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25 Car Restorations That Should Have Been Impossible

Cameron EittreimFebruary 8, 2022

Restoring a classic car is a rite of passage for some people, and can become costly. In recent years, a new light has been shined on the automotive restorations business thanks to reality TV and the internet. Cars that used to cost a few hundred dollars have now ballooned into the thousands. No longer is a car restoration, just a father and son spending time together in the garage every weekend. No, when you restore a car, you will have to be prepared to spend a pretty penny.

Tackling an auto restoration is never an easy task, and sometimes the before photos of the project are unbelievable. What you might consider a rusting pile of metal could be a hidden gem in the eyes of an experienced automotive enthusiast. While it is never an easy task to tackle an automotive restoration, these owners did the unthinkable and built cars that invoke their unique spirit and feeling. These are some of the most beautiful rides you’ll ever see, and the real shock will come when you see what the before photos looked like.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

25: Neglected Ford Ranchero

The Ranchero is one of those cars drivers just don’t see too often. It was on the market around the same time as the Chevrolet El Camino, but the Chevy was the more popular of the two. That’s not to say the Ranchero was a bad car, because it had some unique features and advantages (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Moment Car

The styling of the Ranchero is much more appealing to a lot of buyers, and the interior was more upmarket. Randy Luce got his Ranchero in pretty sad shape, yet the before and after photos will surprise you. With a little love, he was able to transform this abandoned Ranchero into something that looks respectable.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

24: “The Mean Green Machine”

The Chevy Malibu has gone through several revisions over its lifespan, and the line has always been a favorite of hot rod enthusiasts. Warren Cameron took what was essentially a rust bucket and turned it into something unique. The forest green paint job stands out from the crowd for its unique look and appeal (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

When you look at the original car, you can tell that it has been through a lot. With a modern paint job and engine swap, this Malibu looks like a brand new car. This mean, green Malibu takes advantage of a redone interior and brand new glass around the car. Finishing the restoration is a new set of wheels that only adds to the appeal.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

23: Classic Celica

The Toyota Celica has a long and storied history throughout the last couple of decades. But the earliest models are some of the rarest and most appealing. The Celica didn’t have the supercar feeling of the Supra, but it was often the better selling of the two cars (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Facebook user Mr. Dee Calunsag took this Celica to the next level. The yellow paint job chosen gave the car a refreshed look. The rims were also a nice touch that added a completely new level of refinement to the car. This is the best generation of the Celica, and you don’t see it often anymore.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

22: ‘72 AMC Javelin Resto-Mod

The AMC Javelin is one of the underrated classics of the muscle car era. AMC was in a bad place around this time and their cars weren’t that well put-together. The Javelin, for instance, had a lot of quality issues that made the car a pain to own. But as a classic, the Javelin provides a solid base that you can build on (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

This car started looking rough, the first obvious sign of a bad prior owner was the ripping along the top. But with a little love and attention, the final product was completely transformed. The new Javelin had a completely re-done bumper and style that made the car look much better than you’d expect.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

21: A Rough ‘77 Celica

There is no shortage of great examples of the 1977 Celica because the car was among one of the most influential for Toyota. The Celica has always been a car that you could enjoy driving from point A to point B. But what made the early Celica models special was the unique design and lightweight driving characteristics (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Celica was not a sports car like the Supra or the Nissan Z, but it was a quiet sport in its own right. This restoration was quite rough at first, but the final result is a car that the owner is proud of. There are few classic Celica models still on the roadways, and this is one of the best-looking ones out there.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

20: A Hopeless Pontiac LeMans

The LeMans is one of the iconic muscle cars in the history of the automotive industry. This was the car that birthed the legendary GTO. This LeMans model was in pretty rough shape with a rusting, beat-up body and a lack of paint. The owner had to do a lot of repairs and work to get this LeMans back to its former glory (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: My Classic Car

The finished product was a nice blend of modern performance and the classic styling that made the LeMans famous. These cars are fairly easy to customize because of the wide variety of aftermarket parts available.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

19: Ford Bronco Resto

The original Bronco had a lot going for it. The unique styling of the truck made it synonymous with off-road quality. The blue paint job is bright and visually pleasing. The aftermarket motor was a major upgrade over the original engine that these things came with. The interior was also vastly improved over the original Bronco models (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Seeing what this thing looked like before it was restored gives you an idea of how far it came. The original Bronco models are expensive nowadays and you won’t be able to restore one of these cheaply. An original Bronco is an investment, but it’s also worth it in the long run.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

