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Question of the Week: What is your favorite budget-friendly classic?


#1

Hot on the heels of our 10 under $10k list last week, the question of best budget-friendly classic is our question of the week this time around.

Owning a second (or third, or fourth) car that serves the sole purpose of driving enjoyment is not cheap, especially if your daydreams are filled with images of blower Bentleys or Rosso Corsa paint-smothered Italian curves. The good news is it does not have to drain your bank account completely, as long as you go after the right car.


The Chevrolet Corvair keeps purchase and maintenance costs low, but the fun factor high. (photo- Kyle Smith)

Low price to acquire the car can be meaningless if the upkeep is nickel-and-diming the owner broke. Many cars are available in a lower price range and offer all the driving enjoyment an owner can desire.

Our 10 under $10k list went out and had a wide range of flavors, but surely we missed one or two. Is it the little British car MGB that provides driving pleasure with minimal upkeep? What about the Mazda Miata?

Let’s keep the budget at $10,000, but we want to hear your choice for how you would spend it on a classic. Tell us your choice—and why—below.


#2

I’m gonna go outside of my normal Ford arena and recommend 1992-96 Corvettes. By this point in C4 history, the car was up to an honest 300 hp and could be had with the same slick 6-speed ZF manual found in many BMWs.

It might not be the most desirable Corvette in collectors eyes, but it really was the start of the platform’s performance renaissance. Plus, it’s awfully hard to resist this car’s dark green over tan!


#3

I’m a Corvair guy, pretty much dyed-in-the-wool at this point. Their prices have been rising, but it is still a relative bargain compared to its more muscular siblings. Delightful to drive, easy to maintain. If you don’t absolutely need to be pinned back in your seat with acceleration, there is no reason to overlook them.


#4

Hard to beat a 190E series “Baby Benz” (W201 body style) as a daily driver these days - offered from 1985 through 1993 in many versions - economical Diesel, 5 speed, Boy Racer (Cosworth version), Evo 1 & Evo 2 Big Boy racer versions, Limited Editions, 4 & 6 cylinder gasoline versions - such a classy, dead reliable, super safe vehicle to ply the back roads with! They made many tens of thousands, so they are readily available in all price ranges, conditions, colors, etc. A model from the Modern Classic era of Mercedes-Benz - the pre-merger, pre-AMG era. Father of the modern C-Class cars.


#5


Although rarer in the US than in Canada, and outside of a “true” Cooper S, most classic Minis can be affordable, and offer the most smiles per mile of any classic car. Whether you wish to go vintage racing, autocross or just motoring on twisty roads, a classic Mini is a seat-of-the-pants driving experience. Be prepared for many questions and conversations whenever you park it in public.


#6

1988 Fiero GT. In my opinion an underappreciated car that was quite revolutionary. By the time the 1988 model year rolled around, most of the Fiero’s shortcomings had been addressed including the new for '88 suspension. A fun car to drive and still very affordable.


#7

VW Beetle 1968 on. Still cheap to buy and 99% of the parts, nuts, bolts, seals , etc are available through literaly hundreds of suppliers.


#8

It’s tough to beat the C5 Corvette starting in 1997 and ending in 2004. I have 158k miles on my red 1997 base model so I recently bought a 2004 Z06 with 43k miles on it to be my daily driver.

You can find a sub-100k mile example for sub-$10k. They are easy to work on, faaarrrr superior to the C4 generation and a sure classic.


#9

The R107 chassis Mercedes (380SL, 450SL, and sometimes 560SL) can be had for under 10k. They turn heads and are quite reliable compared to inexpensive British roadsters.

These cars also have modern amenities that are great for road trips (cruise control, heat + a/c, good radio, central locks, etc).


#10

1930 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan. Easy and fun to drive.


#11

1968 Ford Falcon Sprint 289 cu. in. Silver Blue with a white convertible top and white interior.


#12

Quite a few years ago I remember seeing an aftermarket parts catalog for Minis. Except for the engine block every single part of the car, including the entire body shell, was available.


#13

Kyle, you & I discussed this once before and I have to say that I really think your Corvair is a beautiful example, but I have to keep singing the praises of the E21 BMW, the 320i sold in the US from 1977-83. You can buy the best examples in the country all day long for less than $8k. The M10 engine is dead reliable and they are super easy to work on. They don’t get the respect they deserve falling as they did between the 2002 and the E30, but that just makes them all the more reasonable for the budget minded auto enthusiast.
Here’s mine…


#14

Well of course it is the current classic in my Garage! 1975 Buick LeSabre Convertible. Fully loaded and with the 455. Not a muscle car but a bit spirited for a big ragtop from the energy crisis era.


#15

I think the Triumph Spitfire doesn’t get mentioned enough in these conversations. Around $8000 for a number 3, parts are plentiful and affordable with many vendors to choose from. They are simple enough for a non-gear head to enjoy wrenching on, and most importantly; an absolute blast to drive. Push them the way you promote the Corvair and the price will start to climb!


#16

I’m not sure the “Bug Eye” Sprite is a classic. But it is one hell of a lot of fun for $25k+/-. Every time I get to urge to sell mine, I drive it and say all over again, “The most fun you can have from 30 to 50 MPH”. …Jim.


#17

I love my 1988 Buick LeSabre T-type. While not a muscle car, it was the best handling H-body of the era with F-41 independent suspension, quick ratio steering, and a V6 3800 that is super reliable and returns great MPG. Option coded RPO WE2, this coup also featured a front & rear spoiler, alloy wheels, red backlit analog gauges, floor shift console between bucket seats, sport steering wheel, and Concert II Sound system. Some cars, mine included, got GMs new prototype composite fenders flanking the standard Euro style clamshell hood. The throttle tip-in is aggressive & the exhaust has a little distinguishing “growl”! Quite the headturner for the budget minded!


#19

1978 trans am with a 6.6 400


#20

A lot may not agree, but my 1997 Ford Probe GTS is my favorite. Low on horsepower, but great handling, a smooth Mazda engine, and looks that don’t get old. Prices are going up on them, but they’re still well under $10k for most.


#21

Most of the “classics” referenced in these replies are just old used cars found in second rate used car lots all over the country.