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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Turtle Racer
Turtle Racer
2 months ago

Gremlin. It was a purple ’72, white stripe down the side. It screamed, “I’m not sexy and I’m not sophisticated, but I sure as hell will get you there – plus, I’m purple.”

Last edited 2 months ago by Turtle Racer
SiK GambleR
SiK GambleR
2 months ago

I own a 1995 deville 4.9L in the garage waiting for its return to stock. Late gpa got it for my first car and to this day i sware by the malaise land yacht. I could write a book on this car, not counting the sequel dedicated to me love, passion, and nostalgia for it.
Sadly funds have run dry with a baby coming …. Maybe ill just wait for him to get older then start again

The Pigeon
The Pigeon
2 months ago

My Avatar says it all. I’ve got a 1991 Saab 900 S that has many small/medium projects (she runs great, but needs a lot of cosmetic updates) and I want to make sure it’s not obviously updated, it needs to be of original quality or at least indiscernibly updated with modern but not perceptible changes.(Speakers primarily, of which 2/4 work, 1 is cracked, and one doesn’t work at all. I am toying with the idea of changing the gear ratios in the trans because 2 and 3 are near useless except to get from 1 to 4, but that is a FAR bigger project)

Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
2 months ago

I have 4 door 6 cylinder automatic Chevy Nova that a previous owner must have spent way more than it is worth fully restoring. It’s the most boring basic spec you could buy. I got it for a fair price and love it, but would not have spent the money myself.

DavePhoto
DavePhoto
2 months ago

2000 Sable Wagon…fully loaded trim. Drove better than it had any right to, (was wide and low, so incredibly stable) was an incredible road trip vehicle, and the kids had a blast sitting in the rear facing seat, waving and making faces at folks behind us . Never had the heart to tell them the limo.tint on the back 5 windows meant no one could see them. Mine rusted all the way through at the base of the B pillar, and I decided not to fix it, but replace it. Since then I’ve seriously considered buying one in decent shape body wise, dropping in a new powertrain , and going through the suspension and other systems with a fine tooth comb. Nobody ever suspected how good mine was, or how much fun it could be

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
2 months ago

One of the first dodge caravans (1984 or so), short wheelbase, manual trans, base engine, quad sealed beam headlights, manual windows, baby blue with blue interior… Not only was it pretty iconic in it’s own right, but that’s the first car I have memories of that my parents owned.

Auto Peon
Auto Peon
2 months ago

They probably stray too much into the notable territory but I’d love a mint renault Fuego or a citroen bx. Or bog standard for australia Datsun 180b.

Anonymous Person
Anonymous Person
2 months ago

1991 Chevrolet (Geo) Metro 2-door with a 5-speed. The color was Competition Blue. Maybe a mileage competition since it got 52 MPG.

Patrick
Patrick
2 months ago

I’ll go with a fairly normal and affordable model, so I’ll allow myself to bend the rules a wee bit and restore A car, but of each generation.

Mk1 Golf/Rabbit GTI – Mars red
Mk2 Golf GTI – 16v – Montana green
Mk3 Golf GTI (Driver’s ed.) – VR6 – Ginster yellow
Mk4 Golf R32 – Deep blue
But if restricted to GTI, 20th ae in Jazz blue (1.8t)
Mk5 Golf/Rabbit GTI – black
Mk6 Golf GTI Harlequined like in an ad I remember, white and a couple Greys/silvers. Get all the boring colours in one
Mk7 Golf GTI – Rabbit ed. – Cornflower Blue
Mk8 Golf GTI – still waiting for the one to excite me

1 down, 7 left to collect!
ALL manual, so that might exclude the mk8..

