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20 Of The Sweetest Cars You Can Buy For Under $10,000

The internet is a magical and cruel place, rife with cute cat pictures, blatant misogyny, angry Star Wars fans, and middle-aged moms posting Facebook status updates. If you’re anything like me, however, you’ll skip all of that nonsense and head straight on over to Craigslist (or AutoTrader, or bringatrailer.com, or any website of that kind) and see how much car you can buy with a given amount. Which got me wondering—we recently published an article that showed that $5,000 is more than enough to see a huge variety of weird and wonderful potential purchases, some that actually run on their own power! You’ll find everything from absolutely shagged Jaguars to vintage American land yachts from the 1960s, all the way to retired school buses that have been hacked to resemble someone's modern art project.

Continuing that line of thought, what happens when that maximum amount gets doubled? Surely, some even more special diamonds in the rough can be found. Without any further ado, here are the finest automobiles for sale at no more than $10,000.

20 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1

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We’ll get the obvious choice out of the way first. Made famous by everyone from James Bond to John Wick, the first-generation Ford Mustang is a pop-culture mainstay that somehow retains its cool without being played out. While the ones on offer that come under our price cap could never be considered Concours-ready, there are quite a few rough but desirable options up for sale.

Consider this 1973 Mach 1, featuring a 351ci Cleveland small block. It backs up its thrust with a sleek, wedgy design. 

Its interior is "95% perfect" according to the seller, and is going for $8,500. For those looking for something a bit more traditional, there are also more than a few well-worn 1965 notchbacks with their original 289ci small-blocks for under $10,000.

19 1977 Toyota Corolla

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While it probably would've been hard to imagine in the middle of the 1970s, humble Japanese compacts are a hot commodity right now. Witness this $9,000 Toyota Corolla, for example. While this one is far from stock, thanks to a bored-out 2.0-liter inline-four engine with 4 Weber carburetors, a racing clutch, a new exhaust, and a gaudy blue-and-white interior, the fundamentals of an enthusiast favorite remain even in an unmolested example: light weight, rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and cutesy (but not too cutesy design). Being 41 years old, it lacks even the most elementary parts of the standard suite of safety features that one would expect your average brand-new commuter or the guarantee that it’ll start every morning, but a vintage Corolla makes for a satisfying project car.

18 1975 Datsun 280Z

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While it never enjoyed the same level of unconditional love from enthusiasts as its lighter, better-looking older brother, otherwise known as the "240Z," the Datsun’s 280Z still offers plenty of smiles per mile.

This 71,000 mile still has its original 2.8-liter L28 straight-six engine and Bosch L-Jetronic fuel-injection system, which generated 170 velvety-smooth horsepower when new.

Those looking for an unconventional classic grand tourer will find plenty to love here: the 240Z’s popularity with collectors has yet to carry over to the newer car, which means that clean examples can be found at less than half of the cost of the former.

17 1963 Ford Econoline Pickup Truck

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Here’s a vintage utility vehicle in excellent shape: $9,000 buys a “clean, functional driver” with a 3-speed manual transmission that “starts right up.” The 1963 Ford Econoline is a fairly unusual design for domestic pickups from a modern perspective—the “cab over” architecture means that the driver is perched on top of the front axle. In a clever bit of packaging, the straight-six engine is positioned between and slightly behind them. This gave the vehicle a large cargo bay without sacrificing the virtues of having a compact footprint. Today, the “cab over” design architecture is common in both box trucks and compact Japanese mini trucks.

16 1968 Kaiser Jeep M715

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The Kaiser Jeep M715 is a fascinating vehicle, one with legitimate military connections. Used as a supply vehicle, the M715 entered service in 1967 as a replacement for the aging fleet of Dodge M37s, which were first produced back in 1951. However, the M715 didn't last long in its intended task, as the modern-at-the-time overhead cam 3.8-liter straight-sixes were seen as overly complicated by Army mechanics and didn't live up to their strenuous reliability requirements, often due to incorrect maintenance procedures. This particular example has just 40,000 miles on the odometer and no lingering doubts over reliability or creature comforts, as the previous owner had the foresight to install a 400ci Chevrolet small block, power steering, and a modern stereo system.

