13 under $10K: Hot and affordable collector vehicles

1996–2004 Mercedes-Benz SLK (R170) 78 1996 Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 Kompressor Mercedes-Benz Average Condition #3 value: $8200 Don’t think you can afford a Mercedes sports car? Think again. A Bruno Sacco design, the attractive SLK roadster appeared in 1996 to compete with cars like the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3. A less-expensive topless alternative to the vaunted SL, U.S. models received a supercharged and intercooled 2.3-liter, 192-hp engine, starting with the 1998 model year. The roadster was so well received by the automotive media that initially Mercedes couldn’t keep up with demand. Typically trouble free with proper scheduled maintenance, the SLK offers a lot of Mercedes for the price. 1990–96 Nissan 300ZX 78 Nissan 300ZX Nissan Average Condition #3 value: $7944 The hardest-charging entry on this list, the 1990–96 300ZX leapt from 1157th in the previous HVR to 77th. Initially introduced in the U.S. as a 1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX (the hatch lid had both Datsun and Nissan badges) and known internally as the Z31, the new Z32 that arrived in 1990 was one of the first cars designed with computer software and featured a host of innovations, including optional four-wheel steering in the turbo versions. Like its predecessor, the 300ZX carried a 3.0-liter engine, but the power plant was revised with variable valve timing and dual overhead camshafts, a configuration that produced 222 horsepower in normally aspirated form. The desirable turbo model generated 300 hp, a top speed of 155 mph, and could accelerate from 0–60 mph in less than six seconds. Slinky and sleek, it’s a looker on today’s roads. Fans are, well, fanatical, and it’s easy to see why. The cars are fun to drive and, for now, modestly priced. 1984–93 Mercedes-Benz 190 78 Mercedes-Benz 190E Mercedes-Benz Average Condition #3 value: $4788 The 190, a less-expensive entry-level Mercedes, was another elegantly-simple Bruno Sacco design—the result of Daimler-Mercedes’ $2 billion investment in research and development. It turned out to be money well spent. By the time production ended in 1993, nearly 1.8 million examples had been produced, with a wide assortment of engines for the multitude of markets in which it was sold. Affordable, sturdy, and pleasing to the eye, the 190 is benefiting from a new generation of admirers that is pushing it up the hot list. 1983–92 Volkswagen Golf Mk II 78 1991 Volkswagen Golf Mk II Volkswagen Average Condition #3 value: $5092 Volkswagen’s Golf Mk I sparked a trend for front-wheel drive hatchbacks, but by the time the Mk II rolled out in 1983 all of VW’s competitors offered their own version. That list included Austin, Fiat, Ford, Opel, Peugeot, and Renault in Europe, and Toyota, Nissan, and Subaru in America and Japan. It didn’t seem to matter. The Golf Mk II was a huge success, and 6.3 million were sold before production ended in 1992. Originally marketed in the U.S. as the Rabbit, the VW Golf Mk II was offered in three-door and five-door hatchback versions. Trim levels included letter designations of all sorts (C, CL, GL…), which can be confusing, and the GTI muddied the waters even further—an eight-valve GTI was offered from 1985–87 and again from 1990–92; there was also a 16-valve GTI from 1987–92. There’s so much more to the story, but we’ll spare you the details. Bottom line: Golf Mk IIs are typically durable and parts are plentiful. And given the opportunity, go with the hottest hatch of all, the peppy GTI. 1987–93 Cadillac Allante 79 1987 Cadillac Allante GM Average Condition #3 value: $7286 Created with help from Italian designer Pininfarina, the Allante was Cadillac’s attempt to build a two-seat luxury convertible that would challenge the Mercedes SL. Despite offering state-of-the-art features like electronically-controlled suspension damping and four-wheel anti-lock brakes, the Allante’s roughly $57,000 price tag was prohibitive, and sales fell far short of projections. Only 21,400 Allantes were produced in seven model years, with 4670 of those—nearly 25 percent of the total—sold for the stretched-out 1993 model year, when the best version of the Allante featured a 295-hp Northstar DOHC aluminum V-8. By then it was too late, however, and GM pulled the plug just as the car reached its peak. 1974 Datsun 260Z 80 1974 Datsun 260Z Mecum Average Condition #3 value: $7500 This one-year-only model, born out of necessity as Datsun scrambled to meet U.S. emissions laws, bridged the gap between the brilliant 240Z and the fuel-injected 280Z. The 260Z was powered by a modified version of the 240Z’s 2.4-liter overhead-cam straight-six engine stroked to a displacement of 2.6 liters, which had slightly less horsepower (140) but produced a top speed of 127 mph. Produced only in 1974, its can be a challenge to find parts, but that isn’t scaring off collectors. 