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Here are six used project cars for under £3,000 to sink your money into

Because you want to make the car your own, right?

Jaguar XJS
  1. BMW 3 Series Compact (E36)

    BMW 3 Series (E36)

    Once almost exclusively unloved/turned into pretend M-Sport cars, now coming into vogue if you can find one that hasn’t done moon mileage or needs a full body respray/new sills/dampers/brakes…

    Which makes this a bit of a rare find. Yes, it’s an E36 Compact, but it’s hardly moved considering its age. And at core remains a small, rear-drive BMW.

    Plus, it’s under a grand.

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  2. Mazda MX-5

    Mazda MX-5

    Proof of the MX-5’s near-universal appeal spanning any state of repair/disrepair comes in its almost weekly inclusion in these lists. Get a good 'un, and it’s one of the best handling cars you can buy. Get a rotten one, and it’s one of the best ways to learn about cars, basic mechanical maintenance and how to make friends at your local parts shop.

    Especially when one can be found for under £1k.

  3. Mercedes-Benz 190E

    Mercedes-Benz 190E

    The original ‘Baby Benz’, the W201 is a landmark Mercedes, not least because it was the smallest one available at the time of its 1982 launch, and for its enduring run and subsequent evolution. Specifically, the Cosworth Evolution II and a wing that’d make Maverick quiver.

    We’re not here for that car though, we’re here for the regular Baby Benz – a four-door, three-box German executive car. This one’s cheap – £2k – and has done less than 200k miles.. Winning.

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  4. Jaguar XJS

    Jaguar XJS

    Though enjoying a resurgence of late, the mighty XJS flirted with danger during its difficult early years, with poor sales forcing Jaguar to either can it or improve it. You can guess which way Jag went, investing in the big ‘lug. As 2+2 GT cars with socking great engines and delightful silhouettes go, you can’t go far wrong with this. Remember, at launch the Jaguar mixed V12 company with Lamborghini and Ferrari.

    This one's in good nick but hasn’t been run for 16 years and is described as a rolling project – a bargain when you consider the 5.3-litres of engine and all that bonnet available for less than a pair of bucket seats on a 911 Carrera GTS.

  5. Volvo 850

    Volvo 850

    Familiar with that famous shot of a T5 on two wheels in full motorsport livery? This isn’t that car, but it’s kinda related to it, in the sense that both are called ‘Volvo’ and go by the moniker ‘850’. Still, it’s this kind of car that is textbook Volvo – blocky, muscular features coupled with good reliability. Safe, too.

    Sure, this one's but a 2.5-litre diesel, but at less than a grand and with a fair amount of work to tidy up, it’s the perfect summer wagon. Yes, we're making that a thing.

  6. Lexus GS300

    Lexus GS300

    Amazingly, this giant hunk of sensibleness and reliability, this ode to Japanese engineering, this Giuguaro designed saloon, comes equipped with a 3.0-litre 2JZ engine. That’s right, the one from the film about the orange Supra and the tuna crusts and a thousand modified Toyotas with rapid-fire exhausts. A dark heart lies beneath its exterior.

    One that could be yours for £1,250, as this self-professed ‘good project car’ needs a new lease of life.

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