15 1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4

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Quite possibly one of the best Japanese-American automotive collaborations on record, the Dodge Stealth R/T was also known alternatively as the "Mitsubishi GTO" in the Japanese domestic market and as the "Mitsubishi 3000GT" in European countries.

In top-of-the-line trim, it was a car massively ahead of its time, boasting features that wouldn’t reach mainstream performance cars until more than 20 years later.

A transversely mounted twin-turbo V6 with 276 horsepower (thought to be underrated due to a “gentlemen’s agreement” between Japanese companies), 4-wheel steering, and a sleek, tapered body shape all came together to create a car that was every inch a credible rival to the now-famous Toyota Supras and Mazda RX-7s of the world. This $7,900 example with 120,000 miles could prove to be a gamble, as the cars weren’t exactly famous for their reliability.

14 1991 BMW 850i

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Another entry to the list from 1991, the BMW 8 series is, in your humble author’s opinion, quite possibly the finest-looking machine ever produced by the company. It represented BMW’s first foray into the hyper-luxury grand tourer market, where it left a fairly sizable impression after its unveiling at the 1989 Frankfurt Auto Show. While it was offered with a 4-liter M60B40 V8 that made 315 lb/ft of torque, the one you wanted came with the company’s 5-liter M70 V12 engine, which has extremely legitimate motorsports credibility, sharing the same architecture with the S70 V12 engine that powered the McLaren F1 to 240 mph in 1991.

This example is a meticulously maintained 12-cylinder 850i with a 4-speed automatic, rolling on 135,000 miles.

Again, this isn't a vehicle that suffers car repair novices, so do proceed with a hefty amount of caution before taking the plunge.

13 2004 Audi S4

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The third-generation Audi S4 was one of the non-turbocharged high-performance Audis to hit American shores. In stark contrast to the first-generation model that served up 227 horsepower on a 2.2-liter inline-five platter and the later second generation that had a twin-turbo V6, the third-gen S4 went full good-ole-boy on us—no replacement for displacement! Out with the forced induction frippery, in with an all-aluminum, naturally aspirated 4.2-liter, dual-overhead-cam V8, pumping out a more than adequate 339 horsepower. All that thrust was put to the ground by the company’s ubiquitous Quattro all-wheel-drive system, letting the car sprint to 60 in 5.6 seconds. This example comes with an aftermarket exhaust, a six-speed manual, and the highly sought-after Nogaro Blue paint, all for $9,500.

12 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser

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The wheels of choice for everyone from UN peacekeepers and ISIS militants to British explorers and Australian farmers in the outback, the Toyota Land Cruiser forged its reputation for toughness in the least hospitable places on Earth, so it should be more than able to handle your daily commute. In fact, with a durable 4.5-liter inline-six engine, it should be able to keep going long after nuclear winter has arrived. Perhaps the most eloquent way to represent the model's sheer indestructibility is seeing the results of the 1996 Dakar Rally, in which 2 unmodified Land Cruisers finished first and second in their class. While I’d be hesitant to recommend any other vehicle on this list if they had as much as 283,000 miles on the odometer, in this Toyota’s case, that barely counts as breaking it in.

11 1996 Nissan 300ZX Twin-Turbo

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The second car from Nissan’s legendary Z-car program on this list, the 300ZX is a gorgeous, uniquely nineties piece of design. Everything from the one-piece taillights to the squarish steering wheel to the removable glass T-top is dated in the best of ways. The sportiest 300ZX exploded onto the scene in 1990 with 300 horsepower courtesy of a 3.0-liter V6 with twin Garrett turbochargers. Like the similarly named Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4, the 300ZX also had rear-wheel steering, in this instance, a proprietary system called “Super HICAS” developed by Nissan for the R31 Nissan Skyline. This garage-kept instance is expertly optioned with a beige interior and dark-green paint. The relatively low 58,000 miles on the odometer means that the asking price sneaks just under the $10,000 price cap at $8,995.

10 1991 Honda Beat

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Those looking for an affordable nineties roadster that’s less mainstream than a Mazda Miata will find a lot to love here. Heck, anyone with a pulse will find something to love here.

