2 December 2014

Top Five Performance Car Steals

During the holiday season, everyone is looking for a bargain. Here are five of our favorite vintage performance cars, all priced at less than a modestly-equipped Chevy Cruze:

  1. 1968-74 AMC Javelin: The first-generation Mustang fastback is perhaps one of the best-looking pony cars around. The trouble is they’ve gotten super-pricey. Respectable cars are all well north of $30,000 now. Enter the AMC Javelin, American Motors’ answer to the Mustang. They’re extremely good-looking rear-wheel-drive V-8 performance cars, and like the Mustang, Challenger and Camaro, the Javelin did very well in the SCCA Trans Am race series. While parts are a bit harder to find than those for a Mustang, they sell for less than half the price.
  2. 1984-96 Chevrolet Corvette: The C4 Corvette has yet to find the love from collectors and ranks as perhaps the biggest Corvette bargain out there. Even final year production C4s with 300 hp rarely come close to $20,000. Coupes are often half that, with early cars even under $10,000. Best to stay away from the 1984; just like the first year C3 from 1968, it had some issues.
  3. 1998-2006 Jaguar XKR coupe: The XK8/XKR was the first undeniably beautiful car that Jaguar produced since the last E-Type was built in 1974. Sharing a platform with the equally lovely but far more expensive Aston Martin DB7, think of the XKR as the British take on the American muscle car formula; with its rear wheel drive and V-8 power, the twist was a supercharger that boosted power to a lofty 370 hp. Fewer than 10,000 XKR coupes were built, and only the lack of a manual transmission option keeps the XKR from being completely irresistible. Around 15 grand buys one with low miles.
  4. 2002 Camaro SS 35th Anniversary coupe: As we get ready to say goodbye to the fifth-generation Camaro, it seems appropriate to look back to one of the best of the fourth generation. When the Camaro went out of production in 2002, it would be on hiatus for eight years until the brilliant 2005 Mustang shamed GM into resurrecting it. But at least it went out with a bang—the 325-hp Aniversary SS went like stink and looked great in Rally Red with huge stripe graphics. You can still find them for well under $20,000.
  5. 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra 5.0: Fox Body Mustangs (1979-92) are up-and-comers in the collector car world, and this effort from Ford’s Special Vehicles Team is—along with the Cobra R and SVO—among the most collectible of the Fox Mustangs. With a conservatively rated 230 hp in a relatively lightweight package, it’s definitely an enjoyable ride.

5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Sal Monella NC December 8, 2014 at 11:08
    Fox Mustangs were made from 1979 through 1993 (pic is of a 1993 Cobra R) and the Cobra and Cobra R were rated at 235 HP.
  • 2
    Steven United States December 15, 2014 at 14:54
    Yup, a few years ago I picked up a 1994 Corvette coupe. It had a 300 hp LT1 engine, six-speed manual transmission, and only 50k original miles. It cost me $8,000. It was truly a performance bargain. There are reasons these aren't the most loved generation of Corvette, but I still think they are really inexpensive. With the targa top removed (it requires four large bolts be removed with an included ratchet) the car loses a tremendous amount of structural integrity. There is a reason it requires those bolts, it's definitely a key piece of the chassis. These are notoriously difficult to get in and out of, but they are fairly comfortable once inside. Just be sure to try one on first. It is difficult to look elegant getting out of one of these with the top on and you'll likely always want to leave the top on. On the other hand, they are fairly reliable cars, the AC blows ice cold, and parts are readily available and very cheap compared to imports. The cheap-looking interior plastics tend to hold up pretty well and the engine sound is fabulous, even with the stock exhaust. There seem to be a ton of these on the market with low miles and in well-loved condition. The prices don't seem to vary much whether it's been used hard and beat up or babied and stored indoors, so find the best one you can. It's hard to go wrong at that price if you find a good example.
  • 3
    mike Florida December 23, 2014 at 23:02
    You left out the '97 XK8,probably because of the timing chains & other issues.Understandable. However,if the timing chains were updated & the service records are known,these are super bargains .I I bought one with 51,000 miles (now 68,000 miles) and it has been a wonderful car.These are "rock bottom" and will go up.
  • 4
    RCA AZ February 11, 2015 at 19:00
    AMC, and Rambler performance cars are still one of the best deals available today. 1968-1970 AMX and Javelin, as well as the S/C Ramblers and Machines.
  • 5
    RALPH HORNBECK California June 14, 2017 at 20:43
    I think the 2002 -2007 Ford Focus SVT should be on your list..... 2 cams, 4 valves per cyl, 6 speeds, Brembo sized 4 wheel brakes, factory header, full gauge panel... and they can be had for well under 8k.

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