The perception of where the entry-level to the collector car hobby seems to rise every week (or at least with every rerun of the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction). But for patient bottom-feeders, there’s still a wealth of sub-$5K collectible cars out there in nice (albeit not spotless) condition. Here are five to consider:
1. 1964 Ford Falcon: You can’t find a drivable first generation Mustang out there anymore for five grand or less — or can you? While few people know it, the first Mustang was heavily based on the Ford Falcon compact. The same ease of maintenance with a dash of practicality awaits a Falcon owner. Most will be four-door sedans but it’s one of the few 1960s classics out there that you can reliably find at this price. Just know that you’ll be fighting hipsters in places like Portland and Austin when they pop up on Craigslist but since most of these folks don’t wake up until eleven, you’ll have the jump on them.
2. 1975-80 MGB: The classically British MGB roadster was in production for a staggering 18 years. The first five were undeniably great, the next seven were OK, and the last six? Well let’s just say that the MGB in 1976 was like Meg Ryan in her 50s. The car wasn’t without charm but with a lifted suspension and puffed up rubber bumpers that resemble Ryan’s lips, it wasn’t what it was. But on a sunny day, none of that will matter to you unless you find the need to humiliate an old Mercedes 240D at a stoplight— the emission control laws that snatched one of the MGB’s carburetors in late 1974 make it painfully slow. At least you won’t have to worry about keeping two carbs in synch. Lucas electricals? Not as problematic as you’ve heard. Bad re-wiring over the years by fools with tools is responsible for much of the “Prince of Darkness” reputation. Parts are cheap and plentiful.
3. 1987-92 Ford Mustang 5.0 LX: The 5.0-liter Fox body Mustang marked the real return of reasonably priced American V-8 muscle for the masses after the crushing Malaise Era of the mid-1970s to early 1980s. And today, it’s the last bastion of truly affordable V-8 American muscle. Sadly, it may be short-lived. We’ve lately seen convertibles slip out of the affordable range, so you’ll be limited to a hatchback or a hardtop (we kind of like the latter because the California Highway Patrol used them in the 1980s), and it will probably be an LX rather than a GT. Not all bad because LXs tended to be bought by more mature types less likely to abuse and/or modify.
4. 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT: We know we’re likely to take some crap for this inclusion, but the 1988 Fiero belongs in the small club of truly great American two-seater sports cars. Earlier versions of the car had been saddled with suspension parts from lesser GM cars of the time (and given what they were building at the time, “lesser” is no idle term). But for 1988, designers got to build the car that they had wanted all along, dumping the Chevy Citation bits for a suspension design similar to what Lotus was using. GM’s response was to kill the car. Just over 26,000 1988 Fieros were built and that was it. We love the GT with the fastback roofline and megaphone exhausts. You’ll have to look a little harder to GT for five Gs or less, but they’re not like hen’s teeth.
5. 1983-85 Porsche 944: Finding a Porsche (admittedly one built by Audi) on a list of $5K cars is probably about as expected as seeing George Clooney nodding with approval at the next Conservative Political Action Committee meeting. But having trolled Craigslist for decent 944s at this price point, we can assure you that they’re out there. What you get for your five grand is a quick (although not really fast) car that may be one of the best handling sports cars ever built. With perfect 50/50 weight distribution from a front engine/rear transaxle design, it’s an autocrosser’s dream. Parts aren’t particularly cheap but there’s plenty of used stuff out there, and the fact that Porsche raided the Audi and VW parts bins keeps them in the not-nutty range. Bodies were well rust-proofed too. Key point? Change the timing belt and water pump if you have any doubts as to when this was last done, and if things do go kablooey you can at least get top dollar for things like seats and wheels, which will fit much pricier 911s.