5 American Cars That Make The Best Projects (& 5 That Aren’t Worth Modifying)

For many gearheads, “the perfect car” does not exist. There’s always something to change and improve, whether it’s a classic Camaro or an everyday Corolla. Having taken on a project car, we share the belief that building the car on your own is the accomplishment of a lifetime. And therein lies the real fun when working on a project car. Every time a highly tuned A80 Supra or 240ZX passes us, it leaves us with the idea of ​​doing something like this. After all, what better than to customize the car according to our use?



Any car can be a project. But after all, we need to consider specific parameters before choosing a project car. A great project car should be affordable, easy to work with, built like a tank, and able to take a lot more power than it originally offered.

That’s why most of us would agree that tuner-compatible JDM cars make great project cars. However, what many gearheads forget is how many American cars also make ideal drafts. Below is the list of five American cars that make the best drafts and five that are not worth modding.

ten Big Project: 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

The Chevy Cobalt SS is an everyday car with plenty of performance to offer. It meets all the needs of a commuter and provides a fun driving experience. It may not look attractive, but it can rival a Mustang if tuned correctly. Cobalt SS models are also moderately priced on the used market, and you can expect anything but under $8,000.

Other than that, there are tons of mods available for the car, from body kits to performance upgrades. And the best part is that everything is so affordable. This makes it one of the best project cars you can work on.

Related: Why The Chevy Cobalt SS Turbo Is America’s Ultimate Sleeper

9 Big Project: 1994-2004 Ford Mustang SN95

The Ford Mustang SN95 debuted in 1994 and is the 4th generation Mustang made using Ford’s Fox Body chassis. SN95 stands for Specialty/sporty North American project #95. The New Edge design referenced a more modern and more powerful Mustang SN95 as well.

The SN95 came with a variety of engines offered, not to mention fair resale market prices that add up to the ratings of a project car. Modifications are also available in a wide variety, which makes it even more worthy.


8 Awesome Project: 2008 Dodge Challenger

The Dodge Challenger needs no introduction. The current models are real dragsters and not suitable for beginners at all. The Challenger is fast and can reach triple digit speed in seconds. First launched in 1969, the Challenger saw a revival in 2008 and is still performing well and showing no signs of slowing down.

This is a real American Muscle Car gear head crave when choosing a project car. You can easily find a used 2008 Challenger for around $15,000. Modifications are no problem for this one either, as there are plenty of upgrades available, from engine tuning to the exterior and interior.


seven Big Project: Body Ford Mustang Fox 1979-1993

The predecessor of the Mustang SN95, the Fox Body Ford Mustang debuted in 1979. Ford made the Fox Body chassis one for all which serves 2, 3 and 4 door models. A variety of engines were offered, ranging from a 2.3-liter inline-4 producing plenty of 88 hp to a 5-liter V8 producing up to 230 hp. However, what sets them apart is the amount of after-sales support they have.

As it is old, it is not equipped with many features and technologies, which gives us space to improve it. You can do almost anything with the Fox body, and it’s happy to pack motors in even larger sizes.

Related: From Zero to Hero: 1987 Ford Mustang GT Project Car

6 Super project: Jeep Wrangler 2000

Launched in 1986, the Jeep Wrangler is a mid-size SUV with WWII Jeep DNA. The public offering of the Jeep Wrangler caused a stir due to its unique and distinctive design. Plus, this SUV can go anywhere and is perfect for off-roading. It came with a 4.0-liter straight-six producing 181 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque.

The Wrangler is capable of having all the mods you want to do on it. Apart from this, the availability of parts is also plentiful. The prices are therefore relatively modest.

Related: 10 Awesome Project Cars You Can Buy For Under $5,000

5 Best Left Alone: ​​1971-1980 Ford Pinto

The Ford Pinto was the first subcompact car offered by Ford in North America. They developed it in just 25 months instead of the regular 43 month cycle. Cars produced in Japan were very successful at that time. Thus, the Pinto was one of Ford’s initiatives in the subcompact segment. The Pinto came with a lot of expectations but unfortunately had some flaws.

Notably, reports show that the Pinto caught fire several times when it was involved in a rear-end collision. This was because of the location of the fuel tank in the rear. Spending hard-earned money and building a project car just to catch fire isn’t worth it.

Related: These Deathtrap Military Jets Make the Ford Pinto Look Safe

4 Best Left Alone: ​​2004-2008 Chrysler Crossfire

The Chrysler Crossfire was eye-catching, but at the same time, it failed to live up to enthusiasts’ expectations. The Crossfire is based on the first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK and shares almost 80% of its components. This makes the Crossfire a bit difficult to maintain.

It also shares the same power as the Mercedes SLK320, a 3.2-liter V6 offering 215 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. Even though it sounded like fun to drive, it didn’t make sense to pay Mercedes-level price for maintenance. So the Chrysler Crossfire might not be a perfect fit for a project car.


3 Best Left Alone: ​​1975 Chevrolet Monza

The Pontiac Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk and Oldsmobile Starfire all shared platforms with the Chevrolet Monza. Launched in 1975, the Monza had encountered many problems even before its launch. Chevy’s initial offering was a rotary engine which they had to drop due to emission standards and high fuel consumption.

But the new V8 power plant was also not engaging enough thanks to the emission standards. Today, the Monza is hard to find, which is why modifications to this car can also be a bit complicated. We can definitely custom make the parts, but for a project car, that doesn’t keep the price affordable.


2 Best Left Alone: ​​1997-2002 Plymouth Prowler

Although the design of the Prowler can be very subjective, the car complied with all modern features such as airbags, keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning, etc. But despite its modern Hot Rod appearance, the car just wasn’t fun to drive. Instead of a V8, the Prowler featured a V6 which could only produce 250 hp and didn’t even come with a manual gearbox option.

Since Plymouth’s withdrawal from the market in 2001, it has become very difficult to find after-sales support from the company. The modifications you can make to this car can be visual or change the engine a bit. Due to its very different design language, it is even very difficult to find parts that match.

Related: Here’s Why The World Needs More Hot Rods Like The Plymouth Prowler

1 Best Left Alone: ​​2004 Chevrolet SSR

Some cars make you wonder what the given design brief was for the car. One such example from the early 2000s was the SSR. It can be argued that it was a response to models like the Chrysler PT cruiser or the Plymouth Prowler, but the sales figures for these cars beg the question: has another vehicle of the same type ever was necessary?

Besides its funky looks, the SSR featured a lackluster 5.3-liter LM4 V8 engine mated to a 4-speed 4L60-E automatic transmission. Chevy chose this combo in a midsize SUV. It has a plethora of issues including but not limited to overheating, electrical issues, exhaust issues, a very poor interior, and transmission failures. Any hobby mechanic should avoid picking one up as a project car.

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