18: Ford Mustang RHD Fastback 289 Fully Restored

This car is a prime example of what an original Mustang can be if it’s done right. The styling of this car looks amazing down to the shiny new paint job. The interior has also been re-done with many new touches. Of course, combining old-world styling with new technology is the thing to do nowadays (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

This Mustang has a fully automatic transmission and a brand new engine with modern technology. The wheels are also custom to this car, although the owner didn’t go with the modern stance look that many of these cars have. All in all, this is a prime example of what a Mustang should look like.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

17: ’69 Chevrolet Camaro

Car fans can’t go wrong with the original Camaro. It was the car that started it all for Chevy, and the Camaro has always been a hit. Like many old Camaros, this one was down on its luck. Even finding a junked Camaro is a pricey endeavor, so this owner had to know what they were doing (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The styling of the car is in line with the classic models but still merges some modern characteristics to it. The interior has the normal flare of the period with modern touches such as a new radio deck and air conditioning. The performance of this Camaro is what makes it stand out from the pack.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

16: 1957 Fuel Injected Chevy

These cars are becoming more popular by the day, as enthusiasts try to find the next big thing in restorations. The 1957 Fuel Injected Chevy was a popular model during its time, with a unique look and spacious interior. Family sedans were all the rage, and this giant Chevy had no problem standing out from the crowd (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Likewise, the car was down on its luck when the owner found it. Rust is a common thing that happens to these Chevy models. But with a little work, he was able to transform it into the glory it once was. A 1957 Chevy is a car that is hard to pass up if you have the time and money to restore it.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

15: ’70 Pontiac GTO

The original Pontiac GTO is one of the most iconic muscle cars of all time. But it’s not uncommon to see one of these things laying around in a barn or field. There are a few originals left from here to there if you can pick them out. This owner had his work cut out for him, as this GTO was in horrible shape (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The body panels were rusted, and the engine was all but gone. Nevertheless, the final product was a success. This car is the glory it once was, and you’ll seldom see a GTO model that looks and drives this good. The GTO will undoubtedly be one of the most iconic cars in history.

14: ’72 Chevrolet Chevelle

The big and burly Chevelle was once one of the most popular muscle cars for GM. The styling of the car was a lot bigger than Camaro that was on the market. The Chevelle posed a challenge for the other automakers selling muscle cars, like the Superbird and the Challenger (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The 1972 model year is by far one of the hottest selling and most popular models on the market today. This one started as a rolling shell in complete despair. Nevertheless, the owner managed to prevail and turned the car into a winning combination.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

13: 1974 Dodge Challenger

The Challenger always played runner-up to the Chevy models but that’s not to say 1974 was a bad model. In its way, the Challenger will also be one of the most iconic muscle cars around. This model was in complete despair when the owner found it, and there was a lot of work to be done (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

In addition to a complete exterior overhaul, the Challenger needed a new interior, engine, and transmission. Once all that was done, this Challenger was by far one of the most impressive models you’ll see.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

12: Plymouth Barracuda

Although drivers today don’t realize it, Plymouth was once one of the most well-known automotive brands in the world. The Barracuda was sold alongside the Dodge Challenger and both cars had a target market. The Barracuda provided a sense of style and comfort separate from the Dodge model (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Drivers would routinely go for the Plymouth model instead, and therefore sales were impressive at first. This specific model had a lot to overcome, as it was coated in rust and dirt when the owner found it. The final result is a car that the owner can be proud of and one that will fetch a pretty penny.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

11: 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS

Every year the El Camino was on the market, it was a banner year for the car. But the 1972 model was especially important for the brand. This was the year the platform was shared with the Chevelle sports car. The final result was an El Camino that owners gravitated toward because of the great styling and performance (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit Car Domain

This particular El Camino was in rough shape when the owner found it. You could tell that the previous decades hadn’t been too kind to the car. Nevertheless, a little love and attention brought the car to an entire new level of style.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

10: 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass/4-4-2

The Cutlass 4-4-2 was an impressive car, taking the Chevelle platform to the next level. For the average consumer, this was the Oldsmobile model drivers dreamed of having. The legendary 4-4-2 engine is one of the best ever to come out of GM, but this model was in bad shape (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Obviously abused from years of street racing, this Cutlass model needed some work. The owner got right to work on it, and the end result was amazing. You’ll seldom find a muscle car that can’t work out as well as this one did. With a little work, this Cutlass was restored back to what a car should be.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

