30 September 2016

Top 10 classic cars for under 10 grand (for now…)

With the classic car market’s growth over the past several years, many of us have been priced out of cars that we aspired to or perhaps had even started saving for. There are still plenty of bargains out there, though, as well as activity at the bottom of the market’s price spectrum. These 10 cars, while still cheap, are currently appreciating as measured by the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, which considers value changes, number of insurance policies added and change in online insurance quoting activity. With rising interest in these cars, they may never get any more affordable than right now.

1982-86 Toyota Supra 84

Average Condition #3 value: $7,000

The second generation A60 Supra was still based on the Toyota Celica’s underpinnings, but it was nevertheless a handsome and capable performance car with up to 175 hp in some foreign market versions from its 2.8-liter straight-six. It was also equipped with a suspension tuned by Lotus, wedge styling and available fiberglass fender flares. As Car and Driver said in 1984, “The Supra is masculine. If a Porsche 944’s persona could be likened to that of Dustin Hoffman, the Toyota Celica Supra would remind you of Burt Lancaster.” In addition to being a fun driver’s car, the second-gen Supras had an impressive number of power features as well, including optional digital dash and automatic climate control. These cars cost about 15 grand when new and Toyota built 115,000 A60s, although far fewer remain.

The recent growth in interest for modern classics, particularly Japanese ones, combined with the ‘90s A80 Supra’s popularity and the announcement of a new Supra arriving in the next few years, has brought renewed attraction for earlier cars. The number of online quotes for second generation Supras has grown considerably over the last 12 months, as have the number of insurance policies added. Even so, these rear-wheel drive coupes are still fairly cheap – for the moment. A solid, usable is example will be well under five figures.

1974-82 Fiat X1/9 83

Average Condition #3 value: $5,500

When you think of a mid-engine, wedge-shaped Italian sports car penned by Bertone, you probably think of something that has a six-figure price tag, lots of cylinders and was built by a company ending with the letter “i”. One exception, though, is the Fiat X1/9, a car that scaled down the exotic car concept and brought it to the masses several years before Toyota did it with their MR2.

The X1/9 is a bit cramped, the engines are somewhat anemic and rust is a major issue, but the car weighs under a ton, handles extremely well, comes with a removable targa roof and, with the right exhaust system, can actually sound very good. While not for everyone, the X1/9 has appreciated considerably over the last year and an above-average number of insurance policies have been added. Even a really good example still won’t set you back more than 10 grand, though. After 1982, Fiat exited the North American market and turned full production of the X1/9 over to Bertone. Malcolm Bricklin continued importing the cars as Bertone X1/9s for another few years, and these are also worth looking at since there isn’t a big price gap between these and the Fiat-badged cars.

1986-91 Mazda RX-7 80

Average Condition #3 value: $6,400

The second generation RX-7 is sort of the unloved middle child of the RX-7 family. It didn’t quite capture the first generation’s spirit, and it was greatly overshadowed by the third-gen’s technical and styling beauty. The second generation RX is still a great little automobile, though, which has made it a tempting value for many years. It improved on the first RX-7s with an all-independent suspension, a more powerful version of the venerable 13B rotary engine, an optional turbocharged model and additional choice for buyers with available convertible and 2+2 coupe models. A casual observer back in the 1980s might have also mistaken it for the more expensive Porsche 944.

While the first and third generation RX-7s are more significant cars from a collectability standpoint, the 1986-91 cars have nevertheless seen a recent growth in interest, but with the exception of very clean turbo examples, they remain sub-10k bargains for the time being.

1955-83 Jeep CJ-5 80

Average Condition #3 value: $8,700

The CJ-5 was around for almost three decades. There is also plenty of variation in terms of trim, equipment and powertrains, but the basic concept as a proper “Civilian Jeep” remained for the whole production run and most models remain affordable unless you get into high quality restorations or rare special versions. While there has been a sizable increase in the number of online quotes for CJ-5s over the last 12 months, values remain steady, but with the growth of the classic truck market CJs might not be such a bargain for much longer.

