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New year new project blog


Ian Cushway profile Image

By Ian Cushway, 19th February 2021


New year, new project?


Take on a challenge with one of these five sub-£3k classics.


We're cup half full kind of people at Moss Europe, so why not take the bull by the horns and get 2021 off to a flying start with a new project?

You won't need a huge budget if you buy a vehicle that needs a bit of love - be that tidying cosmetically, mechanical work or indeed a total overhaul. In fact, £3000 will be more than enough to buy any of the five classics here - as and when rules allow, of course. And because parts for the cars we've picked are inexpensive and freely available, making it all good again should prove a pain-free, fun and supremely satisfying experience.

There's a few things to remember when taking on a project if you want it to have a happy ending. Don't bite off more than you can chew in terms of what needs doing. It's good to learn new tricks, but be realistic when assessing your skillset and just how much free time you'll have available to spend in the garage.

To this end, don't rule out a rolling restoration that you can have fun fettling while still enjoying using it. Oh, and get yourself properly kitted out beforehand in terms of tools, workshop equipment & consumables.

It's true - with any project there will be highs, lows and times you wished you hadn't started it in the first place. But, we like to stay positive - so brace yourself for a journey of personal achievement and the conquest of elbow grease, grit and determination over any workshop related adversity.


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Credit: Photo by Moss Europe Ltd


Triumph Spitfire
Let's start with the open-top two seater gem that is the Spitfire. The first one arrived in 1962, but with our budget we'd aim at the 1970-’74 MkIV with its ‘Kamm’ tail, all synchro ’box and superior handling or maybe the more civilised 1500 that followed. Both will feel lively, fun and a hoot to drive when the sun's out.

With a project, you'll have to tackle rust; inspect the sills, sill steps and rear suspension mounts where they meet the back of the boot carefully as these are the worst areas. When the engine is running, try to listen for bearing wear and noisy tappets. That said, a rebuild won't be dear. The 1500 likes regular oil changes, so question when it was last done. If you don't get to check the gearbox for loss of syncro and jumping out of gear (a Spitfire weak point) haggle on price to help fund a recon unit.

With its front hinged bonnet, access is unparalleled so you'll have no trouble sorting the front suspension, steering or brakes. Basket case MkIVs start at a grand, while a rolling resto 1500 will command £1500-£2000. Restored, they'll be £4000 and £5000 respectively, so if you put in the hours a project could prove a wise move.

Read our Spitfire Buying Guide blog to get the full warts 'n' all rundown on what to look for. You'd have marvelled at the display of hand-picked championship-winning examples that had gathered in celebration of 70 years of F1.


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Credit: Photo by Moss Europe Ltd


Mazda MX-5
From one fun, affordable favourite to another. The MX-5 oozes old school charm and the early NA model with its idiosyncratic pop-up headlamps will feel just like the '60s British sports cars that inspired it! The Mk2 from ’98 had conventional lights, more room inside, more kit and was generally more civilised - but, hey, the choice is yours.

You'll be spoilt when buying a project but beware because early ones may be rustier than you think. That said, if you can weld that will work in your favour because you won't pay much and repair panels aren't expensive. Mechanically, the Mazda should run like clockwork, though watch for signs of overheating due to furred up cooling systems and head gasket issues. It's an easy DIY engine to work on, so don't worry. Even if you're not mechanically minded, it can be fun tidying up a scruffy MX-5 and adding accessories to put your own stamp on it. We stock a wide and varied range of MX-5 parts & accessories including well known brands.

Projects begin at £600-£800, though more tidy 'rolling restoration' Mk2s will be a little more.


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Credit: Photo by Lucas van Oort from Unsplash


Morris Minor
Do you hanker after something that's easy to bring up to scratch, surprisingly good to drive and full of olde world charm? Then pick a Minor. It will cost buttons to run and with a bit of elbow grease you'll have fun transforming a barn-find into a beauty.

The outer panels bolt on, though beware of inner wing rot. It helps too when looking at projects if the chassis rails and front crossmember which supports the torsion bars aren't rotten and the floorpan isn't like a sieve. Meanwhile, that A-Series engine in later ones is bulletproof, the running gear all serviceable and bits for the interior are all still available.

Moggies have never been dear, and if you find one that hasn't already been meddled with, you'll enjoy a real time-warp experience for not much money. Indeed, £1500 should be enough for a saloon. We've seen project Travellers for £3000, though be wary of ones with rotten timber frames. It's structural, though you can always replace soggy wood with new timber if you hone your woodworking skills.

Again, read our Morris Minor Buyer's Guide blog to find out the Moggie buying basics.


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Credit: Photo by Moss Europe Ltd


Whatever the model, or era, the MGB's owner friendly and easy to work on nature makes it an ideal project to sink your teeth into. And when it's done you'll have a nice to drive and usable classic you can further fettle to your heart's desire.

First though, you'll need to decide which one to choose; the more classic chrome bumpered model, or the more comfy and better specced post-’74 with its higher ride height and chunky rubber bumpers. And do you want the practical GT, or the wind-through-the-hair Roadster?

The beauty is, our £3000 budget is enough to buy you a dilapidated combination of either!

Prime rust areas include the inner and outer sills, front scuttles, windscreen pillars and the inner wing splash panels. If you're a dab hand with a MIG, all the repair panels are at hand. The front wings bolt on, but the rears are welded so if they're rotten you'll have your work cut out. Literally! No such worries regarding the engine or running gear - as long as you're getting 45psi oil pressure at idle, that B-Series engine should be ok. And if not, again a DIY rebuild will prove surprisingly doable and inexpensive.

We covered all you need to know in our MGB Buyer's Guide blog.


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Credit: Photo by Moss Europe Ltd


We love the totally ‘chuckable’ Mini for its simplicity and the fact that it will fit into the smallest of spaces while you lovingly bring it back to life. For anyone considering buying a project, they're also good because you can get all the bits for virtually buttons.

While ’60s examples have gone up in value massively, those with a more modest budget can easily buy an Eighties Mini for under £2000, with projects being around half that. However, for regular use it’s worth opting for cars with disc front brakes and rear seat belts which became standard later in that decade.

The most important aspect to watch out for when buying is rust because the Mini is particularly susceptible to corrosion with the ‘90s era cars being the worst affected. This means that you need to buy on body condition primarily, inspecting for rust basically everywhere including the subframe, floorpans, sills, door bottoms, screen surrounds, hinge mounts and front wings. Mechanically, that A-Series unit is strong and well proven, so no worries there. To find out all there is to know on the Mini front, read on our Mini Buyer's Guide blog.

Our £3000 budget will go a long way when buying a project so our advice would be to consider something a bit different. Maybe the 1275GT, or even a Clubman.


Main image credit: Photo by Ilinca Roman from Unsplash



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