Successfully purchasing your first street machine can mean the difference between loving or hating the blissful world of car crafting. Choose the right car and you'll have endless adventures cruising the boulevard along with constant opportunities to learn the basics of the hobby. Pick the wrong car and you may find yourself frustrated with a clapped-out beater that's just begging to be put out of its misery.
Classic V-8-powered American musclecars aren't getting any younger or cheaper, and not all cars age well, especially those relegated to commuting through harsh winter snowstorms. Even if these cars look good on the outside, chances are they're suffering from severe chassis rot on the inside caused by salt-encrusted roads. And let's not forget the gearhead illiterati who simply view their cars as expendable forms of transportation. Basic maintenance and regular upkeep often get neglected, and the motor, paint, body, and interior eventually become damaged beyond repair.
This isn't to say there aren't a plethora of good candidates to choose from, but it does reinforce the concept of "buyer beware," especially since most first street machines also have to reliably commute you to school, work, and wherever else you need to go. Start by making a plan and setting a realistic budget, and research what kind of car will fit your needs. Does the make, model, or brand you're considering have a strong aftermarket and enthusiast following? If not, you may find it difficult to acquire replacement parts or have limited options for upgrades. A car with a strong following not only gives you more options, but it will also be easier to sell when you're ready to move on to your next project. The Internet is crawling with specialty Web sites and message boards offering abundant information from like-minded people willing to share their knowledge.
Keep in mind that not everyone will be honest about their vehicle's past, and you need to realize that there are plenty of shady people out there looking to make a quick buck. If you're not mechanically savvy or experienced with a certain type of vehicle, it's best to bring along someone who is. More importantly, bring someone who can restrain you from making an impulsive or emotional "I love it and I have to have it" purchase and keep you focused on making a calm and rational decision.
While we'd never suggest that any particular make or model of street machine is better than another, we will say that certain choices may be better in terms of availability, ease of purchasing replacement and performance parts, or simply because all of your buddies know how to wrench on them. So before you hand over your hard-earned cash, figure out what you can afford and make a plan, and you'll be on your way to successfully purchasing your first next-generation street machine!
Best Picks for Your First Street MachineIt's a fact that popular musclecars like Camaros, Chevelles, Road Runners, Cudas, and Mustangs bring a high premium on the market. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to jump into one of these timeless classics and are relegated to enjoying them as eye candy at local cruise nights and car shows. So what is within reach? Quite a bit actually, and here are some of our favorite picks for next-generation street machines.