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Best Affordable and Usable Classic Cars for Cash-Strapped Collectors

Vukasin HerbezMarch 11, 2019

Everybody in the car world knows that nowadays, collector car prices are insane. Once affordable, some used cars are high-priced and highly sought-after way above the reach of the average car enthusiast. In just a few years, some models costing $10,000 have become $50,000. Although it’s hard to keep up with the market, cruising along the coastal highway in your classic car is one of the best feelings in life.

Even though most bona fide classics cost a fortune, there is still a way to get this sensation for budget prices. Forget the expensive Porsches or exotics, because here are the 16 best classic cars you can enjoy on a modest salary. And best of all, you can maintain, repair and modify these classics without the fear of losing value. For just a few thousand dollars, you can become the proud owner of one of these models and start cruising today.

  1. BMW E21 3-Series

Most people know the BMW 2002 or E30 generation of the 3-Series. However, they have forgotten about the first modern 3-Series model in production between 1975 and 1983. Internally known as the E21, this BMW possessed all the top characteristics of the brand.

In fact, it was one of the best affordable cars in the late ‘70s. With its light weight two-door body, sporty design, rev-happy six-cylinder engines, and rear wheel drive, the E21 was the purest form of driving pleasure. The most desirable version is the 323i with 147 HP, which is more than enough in a car this light.

  1. Toyota Supra

Everybody lusts after those Mk 4 Supras from the early ‘90s but people forget the first model from the series, the Celica Supra. For those customers who found the standard Celica not agile or powerful enough, Toyota introduced the 1978 Celica Supra with a cool-looking hatchback body style and six-cylinder engine powering the rear wheels.

The base engine for the Celica Supra was a 2.5 liter straight six with 110 HP. But for those who wanted more power, the 3.0-liter with 116 HP was also available. Despite the fact it wasn’t anything special in terms of output, the Celica Supra provides sharp handling. Better yet, its optionally limited slip differential helps with drifting and high-spirited driving.

  1. Mercury Capri

Over the years, Mercury sold numerous models under the Capri name. First, it was just a trim level on a regular Mercury sedan and then it was a re-badged Ford Capri from Europe. However, in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, it was the Mercury version of a Fox-bodied Mustang.

But this Mustang-derived Mercury is the most interesting. It represents an inexpensive way to get an old school muscle car much rarer than your run of the mill Fox-body Mustang. However, the 5.0 H.O. engine is not available in the Capri.

  1. AMC Pacer

The Pacer is a car that is equally loved and hated, but it is legendary and recognizable. It was an effort of AMC to produce a compact car. However, it turned out to be less compact than its competitors and came with numerous flaws. Still, the design and legend that revolves around it make it one of the most quirky, iconic ’70s legends.

The prices are still low, mainly because most people have forgotten about this cool car. If you like the Pacer, you can find them at budget-friendly prices. But don’t expect a great performance or dynamic driving because that’s not what this car is all about.

  1. Studebaker Lark

Today, the Studebaker Lark is a totally forgotten model. But, not only it was one of the first compact cars from a domestic car company, it was one of the most successful cars for a little while. Studebaker offered the Lark from 1959 to 1966 in three generations.

Most of the cars featured straight six engines, but V8 power was also available. Today, you can pick up a nice Studebaker Lark Convertible for under $15,000, which is a steal. So, if you want to differ from everybody else on the road, you can pick up one of these beauties.

  1. Full-Size Classic American Sedans

It seems like everybody is looking for famous muscle cars like the Mustang or Corvette. And that has resulted in putting those models out of reach of the average classic car buyer. However, numerous full-size American sedans, two-door hardtops, and coupes are largely forgotten.

There are so many interesting models from practically every U.S. manufacturer that falls into this category. They range from cool Chevrolet Impalas to elegant Ford Galaxies, and from the Dodge Monaco to luxurious Cadillacs. All of those legendary machines come with V8 engines, often with a big block that guarantees power and torque is under your right foot.

  1. Volkswagen Scirocco Mk1

Today, the hot hatch crowd is crazy about the Mk1 Golf GTI, pushing the prices up. However, the early Golfs are still within reach of most enthusiasts. But if this trend continues, those once affordable economy cars will become expensive. So, what to do if you like this German icon but you are not able to pay top dollar for a perfect Mk1 GTI?

You can buy a Scirocco instead. Volkswagen presented this forgotten model at the same time as the original VW Golf Mk1. But it was a sportier, more dynamic-looking version of the same platform. Its lower roofline and wedge shape made it modern for the period, yet it offered the same performance as a regular Golf.

  1. MG B

One of the most popular, typical British roadsters from the ‘60s is the MG B. MG presented the B in 1962 as the successor to the MG A, which helped establish the roadster class in the U.S. By the standards of the day, the MG B was a fairly modern car with unibody construction and a roomy interior, as well as a decent suspension and steering.

