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Bargain "Classics"--$12,000 or Less and 20 Years or Older

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
edited March 8 in MG
This is still a great time to shop for that
"classic" car you've always wanted, either as a
second car for Sunday driving or as your only
wheels.

We're not talking restoration project here, but a
decent-looking, good-running car with style and
that retro look and feel that only an old car can
give.

Here are the suggested criteria for "Bargain
Classics"

1. $5,000 or less for a decent example.

2. 25 years old or older so as to guarantee
exclusivity on the road, a vintage style and feel,
and the pull of nostalgia.

3. Readily available in the U.S.A.

4. Preferably, but it's not mandatory, that there
be a plentiful parts supply.

Okay, I'll start off with my first suggestion for
potential buyers in the next post! Let's have yours
as well.

Shiftright

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Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Here's an affordable "classic":

    1967-1974 MGB Coupe or Roadster


    For $5,000 or less, you get a good-looking, rugged
    and simple car with an endless supply of
    affordable parts. It's one of the last true
    "classic" British sports cars that hasn't gone over the top yet in value, due to the large numbers produced and still on the road. Fun to drive (except in snow perhaps), the coupe is the better of the two in winter rain and cold.

    Best years are 1967 (first year with synchro 1st
    gear transmission) to 1974 (last year of chrome
    bumper cars and good handling and power).

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    [Please feel free to delete or edit as necessary to maintain domestic tranquility and to keep the site free of any discord or any challenging or troublesome thoughts.]

    I guess this is supposed to replace 'Relatively Affordable Great Old Cars', which is now frozen.

    So for relatively affordable great old cars that are less than 25 yrs old or cost more than $5K or that exist only in very small numbers, I guess we need to start new topics? Also if one wants to inquire about a car whose age and current market value they're unsure of? Or for just discussing various aspects of some relatively affordable great old cars, but not necessarily inquiring about price information and availability?

    How about Lotus Elan Plus 2S's? Too much money? Too few examples left on the road? I don't know whether parts are plentiful or rare. How about that beautiful but fantastically unsuccessful Morgan coupe that almost brought the company down in the early 60's, before they gave it up and went back to concentrating on the nostalgia-mobiles that the public demanded of them? They're rare enough to be valuable, but they may still be obscure enough to be available cheap due to low demand. How about the Lancia Scorpion (Monte Carlo)? Is it 25 yrs old yet? Or the Fiat 850 Spider: parts are plentiful, but are strewn all over the road.

    Also, the only way I have found into this conference is through the link from the now defunct, frozen one. The 'Town Hall' page still lists the same old conferences - none of the new ones.

    http://www.edmunds.com/edweb/townhall/

    PS
    On MGBs, I assume you're talking about fairly clean, daily drivers. My source (not gospel by any means, but worthy of consideration) lists especially clean examples at up to $7500.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Hi C13,

    The Classics conference will be fully operational by 1/31, so we're still in the construction stage. Soon though, it will appear in everyone's sidebar and the confusion will be over.

    I'm sorry if the affordable old cars got frozen, I'll see if I can unfreeze it.

    I picked the criteria for this topic....under $5K, over 25 years and good parts supply, because I was hoping it would actually encourage people to go find, buy and successfully maintain one of these affordable "classics".

    I don't think the Lotus Plus 2 qualifies on price (they start about 7K) or parts availability (tight)or being successfully maintained by a "beginning" collector, so that's out...ditto the Morgan...

    But the Fiat 850 qualifies on all counts, and the Lancia is JUST outside 25 years, but close enough to qualify on all counts, so we could count those two if you'd like to say anymore about them...both of those cars are easily found at around the 2,500-3,500 level in good shape.

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    When I wrote that I hadn't seen that you already started a bunch of topics that covered a lot of ground.

    I just get a little concerned that there seems to be so much emphasis on sticking to the topic and breaking down each subject into such rigid categories that creative tangents get discouraged and consequently real conversation becomes difficult. Conversation's kind of a fluid thing.

    But it's mostly just my own identity problems and low blood sugar and all. I'll try to be good.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Dear C13,

    You can create a completely wide-open topic if you'd like, please, or just recreate the original Affordable Cars topic, or start an "Under $20K Topic"...whatever works for you. I'm keen for anything that's appropriate to Old Cars.

    Most Edmund's users, by the way, pop in and out for information, or read many topics without participating, so it works for them to have good structure.

