Credit Card Classics: Five great collectors under $5K

In a collector car world that barely flinches when a car crosses the auction block for $10 million or more, it seems like there’s little room for collectible cars that cost less than the average American’s credit card debt. The five grand collector car is far from dead; in fact, it’s alive and well on Craigslist. Here are five to look for:

  1. 1988-91 Buick Reatta Coupe: The Reatta was designed to do for Buick what the Allante did for Cadillac, provide a halo car to get people into showrooms. And while the Reatta didn’t sport an Italian styled and crafted body like the Allante, it was assembled with great care in Lansing, Mich., at a specially created Reatta Craft Centre. Initially produced as a two-seater coupe, a convertible joined in 1990. The latter can get a bit pricey, but nice Reatta coupes aren’t too tough to find at five grand or less. Not bad for a genuinely rare piece of Buick history.
  2. 1974-80 Triumph Spitfire: The Spitfire was one of the last traditional British sports cars sold in the U.S.  Although introduced in 1962, early Spits have appreciated beyond our five grand target. But the last of line (with big bumpers and 1500cc engines) can still be found in the five grand range. Spitfires 1500s are attractive (in spite of the 5-mph bumpers), sport a real plank of wood for a dash and are sharp handlers. On the downside, their rudimentary three-fuse electrical systems, fiddly convertible tops and tiny size can cause frustration. Still, it’s the entry level for anyone seeking a genuine British roadster.
  3. 1990-97 Mazda MX-5 Miata: The first generation (NA) Miata is the car that remains the beloved of a generation of convertible sports car fans who no longer had to suffer with the quirks of British cars in order to enjoy a nimble roadster. The first cars came with a willing 1600cc twin-cam four making 115 hp and a convertible top that you could throw over your shoulder at a stoplight. One of the secrets to the original Miata’s appeal is the fact that they’re capable of posting the kind of miles that you’d expect to see from a Chevy Silverado or a Volvo 240; in fact, 300,000 miles aren’t unusual for a Miata. Try that in a Spitfire.
  4. 1976 Cadillac Sedan De Ville: Call is the “Goodfellas” effect, but 1970s-era full-size Cadillacs are getting quite popular as inexpensive collectibles. We like the 1976 because it’s the last year of both the full-size De Ville and the massive 500 cubic inch V-8, but in truth, any 1971-76 DeVille is worth checking out. They’re easy to maintain and they have tons of style. You can fit six people in them, and if any of your friends get out of line, the trunk is always an option. Just ask guys named “Big Mike” or “Fat Tony.”
  5. 1985-93 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 Coupe: Fox body Mustangs are beginning to heat up in the collector car world. Nice convertible GTs and 5.0-liter LXs are getting a little pricey as are hatchbacks, which leaves the notchback coupe that was the darling of the California Highway Patrol as the option for enthusiasts on a budget. While the Fox body Mustang was introduced in fall 1978 for the 1979 model year,  things really started to get interesting horsepower-wise from 1985 on. Concentrate your search on the post-1984 V-8 cars.
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