14 March 2017

Poised for Growth: 10 Cars Under $10K

Like all commodity markets, the classic car market is always evolving. Values go up, values go down, and owners buy, sell, trade, and hold their cars accordingly. But unlike other collectible objects or financial instruments, cars provide a fun way to play with your money—you actually get to drive and enjoy an old car. Try driving your Facebook stock and see how far you get.

I like a bargain as much as the next guy, and often there are great deals in old cars in the sub-$10,000 realm. Here are 10 classics you can buy right now for less than 10 grand that are poised for growth, once everybody else catches on...

1971–76 Buick Electra 225
If your goal is maximum car for the money, then you’d have a hard time beating the fourth-generation Electra. Built on the General Motors C-body platform, the Electra offers more interior room than just about anything else on the road. The 455-cid V-8 is nearly bulletproof, and the cars were available with luxury options galore. Just six grand buys a car you’d be proud to own.

1973–79 Ford F-Series
Everybody needs a good truck. And the F-Series is always an excellent choice. These sixth-gen models ride on a trusted platform, and while they’re mostly no-frills, you can find them with four-wheel drive, a/c, CB radio, sliding rear window, and more. Rust kills them, especially at the front of the bed and the bottom of the B-pillar, so bring your grubby pants and crawl all over the thing to make sure it’s the clean one you want.

1989–93 Cadillac Coupe DeVille
These things are so cheap right now: Less than $3,000 gets you a pretty good one, and both sedans and coupes offer up plenty of luxury for the price of entry. It’s cheap to get your own little piece of the “Standard of the World.”

1978–87 Chevrolet El Camino
The last of a legend. Cars built on the G-body platform have long gone unloved. Recent interest in hot Buicks like the Grand National and GNX have helped to spark interest in the rest of these models, however, and the El Camino may now be getting its due. Low power and huge saggy doors are still an issue, but few cars on the road are as distinctive.

1979–93 Ford Mustang
The importance of this car cannot be overstated. It’s a design that has aged well, and no other car offers up a greater bang-for-buck factor than a 5.0-liter Fox body. Plenty of them have been used and abused, but with so many produced, you can afford to bide your time and be choosy. You’ll still come away with a quick little modern classic. Aftermarket support is incredible, which only adds to this Mustang’s appeal.

1974–83 Jeep Cherokee
Vintage SUVs are one of the best and cheapest ways to enjoy the old-car hobby. These SJ Cherokees shed the faux wood of their Wagoneer cousins but lose none of the brawny appeal. You can get them with either two or four doors, but no matter what you’re after, a thorough inspection is in order, as quality control issues plagued Jeeps of this era.

1990–96 Nissan 300ZX
The 300ZX reinvented the tired Z-car, and it kicked the rest of the world in the face with the relatively cheap performance it offered. Available with or without T-tops, with or without back seats, with or without a turbo, the Z offers so much in such a lovely, lithe package. Reliability is off the charts, and you can still scoot around quickly in the normally-aspirated version, which saves you considerably over the more desirable turbos.

1974–78 Ford Mustang II
Translated, Mustang II means “Mustang Also,” as in, “I’m a Mustang, too, you guys. I really am!” And it is, in that wretched 1970s malaise kind of way. There is a bright side though: If you want an old Mustang that isn’t an enormous, ill-handling muscle car, look no further than the Deuce. And they’re dirt cheap, too.

1961–64 Chrysler Newport 
The Newport was Chrysler’s entry-level model, and it reintroduced a dormant nameplate for Chrysler, after a decade of absence. Several body styles are available, including sedans, convertibles and wagons, but front-end styling—while distinctive—is polarizing thanks to the slanted headlight setup. If you like fins with your Chryslers, then look for a ’61, as they vanished after that.

1962–67 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the Chevy II. You might even say they’re boring. But as staid, cheap, vintage transportation goes, you could do a lot worse than one of these guys. The inline-six is fine, but you’ll have more fun with the 283-cid V-8, which was available for 1964. Tops in terms of collectability are the convertibles, but they’re also harder to find.

