Home » What Completely Ordinary Car Would You Painstakingly Restore To Original Condition? Autopian Asks

What Completely Ordinary Car Would You Painstakingly Restore To Original Condition? Autopian Asks

Ford Cayman Escort Gt Aa
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Some car enthusiasts spend incredible amounts of money bringing their favorite vehicle back to factory condition. Many of these vehicles will be the icons of our past, such as the Volkswagen Bus, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, the Ferrari F40, and all kinds of classic muscle cars and sports cars. All of that is great and allows future generations to see pristine examples of the olden days of car design. But this shouldn’t be limited to just automotive legends. What completely ordinary car would you painstakingly restore to its original condition?

The answer to this question varied throughout the Autopian virtual offices. Matt Hardigree responded with the car that’s in the topshot, the 1994 Ford Escort GT. Shitbox Showdown prize fight promoter Mark Tucker responded with a 1979 Fiat 128, telling us that the car brought back childhood memories – that’s the actual Tucker-family Fiat pictured below! Me? I’d painstakingly restore my 2012 Smart Fortwo.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Yes, I know, it’s not that old of a car. But a younger version of me took that poor car for granted, forcing it to tow U-Haul trailers all over the Midwest for over 20,000 miles. Then, I subjected the little lad to three Gambler 500 endurance rallies, put it into tug-of-war battles against diesel trucks, and bent a subframe trying to pull a Toyota Tacoma out of a mud hole. I’ve burned the clutch, driven it through creeks, and the car even taken a bullet and been on fire, too.

Aa Interior Graphic 2

I treated that car like a truck and now that I’m older, I’m facepalming myself over it. Sure, I proved that Smarts are unbelievably tough machines, but my unfortunate test subject was my teenage dream car and the car that taught me that I could do anything I wanted to do. One day. I want to make things right with my little Tucker by bringing him back to factory spec.

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One of my favorite stories of restoring an ordinary car is the story of Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges’ restomodded 1993 Acura Legend. Ludacris bought the Legend used in 1999 before he became a legend in his own right. For many people, a used luxury car is just a stepping stone to something bigger and better later on. But Ludacris is a car enthusiast in every sense of the term, and even though he has more than enough money to buy cars most of us could only dream of owning, that ’90s Acura holds a place in his heart. Ludacris even featured the car on social media, parking it next to far more expensive private jets.

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Acura

In 2015, the car was wrecked, but instead of letting Luda’s beloved Legend die, Acura restored the vehicle to its original factory condition and then modded it to his liking. An Acura Legend with 255,000 miles would be a beater to anyone else, but Ludacris doesn’t care – he loves it. The car even still makes occasional appearances on social media!

Here’s where I turn things to you, dear reader. What totally and completely ordinary car would you devote all the money, sweat, and tears required to restore it back to factory condition?

 

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TommyG
TommyG
2 months ago

1971 Fiat 850 Spider in Veridian Green. Bought in spring of 71 and we owned it for over 30 years before the rear structure rusted through. Loved that car. Over the years we owned an 850 Sedan, a Coupe and a Racer (fixed hard top) too. Still have an open header/exhaust hanging in the garage as a reminder 🙂

Isis
Isis
2 months ago

A 1992 Acura Integra GS-R
I had a GS as my first nice-ish car when I was like 18-19. I loved that thing.

The escort pictured above was a very similar, lightweight, agile and peppy ride. Really fun cars.

Last edited 2 months ago by Isis
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Isis

This is a great answer. While my tastes run toward the Ford Probe (see below), I won’t deny the Integra was the best do-it-all sporty car of that era. Nothing else matched it.

Isis
Isis
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

A friend of mine had the probe and my GF had a MX-6. Both legit cars but the V6 made them nose-heavy and they just felt more like a touring car than a tossabout. . . but legit candidates for sure.

