Hooniverse Asks- What Car Do You Wish You'd Bought When They Were Cheap'?

You know what, there’s a lot of cool cars out there that you once could buy cheap, but are now pretty friggin’ expensive. Big Healeys and Mercedes Benz pagoda roof SLs once were just used cars. Panteras were so unloved by collectors and speculators that the people who did buy them on the cheap – meaning $10K- $12K – felt no compunction against modifying the hell out of them, typically a no-no for appreciable automotive assets.
Even Jag XKs – the 120,140 and 150 – at one time were dirt cheap, filling used car lots because they were not only just old cars, but old cars that required tall expensive tires and lacked many of the conveniences of the era two decades on. In my own experience, there’s ben the aforementioned Panteras, MGB-GTs and Loti that were sold, like an immature wine, far before their time.
But worse than the ones that got away are the cars that you never even thought to buy because you never thought they’d take off. Sixties sedans? You used to not be able to give them away until the hipsters discovered them as being ‘ironic.’ Now a drivable ’68 Olds 88 will set you back some real cash. Original Rabbit-based GTI pocket rockets used to be about as common, and as valuable as, well, pocket lint. But find one today with its plaid sport buckets and whiffle ball shift knob in good shape and prepare for a financial caning.
So what car do you wish you’d have jumped on back before everybody else decided they also wanted to jump it? Is there a white whale in your past that still occasionally looms on your fiscal horizon?
Image source: [fwallpapers.com]


  1. Im watching the prices of Triumph Spitfires creeping upwards and wished i had gotten in a few years ago. I think the bigger ones are how i owned a Monte Carlo for $300 and remember even the bigger engined Novas going for that same kind of money in the early 90s.

    1. Back in 1998 the General Manager of the dealership i worked for was selling his for $10,000. It was full restored and in mint condition. At the time that looked like all the money in the world. Now i realize he was giving it away

    2. I'm fortunate that the coolest car my dad can claim is a 1971 Luxury Lemans, forest green with white vinyl top and interior. Cool but I'm not too bummed he totaled it. Mom on the other hand had a nifty Dart 'Hang Ten', but still no AMX.

      1. I have always liked the Darts. My dad's AMX was sold right before I was born, so I only have pictures of it, and stories of how my mom used it to drag race. I so wish they would have kept it until I was at least old enough to drag race it myself.

  2. Unfortunately I came aware of cars and got to the age where I could buy one right at the height of the collector car boom of the late 1980s, so not much was cheap. A few that I can think of would be:
    -Continental Mk II
    -1963-1967 Corvettes (these were pricey, but it was still possible to find a driver for under $20k)
    – 2nd gen F-body, especially Trans-Ams. These things were under $5k until just a few years ago, maybe a little more for a
    4-speed Bandit car, but the nicest ones didn't break $20k.
    – Seems a few years ago nice Ferrari 308GT4s were under $20k, now they are closer to $30k.
    – Pretty much any non-top spec muscle cars. A few years ago nobody cared about a Chevelle or Nova if it wasn't at least an SS.
    Now the clones go for good money.

  3. I'm too young to have ever been able to buy a car for reals. In fact I only just started making enough to consider putting money towards a car, but I still feel I should pick something that was cheaper in my lifetime. For example, a '57 Nomad used to be only $20k, now it's $50k. I really should have bought one when I started walking. If anything, then I could sell it so someone could put some garish wheels on it and the $30k profit might almost pay for one year of college!
    <img src="http://assets.speedtv.com/images/easy_gallery/1041055/1957_chevrolet_nomad_custom_wagon_m.jpg&quot; width="500">

  4. I was told that the '70 Plymouth Superbirds (the homologation cars with the huge wings and sloped fronts) were so unappealing to most every car shopper that many of them still languished on dealers' lots in 1971. Deep incentives finally moved the last of them at discounted prices. ("And throw in an extra set of those Goodyear Polyglas tires.")
    Yeah, I was only a little kid then, but as soon as I invent that time machine…

    1. Some dealers removed the wings and changed the front sheetmetal to convert them "back" into Road Runners. Years ago a friend spotted one of these in very weathered condition, identifiable by the shape of the original back window and the "U" in the VIN.

    2. It totally depends on where you were. My neighbor has a 69 Daytona that he had to wait six months to get because the dealership wanted to keep it on the floor to drive traffic.
      Interesting footnote: it was originally blue with a black stripe and wing, but he wasted no time painting it black with a white stripe and wing.

