A couple of days ago, Jeff received an E-mail from Hooniverse reader “John”, who says he “never had a mechanic-savvy family member to teach me as a teenager, so now I find myself learning the ropes all by my lonesome.” He wrote seeking recommendations for a cheap and easy project car to fiddle around with and learn the basics on. John is in college and doesn’t have a bucket of extra cash to spend, but he doesn’t want to attempt to wrench on his daily driver and wind up without reliable transport. He’s currently considering “an old Datsun Z, an old VW bug, or an ’80s-to-early-’90s Japanese four-banger….”
When Jeff asked for input from the Hooniverse staff, I replied that I’d read an article on this very subject in either Auto Restorer or Cars & Parts about 10 years ago. The author of that article said that everybody thinks that old Beetles make good beginner restoration candidates, but in reality they are a horrid choice. They inevitably have extensive corrosion, flimsy sheetmetal, a lot of weak components that can break easily during dis-assembly or are difficult to re-assemble, and Beetles rarely run properly once you get them back together unless you know which things need to be adjusted and tweaked just-so.
Jeff’s reply back to me was succinct: “So write the article.” That is how, despite being perhaps the least qualified of the Hooniverse staff to erudiate on auto restoration or modification, I find myself suggesting six vehicles that I think are suitable project cars for the neophyte hobbyist. I’m thinking of truly starving-college-student budgetary restrictions: in a quick survey of La Liste de Craig, I was able to find multiple ads offering of each these vehicles—complete and in (claimed) running condition—for $1000-1200. … Continue Reading