Holly Birge
Holly Birge
2 months ago

So I was actually thinking about this recently. I’m thinking of selling my Celica later this year as I want a pre-1996 Honda Accord 2-door with a manual transmission. So that is my answer.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

Dodge Rampage.

Clark B
Clark B
2 months ago

I’m currently restoring a 1972 Super Beetle I’ve had since I was 11, a process that 20 years later is still happening. It’s always been a driving project but now I’m making better money, I’m saving up to have someone fix the extensive rust. I’ll finish going through everything I haven’t already fixed when it’s torn down for that. It’ll never be showroom fresh though, I’m keeping the inexpensive paint job I had done when I was 17, even though my bodywork wasn’t the best and you can still see some dents. I’ve redone the seats but most of the interior is original and a little shabby, but I’m okay with that too. My goal is originality and I’d rather have something a bit worn out but original. What I have replaced has been with original parts or with reproductions based on factory specs.

I’d love a Mercedes W123 though. Friend of mine had a 300D in high school (it ran on cooking oil) and we beat the everloving shit out of that car. It was in pretty bad shape to begin with but absolutely refused to die. Having a wagon in showroom condition would be amazing.

Random Shots
Random Shots
2 months ago

The first one I owned:

1990 Mazda Mx-6 GT with a five speed manual.

https://consumerguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/91807081990208.jpg

Last edited 2 months ago by Random Shots
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Random Shots

The MX-6 doesn’t get the love (or remembrance) it deserves. The ’90s version was quite handsome too.

S C
S C
2 months ago
Reply to  Random Shots

Also had one of those. Insanely fun car for $500. Taught many people to drive stick on that

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Random Shots

My first car was an ’88 MX-6 GT in a very well worn version of that same red. Sadly, I bought it from the rust belt sight unseen, so I had to move on to my second car rather quickly. The poor thing was still in great mechanical shape, though.

I’d love to restore an MX-6 4WS from that generation.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago

XV10 Camry. Developed alongside the Lexus ES, it had bubble-era levels of interior quality, body panel thickness, and paint finish. Toyota did such a good (and expensive) job that when the Camry was freshened for 1997, they had to dumb it down massively. In many ways, the 1992-1996 Camry is one of the best cars ever built.

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
2 months ago

That’s one of mine too! Get that v6 wagon with the twin rear wipers

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago

And the coupe, oh the coupe. I had a chance to buy one new back in the day, and I didn’t. Still think about that, and if I had, I’d likely still be driving it.

Staffma
Staffma
2 months ago

Currently working on a plan/ accumulating new body panels to do this to my 71 triumph spitfire . With Victoria British gone I think I’m going to have to go across the pond for my panels.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
2 months ago
Reply to  Staffma

Wow, what happened to Victoria British? I didn’t know. We used to have a whole set of their catalogs here at the store.

Staffma
Staffma
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sexton

Moss bought them out in 2020. I’m starting to run out of parts I ordered in my last minute huge order.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
2 months ago
Reply to  Staffma

Genuine question, what’s wrong with Moss then?

Staffma
Staffma
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt Sexton

Nothing particularly wrong with moss, but their website and catalog are not as good as VB was, their prices seem noticeably higher than other similar vendors and VB had more less common items for my specific vehicle .

H4llelujah
H4llelujah
2 months ago

This is going to sound silly, but a 1991 Chevy K1500 Silverado.

Single cab, shortbed, 4×4. Black over Gray two tone, with the light gray bucket seat interior.

Positively the pinnacle of personal pickup truck perfection.

Greensoul
Greensoul
2 months ago
Reply to  H4llelujah

If only full size trucks were that size again. Styling on your pick was very handsome and still is. The new trucks are so overwrought they pain my eyes to look at them.