1979-93 Ford Mustang 80

Average Condition #3 value: $5,400

Often called the Fox Body Mustang because it was built on Ford’s “Fox” platform shared by such cars as the Thunderbird, LTD, Mercury Capri and others, the 1979-93 Mustang was about as bland-looking as the model ever got. That’s just part of the car’s appeal, though, because other than a few 5.0 badges indicating the available V-8, it was a total sleeper. As even the newest Fox Body cars will soon turn 25 years old, they’re starting to reach classic car status and have nostalgic appeal to the kind of people with enough extra cash to start shopping for a collector car. That’s reflected in the big increase in the number of insurance policies on Fox Body cars added over the past year.

1982-92 Pontiac Firebird 83

Average Condition #3 value: $6,900

Like the Fox Body Mustang, the third generation Firebird brought real performance back to the model even if it wasn’t the most stylish thing on the road. They are also at that age when they are transitioning from used car to collector car. Certain special versions can command a significant premium and big auction results have been achieved by examples with extremely low mileage, but a solid driver quality example of a Trans Am or Firebird Formula is still well under five figures.

1971-76 Cadillac DeVille 82

Average Condition #3 value: $7,400

The fourth generation Cadillac DeVille set a record for interior width, but that wasn’t the only thing big about these cars. We’re talking about a car that weighs 5,000 pounds and is 19 feet long with an engine that displaces either 7.7 or 8.2 liters that delivers something like 10 mpg. In terms of sheer mass of automobile per dollar, the 1971-76 DeVille is tough to beat. Values are on the rise and there has been a large increase in online insurance quotes for these DeVilles, but they are still a ton (two and a half tons, actually) of car for the money.

1967-73 Plymouth Valiant 83

Average Condition #3 value: $6,700

The third generation Plymouth Valiant shared the Dodge Dart’s redesign, and was offered with either the famous slant-six or a V-8 of either 273-, 328- or 340-cid. The Duster was also a Valiant variant. They make a good, basic first classic car and offer vintage styling without the price tag of sportier, flashier automobiles of the period. While neither the most stylish nor the sportiest car of the era, both quoting activity and number of new policies for Valiants is up far higher than average.

1983-92 Volkswagen Golf 82

Average Condition #3 value: $4,800

It’s easy to think of the hot hatch as a fairly recent phenomenon and it’s certainly not the first thing you think of when someone talks about a classic car, but the Mk1 Golf GTI debuted 40 years ago. The Mk2 car is getting on in age as well, as it was released in 1983 and lasted until 1992. The GTI was the Motor Trend Car of the Year for 1985, and today there’s a supportive enthusiast community for VWs of this vintage. Mk2 Golfs are now old enough that the kind of people who did their first handbrake turn in one might be longing for their first hot hatch again, and values have increased significantly.

1958-60 Chevrolet Biscayne 80

Average Condition #3 value: $8,900

Many people looking for a Chevy from this period would usually go for a Bel Air or an Impala and skip right over a Biscayne, which makes it a full-size bargain. With a first generation Biscayne, 1950s style and extravagant features like the prominent “V” shape on the tail of 1959 models, doesn’t have to cost very much money. A restored car or desirable options like factory air conditioning can drive the price up past five figures, but a solid driver with a 283-cid V-8 can still be found for less than 10 grand even though both insurance policies added and online quotes have increased significantly.

