Home Automotive AdviceMods, Tuning, and Performance Best Project Cars Under 5k – Be A True Gearhead For Cheap?

Best Project Cars Under 5k – Be A True Gearhead For Cheap?

by Jordan Harris
Best Project Cars Under 5k

Are you interested in finding out which are the best project cars under 5k? Well, if that is the case, then you are at the right place because, in this article, we are going to cover all about the cheapest project cars that you can buy and learn more about the hottest models that you can get.

Buying a project car is probably every gearhead’s dream. We all have the desire to get a car with a lot of problems and sort it out and make it look spectacular. But you need to be really aware of these cars because even though they are project cars, they require a lot of money to have them sorted out properly.

Nevertheless, on the market, there are hundreds of models that you can buy for less than 5k. Both classic cars as well as more modern vehicles. And frankly, when it comes to a doable project car for a beginner, we would recommend going for something that is a newer, 80s, 90s, or early 00s car.

This is because older cars have a lot of parts that are not available on the shelf. And you could easily end up in a money pit if you are not prepared. But that’s why we are here, to help you out.

First, we are going to learn what is a project car and the reasons why to get a project car. Then, we will share our reasons why not to get a project car. And then we will look what are the best project cars under 5k. So, if you want to learn more, follow along.

What Is A Project Car

Now let’s take a look at what is a project car in general. A lot of people are having similar issues and are not familiar with this term so we need to clarify some things before we dive into the best project cars under 5k. So, let’s elaborate on this quickly before we dive into some more complex topics.

So, what is a project car? Well, a project car is a car that fell in disrepair and a person is purchasing the car with the hope of bringing it back on the road and returning it in perfectly mint condition. So, that’s why it is called a project. Since it needs a lot of work that has to be done to it in order to be brought back to life.

Best Project Cars Under 5k

There are all sorts of project cars. Project cars under 5k, and project cars under 30k. It really depends on what you really plan to work on. Since even some cars can be complete junk, they actually cost a lot to obtain.

Some of these models include famous classic cars like the second-generation Dodge Charger from the 60s and the Dodge Challenger from that era. As well as some other models like the Ford Mustang fastback and the first-generation Camaro.

These project cars cost a whole fortune to purchase. A bare shell can cost you sometimes 15 to 20k. Especially if it’s a well-optioned-out, numbers-matching car, with a title. Restoring this car would be really expensive.

But if you restore it properly, you could get maybe $80,000 from it or even more if it’s a special model. But what are the best project cars under 5k? Let’s see more on that in a bit.

Reasons To Get A Project Car

Now let’s take a look at the reasons why to get a project car. What are the perks of having a vehicle of this kind in your collection?

Well, having a project car is a good thing if you want to work on cars. This is a car on which you can work and not be afraid that you could mess up something.

You can learn a lot of skills on project cars. Starting from simple mechanical jobs like maintenance, brake jobs, suspension work, bodywork, and all sorts of fun activities.

Best Project Cars Under 5k

So, if you are in need of a challenge and you want to improve your skillset, then you definitely need a project car.

Another thing why you need a project car is if you have a favorite car from your childhood. For example, I always wanted to get a third-gen Camaro, I even had a big poster from it in my room. But now as I got older I’m able to obtain it as a project.

This is a good thing since you will be able to fulfill your childhood memories. Sometimes when we get older, we earn some money and we are able to experience some things that we couldn’t experience back in the day when we were kids.

So, if you are really into cars and you really have the desire to work on cars, then finding out the best project cars under 5k is always a good thing. But there are also reasons why not to do it. And more on that next.

Reasons To Avoid Getting A Project Car

Now that we covered the reasons why to get the best project cars under 5k, let’s move on and learn more about the reasons why not to get a project car. And we need to cover them as well since a lot of people are too excited and go for it, not thinking about the consequences.

Project cars can be dirt cheap to obtain. But they are not that easy to fix. You can expect to spend another $5,000 on parts to get the car back on the road again. And not to mention that there are also a lot of other things to fix on it as well. And you can easily spend double or triple the amount of money on the car to bring it back to life.

Best Project Cars Under 5k

The second reason why not getting a project is the time constraint. Let’s say that you are a busy person and you work a lot. Going for a project car would make little sense because you will not be able to finish it.

There are a lot of people purchasing these cars only to disassemble them into pieces and leave them like that in the garage to sit for years. And this is something you want to avoid.

So, only purchase a project if you have the amount of money to fix the car later on as well as the time required. But what are the best project cars under 5k? Let’s learn more about that next.

Best Project Cars Under 5k

Now let’s dive into the best project cars under 5k. In the following chapters, we are going to share our list with you and share what are the best cars that you can get as a project.

