Save at the pump: Top 10 fuel-sipping classics

As gasoline surpasses $4 a gallon in many places, more than a few people are thinking about fuel economy even in their collector cars. A weekend of fun or a long tour can turn mighty expensive in a 12 mpg muscle car. Most of the cars on our list are remarkably frugal and major attention-getters in their own right. Don’t believe us? Go to any car show where there’s an Isetta and a Ferrari and look at where the crowds stop. 

The following is a list of some of our favorites — all are capable of returning well over 30 mpg around town according to contemporary road tests.

  1. Crosley Hot Shot — 48 mpg
  2. BMW Isetta — 44 mpg
  3. Honda S800 — 42 mpg
  4. Fiat 850 Spider — 38.5 mpg
  5. Lotus Elite — 38 mpg
  6. Nash Metropolitan — 37.5 mpg
  7. Austin-Healey Sprite — 36 mpg
  8. Morris Minor — 35 mpg
  9. MG Midget — 35 mpg
  10. Fiat X1/9 — 34 mpg

Off the list, if cost were no object, we’d probably look for a slightly scruffy but mechanically sound Porsche 356 sunroof coupe. The combination of reliability and practicality is hard to beat at about 30 mpg.

If you want to buy American, the Cosworth example of the much-maligned Chevy Vega is an interesting choice. Sold from 1975-76, only 3,508 were produced. Apparently, there was little demand for a Vega that cost nearly as much as a Corvette. Still, it’s quicker than a BMW 2002tii (although build quality is not in the same universe) and new ones occasionally show up at auctions with almost no miles on them. They also get close to 30 mpg.

Finally, if you’re looking for your favorite Detroit muscle car on the list, you’ll be disappointed: Single-digit gas mileage was the rule when gas was thirty cents a gallon. You will be surprised to discover, though, that Car and Driver magazine reported that the new Corvette is capable of delivering almost 27 mpg in real world driving.

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