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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

7 under-the-radar classics lurking below $20K

If you've been paying any attention to recent auction sales, it would be pretty hard to convince you that the automotive hobby hasn't turned into a rich person's game, and the 99 percent have been priced out entirely. But that's not true at all.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/lists/7-under-the-radar-classics-lurking-below-20k/
110 REPLIES 110
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

The 1975 Lotus Elite Type 75 looks like the love child of a Gremlin and some sort of Lotus.

The Cougar XR-7 has a soft spot in my heart. i know it doesn't have much power but the smooth V8 and the aftermarket should take care of any performance issues you might have.

Opel GT, there is a hard car to not find in a pile of rust or unloved in a corner somewhere. A friend of mine tried one years ago. What a nightmare.
fueledbymetal
Advanced Driver

I’ve had two friends with Opal GT‘s, and both of them owned two - one to drive and one for parts. I still have a weakness for them though!
FormerCav
Intermediate Driver

be SURE that you replace the FUSE on the headlight circuit with one of those circuit breaker type fuses. I had a friend whose 73 Opel GT almost burned to the ground due to the headlight circuit.
Microbob_1984
Intermediate Driver

My Mom used to carpool with one of her colleagues at work. He was an engineer who called Opels "Hitler's Revenge" due to electrical gremlins! The 1900/Manta had a bad design flaw, also a potential electrical disaster. The battery was placed next to the firewall, in the left rear corner of the engine compartment, in front of the steering column (for LHD cars) directly over the mounting location for the fuse box, under the dashboard! Acid vapors and hydrogen gas venting from the battery would corrode the sheet metal underneath the battery, rusting holes in the metal. Water draining from the drip rail for the hood opening (the hood was hinged at the front of the car) would drain onto the same location, adding to the rust and corrosion. Eventually, the water would drip through the holes in the sheet metal directly onto the fuse box, corroding all of the wires inside the fuse box. It was a race to see whether the circuit failures would start to happen before the resulting electrical fire would consume the car! Great driving cars hampered by serious design flaws that hopefully, wouldn't see the light of day today!
4wheel2wheel
Intermediate Driver

I agree, though never having owned one I did have many occasions to work on both the GT and Manta models. The post repair road test was always very enjoyable and tended to last a bit longer than usual. The GT looked a lot like the cars that raced at Le Mans in the late 1960s.
Microbob_1984
Intermediate Driver

I always thought that the Opel GT was a three quarter scale C3 Corvette, like someone had run a Corvette through a car wash and it shrank! LOL! 

Altema22
Pit Crew

The Lotus definitely has some Gremlin angles in back, though the door panel, trim, handle, and upper rear quarter have some Pacer vibes to them.
DougL
Detailer

Looking at this list, I am feeling pretty darn good about my V12 Jaguar XJS that I bought for $3600 3 years ago, and have less than 5 grand invested. I recently saw an American Motors 4wd Eagle wagon, asking $2500, for a driveable project car. There are nice cars out there for a lot less money. I can't hardly believe that you did not buy the 26,000 mile Opel GT! Only 4 grand? What a deal!
coop
Intermediate Driver

Yep, for $ 4 grand? the Opel GT - "all day long". What me worry? I've got a "59 Healey 3000, two seater and I'm not a great "wrencher". lol
TG
Technician

One that missed the list...I have been running around in my $2500 Allante for several years now and loving every minute of it. No matter how hard this car has been snubbed by the collector community, everyone who sees it says the same thing...cool car
dcx
Pit Crew

Agreed, especially if you have the 1993. The 1971-6 convertible Eldorado will also turn heads wherever you go. I know!
MisterTorgue
Intermediate Driver
JBBearcat
Detailer

I'd love an Elite. Love the sha pe.

When I lived in the UK in the late '80s I never saw one. I did see a few of its successor, the Excel.

To show you how unloved they were, at that time there wasn't a club for them. In the UK every car has an enthusiast club.

If I were a mechanic, or better yet an automotive engineer, or lived in a city where there might be a Lotus specialist, it would be tempting at these prices...which believe it or not are higher than they used to be.


hyperv6
Racer

The Lotus is a money pit. The low value makes it easy to buy but the high cost of repair can be more than most can absorbed. Unless you get one in good running condition with little work needed run.

The Cougar. I Married into one. We did away with it soon after as it was not all that old and the paint was pulling up in sheets. The converter also fell apart and went to the muffler. What a mess.
Best off looking for a Fox body Mustang.

The jeep is well a Jeep. Expect Rust in most parts of the country.

The Dart if no rust can be built into a cool car less the silly decals. My buddy had in red and a Starsky and Hutch like stripe. With the stock 318 and thrush side pipes it has a very mean sound. The problem was many wanted to run him but he never got the 340 he needed.

