Restoring a vintage vehicle to its original shape is a great way to spend your free time. No matter what kind of cars you enjoy restoring — from Corvettes to Aston Martins to Volkswagens — it is possible to stumble upon a model that may cost more than you anticipated. To ensure you are prepared for the amount of money you’ll spend, we’ve assembled a list of the 10 most expensive vehicles to restore.
1. 1970 Plymouth Superbird
When the Dodge Charger Daytona hit the race track in 1969, its iconic nose cone and giant wing design inspired other manufacturers to make their own version. One year later, Plymouth created the Superbird for NASCAR racer Richard Petty, who won eight races with the famous blue Superbird design.
Plymouth produced almost 2,000 Superbirds in the United States, 135 with the 426 Hemi V8 engine. This classic racecar was known to test speed limits with its advanced tire and brake technology. While its aerodynamics were superior to many race cars during the era, NASCAR considered them a safety issue that also gave an unfair advantage. NASCAR eventually banned the Plymouth Superbird from participating in races, and Plymouth ended production soon after.
Why Is Restoring the Plymouth Superbird Expensive?
Restoring the Plymouth Superbird is expensive because of its rarity and advanced specs. Since it originated as a NASCAR racer that can reach high speeds, it may cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy and restore. Richard Petty’s original car even received bids up to $3.5 million.
The Superbird can be a dream car for any restorationist or collector. While the Superbird requires specific, expensive parts that make the restoration costly, the earnings may justify the means for those who can afford the process.
2. 1963 Corvette Sting Ray
Chevrolet designed the fast and sporty 1963 Corvette Sting Ray to combine the characteristics of convertibles and fastback sports coupes. It was given the title by the original designer, who thought the vehicle resembled a sting ray and found that the name was a great marketing tool. This unique Corvette model incorporated many advancements, including updates in the car’s performance and handling and a hidden rear suspension under the tail.
Why Is Restoring the Corvette Sting Ray Expensive?
Attempting to restore the Sting Ray brings on many expenses. For one, the model’s chassis and shorter wheelbase make it challenging to find parts to fix the car. The Corvette is famous for its improved steering and handling, making for a faster ride through distributed weight from the front of the car to the rear. While the vehicle experiences better traction and power steering overall, finding the correct replacement parts can be expensive. 1963 was also the only model year that included the famous rear split window.
3. 1963 Volkswagen Bus
The 1963 Volkswagen Bus is one of the most expensive vintage cars today. Volkswagen made this van with various configurations compatible with commercial use, camping trips or vacations. With additions like the bare-bones panel or the pop-top roof, the Volkswagen Samba Deluxe Microbus is still popular today.
The Bus earned its nickname, the “23-window,” due to the added features of panoramic, curved rear, side, windshield and skylight windows throughout the design. From the iconic pivoting barn doors on the side to the recognizable two-tone color palette of classic 1960s luxury, the Volkswagen Bus was a hit among consumers everywhere.
Why Is Restoring the Volkswagen Bus Expensive?
Restoring the Volkswagen Bus is expensive due to its size and the number of necessary parts. The 23-window version also had a much lower production run than vans without the skylight windows, which makes this particular version much more collectible. With a large sunroof, huge pivot doors and decorative trim, it takes a lot of time, energy and money to recreate the classic design. Availability of the numerous skylight windows is also an issue.
You’ll also have to take the color into account. Repainting a Volkswagen Bus requires more money overall due to its size, and it may be challenging to recreate the typical gray and white or red and brown tones the Bus is known for.
4. 1973 Pontiac Trans Am SD-455
While early Pontiacs like the Firebird were known for their signature Coke-bottle body style — similar to the Chevrolet Camaro — second-generation models from 1970 to 1981 had curvier, swoopier bodies.
When Pontiac developed the Trans Am SD-455 in 1973, it was known for its strong cylinder block, four-bolt main bearings, functional hood and added strength and material. While early pre-production SD-455s used the 041-spec cam during testing, the 1973 units contained a cam with a 744 grind.
Why Is Restoring the Pontiac Trans Am SD-455 Expensive?
Due to the car’s rarity, the restoration process can be expensive and finding the vehicle itself can be difficult. Of all the models produced, only 252 are Super Duty models. Because Pontiac produced the Trans Am SD-455 in such small numbers, many engine parts can be challenging to find. Many of its components have become rare since Pontiac discontinued the model, making the SD-455 one of the most expensive cars ever sold.
5. Aston Martin Lagonda
The Aston Martin Lagonda is one of the most expensive vintage cars. First designed by William Towns, with four solid doors and a futuristic frame, the Lagonda is known for its unique features and digital instrumentation. Since then, the Lagonda has received a few updates to enhance its futuristic features, including rounded edges, a new nose with smaller headlights and flared body panels with full-color coding.
The Lagonda is so rare that Aston Martin built only 25 in the United States annually. During the 1980s, manufacturers even gave the car enhancements like hi-fi equipment, a wheelbase similar to a limousine and cocktail cabinets for late-night drinks.
Why Is Restoring the Aston Martin Lagonda Expensive?
Due to the Aston Martin Lagonda’s experimental features, the vehicle is one of the most expensive cars to restore. Finding the right parts to replace the electronics and styled paneling of the frame itself can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to look.