9: 1976 Dodge Dart

The Dart is sort of the underrated villain of the muscle car era. It’s the car that people don’t want to admit they like. But the Dart had a lot of cool features that made it worth checking out. The performance was amazing at a time when there were few compact muscle cars on the market (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Dart was also popular as a police car, before Ford dominated the marketplace. The styling of the Dart made it stand out from the crowd. This dart was in poor condition, with a lot of rusting and body damage. The owner went to work to get the job done, and the final result is a car he could be proud of.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

8: 1974 Ford Torino

The Ford Torino is a car that wasn’t famous until Clint Eastwood came into the picture. After his movie in the 2000s, everyone wanted to get one of these. The used value for a Torino is still fairly low, so you can find one and fix it up easily. That’s what the owner of this one did when he found it rusting away in a field (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

It took a lot of work to get this Ford Torino to a respectable car. The body had years of damage and neglect, and who knows how bad the engine was. With a lot of work and money, the owner was able to get this car back to its glory. Clint Eastwood would be proud of the way this Torino came out.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

7: 1970 AMC AMX

The AMC AMX is a car in a weird position because it was designed to fight the Corvette. Unfortunately, the AMX is anything but a Corvette fighter, and you’ll seldom see one on the road anymore. But like most AMC cars, this is a rarity and a unique situation to find one (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

This AMX was in bad shape and was neglected and abused. The AMX was already notoriously unreliable, so it’s no surprise that the engine in this one was blown. The owner did a lot of great work on this car to get it back into tip-top shape.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

6: 1987 Buick Grand National/GNX

These GM G-Body cars were already questionable from the gate when they were brand new. But that doesn’t mean drivers should avoid them as they are massively popular. It’s sad to see a Buick Grand National abused or forgotten, but this one was. The owner found it rotting away and knew what a gem it could be (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The first order of business was to fix all the body damage and then re-do the interior. The twin-turbo engine was also a tough project as it had a blown head gasket. With a lot of work and even more money, the owner was able to restore this car back to the glory it once bestowed.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

5: 1970 Mercury Cougar

The Cougar has had a tough life in the shadow of the Mustang. Ford has changed the plans for this car over and over again in the past few decades. The original Cougar was a fun car with its owner personality and performance. When the owner found this Cougar in an Oakland junk yard, he knew there was potential (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Because the Cougar shares almost everything with the Mustang, you can find parts for one of these fairly easily. The end result was a car that performed well and was fun to drive. You can’t go wrong with one of these original Cougar models. They can perform well and look even better when you start driving.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

4: Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

The Monte Carlo SS is one of the most iconic GM G-Body cars. It was released alongside the iconic IROC Camaro and the Pontiac Fiero. These 1980s GM sports cars were something unique at a time when the rest of the brands were boxy. The Monte Carlo had a unique engine and a reasonable sized interior (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Talk about a trashed car, this Monte Carlo was in horrible shape. When you looked at it at first, you wouldn’t even think it would drive again. But that’s where determination and a little money went a long way. This Monte Carlo doesn’t look like anything else on the market and its performance matches.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

3: 1967 Pontiac 2 + 2

Another rare car in the string of GM muscle cars is the Pontiac 2+2. Taking a cue from other cars of the time, the Pontiac 2+2 was unique to say the least. The style was above average, and the interior was at the top of its class. The engine was also a performance masterpiece at this time, because John Delorean was behind it (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Pontiac didn’t sell many of these, so when the owner found it rotting away, he had to restore it. The end result was a car that didn’t look like the original. It was better and more modern in every way. The interesting touches added a sense of class to the car, and it has won many awards.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

2: Dodge Super Bee

The Super Bee is another rarity in the sports car world and one that needs no introduction. These cars were so popular when they were new that Dodge had to invoke a waiting list for them. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t many of them sold and unfortunately, abused in the long run (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

That’s how the story goes for this particular one, which the owner found rotting in a yard. With a bit of work and restoration, this Rumble Bee was restored back to its former glory. With a new power-plant and different interior, the car has some touches that you won’t find elsewhere, and the owner likes it like that.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1: 1970 Chevrolet Impala SS

The Impala name is symbolic with Chevrolet and the muscle car world. Whether you are creating a low rider or a muscle car, the Impala has been around for a long time. The styling of the car is unique, and anyone who owns one feels like that. You’ll seldom see a boring Impala when you go to a car show (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The original Impala model was unique, and the 1970s one carried on this tradition. When the owner found this Impala, it had definitely seen better days. With some work getting the body back in shape, it was time to re-do the engine. Now this impala is barking like a beast, and it’s received many awards in the car show circuit.

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