1993–95 Ford SVT Lightning Pickups 82 1993 Ford SVT Lightning Pickup Ford Average Condition #3 value: $9000 The newest-model pickup on the list, the 1993–95 Lightning has the heart of a muscle car. Conceived by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), it received a 5.8-liter, 351-cu-in V-8 modified and tuned to produce 240 hp. It’s no wonder Ford referred to the F-150 Lightning as “a Mustang GT with a cargo bed.” With a total three-year production of only 11,563 units, the Lightning also carries an air of exclusivity. Heavy buyer interest (measured by quote activity) sparked a rise into the HVR’s top 50. 1947–65 Willys-Jeep Pickups 84 1950 Willys one ton pickup FCA Average Condition #3 value: $9703 It’s well-known among auto enthusiasts that Jeep’s roots stretch to World War II, but Willys also created a new line of light-duty trucks. Initially two-wheel-drive vehicles, four-wheel drive came along soon after and continued through end of production. While engines evolved over the years, cosmetic changes were subtle. Since a rising tide lifts all boats, these trucks have naturally been caught up in the wave of pickup popularity. 1995–2003 Mercedes-Benz W210 85 1997 Mercedes-Benz E420 Mecum Average Condition #3 value: $6758 The W210 brought a new, sleeker look for Mercedes-Benz, and the cars gained a reputation for a quiet, comfortable ride and excellent handling. Offered in sedan and station wagon versions, the W210 has been known to experience corrosion problems, particularly around the front fenders and door frames, which places a premium on rust-free models. Heavy buyer interest propelled it into a tie for 37th in the latest HVR. 1984–93 BMW 3-Series (E30) 82 1992 BMW 325i Mecum Average Condition #3 value: $9814 The E30 is the car that spawned a forest of BMW fanatics, and because BMW sold more than 2,000,000 E30s of all types worldwide, there are lots of choices out there. A push in buyer interest has lifted the E30 into the 30th spot (kismet, perhaps) in the HVR. With a reputation for fun, reliability, and affordability, and with an average value of $9800, it may not remain in under-$10K crowd for long. 1973–87 GMC C/K Series Pickups 90 GMC Silverado Pickup GM Average Condition #3 value: $8765 Wait, classic trucks are hot? Who knew? OK, we did. Sarcasm aside, the 1973–87 GMC C/K Series is one of four pickups—and the second-highest—on the hot list. The C/K Series proved to be the longest-lived series in GMC’s history and is the truck to have for fans of three-box styling. It may have lacked curves, but it had plenty of character and also featured GM’s first in-house built crew cab. Heavy buyer interest pushed it from 124th to 17th in the latest HVR, meaning the secret is out. 1969–75 International Harvester Pickups 93 1972 International Harvester Pickups Mecum Average Condition #3 value: $9772 Leading the pickup truck conga line is the 1969–75 International Harvester. Restyled by IH Chief of Design Ted Ornas, who was influenced by his first-generation Scout, Internationals of this era have a clean shape with minimal body lines. The 1969–75 models were offered in multiple wheel bases with single and crew cabs and in two-wheel or four-wheel drive. Engines ranged from an AMC-sourced inline-six to IH’s rugged 304-, 345-, and 392-cubic-inch V-8s (392s were replaced by AMC’s 401 in 1974). Three levels of trim were offered during the era—Standard, Deluxe, and the plush Custom—and IH also offered a few limited edition pickups in specific regions, like the Johnny Reb in the Southeast and the SnoStar in the North. Avoid those if you want to stay under $10K. 1990–97 Lincoln Town Car 98 1990 Lincoln Town Car Mecum Average Condition #3 value: $1840 After 10 years on the market with few changes, Ford gave its Lincoln Town Car a $650 million makeover for 1990. With a more aerodynamic design to increase fuel economy and noticeably missing its signature vinyl roof, the new Town Car retained two of its biggest (literally) selling points: its large interior and roomy trunk. Appropriately enough, the changes proved to be a big success. The Town Car was even named 1990 Motor Trend Car of the Year (although that in itself doesn’t guarantee success). Power came from a 4.9-liter Windsor V-8 generating 150–160 horsepower the first year and a 4.6-liter Ford Modular SOHC V-8 with 210 hp from 1991–97. With an uptick in insurance quoting and insured activity, the Town Car jumped from ninth in the previous HVR to a tie for second this time around. For those of you who are a little light in the wallet, Concours-condition examples can be found for less than $8000.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/02/22/hot-and-affordable-collector-vehicles-under-10k


