What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.

Benjamin is a paramedic from Omaha who, like most paramedics, has a bit of a wild side. He wants to get some kind of beat up, cheap, muscle car and turn it into an off-road battle machine. This is what Jalop dreams are made of. So what car should he buy?

(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)


Here is the scenario -

I want to build a muscle car that looks like it was built to RIDE ETERNAL ON THE FURY ROAD TO VALHALLA. I want Jalopnik’s help in building a Mad Max car of my own flair.

No convertibles as they can’t handle the power without some mad strengthening. Be careful of rear-window angle. I looked into classic Torino’s, but when raked I fear that I won’t be able to see out the back.

The car’s suspension has to be upgradable to handle 500+ horsepower, and I don’t want to do anything past the 1980s as they won’t fit the AESTHETIC.

Finally, be wary of size. I feel like there is such a thing as “too big” when making a car that looks like it runs on the dreams of Glenn Danzig, so try not to go bigger than a GM A-body or Mopar B-body.

Budget is up to ten grand, but I’d like the car to be as cheap as possible so I can spend the rest on parts.

Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $10,000

Daily Driver: Maybe. Ben has visions of this car with a lightbar and barreling into rescue missions.


Location: Omaha, NE

Wants: Cheap, American, Something that can withstand a lot of power and suspension travel


Doesn’t want: Something too young.

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Out Fox Them


Well, Benjamin, this whole battlecar project is something we can all get behind. This is the best trend in car modification right now. As for what project to take on there are plenty of old muscle machines waiting for their chance at a new life.


I’m going to suggest you go with something easy to come by and easy to mod, a Fox-body Mustang. As our friend Matt Farah has proven it doesn’t take much to turn one into a basdass looking machine, add some lift and bigass tires and an old Fox Mustang could be the perfect intro into battlecars. Parts are cheap, the aftermarket support is massive and while they weren’t exactly rocket ships out of the factory they have the potential to handle lots of power.

Here is one nearby that needs some minor body work for just under $5,000. You can likely find cheaper ones that need more love, but the miles are reasonable on this one and it seems like the major components are in good shape.


Expert #2: Michael Ballaban – Ride Straight Into The Righteous Fires Of Maverick Hell

Photo credit: Greg Gjerdingen

Benjamin, I like you. You get it. You’re not our here like a GLORY BOY looking for “a car that won’t eat my soul but I have kids now so I guess I’ll get a Golf.”

You’re looking for a canvas onto which you will paint your dreams.

And do I have a dream for you. You said you wanted that haunchy aesthetic, you said you wanted it cheap, and you said you didn’t want anything too huge.


What you want is a Ford Maverick.

The Maverick was designed by Ford to look like a Mustang, just smaller – which makes it overall an even better looking car (fight me, haters). But Ford still built it to handle a 302 cubic-inch V8, so you know it can handle power as well as any old muscle car, which was “poorly.” It’s perfect for what you want.


Speaking of perfection, here’s your perfection for only $3,695:

Photo credit: Carsforsale.com

Alright, so it needs some work. But you wanted to do work on it anyway, and it’s already got that post-apocalyptic look, so job done there. What are you waiting for?

Expert #3: Jason Torchinsky — This Is What The Valkeries Use To Commute To Valhalla Every Freaking Day


It’s strange to read something where someone is clearly asking for an AMC Gremlin, but, for whatever reason, doesn’t say it by name. Because that’s exactly what you’ve done here, Ben. You put together a whole bunch of words that add up to one thing: an AMC Gremlin.

AMC’s little monster is an American car design icon, love it or hate it. There was the Gremlin X version that had a big-ass five-liter V8, and people have been putting 500+ horsepower engines in these things for decades.


Plus, you’re worried about rear-window angle? The Gremlin’s got a nearly vertical back window, and it’s not too big, just like you wanted. No rear overhang to get in your way at all!

People have made Gremlins into monster off-roaders before, and, as you can see, the results are always glorious.


Look, here’s a ‘74 Gremlin for only $6995 that someone’s already gone through the trouble of mostly disassembling for you! What a time-saver! It has Gremlin X badging, so after you ditch that inline-6 for a beefy V8, you won’t be lying!

This’ll be fantastic. I can’t wait to see it, in my dreams of Valhalla.

Expert #4: David Tracy — You’ll Need Room For An Army

Image: Craigslist

As my editors have expressly forbidden me from suggesting Jeeps, it’s time to just get weird and suggest something completely counter to pretty much all of your requirements. But it’s OK; trust me, this Trolley is exactly what you need.

Sure, it’s huge and it costs over $15,000, but think about it: you need a Mad Max vehicle, which means you not only have to house an entire army of silvery-faced goons, but you’re going to need a crap-ton of power. This trolley has space for at least 50 “war boys” depending upon how you stack them (technically this is a ~25-seater), plus enough room for whatever engine you want to install—a jet engine, a rocket booster, a steam engine, a huge diesel from a boat. With all this space, you can let your imagination run wild!


This Trolley looks like it’s based on the Twin-Coach TC-25, made by Ohio-based company Highway Products, Inc. That means it’s got a rear-mounted Chrysler V8 engine, which can—according to this brochure I found on Amazon—scoot the thing from zero to 60 mph in eight seconds. That’s not nearly quick enough. But, since that’s a big engine, once you’ve gutted the engine bay, you’ll have room for lots of motor to drive that beefy rear axle. Or you can just use some of the seating space for more engine—that works, too.

Just look at that picture above—clearly, this trolley is what you need in your life. I mean, what else are you going to buy, this 1965 Chevy El Camino swapped onto this Tahoe’s frame?


Actually, yeah. Maybe do that instead.

Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)

Share This Story

Get our newsletter