RUSTY HEAPS

A Mostly British Obsession

Odd Cheap Car Search is Fun

I’m looking around for a cheap car ($2500 or so) to share the driving duties with the F250 this winter–and I’m enjoying the search. The car will have to be just a little odd, of course, but I’m open to all sorts of machines. Here’s some cars I’ve been considering–I’ve been trying to be a bit more open than I normally am to non-British weirdness.

British

  • Rover 3500 (SD1): I’ve never been particularly partial to these machines, but I’ve never been much against them, either. There has been one banging around the local classifieds for a bit. The styling has never quite jelled for me, for whatever reason.
  • Ford Cortina: Unfortunately, these are outside of my range for a halfway OK example, but you never know.
  • Sunbeam Alpine Hatchback: The ones that look like a miniature Plymouth Barracuda.
  • Jaguar XJ6: Cheap, cheap, cheap. XJ40s are the least expensive, but still plenty of mildly ropey earlier S1, S2 or S3 cars in my range. Probably the best “value” in this price range, though you have to be careful.
  • Jaguar XJ-S: Talk about rolling the dice…
  • Yet Another MGB GT: I’d buy another GT, especially if its brightwork was good enough to eventually go onto the ’67.
  • Austin America/ MG 1100: I just can’t make this one work in my mind’s eye. Something about the styling has never jelled with me. Many of them are fitted with automatics which I imagine being as fun as watching paint dry.
  • Land Rover Discovery or Range Rover: Cheap ones are a gamble, but very practical in an unpractical way. I like the classic Range Rover look, pre-1995, and they’re usually cheap unless the seller is delusional.

Italian

  • Alfa Alfetta sedan or coupe: I’ve always like the Alfetta GT or its later incarnation, the GTV-6. I also sort of like the later 164 sedans and all of the early sedans. A real crap shoot but hugely entertaining cars with great engines.
  • Lancia coupe (or sedan): I cannot afford an early machine, but I like the later Beta and Scorpion coupes. Don’t care for the Zagato semi-convertible. The coupes used to be fairly common but all you can find these days are the Zagatos. I’ve never actually seen a sedan for sale, so that’s not too likely.
  • Fiat X1/9: I’ve always thought this was a neat car. I don’t know that means I would buy one.

Swedish

  • Various Saabs: Saabs have no love in the aftermarket, and you can get an early 90’s car in good working order for cheap. They’re definitely weird and interesting, and a good winter machine. I find the early V4 cars appealing as well, though their collectibility makes it unlikely I’d find one.

German

  • Porsche 944: OK, 944s in this range are scary. But this is a car I loved back when I was a teenager, and it’s still a handsome coupe.
  • Porsche 914: I’ve always liked these, for reasons that aren’t at all clear to me. I imagine living with a dreadful one would cure me of that.
  • BMW 2002: I really have no love for BMW, but the 2002 was a sharp looking little sedan and are fun to drive.

Japanese

  • Early MR2: Biggest problem with any Japanese car is finding one that hasn’t been modified out the kazoo by “ricers,” and the MR2 is one of the victims.
  • Early RX7: I recognize that these cars are stylish, but they’ve always seemed a bit feminine to me. The restyled mid-eighties cars are gross.

American

  • Jeep Wagoneer: I don’t know why, but I’ve got a soft spot (in my head, no doubt) for these big utility machines, preferably with wood grain sides and a really funky 70’s paint color.
  • Early Mustang: I love the fastback, but I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars. But occasionally a notch-back, usually a six cylinder, floats down into my price range for this exercise, and now that they’re not seen every day they’re interesting machines.

We’ll see how this all turns out, but it’s a fun exercise combing craigslist for oddball stuff.

7 Comments

  1. Anything with “Sunbeam” in the name has to be good. Let’s have a picture of that one.

  2. Here’s a reasonably priced ’68 Cortina. Not the most desirable of Cortinas, but in your price range I don’t think you’d find an earlier one.

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/1468527795.html

  3. Any Mustang II, AMC Gremlin w/ “Levi jeans” interior, Datsun 210 Honeybee, Suburu 360 coupe are possible options for you.

  4. The best Jeep Wagoneer color to accompany the wood grain trim package was aqua blue. Pure luxury.

  5. I don’t see any French in your list – that would open the door to yet another layer of fun! What about an older Renault or Peugeot sedan?

  6. Thanks for the ideas, everyone. Chris, I must admit a certain fondness for older French cars as well, but they’re pretty rare.

    I caught myself looking at an ad for an early-60’s VW bug in nice original condition. This is surely the sign of an organic brain disease.

  7. Love your selection. I’d say go for an old Saab, preferably an older 99 or a 96 if you can find one. I’ve driven a number and they sing (the two-stroke is wonderful). I had a beater ’78 280Z and still love the whole 240/260/280 Z lines (poor man’s E-type even though they were ripped off a Healey line), but they’re terrible in winter snow. You do get snow in Seattle? Have fun.

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