Best Project Muscle Cars

Wanting a muscle car is a dream every gear head can resonate with, and in order to learn, connect and safe costs undertaking a project build is understandable. Unlike most cars, muscle cars seem to age like fine wine. Large displacement engines and growly V8’s are the characteristics that make muscle cars something special. For this reason, this list compiles the 10 best project muscle cars that you can buy and work on and upon completion, enjoy on weekends.

What are Muscle Cars?

To put it simply, muscle cars offer large displacement engines with more focus on horsepower and torque. They are built for straight-line speed and are characterized by their raw exhaust notes and long hoods. In most cases muscle cars are associated with American manufactures. While that is true, some European and Japanese automakers have also ventured into the segment. Muscle or Pony cars emerged during the 1960’s and since have evolved. However, as of today, due to emission and environmental concerns, the muscle car breed is endangered.

Characteristics of a Project Muscle Car:

When undertaking a project, your car considerations should have the following characteristics:

  • Cheap base price
  • High aftermarket support
  • High tuning potential
  • Common and time-tested model

The Best Project Muscle Cars:

The best project muscle cars are as following:

12. Ford Mustang (Fox Body) (1979-1993):

The Fox body series of Mustang’s were produced from 1979 to 1993. They initially came with small displacement inline-4 and inline-6 engines to combat with the oil crisis, however later the 4.2L V8 and the famous 5.0L V8 were introduced. They had a distinct square shaped body and consisted of 3 generations. Getting a fox body mustang is pretty cheap and the 5.0L swaps are quite popular among enthusiasts. They are also very common, time-tested and have sufficient of aftermarket support. Making them a worthy contender on this list.

11. Lexus ISF (2008-2013):

When hearing the term ‘muscle cars’, big American V8’s come to mind, but some cars out of the USA also deserve that title, such as the Lexus ISF. The Lexus ISF, though a bit pricier than the previous two, encapsulates performance, reliability, practicality and comfort into one. That along with its superb induction noise makes it a must drive. The ISF, to be honest is an underrated gem, with people now realizing what a monster it is. It looks similar to an IS250, making it the perfect sleeper. It sure is a lot less stylish than what you’ll want your muscle car to be, but its practicality makes up for it.

10. Ford Mustang (SN95) (1994-2004):

The SN95 Mustang was introduced in 1994, right after the fox body. It underwent a major design change with more emphasis on a curvy exterior. V6 and V8 engines mated to automatic and manual transmissions were the available options. The SN95 series are considered as a bridge between the classic and modern mustangs. They introduced various comforts but performance packages with beefier engines and updated suspensions were still available. Many of them came with terminator superchargers as well, along with that distinct whine. Just like their predecessor, the SN95 follows all the parameters for a good project, earning it a spot on the list.

9. Plymouth Barracuda (1971):

The 1971 Plymouth Barracuda came out during the golden age of muscle cars. It boasted a long hood and a sleek design along with bucket eats and other amenities. Variety of engine options were available with one being the legendary HEMI 426 motor. It offered great performance, at least for the time. It classic construction steals views. A perfect consideration for a project build if you are into classics.

8. BMW M3/3-Series (E36) (With V8 Swap):

Now as this list focuses on project builds, therefore swaps and frankenstein builds are included. One of the best implementations of swaps can be seen here. The E36 3-series is a ridiculously cheap car to get into, and most certainly the most accessible way to get into German cars. while its stock inline-6 motor has its own pros, it is not really reliable. One could get a cheap E36, restore it, or modify it, then do a LS or UZ swap. Making your cheap BMW a reliable torque monster, ultimately a German muscle car.

7. Chevrolet Camaro (1982-1992):

A Camaro had to be on the list. While you could pick any generation you like, the 3rd gen is quite cheap to buy and had a variety of different engines and body styles to choose from. The engines ranged from a 2.5L 90 hp I4 to a 5.7L 230 hp V8. This along with its boxy and retro design make it THE muscle car. If done justice and built with love, it can end up a beautiful muscle car. But be sure to go with the high output versions, because the base I4 and optional V6 motors really aren’t known for their power.

6. Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG (2008-2014):

The first generation C63 AMG is regarded as one of the Mercedes’ crowning achievements, and a throwback to a time when Mercedes didn’t shy away from large displacement engines. The C63 came with a naturally aspirated 6.2L V8. It did not not only boast impressive performance but was also known for its loud and growly exhaust note and the capability to spins its wheels even with a slight throttle . It was the German muscle car that gave American muscle a run for their money. The C63 is the car that offers performance, thrills and comforts in a single package. As it it a Benz, therefore a higher project cost is to be estimated. Also to be mentioned, conversions are also a thing. Many shops convert regular C-classes into C63’s.If you are confident enough you could undertake this task yourself.

5. Chevrolet Camaro/Ford Mustang (5th Gen):

The 5th generations of both the Camaro and Mustang took muscle cars into the modern times. Combining modern amenities while paying respects to their predecessors, they showed how muscle cars can exist in every era. They offered good figures and performance out of the box and the higher performance trim levels just took them to a whole new level. This along with their high aftermarket support , time-tested designs and low base price makes them a must have.

4. Ford Mustang (1965):

A muscle car list can’t be complete without including the grandfather himself, that being the 1965 Ford Mustang, the one that started the breed and coined the term ‘pony car’. The Mustang brought cars a new category. This along with its timeless and classic design makes it the special deal . However, if you intend on choosing it, you won’t really have any aftermarket support and this wont be one cheap project build either. But the results can be mouthwatering, whether you choose to restore, modify or do a restomod.

3. Dodge Charger (1968-1970):

The Dodge Charger is an automotive icon. And the 2nd generation is just one timeless beauty. Its aggressive styling, long bodywork and fastback style commands your view. This along with its powerful HEMI engines (5.2L to 7.2L), made it one fast death trap. There’s a reason why it has been featured in media time and again. Just like the previous build, building one won’t be cheap or easy, but the results may tempt you anyway.

2. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (2nd & 3rd Gen):

The Pontiac Firebird shared the platform with the Camaro, and was introduced as a direct competitor to the Mustang. While being overshadowed by its popular brother at times, the Firebird’s iconic design and impressive performance have always helped it stand out. Its popularity can be characterized by its media presence. This along with its powerful engine options such as the 455 V8, a 7.5L powerhouse make it a must mention and a good project build consideration.

1. Dodge Challenger (Third Generation/2008- ):

There is no doubt that the final years of the 3rd generation Dodge Challenger took muscle cars to their final stage. Combining revolutionary technology like line-lock, immense supercharged power, all while paying homage to its predecessors, the Challenger is one of mankind’s masterpieces that will be remembered decades from now. While it is a much newer model so its kind of pricey and hence not a very suitable project build, therefore try to stick with a little older 3rd gen’s. You can supercharge, turbocharge, tune it to increase power or focus on other areas such as suspension.

There are a lot more muscle cars that deserve a mention, but in order to keep the list compact they are excluded. Japanese and German V8’s have been mentioned for someone with different options and tastes. And this concludes our list.

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