It’s fair to say that most gearheads have a great dream of owning a big garage, listening to good music, and tinkering away with a classic muscle car. Picking an old American muscle is such an appealing project for restoration, as they can sometimes be much more simple to work on than modern machines.
Unfortunately, as prices of classics continue to rise, and parts become more and more difficult to find, restoring some cars can just be like throwing money into a hole. In this article, the most expensive classic American muscle cars to restore have been compiled into one list, making it very easy to show exactly what cars not to pick for your next project, unless of course, you’re Jay Leno himself.
1970 Plymouth Superbird
As one of the best-looking and fastest cars of the ’70s, the 1970 Plymouth Superbird has firmly cemented itself as an icon of classic muscle cars. With its copied aerodynamic design from the Dodge Daytona of the year prior, combined with a 7.0-liter Hemi V8 producing 425 hp, the Superbird was unbelievably fast for the time.
The problem with restoring a Superbird is even if you can find one of the 1,000 that still exist today, finding parts is an absolute nightmare. As the Superbird was axed after just one year, due to changes in the NASCAR regulations, the Superbird is an extremely rare muscle car. If you do find one lying around in a barn, don’t tell a soul, but be ready for some very expensive replacement parts bills.
1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda
It seems clear that despite the sudden end of their Superbird, Plymouth wasn’t put off from trying to bring out another fantastic classic muscle car, and their response was just that: the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda is one of the most prized muscle cars icons of all time, and for good reason too.
Due to even more restrictions placed on American car production in the early 70s, 1971 was the last dance for the 419 hp 426 cid Hemi, and when strapped into the front of the Hemi Cuda, meant a 0-60 mph time of just 5.3 seconds. The problem with restoring a Cuda comes down to the eye-watering prices associated with it, with some people on Reddit suggesting that an owner was looking at upwards of $100,000 to bring the classic back to its glory days.
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6
When looking at rare, performance muscle cars, it’d be near impossible to not mention the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6 as not only a great classic of the time but a hard-to-find one, too. The LS6 oozes style and class, but also carries a hefty performance punch too, with the 454 big-block in the LS6 version produced a mega 450 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque.
Due to the rare nature of the LS6, with only 4,475 ever made, replica and original parts both fetch extortionate prices, with some on chevelles.com proposing it would cost over $100,000 to complete a full restoration. Repairing these cars, for this reason, must be done much more out of passion, than for turning a profit.
1969 Dodge Hemi Daytona
The Plymouth Superbird may have been dominant in NASCAR in its own right, but without the legendary 1969 Dodge Hemi Daytona of the previous year, there wouldn’t even be a Superbird to talk about. The Hemi Daytona was specifically designed for homologation into NASCAR and was the first American car to be designed aerodynamically using a wind tunnel and computer analysis.
Not only did this mean that the Daytona was aerodynamically superior to all of the competition at the time, but also that that car is one of the best-looking ever made. Like others on this list, restoring a Dodge Hemi Daytona is unbelievably expensive, meaning you’re better to keep yours as it was out of the factory or win the lottery, the choice is yours.
1970 Buick GSX
When picking a high-performance classic muscle car from memory, the 1970 Buick GSX is a bit of a forgotten muscle car gem. The GSX might not be as powerful as some of the others on this list, but its rarity and costliness easily cement its doomed place.
The GSX is powered by a 455-cid 340-hp V8, not a small motor by any stretch of the imagination, and a great one too. The GSX model had a bunch of additional extras such as a hood tach, spoilers, sway bars, a four-speed gearbox, Posi, and a heavy-duty suspension system. The 1970 GSX is incredibly rare, as only 678 were ever sold. Combine this with a lack of replica parts being made, some estimate a full restoration to cost around $100,000.