Unless you already own your dream fleet of classic cars, it’s easy to be depressed by today’s collector market. Prices for many blue-chip collector vehicles have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled in the past several years, putting cars that were once attainable for the average enthusiast frustratingly out of reach. If you bought that 1971 Porsche 911S you wanted when they still went for $20,000, good for you. If you waited and now the same car is listing for $120,000, you understand our pain.
1956 MGA 1500 Roadster (Gooding & Co.) $41,800
The MGA may have been a budget sports car in its day, but while good examples are no longer cheap, they are still affordable. They must also be one of the most stylish roadsters of the period at any price. This MGA was sold out of long-term ownership until recently when it was fully restored by an MG specialist. The color is Iris Blue, which while not offered by MG until 1959 makes for a very pretty car.
1974 Citroen 2CV6 (RM Sotheby’s) $49,500
The Citroen 2CV was France’s take on a people’s car: An inexpensive vehicle that was durable, reliable, and practical to use even in rural farming communities with their rough dirt roads. While many were run into the ground being used as intended, this one survived and was treated to a full restoration. The 2CV remained in production for over half a century and this “6” version has the larger 602-cc engine.
1965 Volkswagen Beetle (Barrett-Jackson) $10,780
We’re suckers for a clean VW Bug and we found it in this ’65. The benefactor of a claimed “ground-up” restoration, this Beetle was resprayed in its original Bahama Blue color and was given a new interior, weather-stripping, and exterior trim. The 12-volt electrical system may not be stock, but it’s a better choice for a Beetle that you’d want to use. This car goes to show that there are clean, usable classics out there that won’t break the bank.
1965 Ford Mustang Fastback (Barrett-Jackson) $25,300
Turbocharged four-cylinder Mustangs got you down? May we present the cure: this ’65 Mustang fastback. With just 500 miles following its restoration, this ‘Stang still has its original matching-numbers engine block, paired with performance aluminum heads and a refreshed interior. The automatic transmission might be a turn-off to some, but we wouldn’t mind it for cruising the streets on a warm summer night. A claimed $25,000 was spent on the restoration work just a year ago, making this an excellent buy.
1992 Mercedes-Benz 500SL (Barrett-Jackson) $11,700
What’s red, has 325 hp, and cost over $98,000 in 1992? If you said this Mercedes-Benz 500 SL, you’d be right. When the R129-series SL debuted for the 1990 model year, it was a revelation. Fast, comfortable, composed, and quiet, the R129 became the default daily driver for the world’s rich and famous. As a result, Benz sold a ton of them, and you can pick up a nice one like this for pennies on the dollar. This one has just over 68,000 miles and both hard and soft tops included.
An honest-to-goodness Lotus supercar for under $20,000? Yessiree, the hammer fell on this ’88 Esprit Turbo for about the price of a new, well-equipped Honda Fit. This car features the refreshed bodywork that Peter Stevens (later of McLaren F1 fame) penned for the ’87 model year, along with a healthy 215 hp from its redesigned, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The interior trim appears non-original, but who cares at this price?
1985 Porsche 911 Carrera (Barrett-Jackson) $36,850
The Porsche 911 market has gone very hot in the last few years, but we’d wager this ’85 Carrera was a good buy. With just 74,000 miles and in excellent cosmetic condition, this particular 911 looked like one to own. A Porsche Club of America decal was evident in the driver’s side three-quarter window — a good omen. This car was a steal at just $3,000 more than the less-powerful 911 SC also sold at the auction.
1956 Alfa Romeo Giulietta (Bonhams) $50,600
OK, this one’s $600 more than our self-imposed limit, but a buddy said we can borrow a few bucks as long as he gets to help drive our new Alfa home. These little Giuliettas have come a long way from the $10k drivers they once were. With quintessential period Pininfarina styling and a jewel of a 1.3-liter twin-cam engine, these cars are as great to drive as they are to look at. Even better, this one is a ’56, making it eligible for the California Mille.
1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Coupe (Bonhams) $47,300
Mid-year ‘Vettes like this one are our pick of the litter and they don’t get much nicer than this example. This one has the optional 427 cubic-inch, 425-hp big-block engine and a four-speed manual transmission, though it’s not certain to be the one originally delivered with the car — likely the reason this car didn’t bring several thousand more. Nevertheless, this should be a great driver and the side pipes are a great period touch.
1991 Aston Martin Virage (Bonhams) $49,500
Thought you couldn’t afford an Aston Martin? At under $50,000 this Virage will cost you less than a new Porsche Boxster. Pegged as the top-end model in its day (the DB7 sat beneath the Virage when it was launched in 1994), this Aston has a 5.3-liter, 32-valve V-8 that pumps out 335 horsepower. Matched to a rare five-speed manual transmission (most were automatics) this Aston should be an involving drive.