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Here Are the Still-Affordable Classic Cars I'd Buy in a Heartbeat

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author photo by Sam Keller February 2018

I spend a lot of time on the internet looking at classic cars for sale. During these moments where I contribute to the global loss of productivity by wasting time on my smartphone, I'm constantly surprised. On one hand, I'm shocked to see things like a recent low-mileage E30 M3 BMW that fetched $100,000. I'm also pleasantly surprised to find that there are still some deals to be had. The cars I've selected in this article are way less expensive than a new car and would make great weekend rides.

When buying a classic or "near-classic" car such as my 1993 Volkswagen Cabriolet that's currently slumbering in a garage in the Hamptons, there are many questions you should be prepared to ask, such as "How much to get fixed!?" or "That part is how much?!" Eventually something will break. Trust me, it's inevitable. Lucky for me, Volkswagen parts are plentiful and cheap! As much as I'd love to own a Peugeot 205 CTI (an identical car to my VW, but French), replacing a part could take weeks or months to acquire -- and in the worst case, it could sideline the car indefinitely. This brings me to my first and obvious choice.

Volkswagen Beetle

The original "people's car" was the last prewar automobile, but it also ushered in the modern era of automobile design. The iconic design of the Volkswagen Type 1 was incredibly influential, contributing to the design of the Morris Minor and Volvo PV. The Beetle began production in 1938, and it was produced in every (populated) continent of the world -- ultimately ceasing in 2003 in Puebla, Mexico. Due to its ubiquity, parts are inexpensive, and I've been told they can even be purchased in some convenience stores in Mexico. A running Volkswagen Beetle can be found on Autotrader Classics starting around $5,000, while rebuilt and better-kept original models start around $10,000. However, if it were up to me, I'd choose this 1950 split window, currently listed at $67,000. Instead of turn signals, tiny flags pop out behind the doors -- and to me, that sort of charm makes it worth the big bucks.

Some British Roadster

Speaking of charm, have you ever checked out a classic British roadster? These cars exude character, they're light and quick, and they're easy to work on. While prices on models such as the Austin-Healey 3000 or Triumph TR3 can hover between $30,000 and $60,000, other models are cheaper; a nice Austin-Healey "Bugeye" Sprite can be had for around $15,00, while a nice-looking MGB can be had for even less. If top-down motoring isn't your fancy, the MGB-GT is a shooting-brake hatchback designed by Pininfarina! Practically every component for these cars are reproduced by Moss Motors in the U.S.

Old Luxury Car

I love the look of an aging luxury car. Driving a vintage Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz makes far more of a statement than a new one. It's true that luxury cars depreciate faster than any other car, however this clean-looking 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SE listed on Autotrader Classics for $9,900 could climb back up the appreciation curve! While these Benzes have a rock-solid reputation, I would go with this 1964 Jaguar Mark II listed on Autotrader Classics for under $17,000. Sure, old Jaguars are plagued by shoddy electronics, but I can't resist the urge to drive down the street looking like a rich grandparent.

How About a Saab?

My first car was a 1989 SAAB 900, which my aunt loaned to me. I loved that car, despite its bevy of problems during my period of ownership. Once it broke down on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston during rush hour. Despite the hardships I experienced, I was charmed by the car's idiosyncrasies -- and that hasn't stopped my longing for owning another SAAB. On Bring a Trailer last September, I saw this restored 1964 SAAB 96 sell for a hair under ten grand. I cried a little, as I have a fondness for these cute 2-stroke rally machines -- and you should certainly consider one, as they're easy to find for that money or less.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here Are the Still-Affordable Classic Cars I'd Buy in a Heartbeat - Autotrader