There is one more rare version of the 260Z out there. I worked for Nissan/Datsun as a parts manager in a dealership both in Nor Cal and SoCal when these cars were new. My folks owned from new a forest green with bone white interior 76 280z which was sold only recently. Japanese imports in the 70’s introduced their models around June of each year but California and US emissions updated in September of each year. When the 1975 260z was introduced in June of 1974 it had the larger bumpers which adorned the later 280z and the only external difference was the 260z versus the 280z emblems. Under the hood was a totally different story. The engine was still a 2600 inline six with fake SU smog carburetors. In Sept of 74 we received the new fuel injected 2800 car with 280Z emblems. I can’t recall how many 75 260Z owners came in and purchased “280Z” emblems. Not even the wheel covers changed. So for rarity call them a late 74 or an early 75 but they were only produced for approximately 21/2 months from June of 1974 to September 1974.


Town Car? I never thought that a vehicle we all called “The Old Folks Home on Wheels” would get any love, but you never know.

I’ve a fondness for the era’s Continentals.


The Cadillac Allante is a great car for road trips and super comfortable with leather Recaro seats and an ample trunk. We owned one for a couple of years - bright red with black leather interior and the (in later years) optional hardtop. If you are considering one, make sure a Cadillac dealer checks all the electronics in your car BEFORE you buy it.


Missed a modern collectible for under $10K but have to jump quick while there still a chance - the 2000-2003 BMW E39 540i M-Sport. Has everything the M5 had except the M5 Engine and dual exhaust otherwise it was the same - rear diff ratio, M Steering wheel, 18" M5 wheels & tires, suspension, front facia and rear spoiler, side trim, M badging in the doors, wheels, and steeering wheel, etc. etc. I bought mine a year ago right under the $9K mark with right at 100K miles in outstanding condition and its only gone up (with offers). If you take your time, you can still find a few high quality examples under $10K.


98 value rating on the Town Car… better go buy one quick before they are are all gone.


I have three Lincoln Town Cars…a 1994 with 345,000 miles on it, a 1994 with about 200,000 on it and a 1995 with 126,000 on it. Best cars ever. They go and go and go!


I got a 93 Lightning looking for a home at 5k. Lol


It is easy to see why these choices are under $10K - where they belong.


A bag full of Mercedes, pickup trucks and American “luxury” cars. Deadlines are a bear. I owned a '72 240Z when the 260Z was introduced in '74. It was met by a lot of negativity at the time because it wasn’t even close to the 240Z in appearance or performance. Wasn’t this the year they also introduced an optional back seat?


I agree with the MB SLK… Bought a nice SLK320 a couple years back at really short money… a lot of car for little cash these days. Most of these were bought as weekend sunny day toys for the trophy spouse, so they’ve seen light use. More of a GT cruiser than an all out sports car… but fun none-the-less. I never tire of watching the retractable hardtop work. Personally I prefer the V6 version over the supercharged four, but both are good. These are a huge bargain in today’s market.

I’d add the mid 2000s Jaguar X-Type to this list. A spotty reli reputation for some has brought the prices way down, so they can be had cheap, but these have nowhere near the problems of earlier Jags. They are stylish, comfortable and fantastic driving cars.