Mike S
Mike S
2 months ago
Reply to  H4llelujah

From the heady days when GM didn’t try to make all their trucks somehow resemble “Sloth” from the Goonies 🙂

Gene1969
Gene1969
2 months ago
Reply to  H4llelujah

This is a great choice. I salute you.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
2 months ago

The plan when I hit the lottery is to ship my Mercedes-Benz CLK350 convertible to the MB Classic Center in Long Beach and have them do a full restoration.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
2 months ago

I am not sure I could do 100 percent original. Any car that I had would have some kind of weakness or easy improvement that I would want to make.

For example, my 1989 Thunderbird Super Coupe: yes I would love an original one, but the electronically controlled shocks are no longer made, and a resonator upgrade makes a difference in reliability and power, so I would want to do that.

My SVT Contour: gosh, a 3.0 swap wakes them up.

I am kind of at the point in my life wherenif I am taking on a project, I want tk make it mine.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

I’d love to fully restore a 67 MGB. It was the perfect slow fast car I’d ever driven. Ever since mine was totaled by a drunk driver, I always wanted another one

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
2 months ago

Car I’ve owned? 2002 Protege5.

Car that was in my family? Maybe my dad’s 1980 Rabbit (German built). Or my moms 1985 Civic hatch (but manual not semi-automatic).

Nick Ginther
Nick Ginther
2 months ago
Reply to  IanGTCS

I also had a Protege5 my was an 03 5sp. I wish I still had it. Good answer.

Holly Birge
Holly Birge
2 months ago
Reply to  IanGTCS

The Protege5s were great cars. Excellent choice.

Greensoul
Greensoul
2 months ago
Reply to  Holly Birge

One of my neighbors still has a yellow one as a daily. Sadly, the tin worm has had its way with it and it’s not long for the world.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago
Reply to  IanGTCS

Man, I wanted one of those Protege5’s so bad. It was so handsome and compact, and seemed – not that I remotely know if this is true or how to do it if so – that it would make a sick sleeper.

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
2 months ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I knew a guy who put a 2.5l v6 in one from another Mazda, may have been a JDM only engine. Couple of guys who put large turbos on. The engine was the biggest letdown in the car, just needed a little more power. Also didn’t do well with boost, the connecting rods had a habit of snapping under boost. Had great handling which made up for the lack of power.

Also they rusted quickly. Mine was one of the few I saw around without rear wheel well arch rust when I traded it in on my mustang.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 months ago
Reply to  IanGTCS

I had a Silver ’02, five-speed – the only car I ever bought new, and likely to remain that way. I did find a black one for sale in May 2020, but the seller went into some sort of COVID hibernation and ended up vanishing. Arrgghhhh!

Nick Ginther
Nick Ginther
2 months ago

Buick Park Ave Ultra or Oldsmobile LSS

Edit to add.
Buick Century Wagon from the early 90s
Or a Roadmaster Wagon but I feel like that doesn’t quite fit the question.

Last edited 2 months ago by Nick Ginther
Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
2 months ago
Reply to  Nick Ginther

Yes x100000000 to the PAU! Restomod it with a modernish radio and go nuts on the drivetrain. Smaller pulley, water to air intercooler, rockers, ported intake and exhaust along with a good tune. Build a stout 4T65-HD to hold that 330ish HP and 400ish ft/lbs. The LS4 Impala SS folks figured that part out. Next, make it handle with poly sway bar bushings and sticky tires. Last, make it stop with larger brakes. Those were under-braked from the factory.

Mike S
Mike S
2 months ago
Reply to  Nick Ginther

1994 Park Avenue Ultra with supercharged 3800 is peak Buick. Love it 🙂

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
2 months ago

First, I want to bring attention to the my favorite Escort GT: https://www.instagram.com/projectrattles/

One of my best friends had an second-gen SHO in that beautiful dark green. It sat dead on his driveway, getting subsumed by weeds. To this day, he refuses to say what happened. I wish I could have saved and restored that (or, failing that, yank the engine out to make a pretty coffee table).

I would love to “restore” my 10-year-old Mazda3. 150,000 miles of city life have taken its toll.

