Affordable Classics – You Don’t Have to Buy a Bowtie!
The Driven would like to welcome a new member to our team, Mr. Zachary Suell. His work may also be found at aspiringcarguy.com. Like the rest of us here, Zach is an incurable car fanatic who writes and photographs his automotive muse. We hope you will enjoy his work as much as we do.
Everyone knows Chevrolet parts are the cheapest. The problem is Chevrolets have been “the affordable classics” for so long that the cars themselves are getting too expensive to buy now. You can fix one without spending a lot, but you don’t gain anything because the cost of entry is higher. Enough about that for now; time for some alternatives.
Mustang coupes are a lot of cool for not a lot of dough.
Assuming you aren’t a Bowtie diehard, there are more classic car options out there. Unfortunately, they may be a little ugly or a little weird. You don’t have to go AMC Marlin ugly, but those could be an option if they’re your jam. The most normal affordable classic is the Mustang coupe. Ford built millions of them in the decade prior to the Mustang II, and they are identical to the more expensive Fastback from the windshield forward. A relatively rust-free example – if you can find one – costs somewhere around ten grand. The 67-70 coupe is a little more expensive, but you can cram a big block in there if you want to. If you desire classic style, don’t want to squeeze a big block into your budget classic, and don’t mind the performance, the inline-six Mustang is the bargain basement choice. If you need more power, there’s the ubiquitous small block Ford. It’s hard to beat a classic Mustang with a 289 or 302 in terms of affordability and reliability, and parts are virtually as plentiful as Chevys. If you can stand to look at them, Mustang II’s are even cheaper to buy than early coupes.
The Mustang II is not the blue chip collectible that its predecessor is, but it is a good starting point.
Again, largely ignoring the diminutive Mustang II due to my general distaste for the way they look, we skip ahead to the Foxbody Mustang. Available with everything from a 4-cylinder engine with horsepower so abysmal it’s not worth looking up to the legendary 5.0 cranking out… well, honestly not that much power either in today’s terms. The SVO is out there too if you want to be different. Nice Foxes are beginning to fetch higher prices, but if you want to do some work yourself or don’t mind shabby bodywork, there are still bargains to be found. Drop a few thousand on the car, then go to Summit Racing and burn the rest of your budget on building the ultimate 80’s muscle car. If you don’t want a Mustang, the Foxbody platform was shared with gems like the Fairmont, Thunderbird, and even a few hundred Durango coupe utility vehicles (half car, half truck like a Ranchero or El Camino). That’s right, Ford made a Durango.
This Fairmont wagon packs a Coyote-swap, but you can build it without going that far.
One point of caution for those looking for a Blue Oval was Ford’s notorious tendency to change parts frequently and not share a lot of pieces between vehicles, especially when compared to GM. This means you may have a hard time sourcing one-year only parts that only fit one or two models. That warning aside, there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing a Falcon, Maverick, Fairlane, Comet, later Galaxie, or some Torinos for a decent price. All of those are fine examples of vintage Detroit steel, and most are affordable. They each have their own unique qualities and upsides and downsides. Falcons, Mavericks, and later Mercury Comets are all small and lightweight – perfect for dropping a hopped-up 347 stroker or 351 Windsor into and terrorizing the local track night. Fairlanes and earlier Comets are a little bigger, but not bruisers, and would make great cruisers and occasional track warriors. Early Galaxies are pretty expensive now, but you can cruise in style on the cheap with a late-60’s Galaxie 500. Finally, not much beats the style of a 1970 Ford Torino, especially for the money. Similar to Mustangs, you won’t get a Cobra Jet for a song, but you can score a nice V8-powered muscle car with plenty of style without needing a second mortgage.
Look at this Comet – it’s like a Ford Falcon dressed up as a Lincoln Continental muscle car. Beautiful.
If you want one of the General’s products but can’t swing a Chevy, lucky for you there are at least four more brands of cars to choose from! With a few rare exceptions, full-size barges from Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac (BOP) and even Cadillac are tantalizing options for captaining your very own land yacht. Snag your best friend’s cousin’s ex-grandmother-in-law’s 1966 Coupe de Ville and cruise around like you own the place, whatever the place is. Keep it stock and have a rolling time machine, or slam it on bags and have a time rolling your machine. If a Caddy is too over the top for your taste, pick up an early 60’s Olds Starfire or a mid sixties Grand Prix for all of your crazy-looking taillight fantasies. You might even get lucky and find a Buick Wildcat with a factory dual-quad 425!
You can even grab a brother of Chevelle for your classic muscle fix! Being on a budget may mean you get a Skylark, Cutlass, or LeMans instead of GS, 442, or GTO – though deals are out there for the top-trim cars – but don’t let yourself believe base models aren’t cool too!