As we noted previously, we will focus on cheap cars that you can get as a complete car. This means cars that have all the parts on them and not just a bare shell. Since these cars are probably the thing you want as a beginner. So, let’s cover the models.

Best Project Cars Under 5k #1: Pontiac Fiero (1983 – 1988)

The first on our list of best project cars under 5k is the Pontiac Fiero. So, what is a Pontiac Fiero, and why precisely is this car to choose it as a project?

Well, the Fiero is basically an 80s icon, when you think about the 80s you immediately think about the Pontiac Fiero, Toyota MR2, or Chevy Camaro. These were the cars that defined the 80s sports car design in general.

The Pontiac Fiero was a mid-engined two-seater. And you don’t get a lot of mid-engined cars in this segment because this way of design is quite expensive to do.

That’s why Pontiac had to cut corners somewhere and make this car cheaper. So, all the body panels on this model are not made out of metal but out of plastic.

Pontiac also tried to make this model the most fuel-efficient GM car ever with the goal of 31 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway as they claimed. But this was far from true since the real numbers were much lower. About 32 mpg on the highway. This was reportedly due to the limiting factor which was the 3-speed automatic transmission.

What is good is that you can get this model with a 2.5L Pontiac engine known as the Iron Duke for the earlier models. Or with a 2.8L V6 in the later model years.

What is good about this model is that it is really easy to work on as a project. All the panels are easily removable and you can paint them one by one. Parts are dirt cheap and readily available at junkyards. That’s why we had to include the Fiero on our bet project cars under 5k list.

Best Project Cars Under 5k #2: Third-Gen Chevy Camaro (1982 – 1992)

Next on our list of best project cars under 5k is the 3rd gen Chevy Camaro produced from 1982 until 1992. Along with the Camaro, we can also recommend you the Pontiac Firebird from this era since they are genuinely the same car under the hood. But why this model specifically?

Well, mainly because the Camaro of this era is a true modern classic. It is not too old, and also not too new and difficult to fix.

This model is based on the good old F-body platform that was introduced in the late 60s with the first gen Camaro. So, under the hood, it is really simple and straightforward. Not to mention that you can find a project for even less than 5k.

These cars have gone up in value recently and they will increase even more. Especially the Z28 and the IROC-Z models.

Still, for this budget, your best bet would be to get a Camaro RS. Which is an entry-level car. Or the Pontiac Firebird entry-level model.

What is interesting about the Firebirds of this era was the introduction of Buick V6 turbo engines. These are rare finds. But in our book, they are probably the most worthy cars for proper restoration.

It’s also arguably a lot better looking than the fourth-generation ‘Catfish’ Camaro that came later. And if you’re looking for inspiration on what mods you can do to Camaros, we’ve looked at how a twin turbo kit fares for the Camaro V6. Now let’s move on to the next model on our list of best project cars under 5k.

Best Project Cars Under 5k #3: Buick Regal (1978 – 1987)

Now let’s cover another very cool model on our list of best project cars under 5k. And this is the Buick Regal. But not any Regal, we are primarily interested in the second generation of the Regal produced from 1978 to 1987. And more specifically, we are interested in the coupe version. Why the coupe?

Well, because it was the coolest car back in the day that Buick made. And also the car that was produced in very high numbers by Buick. In the golden era of this model, they were making these cars like pancakes, with more than 250,000 units annually for the first three model years.

Sales slowly start to decline. But even in the worst 1987 model year, the Regal was produced in 65,000 units.

This is basically a GM A-body platform car from 1978 to 1981 and a G-body car from 1981. In fact, there was no difference between the two. GM only renamed the RWD models of the A-body into G-body. The cars are genuinely the same underneath the skin.

What is interesting about these cars was that they were true sleepers. Especially the high-performance models like the Grand National and the iconic 1987 Buick GNX. These were turbocharged V6 models that produced a ton of power and earned their legendary status. They will break the bank if you have a 5k budget.

But what you can do is get a standard Regal and make a Grand National clone car. A standard Regal can be found for dirt cheap since there were plenty of them made. And with a good black paint job at your home and some Grand National wheels, you can make a proper-looking Grand National replica.

Now let’s move on to the next on our list of best project cars under 5k.

Best Project Cars Under 5k #4: Third-Gen Ford Mustang (1979 – 1993)

Now let’s cover something really cool on our list of best project cars under 5k. And this is the Ford Mustang. But not any Mustang, we are specifically interested in the Fox Body Mustang from the 1980s.

This is the third generation of this legendary nameplate that was introduced in 1979 and was produced until 1993. This Mustang had the longest stint out of any Mustang model up to date. And its design is really timeless. There are a lot of Fox Body lovers out there. And if you are one of them, this car will be perfect for you.

This model was produced over three different decades. And each of these models has something special. It is up to your preference which model you want to work on. Personally, I really like the early 80s models of this generation since they have that 80s vibe to them.