It's a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive, 5-speed manual, bona fide JDM import with a body designed by the Italian artists over at Pininfarina.

Ignore the fact that the 0.67-liter inline-three couldn't peel the skin off pudding. Revel in its geeky details instead—individual throttle bodies! A redline just over 8,000 RPM! And who needs torque when the car’s curb weight comes in at 1,675 pounds or almost 400 pounds lighter than that blasted Mazda, which has never been accused of needing to go on a diet. This yellow convertible is for sale for a measly $7,000, and even with 160,000 miles on the odometer, it seems a steal.

9 1990 Honda Vigor

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Yet another slice of right-hand-drive goodness, the Honda Vigor actually did make it to our shores but badged as an Acura, which makes it far less cool. While this JDM import offers the standard boxy look of a nineties sedan from the outside, the engine bay offers a pretty big surprise for onlookers. Instead of the typical transversely mounted 4-cylinder found in the loosely related Honda Accord, the Vigor came standard with a longitudinally-mounted G series inline-five that powered the front wheels only. It was positioned as a fairly sporty, premium car when new, and Honda engineers somehow found a way to finagle a limited-slip differential at the bottom of the engine bay as a consequence. This unusual arrangement also gave the Vigor a fairly lopsided weight distribution, with 60 percent of this mass sitting forward of the car’s centerline. This example has been well taken care of, as it looks immaculate and can be had for just under $9,000.

8 1995 Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG

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Quite possibly the rarest vehicle for sale on this list, the Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG is actually a very important part of German high-performance history, one that deserves to be remembered as more than a weird footnote. The C36 and the more powerful C43 were the first two cars to come out following the buyout of a small aftermarket company by Mercedes-Benz. Known as "AMG" (for those wondering, it stands for "Aufrecht, Melcher, and Großaspach," the first two being the last names of the firm’s founders and the last being the birthplace of the former), they had a long history of making premium cars go fast, and their area of specialty was Mercedes products.

The C36 AMG was built in limited quantities, as the seller describes their car as being one of 5,200 worldwide.

Despite the company name being almost synonymous with V8s, the C36 came with a handbuilt 3.6-liter naturally aspirated straight-six (boy, looking back, I realize that quite a few entries on this list are powered by straight-sixes) that puts out a more than respectable 276 horsepower. This red on black example with 152,000 miles has had most of its wear items replaced last year and can be had for an eminently reasonable $5,500.

7 1983 Cadillac Coupe Deville

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We’ll take a break from all that imported steel and head back in time to check out this almost stereotypically pimp-worthy slab of American iron. The Coupe Deville has a French name, which, in 1980s-speak, meant that it was trying to be fancy. I’m being a more than a little disingenuous here—the Coupe Deville nameplate had a long and illustrious history with Cadillac, going back to the brand’s glory days in the late fifties and the early sixties. The company’s first-gen Coupe Devilles are what you think of when you imagine 1960s excess—pastel paint, massive tailfins, and vehicle lengths that got dangerously close to 20 feet. This fifth-generation car seems utterly restrained in comparison. The vehicle’s standard engine choices also seem completely anemic; the most powerful option when new was a huge 7.0-liter V8 that somehow only made 195 horsepower (but a more agreeable 320 lb/ft of torque). The seller wisely rectified this problem by replacing it with an even bigger 441ci V8 that the owner claims will net 22 miles to the gallon on the highway. This surprisingly economical boulevard cruiser can be yours for $7,000.

6 1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

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I now realize this list is sorely lacking in muscle-car goodness, so I’m sure some will appreciate this Camaro’s inclusion on the list. While the styling may not be everyone’s bottle of Budweiser and the interior may draw unfavorable comparisons to Fisher-Price’s finest, the fourth-generation Camaro is a rock-solid performance bargain. Featuring a body made partially from composites (alternatively fiberglass and polyester resin), it came in at a relatively svelte (for the car’s large footprint) 3,373 pounds. Combined with a sledgehammer blow of 325 lb/ft of torque, the Z/28 could sprint to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Of course, being a small-block Chevy, the LT1 engine has plenty of aftermarket support, meaning you could respectively boost and drop those two figures by as much as your wallet can stretch. That wallet should be plenty flexible, as this clean 113,400-mile example comes in at just $6,995.

