Your first car restoration project is always special, though be warned that it will involve a lot of blood, sweat and tears! Thankfully there are some vehicles that are a lot easier to restore than others.
What to look for when you’re buying your first project car
The main hurdle you’ll face with restoring a classic car is finding the right spare parts. It’s often more difficult to find parts for very old classics or high-end luxury vehicles. Make sure to do a little research on your first project car by checking for parts. And of course, be sure to check the car thoroughly before you make a purchase.
The Classic Mini is a great first restoration project as it’s easy to get your hands on spare parts, which will help keep your costs low. As the cost of restoration can quickly add up, you might want to consider the original Mini as a first project car.
Just be sure to look out for rot and rust. These are the main issues with the Mini. Make sure that when you’re choosing your car, you check the vehicle thoroughly for rust and rot – including under the carpets.
Whilst you can change the panels (and thankfully, these are usually available online), this will require a lot of welding. If you want to steer clear of welding, try to find a Mini with minimal rust.
Again, the body parts for the Citroen 2CV are readily available online, making them a great choice for your first restoration project. It’s also a gorgeous little car when restored, with a lot of history.
Of course, the Citroen 2CV’s sheer existence sparks a lot of debate. Designed as an alternative to the horse and cart for farmers in France, the 2CV has a springy suspension, which allowed farmers to travel off-road or on dirt roads without spoiling produce. This makes it hated by some but loved by others.
The main issue you should look out for on the Citroen 2CV is that, if the car’s chassis is damaged, it would be costly – both in time and money – to replace.
The VW Beetle is a great first car to restore – specifically the standard version, as there are more spare parts available for this version than any other model. Affordable, reliable and easy to work on, the Beetle is one of our top choices.
Once again, rust is the enemy with the Beetle. You’ll probably be able to find spare body parts for this vehicle, but if you know the car you’re looking at has rust, make sure to check that you can find the specific replacement parts you’ll need before you buy. On the positive, this might be a crash course in learning how to weld!
The VW Beetle can have some engine issues, but you shouldn’t have difficulties finding a replacement engine. This is because most engines for air-cooled Beetles are interchangeable.
Land Rover Series II or IIA
If you’re not keen on welding, working on a Land Rover can be a great option. You can find loads of spare parts online, meaning parts are often cheap to buy.
Land Rovers typically use bolts to join parts together, which makes them perfect if you don’t want your first car project to involve a lot of welding. Whilst you might need to do a little welding, this won’t be on the same scale as, say, a rusted Mini or Beetle.
According to the ReliabilityIndex, Land Rovers most frequently have axle and suspension issues, or electrical issues. If you’re looking to purely restore the vehicle yourself without any help from a professional, it might be good to bear these issues in mind before choosing a vehicle.
But as a plus, once your Landie’s been restored, you can take it out off-roading!
If you can get your hands on a Mazda MX-5 in good condition and without too much rust, they can be a great first restoration project. The Mazda MX-5 is extremely reliable, making it a great sportster for your first project. You won’t need to do too many welding jobs with this one, parts are cheap and plentiful, and you can even add some performance mods if you’re so inclined!
Final thoughts: beware of rust
As you can probably tell, rust is one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to restoration. If you’ve replaced some parts of the body to get rid of rusty parts, a great way of preventing further issues down the line is to cover your vehicle in a rust-proofing spray.
Before you decide on the car you want to restore, take a look at our blog on classic car restoration tips for beginners to consider if a restoration project is right for you. We also have a blog on 6 things to consider before you start restoring your classic and choosing your next classic car restoration project.
Classic car insurance experts
Whichever car you choose as your first restoration project, make sure to get adequate car insurance. As a specialist insurance broker for restored and modified classic cars, we can help ensure you get the right cover. Each of our policies is tailored to suit you, whether you need agreed value cover or like-for-like insurance. Plus, we offer discounts to car club and forum members, as well as limited mileage policies.