  5. Around 1980, I had a chance to buy a mint-condition '66 T-bird convertible for $3,000. Baby blue with a white interior and white top – absolutely wonderful looking. I couldn't afford it. Sigh.
    I also kind of wished I scooped an '86-'87 CRX Si around ten years ago.

  6. An ex-boss bought a 427 Cobra in 1967. He sold it a year later for something like $6800, thrilled that he could make a $100 profit on a used car. When I worked for him in the 90's, he was still kicking himself over it.
    I passed on an numbers matching $8800 Hemi Challenger because it had been in a minor collision and repaired. I figured, for that kind of money I should get something more untouched.
    A friend had another car he paid $4K for, then traded away after a year or two. A few years ago, at the peak of the market, I saw it on Hemmings for $275K

  7. Not a car for me, but I've been thinking about that brand new 2010 Carrera that's selling for 10-15k below MSRP at the local dealership.

  8. Pre-1973 Porsche 911's (good 912's aren't so cheap either), E9 BMW CS Coupes, Mercedes-Benz W113 Pagodas and W109 6.3's……the values of all four have shot through the roof in the last 3 to 5 years.

      1. I've always wanted one … and they've always been just a bit more expensive that what I could justify for a "hobby" purchase.

    1. The E9 Cs were dirt cheap around the early eighties, so were Escort Mk1 (Mexico and GT) and the Citroen DS line-up, that was almost given away.

  9. Mopar muscle. Somewhere along the line they went from being the least desirable of the Big 3 to commanding 6-figure prices. They're on their way back down, but I could be retired today.

  10. Back when I was in high school (about ten years ago), 5.0 Mustangs were plentiful under 5 grand. They've risen a fair bit since then. I'm also fairly certain that if E30s aren't on the upswing, they're about to get there (although it feels like they've gotten generally more rare in the past couple years anyways).

  11. One thing this sort of “What if” question doesn’t address is inflation. Even though that awesome car was only X dollars at the time, your buying power was equally limited.
    A $1000 car twenty years ago is the same as a $50,000 car now in terms of my buying power.

    1. Yes, but that would not allow us the oppurtunity to wax poetically about some of the 'Ones We Should Have Bought'.
      Copy and pasted from original below.

      1. I meant “buying power” in that 20 years ago, when I was a teenager, $1,000 might as well have been a million dollars.
        The point is, waxing nostalgic about cars I couldn’t have bought anyway is silly.

  12. Yes, but that would not allow us the oppurtunity to wax poetically about some of the 'Ones We Should Have Bought'.
    – Darn Hoon Nibbles, this should have gone under Mr Wilsons post above.

  13. Lotus Elan +2 – almost bought one when they where worth half of what a MGB is worth. Values seem to have flipped and they are out of my price range now.

  14. I still have an old picture on my hard drive of a late 60s Rambler in a low-rent housing parking lot, lacking any pomp or presentation. Behind is an old Dart that I didn't even bother to take a picture of, so ordinary was a car like that. Indeed, times change.

        1. Due to their rarity and unique appeal, Amphicar values have risen steadily since they were launched.

  15. Yeah, personal income over time is a whole 'nother matter. Yesteryear's $1,500 project car that was barely out of reach is today's $5,000 project car that is barely out of reach.

  16. In the year 2008, you could have gotten a 2008 Dodge Ram for $9000 + T/T/TL & Dealer Prep. So for around $10k you could have a brand new truck.

  17. Boss. Good for him. My dad is restoring at '67 Cuda. There is not a lot of enthusiasm for it, because its been "being restored" for the past 4 years.

    1. When your parents had kids, they went looking for a boring sedan…it's totally inevitable.

  18. Back when I was in high school in the early eighties, Muscle cars were sort of cheap, the larger Impalas etc were a dime a dozen and Caddys, Buick & Lincolns land yachts were just throw away cars. What really gets me were the early 60's cars were all over the place and CHEAP. I could have had a few Starliners, Galaxies and Grand Prix's for under a grand. Bubble top GMs too.

  19. In CA they're a dime a dozen. I bought a z32 on the east coast and drove it out here. Was surprised to find that the car I paid 8k for was worth about 5k here. On the east coast I could go for months without seeing another one on the road. Here I see another one almost every day.

    1. Yeah, it's called rust. Plenty of Datsuns still in the northeast, it's just that you can see the sunlight through most of them when they're up on a lift. Or you could if your garage had no roof. Anyway, rusty.

