I was browsing Reddit and saw a post on “finding interesting vehicles that cost less than $5K.” Well, since all the cars listed were under $5K, I decided to write about a chosen few. Some of those cars were “project cars.” You might be like Bill Goldberg, who likes fixing old American cars and thus might appreciate a winter project of your own in that car-friendly garage of yours. Crank up the heat and get to work, I guess. Or you might not be like him. You might just be an average person who has an interest in some classic and some interesting cars and trucks. Whatever it is, this list should be stimulating for you.
I wanted to talk about one car that you'll find in the list below. It's run by propane. Now, propane-run cars are fine, although suboptimal. They’re used in some vehicles—and some vehicles even utilize a bi-fuel type of combustion—but when used alone, such vehicles don’t have much range in terms of distance traveled. Plus, there’s no universal nozzle connector for propane. All this is to say, do your research if you decide to go with making your vehicle propane-friendly, for whatever reason. (If tax credit was one of the reasons, that might not be the best reason, as you don’t get rewarded that much).
So, let’s dive in.
20 1986 Toyota MR2
The four-cylinder RWD MR2 looks extremely gorgeous from the outside. It has all the classic curves of the ‘80s and a spoiler in the rear. The odometer will attest to Toyota’s reliability—even with 150K-plus miles on it, you can buy it for less than $3K. I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all, especially when you consider it’s an RWD, which people seem to be nostalgic about nowadays. It’s a sports car, so the interior is filled with gadgets and widgets, and the seats are upscale, wearing different colors.
The MR2 started being produced in 1984 and ran until 2007 over three generations. All had the I4 engines, and the one in discussion is from the first generation. The overall reception of the MR2s was extremely favorable—various magazines gave it numerous awards.
19 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Convertible
I saw a Corvair Monza convertible equipped with a manual transmission and an RWD platform. It was only in fair condition, as work was needed. Although the picture here looks great, the actual one you find might be different. But if it looks like it needs some minor work done, you should be able to repair it. Then, the convertible can be taken out on a sunny day in the summer for a ride. Well, what’s the price, you might ask? You can probably get one for less than $5K—if some work still needs to be done—or a decent one for $5K if no work needs to be done.
The Corvairs were produced for only 10 years, from 1959-1969, and were equipped with a flat-six engine in the second generation, like this one.
The compact car is what America had before the advent of the Camaro; the Camaro was the successor to the Corvair.
18 1964 Ford Thunderbird
I saw one of these on sale. Not much information was given, besides a very good picture of the tantalizing car. And part of the reason for not stating anything is because a picture speaks a thousand words. Just look at the car. The one I saw was kept in superb condition, despite being built in 1964. Price of that beauty? Flat $5K.
The 1964 marked the first year of the fourth-generation T-Birds; all of them were equipped with a V8.
This generation was also given a more formal look, despite the hood showing hints of an athletic car. The car was anything but a sports car though. It had a 0-60 time of 11 seconds, which is, of course, slow for current times but was also the case back then.
17 1976 Cadillac Eldorado
There's a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible for sale for $4,500. Like most of the cars of that era, it's propelled by gas. The car I looked at was in exceptionally good condition—and I wouldn’t doubt that, as it had miles in the low-teens. That’s not much mileage for a car that’s more than 40 years old! The powertrain was maintained in good condition also.
At its time, the Eldorado—which, by the way, was in production from 1952 to 2002—was considered a personal luxury car; competitors included Lincoln Mark series, Buick Riviera, and Oldsmobile Toronado.
These were outfitted with an 8.2-liter V8 and an automatic transmission; the front wheels were given all the power. You could find one for a cheaper price, depending on the needs of the seller.
16 1978 Ford F-250
Here’s a very interesting vehicle. It’s an eight-cylinder, full-size pickup truck from Ford. The powertrain, including the automatic transmission, is doing good, and the exterior seems to be vibrant, too. The interior of the car doesn’t look bad at all, although having been so used to seeing models of the current era, it just seems emptier. But that’s also a good thing because then, you have more space in the cabin. From the outside, it doesn’t look as bulky as today’s trucks do.
The beast is powered by propane, though, so it’s not your standard car. Although a lot depends on the odometer reading, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one for near $4K.
1977 marked the year when Ford became the best-selling pickup—so this one was produced in the middle of the heat.
15 1974 Mercedes 240D
This is a beauty. It has the classic look of the cars from the ‘70s, and then the Mercedes badge and design add their own charm to it. It’s a full-size sedan and looks the part. The interior should look good if kept in a good condition. Just because it’s a 44-year-old car doesn’t mean things should get out of control.