    So, where were we? Oh, yeah, very cool retro wheels for under $5K that you can actually drive in the real world and get from one place to another without having your own coffee cup on a hook at the repair shop...

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    Nigel

    What do you think about buying late model MG Midgets (with the bizarro bumpers), and just exchanging the bumpers for the good kind?

    Needless to say, it'll never have any resale value, but that don't matter. This is not for 'concours' or even 'collectible', but just for flailing around on the road.

    Also, would you and any others here who can, be so kind as to compare and/or contrast the old familiar roadsters with the Miatas they've driven? It may be apples and oragnes, but there must be some aspects of a certain Miatas (early, middle or late) that are similar to (or not as good as, or better than) one old roadster or another. I'm thinking in terms of handling and general feel, mostly.

    I used to sell them, and I was amazed that after having read all the hype, they didn't really feel that great, handling-wise. Most of them have power-assisted steering, for one thing. Seems really dumb to me.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    The rubber-bumpered Midgets? I think they completely screwed up a once nice little car. The bumperwork was hideous enough, but they raised the suspension (to conform to US bumper height requirements) and that threw the handling all off...also the emissions equipment, which was poorly engineered, killed any semblence of performance. I believe the top speed of the later Midgets topped out at about 70 mph with a tailwind. It' a sad story for a swell little car.

    But, some people still drive them and like them, so most of them do find a loving home...I guess if you don't ask too much of them and put the top down, it's a fun cheap ride into town.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Regarding the comparison of the modern Miata to cars of the past, that's a very astute observation, since it is no coincidence that modern drivers are once again falling in love with the small, tight, rear-wheel drive roadster. In my opinion, it's the world's most fun driving, in a small, rear-drive two seater with lively, high-revving SMALL engine (Sunbeam Tigers not withstanding, since you steer those with the gas pedal only).

    While the Miata obviously looked to the Lotus for the stying que, I think the car they were really trying to imitate in feel and fun-factor were the Alfa Spyders ( of which I own one...ahem) and the MGB...either one of which is a "classic" roadster that can still deliver miles of reliable fun for under $5,000, and be totally forgiving in handling no matter how hard you push them. You have to do something truly nuts in an MGB or Alfa to have it bite you. (I almost got bit driving a BMW Z3,so I know it's less forgiving than my car).

    Long live two seats, open top, rear-wheel drive, no power steering and 6500 rpm redlines...yeah!

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    I agree with all you say, but really what I meant to ask about was the feasibility of turning a later Midget into an ersatz early Midget. Whatever atrocities need to be undone - bumpers removed, springs replaced, emissions controls removed*, that's what I'd do.

    Of course for all that work, you'd probably be better off just getting an older one. I guess I'm trying to find a way to liberate the later ones from a life of shame. Maybe it's not feasible. Maybe it's best to just give up on them. But they're so cheap.

    Hey if you think that's a perverted concept, I also want to get a pre-66 Karmann-Ghia with a perfect body and install it on a 356 or 912 (911?) floorpan with a real bad body but good mechanicals.

    I know it's nuts, but I think it's tragic that that excellent Ghia styling and Karmann coachwork should be known ONLY as a cosmetic improvement on a nasty old VW. There ought to be at least one Ghia on the road with mechanicals that are worthy of the body.

    *Mind you, I'm into low emissions. I operate on the theory that a properly tuned car has very low emissions. You just have to keep it tuned.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Yeah, but a 912 isn't that fast...a VW with big barrels, twin carbs and a few ignition mods will mop up a 912...which is, after all, just a heavier 356, engine-wise....just soup up the Karmann, it'd be a lot faster than a stock 912.

    Converting a post 74 MG Midget to pre75 specs?...sure, you can do it, but since you can buy a beautiful pre 75 Midget for $3,500, why bother, as you imply.

    A friend of mine took one of those tragic last years of the MGB, 1980 I think it was, and rebuilt it as an early 70s car, with even more modifications beyond stock stuff..special head and carbs, lowered, converted to tube shocks, fiberglas springs, all the old chrome, overdrive trans...it was a wonderful car to drive, some $12,000 later. It is the ultimate BEE...

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  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    In 1980 they still had lever shocks? Man, them English ain't right.

    Fiberglas springs is an interesting thing. I'm aware of it in certain cars, but it seems like a material that oughta have been exploited for years for springs. I've often wondered why it wasn't. Titanium too, though more expensive.

