Picking up a classic for less than 15 grand requires a few concessions—you’re not going to land a souped-up V-8 or a custom trim. But a standard-issue second-generation muscle car is well within reach. Floyd Garrett, owner of the Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee, says the sweet spot for Camaro deals falls between 1970 and 1974.
Snoop Into the Past
Like that stripper at your brother’s bachelor party, you need to figure out where she’s been—but as long as her body holds up, anything else can be fixed. “If I found a ’69 Camaro with a good, solid body and the engine had a rod thrown out the side of it,” Garrett says, “that wouldn’t bother me a bit.” Beware of heavy undercoats hiding 30 years of Detroit winters, and check the trim tag on the firewall to see if the paint color changed—a clue to long hours spent at the body shop.
Keep It Real
The more original parts, the more valuable the car, so hunt under the hood for as many GM stamps as you can find. When it comes to making your own repairs, almost anything is fair game: Radiators, alternators, starters, even entire engines can be swapped with moderate ease and expense.
Pimp Your Ride
While the ’70s offered marvels like outrageous horsepower, sofalike backseats, and Freddie Mercury, a few inventions from the golden age of chest hair fell short, namely brakes. Garrett advises replacing the front set of drum brakes with discs for the added convenience of being able to stop on command.
How to Purchase a Muscle Car