14 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Will Owen Pasadena CA October 5, 2016 at 17:48
    The X1-9 engines don't have to be anemic. The single-cam Lampredi-designed 1.3-1.5 engines are capable of being boosted well over their stock 70-some hp, and all but indestructible besides. Here in CA we're stuck with stock, but having ridden through a canyon or two with a guy who knows what he's doing I'll take one of these over a bike any day.
  • 2
    Pete MA October 5, 2016 at 17:50
    How about Mercedes SL400,500,600- also known as R19 style. Easily less than 10K for nineties models. Beautiful cars and surprisingly easy to work on. Parts come from EBay.
  • 3
    Bern Toronto October 5, 2016 at 18:12
    What about the 90's MR2 Turbo? Never on any of the lists and such a fun car, mid engine, rear wheel drive, turbo...just seems you guys are overlooking this little gem.
  • 4
    Gurdon Hornor New Jersey October 5, 2016 at 19:04
    2nd gen Corvair's are plentiful, parts are cheap and easy to get and they are pretty good looking cars!
  • 5
    Gary Platz Colonial Heights,Va. October 5, 2016 at 19:50
    I've owned a /6 '71 Duster for close to 45 years and have modified it over the years and have basically kept the drivetrain stock. The car is easy to work on and parts are still relatively cheap. With the car hobby ever expanding, body parts and trim parts are available through the aftermarket and the internet.It's good to see the Valiant / Dart get their just dues.
  • 6
    Gary Platz Colonial Heights,Va. October 5, 2016 at 19:51
    I've owned a /6 '71 Duster for close to 45 years and have modified it over the years and have basically kept the drivetrain stock. The car is easy to work on and parts are still relatively cheap. With the car hobby ever expanding, body parts and trim parts are available through the aftermarket and the internet.It's good to see the Valiant / Dart get their just dues.
  • 7
    Dio Hernandez Ft. Lauderdale, Florida October 5, 2016 at 20:23
    I own a 93 Ford Mustang 5.0, 5 Spead Feature Edition Convertible and absolutely love it!
  • 8
    Pete J San Diego, ca October 5, 2016 at 23:12
    I find it interesting that one of the best Japanese sports cars is left off this list. That is the Toyota MR2. I have a 93 Turbo and you do not consider it a classic at this point. It is far more rare than the others mentioned and a good stock car can still be found. A 2.2 liter NA ore 2 liter turbocharge engine that is extraordinarily durable and reliable. Mid engine for perfect balance and light weight and these things are highly desirable. I get offers in the parking lot frequently on mine. Much better performance that the Supra, RX-7 or the Fiat. What is going on!
  • 9
    Rabbit Hunter Boston October 6, 2016 at 08:15
    The Volkswagen Golf came out in 1985. The Volkswagen Rabbit (called the Golf outside of North America) was sold through the 1984 model year.
  • 10
    Woody Denver October 6, 2016 at 11:44
    Is that the Corvette from Corvette Summer next to the 85 Mustang in the photo? I saw that Vette at a covette show in Denver years ago. What a piece of crap, faded paint, beat up interior and a ton of non functioning fiberglass hood scoop work. It was converted to right hand drive via a chain from the steering box on the left side. It was done for filming purposes so Mark Hamil could be seen cruising slowly down the street. I wonder what it sold for.
  • 11
    Car Collector Chronicles SE WI October 6, 2016 at 12:08
    I am sorry, but IMHO no Plymouth Valiant 4-door sedan shall ever come within any possible, let alone reasonable, definition of "classic!"
  • 12
    Dennis Staszak Lakeland, Florida October 6, 2016 at 00:55
    I owned a new X1/9 for a couple of years, but then a soccer injury to my leg made it uncomfortable to drive. I loved the car for its look and its packaging. I loved it the first time it appeared on the cover of Car and Driver and always wanted one. The only other car I ever felt that way about was the original Lotus Elan which I also once owned.
  • 13
    mario philipsburg, pa October 11, 2016 at 19:25
    I'm looking to buy a 1986 Pontiac trans am ws6 with a H.O. carburetor 60,000 miles white one owner but I cant figure out the value of the car because I cant find enough resources. vin # 1G2FWA7H8GN223438 Can some one help me out?
  • 14
    Jim Jerzycke SoCal / Long Beach October 15, 2016 at 00:47
    I have a 1985 Celica Supra "#3" condition car that I bought almost three years ago for $3000. I've put about that much into it in completely rebuilding the front and rear suspensions (shocks, springs, bushings, steering rack), all new hoses, belts, timing belt and tensioner, water pump, starter, alternator, all new brakes, new wheels and tires, and a new stereo. While these aren't particularly "quick" or "fast" cars, they are extremely pleasant and rewarding to drive. The driver's seat was years ahead of anything on the market, and the specs for the car read like a $100k supercar when they were first released in 1982. While 90% of the mechanical parts are available and reasonably priced, trim items and sheet metal are virtually "unobtainium" as NOS parts for these cars dried up many years ago. Your best bet if you're interested in one of these cars is to join one of the internet forums, and buy absolutely the best car you can get your hands on. The internet forums will connect you with people who have grabbed all the usable stuff from the junkyards years ago and held on to it, realizing these cars would go up in value and need the support that good, used parts can provide. The best thing is that these guys (and gals, too) don't gouge for good quality used parts.

Join the Discussion