16 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Jim Boland Ontario March 15, 2017 at 17:34
    Can't argue on the El Camino. I bought my '78 GMC Caballero 39 years ago and I've never grown tired of it !
  • 2
    alfred new york March 15, 2017 at 17:37
    hey guys....you missed that great American mid-engine sports car that is really one of a kind ....the PONTIAC FIERO ! In a v-6 trim with manual tranny, she is a sweetheart of a deal !
  • 3
    Scott Allred Chico CA March 15, 2017 at 17:40
    Glads to see the '62 Newport posted here. However, the comment, "but front-end styling—while distinctive—is polarizing thanks to the slanted headlight setup," needs to be modified. The slanted headlights were only on the '61 and 2. In '63, with the introduction of a new body style, the headlights were, once again, horizontally arranged.
  • 4
    Virginia Harlow Cedar Rapids, Iowa March 15, 2017 at 17:54
    What would a restored '58 Fury with a 392 Hemi go for now?
  • 5
    SK SoCal March 15, 2017 at 17:56
    I bought new a 78 El Camino, loaded: 350 (only year with it) cruise, air, the works. I liked the style; even as a Ford guy, the comparable 78 Ranchero was a fat, homely dog, the annual restyles getting more and more baroque after '73. The El Camino was trim, in comparison and I really liked the curved rear window. The honeymoon was brief, as my El Camino was a POS. The night I picked it up at the dealer, opened the glove box and it fell upside down; the cable restrain was left off at the factory. That was only a start. Bad valve guides from new, blew a cloud upon startup that got progressively worse and worse. The cruise control quit after 14 months. The electric window motors quit. Exhaust manifold cracked. The coup de grace was when the metallic silver blue paint started flaking off to the black primer. This was in TWO AND A HALF YEARS, and less than 60,000 miles. General Motors lost my business forever.
  • 6
    PAUL CANTIN Massachusetts March 15, 2017 at 17:56
    Where are the Cadillacs?
  • 7
    Jim Jerzycke SoCal / Long Beach March 15, 2017 at 20:03
    You'd be hard pressed to find an early Chevy II / Nova out here in California for less than extortionist pricing. ANY pre-1975 car goes for Big Bucks out here as they're smog-exempt..... It would be really nice if you guys could add a "Notify Me of New Posts" feature to these reader comments.
  • 8
    Peter Hollinshead Michigan March 15, 2017 at 20:35
    The 1961 and 1962 Newports were a great sales and marketing story for Chrysler-Plymouth. Marketed aggressively with an MSRP of $2,964 (!) for the sedan, they helped fill gaps created by poor Plymouth sales and the phase-out of DeSoto.
  • 9
    Kevin Wiles Anderson, SC March 16, 2017 at 08:51
    A 62-67 Nova for under 10k will be either a turd or a 4 door.
  • 10
    Barry Herman New Jersey March 16, 2017 at 12:08
    You can add the 1960 to 1964 Corvairs
  • 11
    Dean Wilmington NC March 17, 2017 at 11:14
    1962 Chrysler Newports if you can find them....Ive got a 62 convertible, there were only 54 total 1962 Newports on the road registered in 1992, 54 total but only 11 convertibles. Its a great ride I doubt there are more on the road now.
  • 12
    Rod Prahin Mayville, Michigan March 17, 2017 at 12:49
    I agree with both the Chevy II comment and the early Corvair models.... Early Ford Falcons are a great consideration for those who don't want to pay Early model Mustang money.
  • 13
    Gregor Strohm Sun City West, AZ March 18, 2017 at 16:38
    I love my 1987 El Camino Conquista. It is an original survivor with 95 K miles. It rides great and gives me the utility of a small pick-up. The stock 305 V-8 coupled with a 4 speed overdrive auto.tranny turns just 1500 RPM @ 65 MPH and I get over 20 MPG on the highway. I am always getting positive comments in parking lots about the car/truck and thumbs up on the road.
  • 14
    Louie Andiaris Shelby Township, Mi March 20, 2017 at 19:04
    I would also like to add any Thunderbird aside from the first generation.
  • 15
    Dmitriy Shibarshin Bay Area March 22, 2017 at 20:48
    Great article! We are seeing the market for budget American classics continue to grow in Europe and New Zealand.
  • 16
    Janet Little Silver, NJ March 23, 2017 at 09:41
    Totally agree with your Mustang comment - lots have been used and abused. You can still find '86s on eBay for $5K and under; two people have wanted to buy mine. My '86 fox body convertible was a gift from my late fiance & I love it! It was his one family car garaged in FL for a decade - we drove it all over FL on vacation. Joined an antique car club to learn how to care for it & after clay-barring it shines. It's a peppy 6 cylinder with only 73K miles; I smile every time I'm drive it!

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