The Mazda 929, Hard to find car back in the day even harder today. Where would you find parts?

The Opel has always been a Niche model. Find a solid one they are easy to restore and sell.

The Mercury. A neat car you seldom see anymore. Get one a few years later in black and just day Book em Dano. This reminds me of my 63 Galxie.
farna
Advanced Driver

Really nice line-up! Should have skipped the last two and titled the article "5 under $10K" though. The Opel is valued at over $10K for a prime example, but you found one WELL under that -- and one in less than top notch condition would sell for under the $12,400 valuation anyway...
buellerdan
Instructor

$20K is the new $10K. Seems like not too long ago most of these would be $5K.
As of late I keep having to (significantly) recalibrate collector car values in my brain.
fueledbymetal
Advanced Driver

A Singer-esque reimagined Opel GT has been on my wishlist for quite sometime 🍺
PDMRCAING
Intermediate Driver

The 1st car I bought my wife was an Opel GT in 1984 what a great car until she got rear ended and the body shop did a terrible job. . My cousin had one & he got rear ended by a dump truck in his & lived to tell the tale. Great little cars that were hand crafted exotics with Kadett underpinnings
PDMRCAING
Intermediate Driver

If you find a Dart Sport for under 10 , buy it
daffodildeb
Intermediate Driver

“Under $20K classics” should have included the Porsche 986! A true sports car, outstanding handling, modern, parts easy to find, with a solid enthusiast club (PCA). Bought mine 3 1/2 years ago and am thoroughly enjoying it. She will be old enough to drink in May, yet I wouldn’t hesitate to drive cross country today.
coop
Intermediate Driver

Never forget seeing the Boxster concept car around '92 or '93 at Detroit Intl. Auto Show, on Vendor's day. Thought it couldn't "miss' (depending on price)
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

Parts for the Lotus are probably made from unobtanium these days. The Jeep went cheap. Try to find one in good shape for that price! Opel GT is an interesting car. If rustfree, they are tough cars. Worked with a guy (college student) in the 80's that had one. A car crossed the center line and he was forced into a bridge abutment. The crash shoved the right front in and almost tore off the wheel. The doors still opened (!) and he drove it home. Swapped out the suspension with the only one in a junk yard in town and it had a rusted shock mount that we had to cobble something up for. He drove it back home 500 miles.The Dodge is overlooked. The quality at the time was terrible so finding one not rusted to nothing is hard. Had a automotive teacher in the early 80's that had a similar 76/77 R/T that had a 4 speed. Worked with a woman who had a 88 Cougar, black>>SHARP car.
bblhed
Instructor

You missed the following. The Buick Riatta, those are doing less than $2,000 these days for a driver. The Scion xB I drive an xA but the xB was the car to have when it came out, the xA was a commuter econobox, and they are just about to hit 20 years old soon, good ones can be had for under $5,000. Finally the ever-present Miata, first gen examples can be had for under $10,000 oddly that is more than you would pay for a C4. Bonus! C4 Corvette, drivers can be found for under $7,500. The bargains are out there if you are willing to look.
beeser
Intermediate Driver

AND... SAAB Sonett....
Ragster
Detailer

Give me the BIG Merc's......good cars, good ride, easy to work on. Who doesn't like to ride an old Cougar once in awhile...
audiobycarmine
Technician

I saw what you did there.
ThadShegos
New Driver

I owned an Opel GT while attending college. It was a fun and reliable little car.
Lightning1
Advanced Driver

A British Exotic hatchback. Constant maintenance, forever oil leak, unending questions of "what is that?", All too say "I drive a Lotus" and didn't pay much!
DaveVan
Intermediate Driver

I agree with the Cougar.....but it needs to be a 1989-90 model. A better looking and car in general. All the 89-90 Thunderbirds and Cougars seem to be gone....decent versions anyway.
Javman
Intermediate Driver

I owned a 72 Opel GT in the late 70's and it was a great two seater. It was in pristine shape, quick, great handler, excellent gas mileage, 40+ mpg Cdn. Wish I could find a good one but up here in Canada most are rusted out and if you can find one that isn't and is in good condition it will cost you 10,000+. My second favorite car behind my 72 Javelin SST. Snow be GONE.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

Opel GT and Lotus Elite...
Meporsche
Pit Crew

Always loved the Opel GTs. A buddy in high school had one. Didn't have much room for beer though.
Microbob_1984
Intermediate Driver

That's where the Manta had an edge. You could take the spare tire out of the spare tire well and remove a rubber drain plug at the bottom of the well. Now fill the well with ice cubes and canned or bottled beer, and you're off! Our personal go-to brand of beer, being broke college students, was something called Red, White and Blue beer, $2.99/case!

