Last week, I designed my dream 4-car, $100k garage. This week, I’m cutting the budget in half. Now, I know what you’re thinking: if you only have $50k to spend on collector cars, why wouldn’t you just buy one awesome car, and be done with it?
Well, because if you only have one collector car, you sweat bullets if something goes wrong with it, or if somebody dings it in the parking lot. On the other hand, if you have a handful of really sharp undervalued bargains, you shrug your shoulders and say, “Ah, well, it didn’t cost all that much anyway.”
Behold, my favorite bargain designs – and I do mean designs, because these are all really beautiful to me for different reasons. I even came in under budget! (Which is probably good, these are all gonna need a little work.)
When I play this what-would-I-buy game, I usually take it pretty casually. I say, “Ooo, that was a good deal, wish I’d have gotten in on that auction.”
Not so here. Here, I get emotional. I stare at this auction, wail aloud, and beat my chest.
This was a phenomenal deal, and I am truly sorry I missed out on this car. What a beautiful, beautiful shape. And turbo? Quattro? It’s just icing upon icing upon cake. Dagnabbit, this auction alone is a reason why I need to move out to the country faster and get myself some garage space. This wagon deserves a garage stall adorned with Patrick Nagel posters and a Duran Duran soundtrack. It doesn’t get much more pop art modern 80s than this.
Runner-up: 1986 BMW 635CSi 5-speed – it’s not a wagon, and really, it doesn’t even seem like it came from the same decade. It’s an early 80s design icon, whereas the 88 Audi feels like it came from a much more futuristic age. Both of them are design classics, though.
1976 Jeep CJ5 Levi’s Edition ($15k)
Jeep. Levi’s jean style fabric top and dash. If there’s anything more ‘Merca than that, it probably involves eating apple pies while playing baseball as the hair shirt team.
I’ve had Jeeps off and on since high school, culminating in my current 2005 LJ bought new off the showroom floor. (That one doesn’t count in my dream garage stuff, though.)
To really enjoy a Jeep, though, you need to leave the top and doors off, and just stick it in the garage, saving it for sunny days. That’s exactly what this CJ5 is suited for.
Runner-up: 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40. Like an exchange student in the CJ5’s class.
1991 Nissan Figaro ($12k)
In the late 1980s, Nissan decided to mine the past with their Pike Cars: the Pao (which I also adore), the S-Cargo van, the Be-1, and the spectacular Figaro. It’s a tiny convertible that harkens back to the 1960s. Now that it’s over 25 years old, it can be imported into the US.
They’re underpowered (70hp) and too tiny for the US market – if you’re driving one of these in an accident, you’re probably going to lose. Permanently.
But by God, they’re adorable.
Runner-up: 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider or 1990 Alfa Romeo Spider – they’re newer than the really classic Alfas, so they have some of the baggage of the bumpers and safety gear, but still beautifully classic shapes.
1983 Cadillac Eldorado ($7k)
I like mixing irony in with my iron.
I don’t think you can look at this Caddy and say that it’s particularly good at anything. It’s not really luxurious, it’s not fast or safe, not built well, and it’s certainly not tasteful. Wire wheel covers and a landau top explain a lot about why Cadillac has a long, tough road ahead of it to regain any kind of luxury car respect.
But even having said all that, I think this car is undervalued. In another decade or two, it’s going to be a really good symbol of the “luxury” that was Caddy in the early 80s. It’s – dare I say it – the hipster’s Cadillac. The 70s ones are too stylish, and the 90s ones are too plastic.
This one is just the right amount of wrong.
I don’t usually include photos of the interiors on these cars, but I have to include one here because the interior tells such a tale of what “luxury” looked like in the 1980s. Behold!
Yeah. I would love to pick someone up from the airport driving one of these.
Runner-up: 1978 Ford Ranchero – I’ve been an El Camino fan all my life, but there’s something so great about the super-sharp angles on the front end of this long beast. Needs a lot of interior work though.