The diesel-drinking four-cylinder engine is paired with a manual transmission in the front, but all the power is diverted to the rear wheels.
It boasts an exceptional fuel economy of 32-34 mpg in town. All the gauges should function properly, including the speedometer. Besides a few minor issues, the car should be an okay deal for $5,000. By looking at this car, you can tell the evolution of Mercedes.
14 1972 Plymouth Valiant
This is a rare beauty. It's equipped with a gas-drinking 5.2-liter V8. The exterior shouldn’t show any signs of rust, and the interior should be cleaner in the rear than the front—because the front seats get used more often—although admittedly, the entire interior should look more than doable. The front seat is continuous in the 1972 model, meaning, there's room for three, although seatbelts only for two—so you get some extra space to shift your weight if need be. Price for this? I saw one that was $5,000 flat, although it did have 130K miles on it. But it was kept in excellent condition, so maybe that’s the reason for the relatively high price.
The Valiants were manufactured from 1960-1976. The early models are a gem for car collectors now, as very few are currently surviving.
13 1983 Oldsmobile 98 Regency
If you get this car, you could say you drive a gigantic couch. If you peek at the interior, you’ll see two very comfortable couch-like seats in the front and in the back. Unlike other cars of that era—or even this—the seats in this car don’t shy away from padding and puffing; they're like your one-seat home couch. As far as the rest is of the interior, along with the exterior, is concerned, it seems to be in good condition.
The full-size sedan is an RWD, so those who need an endeavor that's a little sportier would be happy, much like the previous owners were. You can find one with 150K miles for around $3K.
These full-size luxury cars were in production from 1940 until 1996.
12 1963 Mercury Comet
This a cool and unique car. While the car is more than 50 years old, there are people who've probably driven it less than 50K miles, which means the car would be in excellent condition. They should be rust-free. A Comet from 1963 would be equipped with either a 2.4- or a 2.8-liter I6. Besides a few glitches on the exterior, the exterior should look respectable. The cabin is reminiscent of a Tesla—plenty of space without many buttons or items on the dashboard. And as was the case with a lot of cars back in the days, this one also had an RWD platform, so the handling and the steering of the car are out of the space for a car from this category and time. Price for this should be under $4K.
11 1968 Dodge D200
If you had thought the recent Dodge trucks were the best, think again. Here’s a beast that looks fully capable and seems to have the ability to do anything. If you look at an old D/W series truck, you’ll see they had some stylistic features that were sleek. Oftentimes, the spare tire would be tied to the side of the bed, accommodated by a groove on the rear fenders. These cars came out in 1961 and didn’t stop until 1993. The one being mentioned fell under the second generation, and these were mostly equipped with V8s and ¾-speed manual. The front grilles were updated for the model year 1968. There was one on sale for a little less than $4K, and it had 100K miles, which isn’t bad at all.
10 1968 Jeep CJ-5
Ahh, the Jeep. This was the love of the military people and the heroes of World War II. The veterans drove the military version in the war, and when they came back, they still loved it. There was so much craze over this car initially that it picked up the momentum to such an extent that it's never stopped—successors of the CJ-5 are still being produced today. Seriously though, look at the awesome Rubicon today. Anyways, "CJ" stood for “Civilian Jeep,” and the CJ-1 and the CJ-2 were the first- and second-generation Jeeps. Built for only a year or two, these weren't the production Jeeps, being models and testing vehicles, instead. Then we come to CJ-5, being in production from 1954-1983. You can probably obtain a 1968 CJ-5 for little less than $4K.
9 1976 Mercury Grand Marquis
Ooh, here’s another Mercury. An in-house competitor of the full-size Ford LTD, the Mercury Marquis was produced from 1967-1986. The Marquis became Mercury’s mid-size car—well, it was full-size from 1967 to 1982, and then became a mid-size car from 1983 and onward. The grille of the car looks good and the two-door styling of the car is worth the money. Depending on the condition of the car, you can easily obtain one for less than $5K. I saw one for $2,500, although the mileage wasn't listed, but I’d imagine it would be in the 100K range. The ones from 1976 have various engine-displacement options, but all are confined to the exceptional V8. V8s are good engines to be confined to though.
It’s a nice car.
8 1977 Chevy Truck Stepside Short-Bed
I don’t know what you made of the propane-fueled Ford pickup truck, but here’s a gas-run pickup from none other than rival Chevy. Back in the days, pickup trucks were big and extremely bulky. And I’d imagine it wasn’t cool to own a pickup, as they were meant for business. You had small business owners conducting their business and daily drives on the pickup. But now, that's changed. Now, pickups are “cool,” so to speak. Even people who don’t need all the space and capability of a pickup drive a pickup. But these pickups, including this one shown here, can do a lot of stuff. I saw a customized 1977 Chevy Truck for sale for $3,000. So, it’s not difficult to say that you can probably find a similar one for a similar price.