5 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sedan

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We’ll keep the high-powered American ball rolling with this bruiser of a sedan for sale in Long Island. While the Cutlass started off as Oldsmobile’s entry into the compact car arena, the second-generation model, revealed in 1964, moved up a weight class to battle with the Ford’s midsize Fairlane. Offered in a wide variety of body styles, the revised car actually turned out to be a sales hit, with almost 170,000 units leaving dealer lots in the first year of production. Don’t let the label "family sedan" fool you into thinking it’s a shrinking violet either; this instance is being sold as completely original, which means that the 330ci V8 making 310 horsepower in this car was a factory-fit option and not the work of a power-mad mechanic. This well-maintained example has just 66,300 miles on the clock and will set you back a reasonable $6,700.

4 1986 Jaguar XJ-S

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Vintage Jaguars are no one’s idea of reliable daily transport, but there’s no doubt they’ll make you feel like a million bucks. The XJ-S arrived on the scene in 1975 and saw only minor revisions for its so-called second-generation in 1981. For 16 years, it was the British brand’s only 2-door on offer, a grandiose grand-tourer with an unctuously smooth V12 engine displacing 5.3 liters (though in regular English sports car tradition, a straight-six came standard on base models).

The 12-cylinder mill made a stout 295 horsepower in European markets, but American consumers had to settle for a slightly less healthy 263, primarily due to more restrictive emissions requirements.

This red instance of the breed is rolling on a reasonable (considering their relative fragility) 39,156 miles and is on offer for $7,000.

3 1982 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

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Rolls-Royce just might be the most prestigious company in the automotive ecosystem; the brand has a peerless pedigree of handbuilt “personal luxury cars” that are just as much of a pleasure to drive as they are to be driven in. Now, you can stake your claim in that upper-crust lifestyle for the low, low price of $9,500. Now, for a bit of a history lesson... The Silver Spirit was Rolls-Royce’s slab-sided jump into the tail end of the 20th century. It was the company’s full-size model, a replacement for the ancient-looking Silver Shadow but carried over and improved some of its most distinctive features, such as the hydropneumatic suspension, which used oil-filled reservoirs to give the car a magic-carpet ride and an adjustable ride height.

2 1974 BMW 2002

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This compact German is a deeply important chapter in the company’s history. The BMW 2002 was the automaker’s first attempt in entering the compact executive car market and yet also built the foundation of BMW’s sporty credentials, thanks to an eager, rev-happy powerplant, slick-shifting 4-speed manual transmission, and well-calibrated suspension setup. The car that filled its shoes was the now-legendary E30 3 Series, a car that reached mythical status for many of the same reasons. This particular car has had “around $10,000 in work” put into it, and it clearly shows around the fully serviced engine bay, which now features a 2-barrel Weber carburetor and a rebuilt bottom end—not to mention, a transmission conversion from the original 3-speed automatic to that aforementioned 4-speed manual. The Boston seller is asking $7,000 for the vehicle with 50,000 miles.

1 2004 Porsche Cayenne Turbo

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We’ll cap this list off with a 450-horsepower turbocharged Porsche. No, it isn’t rear-engined. No, it doesn’t have a manual transmission. Yes, it’s an SUV. And no, I won’t go on a lengthy diatribe defending the Cayenne and calling it a “REAL Porsche,” mostly because it isn’t. That being said, it's an awful lot of car for the money. The Cayenne Turbo was quite possibly the fastest mass-produced sports utility vehicle ever built at the time of its release, and a zero-to-sixty time of 5.0 seconds is nothing to sneeze at, even today, considering the hefty curb weight of over 5,000 pounds. It wasn’t all straight-line fireworks either, as Porsche engineers did manage to instill some handling panache into the platform shared with Volkswagen’s utilitarian Touareg. Like some of the other German entries on this list, repairs are going to be pricey, even more so considering the car’s more recent age and reliance on computer-controlled components. An yet, I probably wouldn’t immediately say no for all this premium, leather-lined goodness for an asking price of just under $10,000.

Sources: wikipedia.org, craiglist.org

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