Dreaming of the most righteous vehicles of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
10 convertibles for 10 grand or less
- 1969-80 MGB: The MGB was around seemingly forever, just shy of 20 years actually. After British Leyland absorbed British Motor Corporation, development all but ceased (beyond that which was necessary to keep it legally sold in the U.S.). The early cars are beyond budget, but the post-BMC cars are still cheap. The earlier cars are the better ones for the most part; all lost a carburetor after 1974 and gained the less attractive rubber bumpers midway through that model year. Still on a sunny Sunday, any B isn’t without its charms.
- 1985 Buick Riviera: The 1980s Buick Riviera and Cadillac Eldorado were the first officially sanctioned GM convertibles that were produced since the full-size Cadillac Eldorado went out of production after the 1976 model year. The Riv was handsome in the extreme and luxurious, befitting its status as one of the most expensive cars GM offered in the mid-1980s.
- 1985 Cadillac Eldorado: Along with its twin, the Riviera, the new, smaller Eldo made a very attractive convertible. In a time of look-alike GM cars, both stood out from each other and from virtually anything else on the road at the time, simply by virtue of the fact that the top went down, though the Eldorado was decidedly more formal and angular than the Riv.
- 1985 Toyota Celica: Unlike Datsun, which had produced a series of little roadsters in the 1960s known as the Fairlady, Toyota had little experience making convertibles, so it came as no surprise that it enlisted the help of American Sunroof Corporation to chop the top on its pretty rear-wheel-drive Celica. ASC did a fantastic job of it, matching Toyota’s famously rigid quality-control standards. Today, first-year Celica convertibles are rare and interesting cars.
- 1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata: It’s hard to believe, but early Miatas are now 25 years old. Can the tired “chick car” rhetoric — these are drivers’ cars in the extreme. With nimble, tossable handling that gets the most out of the chassis and the willing little twincam four, these are incredibly durable cars that are capable of racking up 250,000-plus miles all but trouble-free.
- 1985 Ford Mustang GT: The Fox body Mustang had been around since 1978, but it wasn’t until about 1985 that things really began to get interesting. Redesigned, better breathing cylinder heads pushed the 5.0-liter V-8’s horsepower rating up to around 200 for the first time since the early 1970s. The Fox body Mustang and the next car on the list brought affordable V-8 performance back to the masses.
- 1988 Chevrolet Camaro IROC Z/28: Chevy’s answer to the Mustang GT was the new IROC Z/28, named for the International Race of Champions series. Its 305 cubic-inch engine also started to make real horsepower again by the late 1980s. Combined with the very pretty third-generation Camaro body, nice ones remain bargain priced for now.
- 1981-85 Mercedes-Benz 380SL: The 380SL might be among the least powerful of the classic R107-series SLs, but horsepower isn’t really the reason you buy one of these stylish drop tops; rock-solid build quality and blue chip elegance are. Just make sure that yours has had the all-important timing chain updates.
- 1987-93 BMW 325i/318i: BMW E30s are rapidly gaining in popularity. The all-wheel-drive 325ix, the 325is coupe and the M3 have all been discovered by audiences ranging from high-end collectors to drifters and those looking for a winter beater. Oddly enough, it’s the lovely convertible that has yet to really find an audience. Nice ones with a manual transmission are still well under 10 grand.
- 1982 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce: Alfa’s venerable Spider had been around since 1966 but it wasn’t really until 1982 that most of the eccentricities had been exorcised from the car — 1982 was the first year that the car came with the same Bosch electronic fuel injection that the Germans had been using for about 10 years, displacing the SPICA mechanical injection that Alfa had used in the U.S. to meet emission regulations. And 1982 is also the only year that you could get the Bosch injection in simpler non-rubber, spoilered Spider Veloce.