  20. So many to choose from. My problem is I've bought a bunch of cheap cars over the last 20 years that are STILL cheap.
    But if I had to choose the ones that hurt the most I would have to go with these….
    <img src="http://www.seriouswheels.com/pics-1960-1969/1964-Ford-Galaxie-500XL-Red-Convt-le.jpg&quot; width="500" />
    <img src="http://fwallpapers.com/files/images/pontiac-gto-judge-convertible-1970.jpg&quot; width="500" />
    <img src="http://www.autotraderclassics.com/images/a/2009/04/09/1661256/90335471_1239303269169.jpg&quot; width="500" />

  21. Oh, man, the Pantera was the perfect car for the lead image. What was once the cheap way to have an Italian supercar is now pricier than a Ferrari 308gt4 or 400i, or even an Espada.
    Let's see, Facel Vegas and Gordon Keebles have doubled since I started looking; people would practically give you an XJ-S or XJ6 ten years ago, now only the handful that were actually maintained still remain; I saw someone listing s Jensen 541 for six figures recently and crossed that off my wish list, you used to be able to find them for $30k. It's getting hard to find solid Jeep Wagoneers or Toyota FJ60s for anything under six grand.
    You can still get a cheap 635csi, 944, 924, 280zx, z31 300zx, or early RX-7 if you know how to turn a wrench. You can get a cheap 928 if you dare. A beautifully-maintained 528e is easy to find now and dead cheap, if you don't mind a slow-ish BMW. The rise in prices of the English roadsters has not been matched by the Fiat and Alfa spiders or the X1/9, which can all still be found in workable condition quite cheap. Oddly Sunbeam Alpines also seem to be exempt from inflation so far. AMC cars other than the AMX are still cheap relative to comparably interesting offerings from the big 3. Reattas and Allantes seem to be bottomed out and are bound to appreciate. L98 C4 Corvettes are probably now as cheap as they'll get.

    1. I haven't priced the early Jensens in about 10 years, when a decent one could be had for $15K.
      If you're looking for another soon to be hit, you could do worse than to buy early Japanese imports.

      1. I'm more interested in driving than investment, so when I recently bought a new project car I considered every single option I listed in the second paragraph above except the 928, as I'm not a masochist. I ended up with a pristine slicktop 280zx coupe with many new parts and completely intact frame and underbody for $3400. Parts are plentiful and cheap, driving manners modern and a delight, reliability solid. And it looks like northern roads are just about salt free now, knock on wood.
        Of course I still want an X1/9 (got to have a Gandini sometime in your life) and a 528e. At first I really wanted a 93 Allante or a Reatta, but now I think if I go Detroit I'll just take a C4 and treat it as if it were a Jensen. I tried squinting at pictures of the three as if I had never seen them before, and this made the vette seem the obvious choice. The huge engine didn't hurt either.

      1. Hope you have $3000 more and a few hundred free hours to get it into decent order! Personally from your description, my urge would be to strip it down completely, cure the body of any tiny spots, and then do an engine swap. Maybe a little honda engine. Which is why I didn't get an X1/9 myself, when would I do all that?

  22. Porsche 928. Good ones sold for less than half of what they go for these days, and it won't be long before prices for mint examples will skyrocket.

  23. "..sold his Cobra for a Citroen DS21 convertible…"
    I'm not sure how I feel about this. Half my brain recoils and thinks it is an utter tragedy, the other thinks it's the coolest thing I've ever heard.

  24. I would have loved to get a 1957 Chevy Bel Air when they were a little cheaper and more plentiful in the "Swapper" mags. I remember when I was ten years old, I would look through 'The Auto Swapper' and dog-ear every page that had one or more for sale. By the time I was done, I usually had a dozen or more by the time I got done reading it. Back then(1986-ish), they were selling for right around $2500-5000 for an original looking two door post car…which is a Hell of a lot cheaper than they would run you now.

    1. My Dad had a couple of 57's; the one he remebers the bumper came off (it was the model with the post) and he had someone weld a peice of railroad track in it's place. He always told me how great it was, he could run down just about anything, mailboxes weren't even a challenge; and even at the age of five, all I could think was "he did what to a 57?"

  25. 1985. I went to look at an early seventies Plymouth Barracuda, factory 340 4-barrel, 4 speed stick, bright orange with black stripes, shaker hood, black interior. Solid body (a rarity in the rust belt where I was living at the time), not too bad of an interior. Stupid fast. $1,200. I passed it up because the front suspension was a little hinky (in hindsight, it probably just needed ball joints and some tie rod ends). I've kicked myself ever since then.
    To add insult to injury, I had to watch some other guy drive it around town for several years after that!

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