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sports car project car recommendations

deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
edited April 2014 in Jaguar
I was hoping for some recommendations for a project car. I'd like to find a cool car in the 5-10 thousand dollar range with a good body but needing work on the rest of the car. I'm not an experienced car mechanic but I"m good at fixing things, learning as I go. I guess I need something that has available parts, isn't too "computerized" and would be fun to drive as a spare car.
I have no idea if these meet my criteria, but some cars that I like are: Jag XKE, old Porsche 911, old mustang, old vette, old triumphs or mg's.
Basically, I've moved to rural NH and need somthing fun to occupy me through the winter. Thanks very much for any ideas.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    You can't go wrong with an old Mustang or old MG. The other cars you mentioned have a lot of snags...the XKE you can't touch for $10K (even a wreck) and it's a bear to work on. The Porsche 911 is also a tricky car that you don't want to buy "with needs".

    An old Corvette, especially the less desirable ones at the moment, might do the trick, too (late 70s, early 80s). Triumphs are really pretty cheesy cars.

    So I'd say in terms of ease and parts and fun factor, the MGB or the Mustang 5.0, and then after that a late coke-bottle Corvette or a late 80s C4. I'd avoid the XKE or 911 in the price range you are shooting for---you'll never come out alive.
  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    Thanks for the tips. That's what I was looking for! Although I was hoping you'd say "go with the Jag". I love the old xke. A mustang sounds great. Any thoughts on 289 vs 351?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    The XKE is a very complex car to "get right"...engine removal is a massive undertaking (engine and transmission comes out the BOTTOM of the car, as one 1,000+ lb unit---think about that a minute!) and getting body panels to line up is maddeningly difficult. If you are not an expert in bodywork and mechanics, this car will walk all over you. I can hardly think of a more difficult undertaking than the restoration of an XKE.

    As for the Ford V-8, that's a matter of opinion more than there being a "right" answer. I don't personally like "beasts" so the 289 to me is the perfect size for a Mustang or a Cobra replica (something else you should consider as a project by the way). However, getting 300+ HP out of a 351 is certainly possible without spending huge sums of money.

    Also you should consider that the Mustang 5.0 chassis is a real flexi-flyer and you don't want to be adding too much HP without some drastic bracing of the frame and upgrading of suspension of brakes---all of which can get expensive over time.

    The C4 on the other hand, while not a superb handler, is probably easier to make into a good handling (if rough riding) car.

    MGBs handle great and are very forgiving. You'd have to be a real klutz to get in trouble with one. I prefer the MGB coupe because it is very strong and very functional. Plan on installing an overdrive if it doesn't have one.

    Some people are tempted by the Triumph TR8 and you might want to drive one and see for yourself.

    A good entry level Porsche would be the 914, which is VW powered and can be made to handle very very well indeed, if you might like do to some Solo racing or some such.

    The Porsche 944 is also a good entry level car but parts are not cheap by any means and the resale value is low. Fantastic handling car however.
  • 1racefan1racefan Member Posts: 932
    would be a 1st generation Miata. I prefer '92-'97 myself. In my area, you can typically find one with under 80K miles for well under $9,000. There are a ton of performance parts for these guys, as well as a lot of reference materials available for working on them.

