No matter how you look at it, the collector car hobby is not a cheap one. On top of the purchase price of the car itself, you have registration, insurance, maintenance, fuel, and storage to consider. Fortunately, owning a classic is not just a hobby for the rich. There are plenty of great vintage cars and trucks available for those of us on a budget.
Just because you don’t have $50,000 to spend doesn’t mean you can’t afford a cool classic car that doesn’t look cheap. With a little searching, these cars can be found for $20,000 or less.
Fox Body Mustang
A lot of people now look at the styling of the Fox-body Mustang and find it charmingly bland rather than just plain boring, and the combination of large V-8 and rear-wheel drive in a fun-to-drive package has similarly led to a growth in interest as the third-generation Mustang goes from used car to collector car. Unless you’re looking for a rare model like the turbocharged SVO or ’93 SVT Cobra though, Fox-bodies of just about any model or body style remain relatively approachable.
We were supposed to see an El Camino revival with the Pontiac G8 ST, but thanks to the economic meltdown, that didn’t happen. Still, a classic El Camino is always going to be cool, and you can easily find them for decent prices.
Everybody loves a classic truck on the road, even if you’re not a “truck person.” If you can find an old Ford F-100 that you can pick up (pun intended), you absolutely should. Just look at those fenders.
CJs are always great, but if you’re going to buy a classic Jeep, why not get something a little different? Skip the go-to CJ and get yourself a two-tone Jeepster to standout from the crowd.
The first-generation Valiant had a design only a mother could love, but by the mid-1960s, it was updated and looking pretty good. It was sold in several different body styles, including a convertible, and the engines are famous for lasting forever. On a budget, you can’t go wrong here.
You can spend a lot of money on one of these if you really want to, but late-1970s Firebirds can also be pretty good deals if you keep an eye out for them. And even if it’s not black, you’ll still be able to live out your Smokey and the Bandit fantasies. Just make sure you have some Jerry Reed 8-tracks ready to go.
1967–72 Chevrolet Suburban
Introduced in 1935, Suburban is one of the most enduring nameplates among American automobiles. The year 1967 marked a major update, which included a third door, curbside, for rear passengers. The Suburban also became available in a three-quarter ton configuration for towing and could be had with either rear- or four-wheel drive, while engines ranged from a 250-cubic-inch six to a 402-cid big-block V-8. Pristine examples are a bit pricy in today’s market, but a solid used Suburban with a few miles that you wouldn’t be afraid to get a bit dirty is still on the affordable side for now.
1961–64 Mercury Monterey
With the Ford Motor Company reeling from the Edsel debacle of the late 1950s, the 1961 Mercury Monterey was introduced with a shorter body based on a lower-priced Ford model, but it did have an attractive Thunderbird-style roofline and subtle tailfins out back, while 1963 models had the neat “Breezeway” reverse slanted power rear window. The fifth-generation Monterey could be had with either the 292-cid Y-block V-8 or several versions of the larger FE-block engine, all the way up to 406 cid and 385 hp.
1965–70 Oldsmobile 88
The sixth-generation Olds 88 initially came with a 425-cid Super Rocket V-8 good for 300 hp, which eventually grew to 455 cid and 310 hp. Three-on-the-tree transmission was standard, but a floor-shift three- or four-speed was optional, as was a Turbo-Hydramatic. With Coke-bottle styling typical of the era and a big V-8, these cars walk the walk as well as talk the talk, but they’re still quite a bit less pricey than many of their ‘60s muscle car peers.
The Datsun Z family of cars is considered one of the prettiest Japanese vehicles ever built. A sleek two-door shape with a long nose and short overhangs compliments a fantastic rear-wheel drive layout and wonderful chassis, paired to a straight-six engine. Prices are going up, but there are still deals to be found if you act fast—and don’t mind a little tinkering.