What should I get as a Project car?

Hello people of the internet. I'm Nico and today I will be gathering my thoughts on project cars generally, what I'm looking for, and how it's going.

7w ago

I'm sure there have been many people who have asked this question, as well as many people on here that can help answer it. So, I thought to myself, that this would be the ideal place to share my thoughts on project cars, and the dilemma that I am facing with getting one myself.

Why Should I Get A Project Car?

I honestly can not answer this. Let me explain why, you see the key word here is should. Many things in our lives are a "should", something that comes from a logical thought, often to complete a certain task. Take buying a daily driver as an example: most people do a checklist purchase, they look at price, fuel economy, insurance rates, etc. and based of this information, they make a logic based decision on what to buy. This same concept can not be applied to buying a project car, unless you are doing it purely to enhance your mechanical skills, which is normally achieved by taking classes. Simply put, there is NO logical reason to get a project car, so why should I get one? I shouldn't.

But, and this is a big, Sommer Ray, but, I WANT to. I want a car that I get to experience ups and downs with, a car that I can form a bond with, a relationship if you will. A car that puts a smile on my face when all it was able to produce that day was a frown. A car that gets my heart racing when I decide that my "leg day" is pressing the gas pedal through the firewall. A car that may even scare me from time to time. This is why I want a project car, but I'm still not sure what I should get, or even if I want to go through with it.

Why Should I Not Get A Project Car?

This is where my dilemma begins. As much as I like the idea of having a project car, I am very much a logical thinker, and a cheapskate too. I am willing to spend money on things I have to buy, though I don't like it, and I am willing to spend money when it is something I want, but often times I don't like to spend money. And parting with a rather large chunk of money is always a difficult thing, even if it is on a car that I really want. Furthermore, I still live with my parents, they are happy to still have me around and honestly I like living at home, but we already have enough cars. I currently drive a 2017 VW Jetta, my mom drives a Sienna, my dad drives my old car, a 2001 VW Jetta Wagon, and my brother drives a 2014 Jetta Wagon (a LOT of VWs, I know). On top of that, we still have an Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan that we haven't bothered to get rid of.

So, we have 5 cars already, which barely fit onto the driveway, and to add a 6th car would be nearly impossible. The only way it would be possible is to get rid of one of the cars, which would probably end up being either the Silhouette minivan or the 2001 Jetta Wagon. Now, I'm fine with the Silhouette going, I'm not especially attached to it and it is probably not much longer until it gives out. The only problem is that, currently, it does still run, and we still use it regularly for short trips around town, if my parents or the whole family decide to go mountain biking or kayaking. The "Kraken Wagon" as I call the 2001 Jetta Wagon, is simply my dad's daily driver, and if I get a project car, either that already runs or I get it running, then my dad would end up driving my current car, making the 2001 Jetta effectively a waste of space. So most likely the Kraken Wagon would be the one to go, which is something I don't really want because it is a car I am very much attached to. For reasons I can't explain I have come to love that ton and a half of 20 year old German engineering and to part ways with it would be as difficult as getting rejected by your crush.

I could just buy the Kraken Wagon off of my dad and make that my project car, and that is a consideration, but I have certain ideas for what I want my project car to be. Let me take you through my thoughts.

What I Am Looking For In My Project Car?

I have some parameters for what I would like my project car but it can very well be that I decide to adjust my parameters depending on what is available. As of right now, I want something with rear or all wheel drive, preferably rear wheel drive, and it has to be a manual. I know that's old school but I swear by manual transmissions and that is one feature I will stick to. The other big thing for me is the price, being a college student, I don't exactly have a big budget so I'm looking to stay under the $3k mark and preferably even $2k.

Of course I could only really get something that needs some serious work for much cheaper than that and, again, being a college student, I won't necessarily have tons of time on my hands to do much work. Small fixes, say changing the starter motor for instance, that's not a big deal but I have no intentions of doing any engine or transmission swaps or clutch replacements, things of that nature.

So what cars can I even get that meet my criteria? For starters, the SN95 and Foxbody Mustangs are a good option, though I imagine insurance wouldn't be the cheapest. Both of which are easily modifiable, were available with manuals, and are pretty fun to drive from the get go. These attributes make them great options, but they are very traditional options. Because they are very common they are not necessarily the most interesting.

