27 July 2016

Want a great classic for less money than a used Camry?

What can $15,000 get you in a car? It buys long, boring years of listless A-to-B commuting from the bland, reliable comfort of a car like the 2012 Toyota Camry XLE. But for a true enthusiast – someone who slips into an immediate REM cycle at the thought of driving the automotive equivalent of plain oatmeal – there are plenty of exciting options in the collector car space to get the heart racing and turn that commute into a much-anticipated joyride. We recommend the following 15, all of which can be purchased for under $15,000.

Vehicle
1982-1991 Porsche 944 96

“For lunch it prefers Ferraris, although it has been known to snack on Corvettes” was just one of the advertisements used to promote the 944, and its impressive sales figures and slew of awards certainly spoke to the car’s appeal: It was Porsche’s front-engine sales champ with a total of 163,192 cars built from 1982-’91. Car and Driver named the 944 the Best Handling Production Car in America in 1984 and included the car on its 1985 10 Best List. The standard model was produced until 1989, when Porsche moved into the Turbo and S Models for 1990-1992. The Turbo and S editions may be difficult to find in good condition for under $15K, but the standard 944 can be purchased for an average of $10,500.

1973-1987 Chevrolet C/K Series Pickup 92

A hit by any standard, the public embraced Chevy pickups to the tune of 1,055,273 sales in its first year. By 1974, full-time four-wheel drive was standard on V-8 models, but the following year was limited to V-8s equipped with automatics and by 1980, full-time four-wheel drive was gone altogether. Available engines included a 250-ci and 292-ci inline-six, a 262-ci V-6, and 305-ci, 350-ci, 400-ci and 454-ci V-8s. Also in the lineup were the Oldsmobile and Detroit diesel engines. Most classic pickups have gained popularity among collectors in recent years, but examples from the C/K Series can still be found for about $7,500.

1990-1996 Nissan 300ZX 92

If the top attributes on your must-have list are a sporty body, T-tops and plenty of power, the 300ZX checks all the boxes. The 300-hp 3.0-liter V-6 paired with a five-speed transmission gets the 3,474-lb. car racing up to 155 mph, and the 300ZX initially came in three forms: a naturally aspirated two-seater or long-wheelbase 2+2, and a turbo two-seater. An entry-level hardtop coupe arrived in 1991 and a convertible followed for 1993. 85,080 examples sold in the U.S. and today you can purchase a base model for around $8,750.

1982-1986 Toyota Supra 90

The Supra’s second generation underscored Toyota’s commitment to the performance car market with successive improvements in horsepower, starting with the introduction of a 2.8-liter, inline six-cylinder engine that initially produced 145-hp and 155 lb.-ft. of torque in 1982. The engine was mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission or four-speed auto and allowed for a 0-to-60 mph time of 9.8 seconds. In 1983, Toyota increased the output to 150-hp and 159 lb.-ft. of torque. Then for 1984, Toyota turned it up another notch to 160 hp and 163 lb.-ft. of torque, but only for models with five-speed trannys. The following year brought another bump up to 161 horsepower and 163-lb.-ft. of torque. According to the Hagerty Price Guide, the average value of sporty second-gen Supras is roughly $7,000.

1976-1996 Jaguar XJ-S 89

The XJ-S is Jaguar’s longest running model, and there are many pristine examples still on the road. The first generation’s standard engine was a gas-guzzling 5.3-liter V-12, which was replaced in 1981 with a 295-hp high-efficiency V-12 engine for better fuel economy as a response to the fuel crisis. A 3.6-liter straight-six was introduced in 1983, and the second-generation XJ-S offered a 4-liter straight-six, 5.3-liter V-12 and 6-liter V-12. Whether you are looking for better fuel economy or simply want to roast tires, with XJ-S values averaging around $10,000, now is a good time to buy.

1984-1993 Mercedes-Benz 190 87

Mercedes-Benz has always enjoyed a strong reputation for prestige, quality, refinement and reliability. The problem for most buyers is that the price of a typical Benz is out of reach, but a 190 provides a good compromise. Designed as a compact executive car, they are available as a carbureted 190 or the fuel-injected 190E, and they’re a steal at an average of $4,200. Be forewarned however that maintenance and repairs can be expensive as that reputation for prestige also carries a cost.

1972-1980 International Scout II 85

For those who prefer to take the road less traveled, the International Harvester Scout II was the last hurrah of the popular 4x4 that set many SUV benchmarks. It was longer and wider than its predecessor and came in three body styles: the common Traveltop, the Cabtop, and the seldom-seen Roadster. There were also four optional engines: a 196-ci four, an AMC-built 232-ci inline-six, a 304-ci International V-8, and a medium-duty 345-ci V-8 – a true truck engine. The Scout just makes the list with a $14,000 average value.