Last edited 2 months ago by Chris Stevenson
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago

A Ford Probe. ’80s or ’90s, both have their charms.

A now-striking, lithe sport hatch (with popups!) possessed of an engaging character that you could reasonably drive every day.

Holly Birge
Holly Birge
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

My husband had a 1990 Ford Probe with the V6 when I met him. I drove that car and it was really nice. He really regrets having sold it in 1997.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Holly Birge

Just wonderful. They came and largely went before I could afford one, but a friend had one the first year they came out, and I’ve always liked how they hit the sweet spot between motoring cool and everyday practicality.

Wezel Boy
Wezel Boy
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I’ve never owned a Probe, but I fully support this. My first car was a Mazda 626, and it was badass. Ford managed to make a better looking car on the same platform, so this would be my answer also. Shame about the name though.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Wezel Boy

I’ll fully admit the (original) Acura Integra is probably objectively the best jack-of-all-sport-coupe-trades from this era, but I just can’t resist the packaging of the Probe.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
2 months ago

Thinking my 1985 Subaru Brat, it had rust issues, I tried to fiberglass repair it, gas tank leaked so did some sealing there, carburetor didn’t carburete so good and I enventually gave up. But it was just a hoot to tool around the yard and the snow in, it had t-tops, all kinds of cool, didn’t even get it through registration with all it’s issues and too young and poor to spend the money and get it all good at the time.

Wezel Boy
Wezel Boy
2 months ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

From my favorite web comic ever-

https://achewood.com/2003/12/01/title.html

Abdominal Snoman
Abdominal Snoman
2 months ago

I’m a fan of “fast” but practical wagons that aren’t German, so something like a Legacy GT, IS300, or V70R from the late 90’s early 00’s

Toecutter
Toecutter
2 months ago

Mercedes-Benz 240D; These damned things can last a lifetime, and can be run on an assortment of petroleum alternatives.

Honda Insight 1st gen w/5-speed manual; lightweight aluminum body resistant to corrosion coupled with low drag and an efficient engine, makes for a fun to drive inexpensive car that I’d want to keep for the rest of my life.

Nissan Altima 3rd gen SE-R w/6-speed manual; this thing is a sleeper. Parts are commonly available, it’s economical to operate, and reasonably efficient.

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago

Wow. I just realized that I have never owned an ordinary car.

Mike S
Mike S
2 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Honestly, me neither. That’s a good thing. 🙂

SAABstory
SAABstory
2 months ago

A Saab 900 turbo 3 door. Like you expected anything else with my username.

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago
Reply to  SAABstory

Not ordinary. Just awesome.

TheNewt
TheNewt
2 months ago

Not totally ordinary, I guess, but my dad had a 1973 Volvo P1800ES. I loved that car. That would be my first choice. More ordinary, would be my 1993 Jeep Cherokee Sport. I still kick myself for getting rid of it.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

None. I scratched that itch a loooong time ago.

DEcarTrouble
DEcarTrouble
2 months ago

I would have to go with a 1991 Honda Civic DX (Hatchback). No mods, just unadulterated average. The only catch would it has to be a manual.

Lacking that late 80s Ford Escort. Grew up with them my young life and I just find them fascinating.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  DEcarTrouble

Every now and again in the wild, I’ll come across an unmolested, well-preserved Civic from that era. Always running. More striking than any number of current supercars I can think of.

DEcarTrouble
DEcarTrouble
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I made the mistake of selling one that I enjoyed to a friend. Friends husband curb hopped it and broke something in the front end. Some kids came by and bought it off them for $300. If she had told me I would have bought it back for the price I sold it $600 and kept it. Can’t hardly find them any more and when you do the person wants a small fortune.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  DEcarTrouble

They’re the new-in-box ’80s Star Wars action figure of the car world for sure.

DEcarTrouble
DEcarTrouble
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Best analogy I have heard to describe that.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
2 months ago

My ’93 Sentra SE-R, which I’ve owned since new. I love it!

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