    You won't get the "out of the hole" performance that a V8 sports car would produce, but the Miatas are a blast in the twisties.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Sounds like, judging from his list, that he was looking for something more "classic" and less everyday than a Miata...but I'll let him speak for himself on that.
  • lilengineerboylilengineerboy Member Posts: 4,116
    That XKE is probably beyond the means and capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers, and I think they will likely make it worse instead of better. Whats worse, is those are actually worth something so you could potentially ruin something of value. If you were looking for an investment car, that might be good.
    Mustangs are fun and unsophisticated, and reasonably plentiful. It is good for a do it yourselfer because most of the systems are relatively simple and service can be done at home, without enough computers to control a military action.
    What shiftright said about the Mustang is true (although my experience has only been with fox chassis '79-92). My friend's convertible cracked its windshield driving up a driveway.
    MGBs are cool, I personally would go for the earlier metal bumper cars as opposed to the later rubber bumpers. I believe there is a kit for Healeys to use a Toyota 5 speed unit, probably adaptable to MGs, so if you weren't worried about originality, that would get you overdrive.
    If you can't find a TR8, TR7s are usually close to free, and have been rumored to house Buick 3800 V6s with turbo without a problem. Again, something that wouldn't be authentic, but would certainly be original (a Reesto-mod).
    If you go with a 914, I would say the one to get is a pre-74 2.0 litre (or better still, a 914-6, but those are $$$). VW motor or not, the parts are still expensive. Pelican Parts has a lot of Porsche parts and might be a place to check on prices for repair items.
    Again on the resto-mod theme, get a 914 with a 1.7 or 1.8, on the cheap, pull that underpowered weezer, and throw in a EA82 or EJ20 Subaru engine. Not a whole lot of power, but a whole lot more than what was in there before.
    944s are sweet, handle well, but are cheap enough many have been neglected and the parts to put them right again haven't depreciated as much as the car. A Porsche 928 is also in there, a big V8 and a 5spd with a rough clutch, or a MB automatic if you are into that kind of thing.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    All and/or interesting advice---thanks!

    Yeah, if you could take out the TR7 engine and transmission and throw them overboard for an anchor, that might tempt me to include that car on the list.

    If you are going to stiffen the frame on a Fox chassis, be sure to weld the supports in...don't use a bolt on frame brace.
  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    Thanks everyone for all the great information. Seems there are plenty to choose from. It's true that I'm more interested in a classic sort of car, so the miata is not really what I'm looking for even though it's a great little car. I'm also far from an expert on cars and have never undertaken a project like this before, so I appreciate the warnings on the XKE, etc.
    I guess I'll see what's available from the list you've provided and go from there. It will be fun to go at it and learn as I do. I would imagine that many of the older cars will have rust. This will probably be the hardest thing to fix since body work is probably more of an art than engine restoration.
    Apropos of rust, does anyone think a DeLorean would be a good choice? Weren't they made of aluminum or some other non rusting metal?
  • deepdropdeepdrop Member Posts: 89
    Jeez! I just looked up used DeLoreans and they're like $28,000!!!!!!
    You used to be able to get one for a song!
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,454
    I remember reading a story like this (CBS) a few years ago about restoring older Mustangs and gas tank explosion risk.

    I assume that there are some things that can be done to make the installation safer.

    Any other potential time bombs out there to look out for? (VW Bug squashability comes to mind).

    Steve, Host
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well any Delorean owner asking $28,000 is merely exercising his First Amendment rights...he'll never see that kind of money. About $18K for a show car would be plenty.

    A Delorean really isn't much of a sports car...the engine is anemic and while Lotus did design the suspension, the car is rather ill-conceived...

    As for rust, just avoid rusty cars altogether if you can. If you can't, you're better off going with a car that has a huge aftermarket support system---for aftermarket parts of any kind you can't beat MGB or Mustang. You can buy any part you need for either of those two cars, delivered two days to your door UPS. You can even buy an entire new body for your MGB.
  • empiredjempiredj Member Posts: 21
    Honestly if your not good with working on cars or still learning, getting somethin more modern will simplfy things alot.

    Tuning is the one BLACK ART that computers generally eliminate as most ECU/PCM are self-adjusting.

    My suggestion is to go with a Miata, also.

    Its classic in its own right, okay so its not a small Lotus or MG, but it will sure OUT DISTANCE those cars in a hurry and parts are ALOT easier to source when you need them. Not going to find alot of spare parts at Pep Boys for an MG or TR6.

    You can pick up a good 1st gen Miata for under $5,000

    From there, skies the limit...

    You can build anything from a lightweight canyon carver all the way up to fire-breathing Mustang eater. Try that with an MG short of putting a small block Chevy in one first....

    There's Miata's cracking the 400hp barrier on a regular basis and Ric Stephen's has run low 10's on BFG drag radials in his turbocharged Miata.

    A good "newbie" Miata would be nice simple suspension mods, lightweight 15" wheel package and maybe a supercharger kit to add another 50-60hp. Add a nice free-breathing exhaust, get a new chip tune for the computer and you'll be very happy until the HP bug hits and your ripping that blower kit off for one of the many turbo kits available.