And if I can’t bend the rules, I’ll go with an Alfa GTV6. Busso V6 swapped for the newest I can find (3.2, 3.0 24v, 3.0 12v, otherwise stock 2.5)

—-
Unrelated, and I’m many months late, but what do I need to do again to get my original username back? (Quadrifoglioaholic)

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
2 months ago
Reply to  Patrick

Email Matt.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
2 months ago

I have done a ton of work to my basic contractor spec ‘94 F150 XL regular cab long bed. I picked it up in rough shape for $1000 10 years ago and have since replaced darn near every wear item, replaced rusted fenders, redid the glorious blue interior, rhino-lined the bed, and customized the tailgate – two-tone gray/white with a big Ford decal. I even painted the inline 6’s valve cover Ford blue. I’ll never get my money out of it, but I don’t care. It was a rescue and I love it.

The48thRonin
The48thRonin
2 months ago

Probably not factory-spec restore (because that would mean losing my cruise control), but I would like to restomod my 2006 xB. It could do with some more power and less road noise.

That Guy with the Sunbird
That Guy with the Sunbird
2 months ago

I didn’t restore it (got lucky and found it in great shape with low miles) but I have a 1990 Pontiac Sunbird LE coupe that I work hard to keep in its original nearly-new mint condition. Otherwise, I’d try to find a GM L-Body (a Chevrolet Beretta or Corsica) with either the 2.8 or 3.1 V6 to go over with a fine-toothed comb. I’d like an optioned-up or sporty-trim-level one, but they’re so rare on the ground nowadays, beggars can’t be choosers.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
2 months ago

I don’t care what anybody says. I think the kitted Berettas, maybe the Z26, or GT, or whatever, we’re very sharp looking vehicles. Chevy did a remarkable job of taking a plain Jane sedan and turning that design language into a sexy coupe.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

Owned one in the 90s, and I’m with you – such a good looking car. Especially from the rear…the internal louvered-effect taillights were striking.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Yeah man. I liked that grill less front end with everything angular. Love it. On the other hand, my wife, like 25 years ago had a beater Chevy Celebrity with the V6 and 3 speed (count em) auto. It definitely had the moldy Detroit trick of aggressive throttle tip in. I’d say it would get 90% of available thrust in the first 1/2″ of pedal travel. Your first response was, whoa, this thing is a beast! Hahaha. I still joke with her about how fast her Celebrity was to this day.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

I have a soft spot for that tip-in, esp. on GM’s sport coupe offerings of the era. “Sure, you only get a 4cyl engine, but doesn’t it feel fast??”

Peter Foreman-Murray
Peter Foreman-Murray
2 months ago

Well I have a 96 Geo Tracker that I’m theoretically restoring. If that’s ordinary enough to count. I certainly miss my 87 Chevy celebrity wagon. That’s a real solid car and I’d love to drive a good condition one again. For cars I’ve never owned (yet), a Buick Roadmaster wagon, preferably with the LT1.

Last edited 2 months ago by Peter Foreman-Murray
Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
2 months ago

Grew up in that Chevy wagon. I miss the back back seats, and the levers for HVAC control! That’s all I miss…..

Matthew Skwarczek
Matthew Skwarczek
2 months ago

I’d argue that I’m basically restoring my 500 Abarth at this point what with how many parts I’ve replaced and plan on replacing

Mr E
Mr E
2 months ago

Either a Mk2 GTI (preferably with small bumpers and quad lights) or the ’91 Audi Coupe Quattro I had briefly before it tried killing me on the interstate.*

*fully restoring the overly complex brake system would avoid this situation.

JDS
JDS
2 months ago

I’d restore my 1984 Datsun 720 pickup. It was my second truck. I drove it from about 1987 to ’89, sold it when I left home for college. Mine was white, had a 2″ dealer-installed lift kit, roll bar with a couple of KC Hilites, no extended cab (or headliner, or carpet) and 4WD. It was equipped with a contraceptive bench seat (the transfer case shifter sat in a notch between passenger and driver — nobody’s getting pregnant in THAT cab) a cassette player, and that’s it.

That truck was a great companion. I drove it all over the 4 Corners region, over high country trails like Kennebec and Ophir passes, deep into the Utah and Arizona deserts, and I also hauled plenty of grain, gravel, and lumber with it.

