Huw Evans
November 1, 2008
'62-'65 Mercury Comet
Price Range: $2,000-$3,500
Pros: Classic '60s styling, healthynumber of performance upgrades
Cons: Small engine bays, some trim parts hard to find, not everybody's cup of tea

Given the rise in collector car prices over the years, you might think the chances of finding a decent, solid Ford vehicle as the basis for your next project for less than four grand are pretty remote. It's true there are a good number of people asking crazy money for rotted classic Mustangs and even Fairlanes, but if you dig a little further and widen your horizons, you might be surprised at some of the vehicles you can actually buy for $3,500 or less, in many cases in reasonable condition, quite often running and in some cases even certified for road use. Since the staff at Modified Mustangs & Fords never sleeps, we've decided to find a selection of Ford products, both classic ('62-'73) and newer, that you really can buy for pocket change--project cars that, given the right amount of performance and styling upgrades, can be transformed into a really nice set of wheels that is both rewarding to own and fun to drive. We've also included a general price range based on what we found for sale at the time of writing. Not everybody will agree with our choices, but as far as classic/performance car ownership goes, you can do far worse than pick up one of the following (like buying a brand-new beige Toyota Camry, for example).

Starting off our list, the '62-'65 Mercury Comet is an unsung hero if ever there was one, having resided in the Falcon's shadow. Even today, these cars are still often overlooked by many Ford enthusiasts. As a result, it's still possible to pick a solid one up as the basis for your next project for around three grand or so ('65 Comet Cyclone not withstanding). Granted, the engine bays weren't that big, but these cars have tremendous potential. How about a high-output 289 or fuel-injected 302, and installing a five-speed manual overdrive gearbox? What about a disc brake conversion, handling suspension, or just simply a mild custom cruiser? There are a ton of options available with these cars and a surprising number of parts available through the aftermarket, from steering and suspension rebuild or upgrade kits, to gas tanks, exhaust, brakes, and of course, with the increasing popularity of crate engines, carb or fuel-injected powerplants. In essence, building one of these is increasingly becoming a no-brainer.

'66-'69 Ford Falcon
Price Range: $1,800-$3,500
Pros: Usually much cheaper than '60-'65 cars, good range of performance upgrades
Cons: No convertible or hardtop option, also-ran status

If there was ever the case for an underrated '60s Ford, the '66-'69 Falcon is it. With Mustang having grabbed the spotlight for 1966, the Falcon returned to its role as largely basic transportation. No more sporty convertibles or coupes were offered, leaving just two- and four-door pillared sedans and a station wagon. Because these cars have never received the attention their predecessors did, today they're a lot more affordable and can still be found for under $3,500 if you know where to look. Although they might not have been as sporty, much of what applies mechanically to the older Falcons applies to these. You can very easily install a hot 302 or 351 V-8, upgrade the suspension for street, drag, or even the road course, and turn one into a cool and pretty fast car. If you're looking for inspiration, try across the Pacific as the Australian versions of these cars, particularly '67-'72 Falcon GTs, became some of the most sought after performance cars down under.

65-'70 Ford Galaxie
Price Range: $2,000-$3,500
Pros: A lot of car for the money, smooth riding, cavernous engine bays, surprising performance potential
Cons: Less sporting than their predecessors, big-block cars are very thirsty. The styling isn't for everybody

We've decided to group these cars together, as save for annual styling updates and the arrival of new engines in 1970, mechanical changes were few during these four seasons. In Galaxie circles the '62-'64 cars tend to hog the limelight, which is why the '65-'70 cars, with less of a performance pedigree can be bought for a much lower price. The '65-'67 big Fords were characterized by stacked headlights and big, angular taillight lenses housed at the end of long, sweeping rear quarter-panels. Of most collector interest are the '65-'66 cars powered by 427s and the '66-'67 7-Litre Galaxie hardtops and convertibles. However, the 427 cars are highly desirable and even the 7-Litres have now climbed out of our price bracket, but running Galaxie 500 hardtops or even standard XLs can still be found nudging our $3,500 ceiling. And what is there to stop you from building a 427/four-speed replica, replete with dual quads, teardrop fiberglass hood, Cragar mag wheels, and dual exhaust? The '69 Galaxie XL fastback coupe and, to a lesser extent, the convertible represent the last of the true fullsize Ford muscle machines and have a minor following as a result. Compared to later fullsize Fords, these cars (particularly the '66-'67s) have better performance and restoration support, but in relation to Mustangs they're still small. The '65-'66s are usually the most popular and it's always a case of buy the best and most complete one you can as replacement body panels and trim (both outside and in) are still scarce.