Can you still find a cool car for $5K? We bought 7 vintage rides to find out

What you are about to see is the ridiculous upshot of some water-cooler bravado. The story begins with this fact: Occasionally, during an ordinary work day here at Hagerty, often while shifting gears from one task to another, our brains need to drop into idle for a bit. The go-to for a few minutes of slack-jawed stupor for many of us is Craigslist and other online classifieds, where one can be pleasingly pummeled by the daily fire hose of ads for every kind of clapped-out, rusted-down, and boogered-up prairie schooner within a 500-mile radius.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/09/12/can-you-find-a-cool-car-for-5k

Great article! Obviously the perception of what is a cool old car and who did the best/worst is really dependent on personal tastes. Coming from a person who has been labeled a millennial, which I hate, I’d say the 54 Chevy and 64 Dart are tied for the win.

I bought this 1987 Allante with 33,287 miles for $2,700 from the estate of the original owner in Claremont, CA. Interior was like new.

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Two years ago, I bought this '89 LeBaron GTC convertible for under $3k. It had 56k miles, was a two-owner car and had little to no rust (just as you see it). While Aaron might not, I consider it a classic because only 906 were made, and it has all of the Shelby-inspired go-fast goodies as standard equipment. Here’s a short list: 11" brakes, 16” wheels (205/55-16), Shelby springs and sway bars, strengthened 2.2L with a forged crankshaft and connecting rods, Mahle pistons, intercooled Garret T03 turbo II (175 hp with 12 psi boost) and a 5-speed manual transaxle with a coarse-pitched gearset from Getrag, four-pinion differential, upgraded mainshaft bearings and bigger 230 mm clutch assembly, with 3.85 final-drive gear ratio (200 ft-lb torque). She sure can scoot!

Ok it maybe not 5k, but I scored my '65 Galaxie 500xl 2 door for six. Solid rust free body and interior is great. Buckets, console, reclining passenger seat. Still has the original driveline (289, c4, 9" rear). Mileage? 45,000 documented original miles.

My wife’s '79 Town Landau Tbird was got for $2300, 88000 miles. My '76 LTD 68000 miles and $1800. While the Tbird is due for paint, the LTD is still wearing its factory hue and after a couple of hours with a high speed buffer, looks like new. Interior is near perfect with one spot on the carpet so that will need replaced.

So at least in my world a decent classic car CAN be had for 6 or less thousand dollars. My '68 Cougar was 4500, but after a trans rebuild and a complete restore on the body put it WAY over the top. Still, less than 10k. If I were still on my old phone, I would include pics. More to come.

Great article. Both my brother and myself are afflicted with the inexpensive (cheap) car disease. He recently picked up a '74 Dart for chump change (his 3rd, I think). Not a cool one, but a brown 4 door grandpa (quite literally) car. But that’s his thing. Can’t criticize, I just rolled the dice on a “running” '71 beetle. Always wanted one in the worse way, and that’s what I got. But it’s fun to play with.

My $1300 BMW 535i. My DD for three years. 215k miles, 5 speed.

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I like the Dart the best. And those boys will likely be the only kids at school that know how to crank a window!
Great story.

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Very nice purchase. That is a lot of beautiful driver for that kind of money. Had a red 91, loved that car.

YES !! You definitely DO NOT have to spend the life savings and the kids to have something worth having !!
LOOK for the deals and show those idiots at the big auctions how to get VALUE for a dollar !

I paid $5000 for a like new 1993 XJ6 (XJ40) Jag with 38,000 original , garage kept ,miles. It’s a great looking car and purrs.