Robin
Intermediate Driver

Loved my Opel GT's from the 70's and 80's, had 6 or 7 of them during that time frame. They were fun, hardy, eye catching and reliable cars.
To your list I'd add the Bugeye Sprite, such as the 1959 model I had. The Sprite was not particularly reliable, rather slow, but still much fun to drive. They have recently caught the eye of collectors and are trending upward, and soon may be about the 20K threshold.
quaybon1
Pit Crew

1984-89 nNissan 300zx Z31s still are a value. The 84 50th Anniversary model is the most expensive, but we have an 1987 I bought for my son's graduation in 2013 for $1800 with only 40k on the engine. In #3 shape they're selling for under $10k, but their values are appreciating. Plus, it's fun to drive, especially on a nice day with the T-Tops off. The only problem is finding parts, since they are the orphan children of the Z cars.
pcchuck
Intermediate Driver

In the late 70's bought the ex wife a ''Dart Sport Convertriple'' advertised as 3 cars in one... sunroof and old down rear seat.. with the 318. It was very handy for hauling bulky stuff... I had driven Mopars since 1965 and had good luck.

Many of the rest on the list have hidden headlights.. great when new. but not after 40 years.
gtokdx1
Detailer

Jeep Wagoneer for me. I had the same white with woodgrain stripe as pictured. Mine was a special edition of some kind (Spring Special) with a good looking blue cloth interior, power windows, special carpet, bumper guards...etc. It was just a beast!!! These prices are now going through the roof.
merlebalke
Advanced Driver

The Hang 10 for me. I had a new one that I sold to buy a 1938 Chevy coupe street rod. The dye in blue jeans turned the white in the Hang 10 interior blue.
asemastertech
Intermediate Driver

I had a '74. great car and an attention getter. Wish I still had it!
Huntz-Hall
Intermediate Driver

I would take The Mercury Monterey, Always a big Ford/Merc fan.
Tim
Technician

If the Opel GT that you saw is the one in the photo, you made a HUGE mistake passing that one up! You could have flipped it on BaT and it would have cleared $12K easily.
Chris2161
Intermediate Driver

I would add the 92-2000 Lexus SC300/SC400 to that list. Great cars, built like tanks, not dated, engineered to the max, and available for much less than 20k (if you can find one).
Interesting story: I contacted Hagerty to insure my own SC and was turned down flat because it is not stored under lock and key. I live in FL, less than 10 miles from the coast, so apparently they are worried about hurricanes/wind? Which is weird because I worry way more about being wiped out on the road in this heavily congested place, way more that I worry about wind or floods. In fact I would happily move the car is something was forecast. So it seems that Hagerty wants us to buy a classic, but then is reluctant to insure it unless it’s under lock and key, which is not possible for all of us. Open to suggestions! Please drive safe out there….
Darold
Hagerty Employee

Hey there @Chris2161! While it is true that in some parts of the country that are close proximity to the coast we do require fully enclosed storage, our guidelines have changed recently and I would be happy to take a look at your file just to make sure we arent missing anything. If you want to send me a DM with your email that would be great!

Chris2161
Intermediate Driver

Dm sent. Please advise if you don’t receive it, thanks.
Chris2161
Intermediate Driver

Ebaybooks04@yahoo.com

Somewhere around 1/22/22

audiobycarmine
Technician

Amen. I had a '92 SC 400 which I loved.
Unfortunately, it developed an undiagnosable problem which forced us to part ways.
I wish I'd been able to get it running again — I miss it a lot.
Zephyr
Instructor

Bought a 1973 Plymouth Gold Duster (the Plymouth version of the Dodge Dart) brand new and had it for 15 years. Slant Six. Only repairs it ever required was replacing the $10 ignition resistor twice and the headlight dimmer switch once. It had the fold-down rear seat which Plymouth called a Spacemaker. There was no parcel shelf behind the rear seat so when the seat was up it created a little kiddie corral that kids loved to sit in. The car was handy for camping because with the seat folded down you could easily sleep in the area created.
1974Chevelle454
Pit Crew

The Dodge Dart or The Cougar. The Dodge Dart is nostalgic to me as my Aunt had one that should bought brand new. She had a Duster Swinger and I remember the little decal of the "dust man" in the back.

The Cougar is just a great car with great body lines.

JBaguley
Intermediate Driver

A Dodge Dart / Plymouth Duster attracting yellow bikini-clad blonde babes at the beach? What planet does that happen on?? Back here on Earth, my father bought a '73 Duster in cop car gold for $2,300 brand new. This car was definitely NOT a chick magnet !!!