    Yeah, better just to get an old midge and add a hot VW engine to my imaginary Ghia. I know from bitter experience that the chassis needs stiffening. Roll cage oughta help.

    Another fantasy is to just have a sculpture garden full of old junkers that'll never run again, but whose bodies are good. Park em, wax em, view them from the lawn chair.
  • GTRocksGTRocks Posts: 48
    MS, I am interested in your take on the Z3 you mentioned. My mother-in-law has one of the first 4 cylinder models. We discussed it a bit in the Z3 conference, but I want your take. Do you find the handling to be a bit "off" (read weird). Maybe I have just never driven a roadster before, but I did not like the experience. I push cars a bit harder in the handling dept. than she does, but I swear it almost bit me on an on ramp. I really didn't think I was over doing it at all. Hit a bump, the rear broke left. Not bad, just had to swallow my heart again. I am sure my 93 Mustang GT could have taken that turn without a blink, and it doesn't have IRS. Does the Z3? What are your thoughts on it? Thanks.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Well, I don't know...I think new cars are so much more competent than the old classics that they let you do things that the old cars would warn you about a lot sooner.

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  • SpedmanSpedman Posts: 15
    Where would be a good source for a '64 Dodge Dart convertible with an automatic(with the dashboard shifter)? I've looked around for ages, even on the web, and am willing to pay market value if the thing is in good running order, on the condition that the owner allows me to have my mechanic inspect it? Also, any idea what a good ballpark price for one would be?
    My second choice is a '64 Chevy Corvair convertible with the same type of dash mounted automatic shifter. Any ideas?
    Also, Dr. Shiftright, any red flags I should look for in buying one of the above cars? Thanks for any advice.
  • Oh, geez. Must we be forced to delve into the arcane world of british-cars and Lucas reliability? How about some wonderful Teutonic engineering prowess here?

    Three weeks ago I was looking at SUVS--a '94 Toyota 4Runner, every option except leather. But $18,500? A little steep.

    Then I saw it.

    1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SE. Grey/grey leather, automatic climate control, 4-speed auto w/ gated shifter, Zebrano wood trim, doors that close with a THUNK instead of a rattle like the 4runner's doors (supposedly with side-impact beams, new for '94?).
    I drove it on the highway and what a pleasant surprise! Only 155 hp from the overly catalyzed 3.8 liter SOHC V-8, but it blew away the 4Runner, hands down. The mechanic gave it a clean bill of health, and one week later I bought it.

    The price? Only $8500. Not too much over your target, and forget about a nasty little two-seater when you can have a supremely competent autobahn cruiser that, thanks to its heavy duty 4-wheel independant double-wishbone suspension will
    keep up with a live-axle MGB in the high-speed sweepers encountered in the canyons near where I live in central WA.

    Of course, if you are really stuck on sports cars, go look at an early Seventies Porsche 911. I believe the 911S had 150 or 160 hp out of the 2.4 liter flat-6...isn't that nearly twice what an MGB puts out of it's 1.8 liter PUSHROD four?

    Take it from me. German (and swedish...I've owned a Saab 900S and loved it) sports machines are the way to go. BTW, the Benz has proven its prowess on a 400 mile round trip over a mountain pass and more.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    True, very nice car that model Benz but no "classic"...it's just a high production used car...I was thinking when I opened the topic about cars more along the lines of what we perceive as older, unusually styled, retro, --something much older and more exciting than that.

    I've owned 4 Saabs, and believe me, I love them but they have no bragging rights over an MGB when it comes to reliability. I had much less trouble with my three MGBs than each of my four Saabs...and I'm a pretty good mechanic, too. And when you have to rebuilt that MGB engine, it's not going to cost you $15,000 like a Benz V-8...so let's be fair...we're talking "affordable" and "classic"....mtc (my two cents)

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  • Would a Triumph TR6 or TR7 or maybe a Fiat X 1/9 fit this into category. What is your opinion of these?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Oh, I'm a sucker for most old cars. They all have their foibles, but unless they are completely without merit I like them very much and try to be forgiving.

    As for the cars you mentioned, I think the TR6 is a troubled car but has many merits...it's a "man's" sports car in that man or woman you have to really put your shoulders into it to drive it. Big straight-6, which I like, and classic British looks. The TR250 is my favorite, having the old TR4 body with the I-6 engine...only made in 1968.

