For some reason, I have been thinking about the differences between building an old car to do what I want, and to just buy a newer one. Why? I don’t really know, since I can’t afford to do either one. But it is a fun mental exercise, especially on a cold day like today. I don’t know about your definition of cold, but mine includes the -17F it was here this morning. It makes it tough to think about cars, except how well the heat works in the one sitting in the driveway.
But back to the old versus new, since I was thinking about it, I did a little looking on the cost difference of buying an old car and adding more power, upgrading the suspension, brakes and tires. Then comparing that to the cost of a newer muscle car. I didn’t go with a brand new one, since then you have to deal with the big depreciation hit you get when you drive it off the lot.
I did some looking on Craigslist and Ebay for the cost of an old car that I would want to have. I looked for the average cost for one that had a clean body. I wasn’t concerned about it being a performance model, in fact, I was looking more for ones that weren’t, since I would be swapping out parts and paying more for stuff I didn’t want didn’t make sense to me anyway.
First, the newer car. Since I like manual transmissions, and Mopars, the only option that fit those criteria would be a newer Dodge Challenger. And since we are talking about performance, I looked at the SRT8 version. In 2009 and 2010, you could get the 6.1L Hemi with a manual transmission. Prices seemed to vary quite a bit, but $30,000 seemed like a good number to settle on for a general comparison, and get you something kind of like this:
Yeah, I know it isn’t the same model year, but I liked the picture.
And on the other side, I looked at my favorite, the 1968 – 1969 Charger, but for one with a solid body, it ate up most of the $30,000 that a newer used Challenger would cost. So I looked at the 1970 – 1974 Challenger, since it made sense to compare the old to the new. The prices for them was similar to the Chargers, and that didn’t make for a very fun comparison.
But, my second choice for a Mopar muscle car (or at least muscle era) would be a Duster, and those are a lot more reasonably priced, at least if you stay away from the 340 versions. And for around $14,000, you would end up with something like this:
Like I said, I looked for one that didn’t need body work for the average price. Needing paint is ok, but I stayed away from ones that had rust, since trying to figure out how much that would cost from a Craigslist picture was an exercise I didn’t want to try.
Now that we have a basic car, it would need some upgrades to be at least somewhat comparable to a Challenger SRT8.
First off, would be an engine upgrade. Since I stayed away from the 340 powered Dusters to keep the cost down, I looked at the price of a crate motor as a simple turn key type setup. For around $4,000, you can get a 408 stroker small block rated at 375 HP from Summit Racing. That doesn’t include things like the water pump, carburetor and other fun things needed to make the engine run, but we will get to that later.
The next thing, is to upgrade the suspension. I am a fan of the Hotchkis suspension upgrades, as I have not heard anything bad about them, and they seem like a great bang for the buck. And as I like turning corners as well as going fast in a straight line, I added $2,100 to the budget to get the TVS (Total Vehicle System) for a Duster from Summit.
Of course, the fancy new suspension also needs better wheels and tires, since the 14 inch wheels that most A bodies came with, are not exactly high performance any more. So add another $1,300 for some basic 17 inch wheels and some tires to put on them.
Then of course, you need better brakes to go with the upgraded suspension and tires, so another $3,200 goes for 13 inch front and rear disc brakes.
One last thing, if you are able to go around corners faster, you need a way to stay put. The stock seats are not exactly designed to help keep you in place in a high speed corner, so another $500 goes to some basic sport seats from Summit.
If you have been keeping up with the running total,
That leaves us with $5,000 difference in favor of the Duster. But remember the stuff I said you needed for the engine? Figure that, plus some other stuff I am sure I missed, as well as the things old cars tend to need will use up most of that difference.
That means, that the price difference between the two is pretty much a wash. So if you are looking to save money on a car project, don’t buy one. That is the best way that I know of to save money on a car.
Otherwise, it boils down to which one would you rather have. An old car, with modern capabilities, or a newer car with the drivability and comfort that comes with it?
Personally, I would prefer the older car with the upgrades. The old cars just strike a chord with me. Although if I was really going for what I want, I would put the engine out of the SRT8 into the Duster as part of the process.
I am sure you could build the Duster for less than I listed, but I was trying to make it as easy as possible to put together. And if you are upgrading one, you don’t need to do it all at once either, which will make the process a little easier on the check book as well.
Either way, you would end up with a fun car when you are done. And that is the point anyway.