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The $5,000 Challenge, bathtub, Buick and zombie edition

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There are many reasons why automotive restoration projects don’t always succeed. Sometimes, the hobbyist finds himself over his (or her) head, and frustration overwhelms interest in finishing the car. Other times, it’s a loss of funding, since a new roof takes priority over a weekend driver. Unrealistic expectations are an issue, too, since the joy of rebuilding a project car on one’s own often ends with the first frozen nut, snapped stud or no-longer available part.

The candidates in this edition of the $5,000 Challenge all have stories to tell. Some appear to have been restored (or at least preserved) by previous owners, while others are clearly works in process, abandoned before the work was completed. Some can be enjoyed while the work is carried out, while others will need a bit of effort to get back on the road. Which project is right for you?

1962 Ford Galaxie 500

1962 Ford Galaxie

In 1962, full-size Fords could be ordered with as many as seven different engines, including six V-8s and the “Mileage Maker” inline-six. While the 138-horsepower six lacked the thrills of the 401-horsepower 390 V-8, it was a much more sensible choice, particularly for a daily driver. This example, then, is a sensible car that presents a blank canvas for the next owner, and arguments can be made for retaining the stock driveline (since you probably won’t see another Galaxie 500 so equipped at local shows) or upgrading to a period-correct 292, 352, or 390 V-8. As restorations go, this project seems straightforward enough, and the seller has already tackled the suspension rebuild. For an asking price of $5,000, this Ford appears to be a great way for someone to get started in the hobby.

1962 Ford Galaxie 1962 Ford Galaxie 1962 Ford Galaxie 1962 Ford Galaxie


1949 Nash Ambassador Brougham

1949 Nash Ambassador

In 1949, Nash debuted its all-new postwar models, sporting what the automaker called “Airflyte” styling. The public, on the other hand, dubbed the cars “bathtub Nashes,” for their resemblance to an overturned plumbing fixture. Even today, the styling can be polarizing, but there’s no denying the fact that it is distinctive and will certainly stand out in a show full of restored Ford and Chevies. This example appears to have its original “Uniscope” gauge cluster, and looks to be straight and rust-free from the pictures provided. It will need a bit of mechanical sorting, along with paint and interior work, but comes complete with an assortment of trim bits and spare parts. The asking price? $5,000.

1949 Nash Ambassador 1949 Nash Ambassador 1949 Nash Ambassador 1949 Nash Ambassador


1950 Chrysler Imperial

1950 Chrysler Imperial

Chrysler advertised its “dramatically re-styled” 1950 Chrysler Imperial as “the aristocrat of cars.” Aristocrats don’t go around carrying fake “Zombie Marshals” badges, and that alone is reason enough to save and restore this once-proud sedan. Though details are lacking from the seller, it’s described as being in “running condition,” and as late as 2013 was registered in the state of New York. While the body appears to be in reasonable condition, the interior needs attention before the car can be enjoyed as a weekend driver, and that cheap three-spoke steering wheel should be the first item pitched into the dumpster. The asking price? $4,500.

1950 Chrysler Imperial 1950 Chrysler Imperial 1950 Chrysler Imperial 1950 Chrysler Imperial


1957 Buick Special 4-Door Sedan

1957 Buick Special

At a quick glance, this Buick appears to be driver-quality car, but look closer and it’s clear that the paint needs attention, the seats need reupholstering and there’s a bit of rust that needs remediation before it becomes a serious issue. The seller states that the car has seen just 79,000 miles, and the Dynaflow transmission was rebuilt at 63,000 miles. We’d want to make sure the mechanicals were in order (and we’d go over the “Fireball” V-8 engine) before putting it back on the road, but a few weekends of wrenching may be all that stands between the next owner and an unusual summer driver. The asking price? $5,000.

1957 Buick Special 1957 Buick Special 1957 Buick Special 1957 Buick Special


1974 MGB GT

1974 MGB GT

MGs remain popular among entry-level hobbyists for a slew of very good reasons. They’re affordable to purchase, mechanically simple (relatively speaking) and most parts remain readily available, thanks to strong aftermarket support. British car clubs can be found in most major metro areas, meaning that project help from subject matter experts is easy enough to find. This chrome-bumper MGB GT already sports a few performance upgrades, such as a Weber carburetor atop a Pierce manifold, and an exhaust header that exhales through a stainless steel system. It comes with the factory wire wheels (including the spare), wearing new-ish Hankook radial tires, and its body is described as straight and mostly rust-free. There are a few spots (most sanded to bare metal) that need immediate attention, the clutch slave cylinder needs replacing, and inside, new carpeting, new upholstery and a thorough cleaning would set things to right. For an asking price of $4,995, the car’s next owner could be enjoying this British classic after just a few weekends of wrenching.

1974 MGB GT 1974 MGB GT 1974 MGB GT 1974 MGB GT