    The TR7 I personally despise..one of the few cars made that is actually unfixable...horrendous head problems, poor engineering....too bad, it was a good handling car that was rushed to production well before it should have been. And for THIS they canned the MGB! What a poor choice!

    Fiat X1-9....fun little car, better than its reputation, good parts supply, cheap, cheap to buy...where else can you get a mid-engine targa for under $2,500 in great shape for god's sake?!!
    Only downside is kinda tough to work on(waterpump, 7 hours flat rate! and the window crank mechanism is cable driven and a tough job)and the build quality of cosmetic materials is about at the level of an Italian TV dinner tray. If you could find a really well-kept one with all service records, and you're under 6 feet tall, I'd recommend you try one...no speed demon, but the later models get you around just fine, and they can handle!

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  • SporinSporin Posts: 1,066
    What about one of the 6 cyl 914 Porsches? I think this is a totally underappreciated car. With some mods, even one of the 4 cyl models would be a fun, cheap sports car.
  • stub2stub2 Posts: 5
    How about a real sleeper muscle car like a 63-65 Buick Riv. All come with either a 401 or 425 Nailhead big block. They can be found from 3500.00 up.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Had a '63 Riv...really liked it, oddly enough...nice, nice ride.

    914-6...oh, I wouldn't say *totally* underappreciated...you can get a pretty good price for one ($10-12K)...which is about the same as the same year 911, so really I think the car is doing about as well as it can. Great car to drive, scary even, but a MOTHER to work on---ooooh! Good "Q-Ship" though...looks like a mousy little 914-VW engine 1.7 liter putt-putt and then you nail it! Surprise the hell out of people who thought they were going to dust you off.

    Never owned one, though.

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  • One of my friends picked up a 1971 CJ-5 for $5,000. It's certainly very... distinctive, though since Jeep has kept basically the same look on through to today's wrangler, I'd have to wonder whether or not it is "Retro". (It is, however, one of the Renegade II models: Bright, BRIGHT ugly green paint.)
  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    I've always had a thing for the first two years' Rivieras. I'm not sure that clean ones are quite that cheap, but they might be.

    Yeah 914-6's. They have a reputation for swapping ends with minimal provocation. I wonder if that could be tamed a bit with some adjustments and/or bolt-on parts.

    Maybe a gyroscope.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Problem is you have to be a very good driver, dont' think it's really the car's fault.

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  • It has always puzzled me why the Fiat 124 series has fared so poorly with collectors. Yes, it has an Italian temperment and rusts like crazy, but these are things that are not all that uncommon in many older cars. Style and handling are good and the car is great fun to drive (allbeit a bit underpowered ... which can be easily fixed!) .... I firmly believe a well preserved 124 will someday be a desirable classic, any comments??
  • C13C13 Posts: 390
    I desire one.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    They are extremely popular in Britain. I think as the other collectibles dry up, they will become sought after. I like them. With the proper care, they can be very dependable cars, if you pick the right models and start off with a sound car. They are quite sophisticated and civilized.

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  • stub2stub2 Posts: 5
    A "perfect " early Riv sells for @12000 to 16000 but a driveable car is usually around 3000 to 5000. I bought a 63 with 58000 miles for 800.00 it had been in storage for 19 years so I needed (and still need to)do alot of cleaning up of both mechanical and cosemetic problems. Igeuss thats why I bought it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,116
    Stub, that's a great buy. I don't know where that price info comes from, but really, you should be able to find a very nice 63 Riviera for $6,500 and a show car for $10K...there's a '63 "Trophy Winner" with 44K original miles, asking price is $11.5 in hemmings, Feb. 99...he'd take $10K I'm sure and it sounds from the ad like it's beyond perfect. 1964 models should be considerably cheaper.

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  • ajvdhajvdh Posts: 223
    Of course, one way to solve the "underpowered Britcar" problem is to drop a real engine into one. A Ford smallblock will fit an MGB, as will the Rover (previously Buick) V-8. Before you say "that'll wreck the handling", look at the engine weights, the Ford is not that much heavier than the MG 4 banger, and the aluminum Rover engine is lighter.

    Or you could hunt down a Sunbeam Tiger, where the factory did the swap for you. Of course, working on one can be, uh, challenging. The fact that they had to cut a trapdoor next to the gas pedal to allow access to the #8 sparkplug should speak volumes. It took my brother and law and I four hours just to slide the engine in, bolt it to the mounts and attach the headers.
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