Keep in mind that fixing one problem with the car may result in uncovering a few more. However, while restoring the car can cost a lot of time and money, having an Aston Martin Lagonda in your possession will be worth it.
6. Toyota MR2
Toyota produced the first generation MR2 from 1983 to 1989 and introduced several updates in the second-generation styles from 1989 to 1999. While many overlook the MR2, it has established itself as one of those refined vintage luxury cars that houses a powerful engine and quality interior parts any restorationist would appreciate.
Despite variations introduced in the following generations — such as the MR2 Roadster in Europe and the MR2 Spyder in the U.S. — Toyota eventually discontinued the vehicle because of low sales. The MR2 is rumored to be making a comeback soon, drawing many repairers back to the vintage versions of the Toyota.
Why Is Restoring the Toyota MR2 Expensive?
While the Toyota MR2 is a reliable vehicle with an excellent turbocharger and lightweight engine, you should still expect many expenses while repairing it. You can find a great car in good condition in most generations of the MR2. However, the Toyota’s more petite frame means little room to work on the repairs. The waterline is also uniquely placed, meaning you must invest in special tools to fix it.
7. 1958 Chevy Bel Air Impala
The 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air Impala improved on earlier Bel Air models by including revitalized circle taillights, a two-spoke steering wheel and special extractor vents. It quickly became a popular design among other Chevy Bel Air lines of hard-top cars and convertibles. The Impala was known for its shorter stature and extended rear deck, with a longer wheelbase compared to low-price models of the same line. With bright moldings and decorative symbols on the side, many appreciated the Impala’s sculpted look and luxury feel.
Why Is Restoring the Chevy Bel Air Impala Expensive?
Of all the cars restored over the years, the Chevy Bel Air Impala is one of the most expensive. Due to the model’s unique insignias and special molding, finding the right parts to restore the car will cost a pretty penny. The longer wheelbase also means you’ll need to invest significant research time to find pieces that fit a design that doesn’t match other Chevy Bel Airs.
8. 1956 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing
The Mercedes 300SL Gullwing is a car that managed to circumvent post-war styles and create a luxury vehicle all its own. While the car is best known for its iconic gullwing top-opening doors, the Gullwing has also won many races across Europe and the United States. With trendsetting doors, stylish contoured panels and interior designs, the Gullwing is still one of the most influential models in the automotive industry.
Why Is Restoring the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Expensive?
Mercedes only produced 1,400 Gullwings from 1954 to 1956. As one of the rarest vehicles in the world, finding a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing in good condition can be a daunting task. Parts may be even more challenging to find, as Mercedes also produced many of the Gullwing’s components in small numbers. However, once you’ve completed the restoration, you may be able to sell your Gullwing for a few million dollars. While it may be expensive to restore, it’s worth the effort if you are lucky enough to find one in salvageable condition.
9. Mercedes-Benz 600
The Mercedes-Benz 600 was made for a particular group of rich and royal owners and only produced in small quantities. Though it had the longest run of any Mercedes-Benz design, the company made fewer than 3,000 cars. This vehicle is known for a few basic frames, including the short-wheelbase Limousine, the longer-wheelbase Pullman Limousine and the convertible top Landaulet.
The Mercedes-Benz 600 was a car for politicians, royal fleets, heads of state or industry billionaires — some notable passengers included Queen Elizabeth II, Ferdinand Marcos, Kim Il-sung and Mao Tse-tung, among many others. The luxury vehicle has spacious leg room, fantastic suspension, adjustable seats, incredible ventilation and power assistance during manual drive.
Why Is Restoring the Mercedes-Benz 600 Expensive?
Due to its complex machinery and parts, restoring the Mercedes-Benz 600 can be costly — Mercedes built the vehicle for comfort over care for future maintenance costs. These luxury vehicles are engineered with such unique characteristics that finding replacement components can be complicated. With their complex hydraulics and power locks to the specialized sunroof and automatic doors, any restorationist will need extreme luck and skill to complete this project.
10. 1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 LT1
Compared to other Camaros, Chevrolet made the Camaro Z28 LT1 with a 108-inch wheelbase, a new engine and a coupe body. It came equipped with reliable lifters, big valves, aluminum pistons and a larger rear bumper. The Camaro Z28 LT1 also had a smaller grille and large headlights that enhanced the wider hood and revised dashboard. The overall effect was a sporty luxury vehicle with specialized features — like its centralized gauge cluster — that appealed to car fans everywhere.
Why Is Restoring the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 LT1 Expensive?
Restoring the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 LT1 can be expensive due to the extreme power the vehicle requires. Finding parts that fit the body style can also be challenging, as many of the components are very rare. You’ll need to invest several thousand dollars in acquiring the car and finding the right parts for this luxury vehicle.
Get the Parts You Need From Raybuck Auto Body Parts
At Raybuck Auto Body Parts, we provide quality autobody parts for aftermarket truck, van and car restoration projects at competitive prices. We also work hard to offer a higher level of customer service than our larger competitors. When you call us, you’ll reach a live person who can give you personalized assistance.
Whether you’re restoring a Mercedes-Benz 600 or a Chevy Bel Air Impala, our salespeople know the parts you need and can help you through the restoration process. At Raybuck, you can find specialized parts for even the most expensive projects. Contact us today to speak to a representative or call us at 800-334-0230.