Unbelievable the negative vibes thrown at the MGBGT. Unlike any of these other options, this one can be maintained readily with a $90 Craftsman tool kit, will last forever with maintenance and as long as it’s not shown salty roads, is fun to drive and cheap to run, handles well enough, is quick enough, and has good brakes so it’s eminently usable on modern roads, once sorted out will prove to be reliable (no shortcuts during the sorting out phase though!), and all the parts are available and relatively inexpensive -pretty much without having to dial up Cecil in the UK - with minimal searching. And it’s a unique item among the current rash of road-going suppositories without costing a small fortune. What is there not to like? Congratulations to Cameron on his new acquisition, may it bring many miles of smiles.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so I won’t knock any of these choices. But for under $5000 classics, I believe many are missing out on the value of the Lincoln Mark VIII. A mostly practical care that is more sporty & stylish than most on this list, has good performance in stock form without any help from a turbo, good handling despite it’s weight with fully independent suspension, great gas mileage, comfortable for front seat passengers (who else counts?). These same attributes apply to the 89-98 T-Bird and Cougar. I’ve had my 94 Mark almost 23 years, still enjoy driving it and it still looks good, to me anyway and nobody else counts. I was planning to be buried in it but the hole I bought is too small.

I agree about the MGBGT. We had a 69 MGB and loved it. I believe Harry Westlake who teamed with Dan Gurney on the Gurney/Westlake heads for the 289 Ford engine, designed or was at least involved in the design of the MG engine. Hated to sell mine and today wish I still had it. But you have to admit, British cars have a bad reputation for being unreliable and most I’ve known who owned them did not, could not drive them when it got cold weather because they wouldn’t start.

OK…46 years ago in 1973, I bought a 1969 Chrysler 300 convertible for $800. It had 51K miles and was in perfect condition. The owner wanted it gone because he had ordered a new 1974 hardtop…then lost his job and needed the money. I still have it…it will go to my grand daughter and we use it for parades, about 65 so far. It is still in #2 condition and I’ve turned down $25K offers for it. I know this doesn’t qualify for a recent purchase but to get a 4 year old car in excellent condition that cost new over $5, and get it for $800, I think is pretty good. At that time it was booked at $2500. What would that look like in today’s inflation?

Correction…that should read $5000…not $5. Sorry

paid $4200 2 years ago for this rare 78 Mercury Monarch 302/4-speed/A-C car with a beautiful 3 yr old paint job and 108,000 miles . Desert car from Vegas.


Wow,you guys are shopping in the wrong neighbourhood. Within 50 kms of my little berg up here in the frozen north, I did a quick search using the stated criterea of price and vintage. This is what I found on one site in 10 minutes. Mileage is in kilometers and prices are in $CAD. 1 CAD is .754, USD so the budget of $5000 USD=$6450 CAD.

'91 Volvo 245 Wagon, auto, 282K kms, $2300
91 Miata, 2 tops, no rust, summer only car, #articles-videos $3700
77 Dodge Aspen Coupe, 318. auto 58K Kms $4000
85 Renault conv, looks like new, 5 spd, $2000
85 MB 300 TD, looks like new, 262K Kms $4900
90 Miata, rust repair and new paint 2 yrs ago, summer only car, $3500
94 Honda Del Sol 5 spd, 220K Kms. $3300
91 MB 300 SE 268K Kms. Looks like new, $3250
45 GMC pick up, still a working truck for a wrought iron company, all original,$6500
86 Chev Wrangler LWB, Fleetside, one owner, 194K Kms, $6,000
70 Spitfire, frame off resto 7 years ago, $5750
64 Rambler wagon, fresh 327 3 spd $6000
51 Packard 300 sedan, straight 8 all original except for new interior, $5500.
80 TR8, new roof, new paint, mechanically refreshed, $5800
73 MB 280CE, like new inside and out, 177K Kms. $6500
I didn’t bother noting the numerous BMW E30’s or most of the MB W123 or 124’s.

Yes, I live in a honey hole and no, I’m not telling you where it is.

I bagged a '63 Dodge Dart 270 convertible with 225 and pushbutton 904 for $4K. Only 104K original miles and only two previous owners. The first owner had kept it for 45 years. It was an inexpensive restore and those pushbuttons are rock solid reliable. My first car was a '65 with column shifter that gave me much more trouble than the pushbuttons ever have. Chrysler pushbuttons are awesome. The Edsel pushbuttons were the troublesome ones.

2005 Mustang, 114k miles. Upgraded exhaust, cold air intake and body molding. $5700.

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