Some contemporary tests consider the MG B underpowered. And although 95 HP from a 1.8-liter engine certainly isn’t much, since the car weighs only 2,200 pounds, it can keep up with modern traffic. But for those who want more power, MG introduced their model C with a 3.0-liter six cylinder and 145 HP and the MG B GT with a 3.5-liter V8 engine, which was available only in coupe form.

  1. Ford Falcon

Ford introduced the Falcon in 1960 as their first compact model and it was an instant bestseller. With a modern looking body and a nice selection of economical six-cylinder engines, the Falcon was affordable. But it was also a high-quality product, which appealed to a lot of customers. Soon, Ford introduced more powerful versions with V8 engines and a convertible body style, making the Falcon even more popular and interesting.

The parts are inexpensive, making the Falcon an ideal canvas for modifications. In fact, you can use everything from the Mustang in the Falcon, as well. Ford made over two million Falcons in various versions and body styles, so you should be able to find one in decent condition at an affordable price.

  1. Honda CRX

One of the most interesting compact and affordable cars is the legendary Honda CRX. Honda built it from 1983 to 1991, basing the CRX on the Civic. But it comes with a lower, sportier body and only two seats. Since it was light, nimble and had precise steering, the CRX was a true sports car, although it has front-wheel drive.

The engine delivers up to 140 HP. But the biggest selling point of this model is the extremely light body. The whole car weighs 1,800 pounds and has a high revving four-cylinder engine. To this day, Honda never repeated the success of the CRX.

  1. Mazda RX-7

Mazda revealed their first generation RX-7 in 1978 and it stayed on the market until 1985. During that period, they built almost 500,000 RX-7s, selling most of them in America. Under the hood was a 1.1 to 1.3-liter Wankel rotary engine, which was the RX-7’s most notable feature.

The extremely compact and light engine produced 102 to 135 HP, which was more than enough for a lively performance in this little coupe. If you can live with the Wankel engine and its specific maintenance then the RX-7 is the perfect and affordable classic sports coupe for you.

  1. Peugeot 205 GTI

When Peugeot introduced the compact 205 model in 1983, a performance GTI version wasn’t in the cards. Realizing a hopped-up model could have an impact on the market, Peugeot presented the 205 GTI. It came with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that pumps out 115 HP. The combination of a light weight body, precise steering, a rev-happy engine, and a lively performance proved extremely popular with car buyers.

The 205 GTI was practical, economical and affordable and managed to get a cult following in Europe. In the late ’80s, the 205 GTI got a 1.9-liter engine upgrade that delivered 136 HP, improving the performance. As all European hot hatches of the day, the 205 GTI had front wheel drive and drivers praised it for its handling and superb driving feel.

  1. Toyota MR2

Back in the mid-80s, Toyota shocked the automotive world by introducing the MR2. It is a small mid-engine sports car delivering a great performance and superb road holding at an affordable price. In those days as well as today, Toyota is considered a dull manufacturer of economy models without any interesting or exciting cars.

However, they presented the first generation MR2 in 1984 featuring 1.5-liter and 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines they mounted centrally behind the driver and between the cabin. And thanks to the rear axle this little car has fantastic handling.

  1. Jeep Cherokee XJ

Classic SUVs are getting more expensive each day, so if you want one, you should get yours soon. Jeep presented the Cherokee XJ in 1984 and it was an enormous success for Jeep. With its boxy yet elegant looks, great build quality and lots of usable features, the second generation Cherokee was the SUV of the ‘80s as well as a globally successful model.

Despite being a modern and comfortable vehicle, the Cherokee XJ retained all the best Jeep characteristics like rugged mechanics and a dependable AWD drivetrain. And, thanks to its quality engines, it claimed the title of one of the best SUVs of all times.

  1. Mercedes W114/115

Mercedes offered the W114/115 generation of Mercedes sedans between 1968 and 1976. They came with the option of a four or six-cylinder engine. You can think of the W114/115 as an E-Class predecessor from the late ‘60s. This means that the W114/115 generation possesses the same quality as the all-classic Mercedes models.

It comes with undeniable style, impressive durability, comfort, space and elegance, which is what classic cars should have. In comparison to some other classic Mercedes models, the W114/5 sedans are inexpensive yet a blast to drive.

  1. Fiat 124 Spider

Fiat unveiled the 124 Spider in 1966, selling it in America until 1985. The famous design house, Pininfarina, styled the 124 Spider and Fiat built it on the 124 Sedan platform. The mechanics were straightforward with a twin cam engine, four-speed manual transmission, and rear wheel drive. The early models got 90 HP from the 1.6-liter engine and later versions got a 2.0-liter engine with fuel injection to produce 102 HP.

The 124 Spider was one of the more comfortable options. It featured a roomy cabin, big trunk, and good ride quality, so decent examples are highly desirable. So, if you want one, don’t worry, because Fiat built over 200,000 of them. Better yet, most of them are in America, so finding one should be easy to do.

These are the best affordable and usable classic cars for cash-strapped collectors. With all the variety, you should be able to find one that suits your tastes. However, don’t wait too long, as these classics will go up in price soon.

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