7 1990 Jaguar XJ6
With an odometer reading just shy of 100K miles, I think this six-cylinder midsize sedan has a fair asking price of less than $3K. The interior is respectable for a car from 1990, as the possibly leather seats show no signs of fraying. Additionally, the car cabin has some wood layers. If you weren’t aware, ‘90s cars had a knob-like structure to change the position of the seat backrest—I had forgotten that, too, but remembered once I saw the picture. Once you come to the powertrain, you find the typical I6 of those days. The transmission accommodates both the auto and the sport mode. The sport mode is nicely complemented by the RWD.
Production of the XJ6 started in 1986 and ran until 1994, so this was right from the middle of the generation. Overall, it looks like a solid car for the money.
6 1978 Ford Pinto Wagon
The Pinto was a subcompact car produced by Ford from 1970 to 1980, after which the Ford Escort was made available. There was an interesting “thing” going on in its mid-life. It was 1977 when the fuel tank design received the public’s attention and criticism for being linked with increased risk of life-ending fires after damage to it in a collision. In other words, if the fuel tank took a heavy hit during a crash, your survival rates decreased due to the increased likelihood of a fire, apparently. However, all that was cleared, and the Pinto walked away free of charges. The wagon looks nice and probably was used for tailgating events and parties back in the days—just look at the space in the rear. You can easily buy one for under $4K.
5 1978 GMC Caballero
The coupe-utility cars are out of fashion now but only in the US. Look around the rest of the world, and you’ll see them being evergreen in South America and the kangaroo-filled land of Oceania. These types of cars are not exactly heavy-duty, but neither are they like a simple car; their position lies in between, making them a suitable all-rounder. While the shape of these might have deterred drivers from buying one in the '80s, now, it might seem like a classic to some, although that happens more with high-end cars, like Ferrari, rather than a coupe-utility.
This coupe-utility truck ran from 1978-1987.
The Spanish name "Caballero" means “gentleman.” Depending on the odometer reading and the shape of the car, you can easily get one for under $5K.
4 1995 Mercedes SL-320
The price of a current SL is near $90K, which might not be a reality for a lot of people. The SL lineup looks extremely nice and sporty, and did I mention it costs a lot of money? The SL-320 was offered in Europe first and then became available in the US in 1995, and the latter is what we’re talking about. These were equipped with a six-cylinder engine mated to an automatic transmission. The interior was well appointed, and the convertible exterior looked fantastic. Although Mercedes is still considered a status for class, the 1980s and the ‘90s would've been considered the peak times for such status measurement. It’s not difficult to think this car looks thug-like, perhaps even owned by a low-level drug dealer. How much would such a car cost you? Well, I saw one with a little less than 150K miles for $3,900.
3 1976 Honda Civic
The rear of the current Civic looks amazing. You get the bang for your buck in terms of design for a car that’s not a sports car or designed by a high-end manufacturer: It’s just old Honda—the trusted, reliable Honda, that is. The production of the Civic goes back to 1972, when the first generations were designed.
Unlike some of the other cars on this list from the ‘70s, this one had a cabin that had some gauges and looked full, partially because it had a manual transmission. I saw one on sale for $5K flat.
2 1995 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine
When you think of a limousine, you automatically bring a picture of an elongated car with a lengthened wheelbase, a chauffeur, and perhaps a couple of your friends and yourself drinking and what have you in the back of the car. That’s one of the usages of a limo, sure. You might remember traveling in one during a bachelor party, a prom, or a wedding. But if you’re from a wealthy family, the former scenario was more likely the case for you. In either case, you traveled in a limo. Well, if you want, you can also buy one—and for a cheap price. As long as the year and the condition are reasonable, it shouldn’t be too expensive. I saw a 1995 Cadillac Limo for a little less than $4K!
1 1984 GMC School-Party Bus & Harley Hauler
Ladies and gentlemen, I think this wins the award for the most interesting piece of art for $5K or less. While GMC used to make school buses, I don’t know which genius decided to produce this. I don’t think a lot of these were produced either. The full-size school bus has just the driver seat and empty enclosed space in conjunction with an open bed, like that of a pickup. It’s kept in excellent condition, and believe it or not, it runs on gasoline. Back in its time, it was literally used to haul Harley motorcycles, hence the name. The one I browsed had a stripper pole on the bed, steps for the bed, and a functional stop sign. Just use your imagination for what you can do with all that combined. It was listed for $4,250.
Sources: craigslist.com; reddit.com