I used to think that all interesting cars stopped in 1972. The gas crunch and impact bumpers really did a number on American cars by the mid-1970s, and with the introduction of the 1973 Chevelle and the 1974 Mustang II, the death of interesting cars seemed, well, permanent. 

It’s funny how perceptions can change, though. Lately I’ve been looking at more cars from the later 1970s all the way up through the mid-1980s. For years I more or less ignored all this stuff — it was ubiquitous when I was young, and all of it had a reputation of being more or less untunable thanks to feedback carburetors, early electronic fuel injection, restrictive catalysts, or low compression ratios. What fun is that?

Two things have changed my mind. The first is the simple passage of time. Cars I once saw everywhere — such as Ford station wagons — are now gone. The second is the ease of modern parts swapping. I just finished building a 1979 Chevrolet C10 with a Holley-injected 6.0 LS, a T56 Super Magnum 6-speed manual from Summit Racing, RideTech air suspension, Baer Brakes, American Racing wheels, and more. The truck, which started out as a clumsy rig with a wheezy 350 and a granny gear, is now a modern Corvette with a pickup bed.

The way the ’79 C10 drives now that it’s been modernized has changed my mind on what to look for in a project vehicle, and that’s made me look at a whole generation of vehicles with a fresh eye.

What’s the newest old car you’d add to your collection?

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