This is by no means a necessity for me but I would be lying if I said that I prefer normal or cool to weird cars. Don't get me wrong, Mustang's are cool but something a bit more unique is always a good conversation starter, and like any car guy, I like to talk about unique cars. Enter, the Porsche 924, a mostly forgotten Porsche that has gotten very cheap over the years, so much so that I found one that I could afford. Obviously it requires a little bit of work but it's nothing I couldn't handle and it would definitely be more interesting at car meets than your average 2000s Mustang. The only worry for me would be maintenance as they were a more expensive car to begin with and would therefore be more expensive to maintain, but it is something I am also considering.

But I also like cars that are kind of chuckable, something like...a Miata. Yes, of course the Miata crossed my mind but as with the mustang, it is a very common car, popularity has its perks be in no doubt, but Doug Demuro seems to have rubbed off on me a bit because the Miata is just not "quirky" enough for me.

Here is where it gets a it off the rails. I said before that I wanted something that was rear wheel drive but I did also said that I would be willing to adjust my parameters based on what is available. Which brings me on to the Mitsubishi 3000gt. I first learned about it on Doug Demuro's channel when he reviewed the "VR4" variant and it did fascinate me. All the impressive tech like the active aero, four wheel drive, and four wheel steering was so weird but cool and I came to absolutely adore it. Now, the VR4 is far too expensive, both in terms of price and maintaining it. I don't care how reliable that engine may be, four wheel steering systems older than me are not something I want to deal with. But if you get a SL or other lower trim 3000GT, then you still get the fantastic V6 but without the worry of a very expensive repair bill. Of course the downside is that any 3000GT that is not a VR4 only came with FWD which would definitely take away from the fun factor, as well as cool factor.

But another car that came with a V6 driving the front wheels was the Golf GTI VR6. A VW, which I'm already a fan of and have decent experience with, a Golf, so its practical, and that incredible VR6 engine for a lot of smiles per gallon. A fantastic option and something that my parents might actually approve of. Better yet, because it is a practical car, I could drive it everyday without making any compromises for fun or practicality, making it the most logical option of my illogical decision. The main downside is that premium fuel is recommended, which is obviously more expensive but the insurance is significantly cheaper than a Mustang so it wouldn't be unaffordable.

So, What Is My Decision?

Well, after considerable debating with me, myself, and I, I have come to the conclusion that I don't really know. I'm going to wait a little bit longer until I have researched a bit more what cars are available, their faults, their specs, insurance rates, cost of ownership, etc. and then come to a decision. Ultimately it is a very big decision because it is a large amount of money, especially for a college student, so I don't want to be brash and spend $2k to $3k on a car that turns out to be a waste of time and money. I will undoubtedly spend more time talking with my parents and my friends to get some advice and other perspectives on it so I can hopefully make a safe, reasonable, and, most importantly, a decision that I will be very happy with.

Now, the whole point of me writing this article was partially just for me to organize my own thoughts. It is pretty incredible how much easier it is to make decisions after writing down and organizing all your thoughts on a sheet of paper or word document, rather than jumbling them around in your mind. I recommend you try it! But back to the topic at hand, the second reason I wrote this was to make others aware of what all goes into the decision of purchasing a car. It is going to be very expensive as well as time consuming and there are many factors that influence the decision and to shed some light onto it can help others in a similar situation.

So with that being said, I hope you enjoyed reading about my dilemma and that you learned something about either how I think or what all goes into making a purchase like this. I wish you all Good Luck, Godspeed, and that the Force be with you in all your endeavors!

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Comments (9)

  • My suggestion is a Dodge Neon SRT-4. I know it's FWD, but allow me to explain why this would make a good project at a decent price.

    They're only offered with a manual transmission and Chrysler manual transmissions are far more reliable than the automatics.

    You're also getting a 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with 215 horsepower that is turbocharged and intercooled. It also has a $6,000 OEM Brembo performance brake system.

    Most of the time, paint and body work is your only requirement to get these back to looking like new. I saw one the other day for $2,500.

    It's the perfect performance project car on a budget.

      1 month ago
    • I honestly didn't think about the neon but I'm glad you mentioned it!😅

        1 month ago
  • What about a Hardbody?

      1 month ago
    • I'm not the biggest truck enthusiast but I'll look into them. Anything I need to look out for or are all of them good with no issues?

        1 month ago
    • They are very reliable, and cheap they have a fun engine that has a lot of soul

        1 month ago
  • Miata all the way

      1 month ago