They might not be packing a lot of power. But this is why they are rather cheap and affordable to purchase on the second-hand market.

The most powerful engine is the 4.9L V8 that is producing about 200hp. What is interesting about this model is that during this era of the early 80s they started to use EFI. Which is electronically regulated fuel injection.

And these made these cars a lot more reliable than previous generation models. Our guide on how many miles do Ford Mustangs last is quite telling of this. Now let’s move to the next model on our list of best project cars under 5k.

Best Project Cars Under 5k #5: Ford Probe (1989 – 1997)

Now let’s cover something really dirt cheap and one of the best project cars under 5k. And this is the Ford Probe. So, what is the Ford Probe?

Well, the Probe was intended to be the replacement for the Fox Body Mustang. But unfortunately, this didn’t come to light.

If you didn’t know, Ford at the time had a very strong partnership with Mazda. Some even wondered does Ford own Mazda. So, they outsourced the Probe from them.

The Probe was based on the Mazda GD platform that was shared with the Mazda MX-6 and the Mazda 626. And there were two generations in a total of the Ford Probe. The first generation was from 1988 to 1992. While the second generation was from 1993 to 1997.

And the Probe was a decent replacement for the people who couldn’t get a Mustang. What is good about these models is that included both Mazda and Ford engines And there were a lot of options available for the buyers.

And what is good about this model is that this car is dirt cheap. These vehicles can be found for a really good price and you can basically do whatever you want to them. Not to mention that they are reliable a beater car that can run forever.

And when we are talking about reliable beater cars, you will also enjoy our next addition to the list of best project cars under 5k.

Best Project Cars Under 5k #6: Dodge Neon (1993 – 2005)

Another on our list of best project cars under 5k is the Dodge Neon. So, what is a Dodge Neon?

Well, the Neon was a model that was sold by Chrysler and Dodge in the 90s and early 00s. This model was a small front-wheel-drive compact car that sold extremely well back in the day. And also the overall looks of the model are really darn good, even from today’s perspective.

There were two generations of the Neon. One from 1993 to 1999 and the second generation from 1999 to 2005. There was also a third generation introduced in 2016. But we are only interested in the first two models.

What is interesting about these two models is that they often include some fun little engines. The 2.0L in the first generation. And the 2.4L turbo from the second generation. And if you want something really fun, the turbo model is the way to go.

Not to mention that these models are dirt cheap. You can even find them for a few hundred dollars. And you can reinvest your money from the budget in sorting out.

Best Project Cars Under 5k #7: Chevy Cobalt (2004 – 2010)

Also, another interesting model that is worth your attention is the Chevrolet Cobalt. Namely, the first generation of the Cobalt produced from 2004 to 2010.

This model is also a very popular and fun machine to drive. Some of the models have a 2.0L turbocharged engine that is very tunable and able to produce a ton of power. Not to mention that the car is far more contemporary than any other model that we listed so far.

So, if you want a car with more modern looks, the Cobalt is the way to go in our book. Now let’s conclude this article on the best project car under 5k.

In Conclusion…

In this article, we have covered quite a bit when it comes to project cars. First, we learned what a project car really is and the reasons why you should get a project car, and the reasons why not to get a project car.

Then we shared our list of best project cars under 5k. We listed mainly models from the 80s, 90s, and early 00s. Since these models are by far the most affordable out there and perfect for this budget of $5,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now let’s answer some frequently asked questions.

What Is A Project Car

A project car is a used car that is in really rough shape but it has some sentimental value to the owner. So, he purchases the car in order to return it back to its former glory.

How To Find A Project Car

Your best bet for this would be to go online and look on websites like Craigslist, eBay Motors, and Facebook Marketplace. There are some really good deals here and there if you constantly monitor the postings and if you are quick enough, you can get a hell of a deal.

What Cars Are Good For Beginners

A good car for a beginner is usually an older vehicle that is not very powerful. So, until the beginner driver learns how to drive and how to park well, it is not recommendable to drive something fast and unpredictable.

Where To Buy Cheap Used Cars

You can buy cheap used cars on websites like eBay Motors, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. Especially on Craigslist, there are a ton of offerings when it comes to cheap cars. People just want to get rid of old cars and they post them on these websites.

Is A Coupe A Sports Car

A coupe has the potential to be a sports car but not every coupe is a sports car. There are cheap coupes that include underpowered engines. But there are also more expensive coupes with powerful engines and sporty suspension components.

How To Make A Car Look Sporty

You can make a car look sporty by replacing the standard shocks with custom coilovers. Also, you can add a cold air intake to improve the performance of the engine a little bit. In addition to this, you can also install visual mods like bumper splitters, side skirts, rear spoilers, etc.

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