    Older Mustangs usually need so much work just to get the point where you can start modifying things. Same with MG's and again, you can build a hot MG motor with rare and limited aftermarket parts. The reason half that stuff is even around is all the die in the wool British car lovers keep racing them, when technology has clearly passed them by to the point that SCCA needs to keep making rules adjustments...

    My .02
  • cfrinkcfrink Member Posts: 2
    Triumph TR8 is the way to go. I see some who snub the TR7/8 (one who says throw the 7 motor overboard-doesnt know what he is talking about). I own 2 TR8s and an early TR7. All run well with no problems. One TR8 has over 300hp and is kind of a handfull but LOTS of fun when you can show some Vettes your tail lights. They are not perfect but parts are available and are no more expensive than some and LOTS less expensive than others. I have owned a number of "sports cars" the years and have the best of them all in the TR8. Comfort, power, speed, reasonable MPH (if thats what you are looking for) and, for my nickle, decent looks.
    Porsche-if you have LOTS of expendable cash.
    MG-Decent but not exciting.
    Mustangs-pricey and not THAT good but fun
    Miata-decent cars but do NOT do much for me personally
    TVR-can be reasonable but not much power till you get to the V8 cars
    Datsun Z cars-Really good for a beginner. Mechanically sound, can be made to perform (get an 82-83 Turbo)-no ragtops-can be rust prone so be careful.

    My 2 cents worth.
  • paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    What will you be doing with the sports car?

    Road Racing?

    I'd look at Hondas (Honda Challenge is a good series), E30 BMWs (Spec E30 series) Also Miatas (Spec Miata) is another great road race class.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    How'd you get 300 HP out of that small V8?

    If your TR7 runs well you are one lucky dude. Someone must have re-machined the block studs for the head or maybe put in Racewear studs or something like that. TR7 cylinder heads are like rubber.
  • cfrinkcfrink Member Posts: 2
    Easy--stroker motor (5.0)--12.5/1 comp-good cam with ENOUGH carb-and all the usual hot rod mods. I know of a few 5.0L cars with over 300hp (12.5 sec 1/4 mile cars-118+mph traps).

    My TR7 has 70k original-uses no oil (drips a minute amount-British after all)-has good stock compression AND has NEVER been allowed to overheat (BIG NO-NO). I have seen many of these cars go way over 100k with no work at all, just good routine maintainence. If you abuse a TR7 it WILL bite you HARD. Drive it as hard as you like but keep the engine clean and you have a reliable, if slow, car. 90hp these days does not have much of a "fun" factor but it IS quicker than a TR6 and a LOTS more comfortable car to be in. I have done 750 miles a day with no fatigue at 70+ mph and 30mpg.
    My 2nd TR8 has 190/200 hp and is a nice car to drive with adequate power. NOT a tire shredder, just a good cruiser.

    Try a TR7 again. Get a good one and you will have a rewarding car without all the associated gremlins some folks have come to know with an abused car. You can always dump a 4.0/4.6 in and get an easy 275 dead reliable hp. It does not take too much to get lower than 1hp/10 lbs and that friends, "ain't bad".
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I haven't got the guts to own a TR7 again...besides, it's a matter of taste, and I don't like the styling. When I think that they killed MG to make the TR7.....grrrrrr :mad:

    You know, the TR7 was on paper a pretty okay car, but as happens with all under-capitalized companies going broke, the R&D fell into the hands of the consumer. You gotta really love a car like a TR7 to tolerate its faults, like I did with my 928 Porsche...also a nuisance if you aren't very vigilant, but a good car if you're on top of it.
  • fadetoblackiifadetoblackii Member Posts: 29
    You can probably find a 4th gen Camaro/Firebird in that range. You won't want it if you're a diehard mustang guy, but you mentioned the Vette so I thought I'd throw it out there. You buy a 98-02 model and you get 305-325 (Z28-SS)hp out of the box (the 01-02 models had the LS6 intake manifold which boosted it even further). Look up a couple websites (LS2.com is a good place to start) to see what kind of performance mods are available. 12 second car with bolt ons isn't bad for what you'll pay. The mustang will require much more modifications, but if you just like the 5.0 body then I can't blame you one bit. Happy tuning!
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