Poised for Growth: 10 cars under $10K

The great thing about cars is that they just keep getting older. With each passing year, cars once considered contemporary are viewed with that much more nostalgia by the very folks who once considered them contemporary. Do you even realize how long ago the ’90s were? The well for classics runs deep, in other words. The choices are plentiful, and bang for buck is constantly being redefined.

For anyone with a little cash on hand, there is currently no shortage of great machinery on which to plunk it down, no matter your preference. This batch is the latest list of hot, affordable cars as determined by our Hagerty Vehicle Rating. So fire up the Craigslist machine, and see if you can’t find some ideal examples of these babies…

1973–87 Chevrolet C/K Pickups (GMC too) 94
Average Condition #3 value: $7,700

Since the first generation debuted back in 1960, Chevrolet’s C (two-wheel drive) and K (four-wheel drive) pickup trucks have always been worthy of praise. The “Square body” generation is no exception. Independent front suspension makes them less agricultural than some contemporaries, while an available 454-cid V-8 makes the ’81–87 models brutes. There’s a great following for these things, so you’ll always have folks to turn to with questions. GMC trucks from this same era also fall into the “poised for growth” category, so buy what you like. Expect to pay more for 4WD, but you can still find a truck you’d want to own for well under ten grand.

1976–86 Jeep CJ-7 93
Average Condition #3 value: $8,400

Before giving way to the Wrangler, Jeep’s popular CJ lived a long, incredible life, which culminated with the CJ-7. Everybody’s got opinions on which CJ is the best, or the coolest, or the most hardcore, or whatever. But CJ-7s, with nearly 400,000 built, are nothing if not abundant. They ride well, go everywhere you want them to, and have great parts support. You could get them with giant birds on the hood or upholstered in Levi’s denim, so there’s that. Drivers start at about $4,000, while twice that might get you a shiny one. After that, you can spend a small fortune on unlimited levels of customization.

1978–79 Ford Bronco 90
Average Condition #3 value: $8,600

These big Broncos were long delayed in their arrival, thanks to the oil embargo in the early ’70s. A new truck was already in the works for 1980, so these two-year-only Broncos are something of an orphan, though they do share plenty of parts—and chassis—with the F100 pickup. The removable roof design is terrific, the V-8s and running gear hard to kill. Find good, rust-free ones on the West Coast for under eight grand.

1993–98 Lincoln Continental Mark VIII 86
Average Condition #3 value: $3,400

Built on the same platform as the Ford Thunderbird, the two-door Mark VIII dropped the luxo-barge image of the car it replaced. With a 280-hp V-8, computerized air suspension, and a luxurious interior, these things offer opulence on the cheap. Later models even offered xenon headlights. If you’re in the market, buy the best model you can find (likely still well under $10,000), and make sure that suspension is up to snuff. No one likes a saggy Lincoln.

1966–73 Triumph GT6 85
Average Condition #3 value: $6,900

Triumph is well-known for small, attractive, open sports cars like the TRs and the Spitfire. Often overlooked is the pretty GT6, with an elegant roofline and bulging hood that conceals a smooth 2.0-liter straight-six. Though quite nimble, no one will ever accuse them of being fast, which is fine, because they look fast. While contemporaries like the Datsun 240Z continue to leave the common man and his wallet behind, the GT6 remains a unique, affordable option, with nice examples still available for less than $10,000.

1965–69 Chevrolet Corvair 82
Average Condition #3 value: $8,400

Corvairs seem to be a mixed bag, with some folks still convinced they’ll kill you. That just takes them out of the buying pool, leaving the best cars for you. Second-generation Corvairs swapped the rear swing axle for independent suspension, which solved the handling issues inherent in early cars. But they lost none of the charm these rear-engine machines can’t help but emit. Sedans are cheapest, but great coupes and convertibles are still accessible for well under $10,000. If you look hard enough, you might even find a 180-horsepower Corsa turbo that you can drive and fix up at the same time.

1974–76 Plymouth Valiant 80
Average Condition #3 value: $5,100

If you’ve ever longed for a car that wasn’t nearly as bad as the Aspen that replaced it, then these final-generation Valiants are for you. They won’t light up the drag strip and they won’t tear up the backroads, but for around-town cruising, they are ideal. And if you’re after a classic you can haul the family in, you’ve found it. Very good cars are priced quite reasonably, and if you want to spend the full ten grand, you might just end up with the best in the world.

1990–94 Volkswagen Corrado 80
Average Condition #3 value: $4,600

The Corrado was built as the heir apparent to the Scirocco, but it never really caught on, which is a shame. They are nimble-handling front-drivers that look like nothing else, and while the base 1.8-liter four is nothing special, and the supercharged G60 model never really pleased anyone, the later SLC cars equipped with VW’s narrow-angle VR6 are the ones to seek out. There’s a strong enthusiast community for these cars, but parts support could be an issue, as fewer than 100,000 were produced worldwide.

1968–73 Datsun 510 75
Average Condition #3 value: $5,900

The Datsun Z cars tend to get all the attention, but the 510 has a dedicated following among those in the know. And what do they know? That these simple, reliable, efficient little rear-drive coupes, sedans, and wagons also offer great performance for the money. Parts support is great, thanks to the interchangeability of parts among other Datsun models. Many have been hot rodded as a result, which is fine if that’s your thing, but finding an original car can be tough. Either way, you’ll pay a premium for a two-door coupe, although good examples of all variants can be found under $10,000. These also make an excellent entry point for vintage racing in a non-Miata.

1961–64 Buick LeSabre 73
Average Condition #3 value: $8,800

The LeSabre lost its fins—but not its character—when it was redesigned for ’61. Facelifts during the production run continually evolved the look, but no matter which you choose, you’ll get a great big beautiful piece of Detroit iron, with modest power from a choice of “Nailhead” V-8s—364 cubic inches in 1961 and 401 thereafter. Convertibles don’t slot into this price range, but coupes, sedans, and wagons all do, so find the one that speaks to you and enjoy it.

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