I decided to sell my 1997 MGB and take a chance on the Hagerty advice to get in on the ground floor of the “Next collectable MB”,the SL500.1996 was one of only three years they had a 8 cylinder.,32 valve,4 cam,2 ton powerhouse.The convertible top in action is truly an amazing feat (and cost Benz more than 5 yrs.,and 8 million) to perfect.The 1 owner,31K mileage model, in a Midnight Blue metallic w/gray interior I found after a lengthy search, is indeed comfortable and impressive.I have $16k in purchase and soft top hydraulic repair.Now we sit back, literally enjoy the drive, and hope we take the ride to profit land.


2-3 months ago they said the R129 series from MB. Now the R170 SLK is at the top of the list. I just happen to own both before this came out. I’m feeling kinda smart right now. Hope it turns out OK but I’m loving the cars (2001 SLK Sport V6 manual transmission, 1995 SL 600)


Waiting for the 93-97 Infinity J-30 with it’s 3.0L power, luxury sport crafted cabin, four doors and sexy profile to get some feature time.


Like most of us, getting that collector vehicle comes at a price…that being the price and time you can spend in it and be happy with the costs of that at same time…I live in Chicago and as everyone knows we have two seasons…construction and more construction…and like most seasons around here they have no set time on when one ends and one takes over…The past few years my wife and I have had the car out fewer and fewer times because of the change in our climate…we had it out last season once in February ( it was 60 degrees ) and a cold snap hit and the came an extremely long rain falls that made it impossible to get the car back out till June…then its way to hot for a convertible anywhere…I do enjoy top down driving in our 89 Mustang GT and the" thumbs up" where ever we take it but the times we have had it out are getting harder to find… But its a freedom you can only appreciate if you have a convertible…WOW…its worth every minute behind the wheel…
Add it to your Bucket List to get one!!!


I bought a new 230 SLK for my My Mom in 1969. She has since past. The car currently has 28, 000 miles on it. Honestly!!!, have original window sticker and all receipts. It is an automatic, I believe they stopped making the stick shift that year. Gremlins included the top, after a while the pistons failed, got new ones cost a bit, manual over ride is there to to close top in a case of lost pressure. Rust is a problem in some areas, put a new engine hood on the car. I am concerned about the transmission. There is no way of changing the fluid. Mercedes had some type of fluid they claimed would last for a long time, but never said how long.For now it works fine. I am waiting with fingers crossed. Interior is OK but a lot of plastic.Changed out the right glove compartment panel. Had to come from Germany. A few other glitches but what can you expect from a car that is about 20 years old. Tried out the new models of SLK, very soft, not really a sport car. The 230 SLK is a real sporty car, like the old days,. A bit rough on bumps, but fun to drive…Silver with two tone (Red and Black interior seats}. Have a good mechanic here, reasonable price and knows the cars. ,I follow all recommended service. MB place here if FL cost a fortune, if I need to get a small part, they really look down on the car, and try to sell you a new one. Not interested in that, Have an old Healey but that’s another story…


There was a '94 Town Car Signature series owned by an elderly couple sitting under a carport on my street that I have watched for the nearly 18 years I have lived on there. The car was occasionally gone but not often and during the last 3 years it hardly moved at all. The inevitable happened and I approached a family member and let it be known that I was an interested buyer. Long story short, that Lincoln Town Car became mine. The car had 161k miles on it, way more than I wanted but the original White paint and blue leather seats were perfect–no dents, no tears. It had fresh Bridgestones, a recent battery and 100% complete and stock. The water pump, radiator, shocks and rear airbags are about 3 years old. Research on the power, reliability and longevity of the 4.6 sohc convinced me that 161k was not a problem with cars going 300k to 400k with ordinary maintenance and a ride like no other convinced me. The 1k price (yes 1k) left me room to put in a reman temp control panel, an up-graded blue-tooth radio, all new fluids and a professional detail job. What a ride! What a trunk! I named it “The Flying Cloud” before the sale was completed. I am planning an 8,000+ mile loop of the lower 48 in next couple of months. I had been looking at some Rolls, Benz’s, and Caddy’s, None of them will ride better and none of them will have a dealer presence and parts network in virtually every county in the U.S. Very cool cult classic that makes a ton of sense!


I bought an SLK 320 in September. I absolutely LOVE it. I go out for a ride just to clear my head and take away daily issues. Better and cheaper than medication or consultatiion. with a shrink. I plan to deduct the cost of the vehicle under medical expenses this year!!
Serious fun!