Nobody makes a small, no-frills pick-em-up truck like that now, though I dearly wish for one.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
2 months ago

’73 Grand Am. White with red interior. When it came out I thought it was the coolest car in the world. Years later, I had a chance to buy one and it got vetoed. I still think about that car every now and then.

Jeff Wheeler
Jeff Wheeler
2 months ago

My 1982 Mk 2 Scirocco, the one with the hand-crank sunroof. This car was by most accounts the worst of its generation, with a restrictive cast-iron exhaust manifold and an anemic 1.7l four, but I loved it (even though, at 6’2”, I had to crank the seat back into recline position to keep my head from hitting the headliner).

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
2 months ago

I briefly owned a Honda CRX 1.6i-16 when I was in college. You never got the DOHC 16-valve AS model in the US, I believe. It was an all-stock, well-kept example. The “racers” went for the ED9 or EE8, leaving the predecessor unharmed (and affordable). Money was scarce, and I was always scared of breaking anything. For that reason, I almost never revved it over 5,000rpm. Can you believe it? How dumb was that? It had a very simple rear suspension which made roundabouts real fun. You just had to be very quick on the wheel, countersteering. The only time I remember hitting the 7,000rpm redline was on a test drive with the youngster I sold it to. I drove, because he kept stalling it and wasn’t able to get it off the parking lot. It was kind of a ‘hold my beer’ moment when I took the wheel and gave it all I dared for the last time. It was instantly sold for a good price. I was moving to the States and had to get rid of it. First-gen AS-type CRXs are really rare nowadays and absolutely worth the effort.

Hamish48
Hamish48
2 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

I agree totally. Selling my CRX when I didn’t really have to is one of those moments of stupidity I would love to have back. I have never driven such a totally responsive car – you could virtually steer it by twitching your butt. Mine was white over silver with a blue interior – I chose white to get away from the other 2 colour’s somber black interiors (Canadian market).

Last edited 2 months ago by Hamish48
Vee
Vee
2 months ago

Oh god so many of them.

The lead image car, a second generation U.S. Ford Escort GT three door. A Ford Festiva. The first generation Ford Probe. A first generation Dodge Neon. A first gen W-body Pontiac Grand Prix GTP. A second generation post-facelift ’91-93 Pontiac Sunbird and it’s twin Cavalier. A four eye ’60-64 Dodge D-100. A Morris Marina. A first generation Fiat Panda. A Toyota Chaser X100.

I think there should always be preserved copies of vehicles, no matter how shitty the public thinks they were.

AverageCupOfTea
AverageCupOfTea
2 months ago

Toyota Tercel, 5th generation, it’s a basic car, there is beauty in its simplicity.

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
2 months ago

One day my almost 200k miles Clio 2 will get the love it deserves.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago

My Lancer, duh.

David Escargot
David Escargot
2 months ago

2001 Ford Falcon SR w/manual… SR was a sticker pack that also came with an LSD… great car on and off road… may or may not have done doughnuts on asphalt with 5 reasonably large lads in it… it was a sad day when it was sold

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  David Escargot

Stop teasing us state-side with your Falcons! For us, a what-if of Ford’s new edge design on something bigger than a compact. Sigh.

David Escargot
David Escargot
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

It’ll be prime for our export market in a couple years, hang tight

David Escargot
David Escargot
2 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

To be absolutely fair, they are a shitbox really, but they’re our shitbox, and I have a feeling that if I grew up state-side I would be the world’s biggest advocate for the crown Vic… and that’s saying something

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  David Escargot

The Crown Vic is a classic – not many cars came with a V8 as the only engine available!

Last edited 2 months ago by Jack Trade
Clear_prop
Clear_prop
2 months ago

1983 Buick LeSabre I had in college. I bought it off a buddy who was graduating who got it when Grandma died. That thing was so comfortable to drive. The ultimate road trip machine. My gf at the time (now ex-wife) nicknamed it “The Couch” since it was so comfy.

Unfortunately on a really cold day it decided to bend a rod. But like any good GM car, it ran like shit, but it still ran. I drove it over to my mechanic who diagnosed it by the sound of me pulling in the parking lot.

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