIVE it, then worry about how much I will make off it. Remember, “Motion is Lotion, Rest is Rust, applies to cars and our bodies.
Advanced Driver

I forgot to add one of my other cars is a 1984 20th Anniversary Model Mustang GT350, 5.0. 5 speed hatchback (my first new car) I was 26 at the time, now I am getting ready to sign up for Medicare. Great car over 200,000 miles on original engine. Drag Raced, Hauled dogs, building supplies, cross country moves (2 times). So may memories. DRIVE them and love them...all !!!!!

Nope, no matter how much you think you will end up with in a restoration, you will end up with a LOT more than that.
Pit Crew

Rice burners and kraut grinders, no thanks.
Intermediate Driver

Who dictates the pricing that is stated within this article?
I can appreciate the diversity of the selections but, none of these examples are presently, or, quite possibly, going to be large dollar cars. Notice that I did not say "investments".
For example: 1993 Ford Mustang 5.0 LX Convertible
parts are readily available, at reasonable prices. However, north of the border, in Canada, you can find these cars, in very fine condition, for $15,000. They are not drawing the dollars that "so-called" experts within the classic car industry, want the general public to consider.
Find a Datsun 240; any year, and if it has not been a frame restoration, don't bother. Rust was the main issue, and, as good as they were when they were new (great car), they can become a money pit in a hurry. Do your homework, first, regarding the sourcing of parts. It could prove to be quite a journey.
Just my opinion!
Intermediate Driver

I’ve found the online forum support for parts and knowledge are the best way to go for originality on a budget. Triumph and Alfa forums are particularly good for this. A lot of good original parts available. BMW still provides parts for some of their classic cars so originality is obtainable at a cost. Muscle car parts are available but take more effort to find because of lack of forum support IMO.
Advanced Driver

30+ years ago the USENET group was (IMHO) a great resource for VW owner/repair. Those people knew the their cars well, and gladly shared what they had learned with newbs. Even Rabbit owners were welcome!

What about the other special edition ragtop Mustangs. The Vibrant Red/white interior, Vibrant White/white interior, and Seven Up Edition?
New Driver

As I read this article, I can't help but remember 15 years ago when a fox body mustang was so plentiful and undesired because of "new tech" that you could have grabbed one for $2500 loaded. Now the one version that totally skews the data are the TRUE 5.0 5spd LX notchback. Find one of them in good unmolested condition and you will pay a hefty price. But good luck finding one, they usually got raced and most are 4cyl swaps. I should have built a barn and bought all I could find, the fox body market has exploded in the last few years, could have made a killing.
Intermediate Driver

Ok.. which would I revive??? Revive is a really good word because a couple of these rigs you would need to resuscitate with a crash cart. I’ve owned a few of these on the list so please realize my comments are colored by experience.
Ugh. That Beetle. Mine was a 72. The only car in my life that I’ve owned less than a week. Second day out with it , it got a vapor lock. Had it fixed. The next day it got a vapor lock. Got it fixed. Then the next day it had a vapor lock and I had to sleep in the damn thing , got it fixed, got it home and sold it back to the guy who sold it to me. The most horrid little piece of crap I ever had to scrap off my shoe. And if I sound harsh I’m meaning to.

The Datsun… The one time I made a stupid mistake and cosigned for a friend I ended up with a thing. A 1981 280zx. You could run it into the ground but it rusted out in one MA winter.

Now I’m gonna have to duck because I know so many love those Fox bodies.. but to me visually these were like the most awkward looking “Stangs ever let out of the coral. More Donkey than Mustang. And adding ground effects didn’t help. Like putting fender skirts on a mule.
Now again I do apologize to all the fans of that body, but to me the Gia’s were prettier, despite all the dissing they get. They sold well and if they were good enough for Charlies Angels they were good enough for a teenager like me.

Awe.. that Mercedes. Wasn;t this one the longest running? Oh wait no. The current SL has been limping along for 20 years now. I had the version people lovingly called the “ Brick “. Mine was a 97. It was just under $100,000 when new and I bought it 8 years later for $38,000. THE DAY AFTER it went off warranty the passenger seat broke in the tilted forward position and it required a part that was $750. I traded that sucker. Mainly because I didn’t wanna get sucked dry having to pay for all those pricey bits and bobs that would certainly break in the future.

There’s no moral to the story here but it just goes to show that no matter what car you pick somebody’s gonna have had an issue with it or an opinion about it or a story to tell. And that’s what I love about cars. All the stories, the glories and the glorified clunkers.

New Driver

I bought a cherry 1990 Ford Mustang 5.0L Convertible just before Covid hit from the original owner with only 7,100 original miles on it for $16K!

It only has 10.5K on it now and is 100% stock. Ill be keeping this till I'm an old man (not that far away) and for $16K, I have a very nice collectable car I can drive with no worries.