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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.
115 REPLIES 115
New Driver

Whenever I read these “classic list” articles, I rush through looking for the Corvair. Overlooked again. It’s like living on the Island of Misfit Toys. No hard feelings though; that’s what keeps them so affordable.
New Driver

While I've had some muscle cars back in the day ('70 Nova SS with a 396 and a '70 Ranchero with a 351 Cleveland), I've always liked the big Fords. My first was a Plain Jane '69 Ford Custom with a 428 PI, an ex-State Police cruiser that I bought in '74 for $200. I currently own a '72 Galaxie 500 that I acquired from the original owner. It's all original except for some mechanical upgrades to the 351 Windsor. It had 34,000 miles on it when I purchased it in 1995 and has only 55,000 miles on it today. These were well-built, popular cars when they were produced but not often seen today. Drivers are cheap and well-kept, low-mileage examples won't break the bank. When I bring it to a car show or a cruise in, I rarely see another '72 Galaxie as most of them had rusted away decades ago up here in the Northeast. The only cars on this list that appeal to me are the Cougar and the Monterey, both nice cars and still affordable.

Lists are funny and many of the commentators throw shade on things that aren't their own special interest --we kind of need to get past that. If someone is into 1990s Toyota sedans as their "classic" good for them.

I think this list is a bit dangerous to an uninformed newbie. Some of the listed vehicles are lower production/survival so you will have trouble getting parts. Where I live you see great listings all the time for Buick Reattas until you get to the line about "dashboard is only issue".

Fox/Panther chassis (for example) there a many options, but if your dream is the Mustang save up and buy the best one you can afford. Ones that are not high-spec collector models can still be found at un-insane prices.

The cost of maintaining & restoring a typical mass-market car is similar input whether you pick high production with lots of aftermarket support or the oddball. The difference is the 75K you put into the popular model might recoup some of the investment whereas grandpa's 77 LTD probably won't. Understand that and do what you want/love/can afford.
Intermediate Driver

It would be a choice between the Lotus and the Wagoneer, parts for the Lotus are not expensive at all as mentioned by some other contributors, they use a mix off parts from the popular British sports cars, the Wagoneer is more old fashion in its design and that attracts me as well, it will be less economical the run but you can use it year round if you want.
Advanced Driver

Personally none of these are a "got to have it" for me. The Opal GT is a very very sweet car, BUT the proportions are just a little odd, If I had to choose an entry level 2 seat sportscar from the early 70's I would go for a Datsun 240Z/260Z instead.

The Type 75 Lotus is probably my first choice out of the group. Although it is something I have never heard of until now.

The Mazda & Wagoneer I have no interest in for being collectable, using anything with 4 doors for something other than utility is off my list.

The Mercury Monteray, looks like someone at Mercury wanted to see how long they could possibly make a car and still be legal... It is not unattractive, just seems like it needed another couple of weeks on the drawing board.

The Cougar XR-7, I find these to be stylish, these have a lot of potential honestly.
The Dart Hang 10, is in the throws of the smogged out era of vehicles. Styling was hampered by regulations, they were under powered and designed to be more efficient because of the fuel crisis. A 707hp Hellcat engine would be too much, but for me to be enjoyable and more interesting is maybe a new 492 Hemi under the hood.

New Driver

i like the Monterey

Cool list. I owned a Hang 10 Dart 360/Auto back in the early '80's. Super fun and unique car. Quick for the time. Saw one at Mecum Kissimmee in 2020, 318 w/add on AC. Sold for $35k. This one looks like a great deal if the interior is solid. Also owned an '86 t'bird 5.0 bought new and put 230k on it. Not fast but got good (mid 20's) mileage. And sounded good with Flowmaster duals. Always thought the Opel was neat, like a 3/4 scale C3 Vette.
Pit Crew

I would love a ‘74-‘78 AMC Matador and I’d suspect it would be in this price range.
New Driver

Had a 1989 Cougar XR7 supercharged V6. It was a very nice driving car and fairly quick but every part on it was special order and difficult to find even in 1995. The heater quit working and we sold it just to be done with all the expensive power brake and noisy supercharger problems.

Couple of nice Merc's.
New Driver

Another good one: 1966-1985ish Fiat 124 Spider.

I purchased mine 10 months ago for $8000, with 28k original miles, with a redone interior, repainted body, as well as performance modifications and plenty of repairs. 124’s sell on BAT for less than $20k almost every day, and if you look on other sites, (craigslist, facebook marketplace) you can find them for less than $10k. Watch for rust and weak synchros. The engines are pretty indestructible.
Pit Crew

There can be dozens and dozens of cars added to this list though…
Intermediate Driver

I think the radar accurately acquired all of these targets.
New Driver

I didn’t see the 1976 Mercury/Ford Capri. My stepdad owned one in the 80s. It was actually a hoot to drive at 16 years of age, cornered quite well too. My bucket list is to find one with a still intact body even if the engine / trans are toast. They are actually easy to work on being a German built Ford product
New Driver

What about late 40’s/early 50s American cars? Some, like my favorite, the 58-50 Packards are not ridiculously expensive, parts are available, and are very drivable.
New Driver

48-50. Bathtubs.