Classic Car Stocking Stuffers: Five for five grand or less

The classic car market is in a strong growth mode these days with nearly every round of auctions producing multiple world records and seven-figure sales. Lost in the hoopla over the mega-dollar stuff is the fact that interesting collectible cars are still out there for less than the average limit on a credit card. Here are some of our favorite reasonably priced stocking stuffers:

  1. 1984- 88 Pontiac Fiero : Sold to gullible GM brass as a practical, fuel-efficient two-seat “commuter car,” it looked like an attractive mid-engine sports car to nearly everyone else. The trouble was, it didn’t go or handle like one at first. Fieros got progressively better until the last model year when after getting it totally right, GM dumped it. Nice examples are still out there for a song and there’s a strong and enthusiastic club to provide support.
  2. 1975-91 Alfa Romeo Spider : We still see marginal examples of these sexy Italian convertibles in the “free to a good home” category. Even nice ones can struggle to break five grand. Yes, they have a reputation for being temperamental (soft gearboxes, oil consumption and rust are frequently cited), but good ones are out there for not much money. Styled by the famous design firm Pininfarina, they can be intoxicatingly good fun. The ones built from 1982 on with electronic fuel injection are less problematic.
  3. 1975- 80 MGB : MGBs built from late 1974 forward have a bit of a checkered reputation among the MG faithful. They’re not bad cars per se, but the rubber impact bumpers and the emission control-related loss of horsepower (in a car that already had little to spare) put these at the bottom of the MGB pecking order. That said, they’re entertaining on a nice day, and while they don’t exactly boast a reputation for bulletproof reliability, they’re at least easy to work on and will fit down most standard-size chimneys.
  4. 1987- 93 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 coupe : The Fox Platform Mustang (built from 1979-93) was the longest lived series of the famous pony car and possibly one of the most influential. Reworking the piston and cylinder head design of Ford’s venerable 5.0-liter V-8 resulted in the return of real horsepower to the Mustang for the first time since the early 1970s. While nice examples of Fox Mustangs are hard to find, the LX versions of the coupe and hatchback with the 5.0 can be surprisingly reasonable.
  5. 1960- 62 Plymouth Valiant sedan : The Valiant has a ton going for it as a cheap classic —the unkillable Slant-6 engine, styling by the famous and flamboyant Virgil “Excess” Exner, torsion bar suspension, unibody construction and a great name. Valiants were generally regarded as among the best of the first generation of American compact cars.  The sedans, which were the most numerous body style, are still quite affordable.
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