1976-1986 Jeep CJ-7 85

The seventh generation of Jeep’s much-loved CJ series introduced the first major change in its design in 20 years. A larger wheelbase was used to house the first automatic transmission offered for the CJ line, and an optional molded plastic top later became a feature still available on the modern Wrangler. Throughout its lifetime, many packages with varying axle, engine, transmission and transfer case combinations were available, such as the 1976-‘86 Renegade, 1977-’80 Golden Eagle, 1980 Golden, 1982 Jamboree Edition, 1980-’86 Laredo and the 1982-’83 Limited. An optional Quadra-Trac system was offered through 1981, and several engine choices were available, including an inline-four, 232-ci and 258-ci inline-six, and a 304-ci V-8. The average value of these rugged vehicles is $7,600 according to Hagerty’s Price Guide.

1965-1970 Buick LaSabre 85

The LeSabre and other full-size Buicks were completely restyled for the 1965 model year, featuring marginally more rounded bodylines with semi-fastback rooflines on the two-door hardtop coupes. Styling evolved over the years, as did engine and transmission options as technology advanced. Whether it’s the 1967’s swoopy roofline, the 1969’s squared styling, or the high-compression 350-ci four-barrel V-8 from 1970, if any of the variations appeal to you, there are deals to be had. According to Hagerty’s Price Guide, the average value for this generation is around $9,800.

1958-1959 Ford Fairlane 85

The 1958 Fairlane’s new style featured a long, wide and low look with a scalloped rear deck that outsold Chevrolet for the first time since 1935. Additional design updates included fashionable quad headlights and a grille similar to the 1958 Thunderbird. Performance aspirants lusted for the new big-block 332 and 352-ci V-8s, which replaced the 292 and 312-ci versions. The three-speed Cruise-O-Matic – an upgraded version of the previous generation’s Ford-O-Matic transmission – was used, which allowed the vehicle to start in first gear as opposed to second. These classy cars can be found for an average of $13,000.

1962-1967 Chevrolet Nova II 85

At an average value of $11,765, the first and second generations of Chevy Nova are increasingly in demand for entry-level enthusiasts and beyond who desire classic ‘60s styling in an affordable package. Available power plants for 1962 and ’63 included Chevy’s 153-ci inline-four and the 194-ci straight-six, along with a rarer, dealer-installed V-8 option that included the fuel-injected Corvette engine. By 1964, a 230-ci straight-six joined the line, but every gearhead lusted after the new factory 195-hp, 283-ci V-8. That V-8 and the Nova’s relative lightness made the car a popular choice for drag racers.

1967-1973 Plymouth Valiant 83

In 1967, Plymouth introduced a new, rectangular body style that included two- and four-door sedans. The design’s practical nature matched the car’s reliability. Available engines included the 170-ci and 225-ci slant-six, but an exciting addition to the line in 1968 was the 318-ci V-8 that offered 230 hp. The Valiant’s average value is $7,000, though you can expect to pay more for the higher-performance models.

1979-1985 Mazda RX-7 81

The Mazda RX-7’s 1.1-liter Wankel engine was an instant success, which revved to 7,000 rpm. It surpassed previous factory rotaries (such as the Cosmo 110’s) by offering a more potent 110-hp and 105-lb.-ft. of torque that slingshotted the car from 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. The RX-7’s 50/50 weight distribution made this an exceptionally fun car to drive. Best of all, the first-generation is incredibly affordable at right about $3,700.

1975-1978 Datsun 280Z 79

The 280Z is much more than just a 240Z with a larger L-series 2.8-liter engine and prominent, federally-mandated bumpers. New technology allowed for Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, which meant no more sticking carbs and cleaner burning to meet emissions standards. The simplified interior was more user-friendly, and included an integrated air conditioning unit. Beginning in 1977, the 280Z offered a transmission option for everyone: a five-speed manual, four-speed manual or three-speed automatic. Considering the $7,500 average value and output up to 170-hp, this is the perfect way to get into a timeless sports car that resembles a Ferrari 275 GTB at a fraction of the price.

1961-1964 Oldsmobile 88 79

The fifth generation Oldsmobile 88 was a spot-on representation of the domestic market’s executive car class. Bodies included a four-door sedan, convertible, hardtop coupe, hardtop sedan and station wagon. The Dynamic 88 model received the 250-hp, 394-ci Rocket V-8 while the Super 88 was powered by a high-compression 325-hp, 394-ci Skyrocket V-8. The last model year for the Super 88 series, 1964, also saw Oldsmobile drop wagons as they focused on more luxury and performance. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may find a roadworthy gem for around $13,000.

The Hagerty Vehicle Rating is a 0-100 score that tracks a car’s value change compared to the entire classic-car market. A car with a rating higher than 50 means it is appreciating faster than the overall market. A score below 50 means the car is lagging. While our rating algorithm uses Hagerty’s extensive valuation database and detailed market data—we go deep and include the number of recent insurance quotes and auction sell-through rates—the usual disclaimers apply: Use this score as a guide and not an indication of future results.

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