Without even taking into account maintenance and modification, a classic car can often seem like a daunting purchase that your wallet can’t weather. That’s not always the case, though. If you know what to look for, there are vintage models on the market that are plentiful, affordable, and relatively easy to keep running.
This latest crop of cheap models that are heating up includes a good mix of cars, trucks, and SUVs. According to current data, we stack up these hot and affordable up-and-comers using the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, a 0–100 measurement of a vehicle’s performance relative to the market. If you want to get in on the action, it’s best to act sooner rather than later.
One of the best ways to enjoy driving a slow car fast, the peppy Golf Mk II was at its best in GTI form from 1985–87 and 1990–92. The boxy body, simple mechanicals, and nimble handling make it as fun to own and eager to hustle as it was back in the day. Prices have consistently been going up these last few years, so for now they’re not getting cheaper. Right now, a #3-condition (good) GTI will run you an average of $5800.
Long a favorite inside BMW, tuner, and enthusiast circles, word about the light, fun, and reliable E30-generation 3 Series is by now most definitely out. Especially now that the high-powered, racing-derived M3 version has been way out of this price range for quite a while now, prices on the more pedestrian E30 cars are creeping up. Convertible prices tend to be a little cheaper, and if you can get a hold of a clean all-wheel-drive model (the 325iX) you should definitely consider adding it to your stable.
The Suburban is bound to be off this under-$10K list soon, especially as prices on vintage SUVs across the board are on the rise. For now you can still get a slice of pre-Malaise-era road-tripping and family-hauling, all to the soundtrack of a delicious 402-cubic-inch big-block V-8, if you can find it. And whether you go two- or four-wheel drive, the trusty ‘Burban will make you want to hit the highway with all your gear and get away for awhile.
Close your eyes, grab a 10-foot pole, spin around, and there’s a good chance you’ll smack into a Porsche fanatic who thinks the 924 is a piece of junk. Envisioned originally as a VW/Audi sports car that Porsche eventually picked up and billed as a replacement for the 914 and 912E, the 924 is most certainly an entry-level Porsche. Nonetheless, its unflappable chassis and talkative manual steering feels like a revelation if you’ve been driving modern electrically assisted racks. They were affordable then, and right now they are still, but this low bar for entry into the Porsche world might not last long as once-derided untouchables like the Boxster and 996-generation 911 are also losing some of their stigma.
Trucks are hot, and the F-Series isn’t immune to the fervor. This sixth generation F-Series got a major styling overhaul for ’73, recognizable by the side marker lights and turn signals mounted above the headlights. The mid-‘70s saw bigger V-8 engines as the 360 and 390 turned into the 351-, 400-, and 460-cubic-inch motors. By the end of the decade, Ford met the demand for recreation-type use with several graphics and option packages. These things are climbing—quotes are up 12 percent in the last year, and the number of vehicles added to policies over the same period is up 36 percent.
If the GTI wasn’t good enough for you, the Corrado was both better and more stylish. These days you can get the last laugh yet again, as contemporary Corrados are cheaper today and a lot less frequently seen out on the road. These cars are interesting to look at, a blast to drive with the VR6, and just weird enough to prompt stares at the gas pump. VW fans used to have a monopoly on these, but in the last year quotes are up 20 percent, which tells us more and more eyeballs are on the Corrado.
There’s nothing quite like a rugged old Jeep, which in the immediate post-war era saw a huge surge of civilian interest as soldiers came home wanting to continue driving the military vehicles they used during the war. Early on many Jeeps were also fitted for agricultural use and could be fitted with accessories like a winch, lift, snow plow, or generator. Riding along in a bunch of these Jeeps at historic festivals like the Goodwood Revival, with drivers and passengers in military garb of the period, is an experience everyone should have at least once.
If you still want that classic Bronco look on a body with less age, this generation of Ford’s trusty SUV is a good avenue. Broncos of all types are some of the hottest vehicles on the market, with the highest interest in the earlier models, but subsequent years are quickly picking up steam. For now values are stable, but overall interest is way up, so it won’t be long before people are willing to cough up extra cash for cleaner examples.
If you don’t mind large and in charge, it won’t take much to land behind the wheel of this ’90s land yacht. The Fleetwood switched back to rear-wheel drive in 1993, and in ’94 it even used an LT1 V-8 engine from none other than the Corvette. It was a short-lived revival, and while the Seville and DeVille would soldier on, the Fleetwood was the last of a dying breed of big, long, cushy rear-drive Caddys. Cruising in style is, for now, still cheap and easy.
Pickups are adored for their resilience and capacity for tough work, and the story of the F-Series in the ’80s is all about bouncing back from the rough years of the oil-starved ’70s. In this seventh generation of the classic Ford pickup, the Blue Oval brought back the power, including the 6.9-liter diesel borrowed from International Harvester for F-250 and F-350 models. Later, that engine would be succeeded but the much-loved 7.3-liter Power Stroke. The end of the line for the long-running F-100 came in 1983, at which point the F-150 took over as the lightest pickup in the full-size lineup, joined by the newly introduced Ranger compact.