As cars age and wear, they lose value. Sure, it’s a nightmare for a seller, but for car buyers, the depreciation curve is their best friend — especially if you’re in the market for a luxury car. But it can be transposed to collector cars too; there are plenty of stories of people on limited budgets scoring the Mercedes or Rolls-Royce of their dreams, and paying pennies on the dollar for them. But there’s usually a catch: “TLC.”
How many times have you looked at used cars and came across those three little letters? To sellers, TLC can mean anything from a blown out headlight bulb to a leaky muffler to a seized engine. And to a certain type of gearhead, the more tender love and care a car needs the better; it usually means they’re getting a deal. If you can do the wrenching on it yourself, you probably can.
In the past, we’ve looked at classics that are easy to restore, thanks to dead-simple mechanicals, an abundance of parts, a wealth of knowledge, and even a number of examples. But there’s the other side of restoration: The rare, the endangered, the complex, and the temperamental. It’s the reason why old Miatas are starting to rise in value, but you could probably find a handful of needy Lancias offered for cheap. Or why a running 30-year-old Rolls-Royce could be had for less than a Nissan Versa. Some cars are marvels of automotive engineering and form, but they cost a fortune to set right and maintain. So we looked at some cars that could be, should be, and once were great, and found eight that no amateur gearhead should take on as a project. That is, unless they’re incredibly wealthy, have years of free time on their hands, or are completely and utterly insane.