By on January 19, 2017

1997-honda-accord-art-carI’m of the opinion that a true auto enthusiast is never content with the status of their fleet. A wandering eye is constantly looking for the next toy, the next project, the next opportunity to flip for a profit. I’m no different — I’m figuratively digging in the couch cushions every time a funky car pops up on eBay or Craigslist.

But those cushions are bare. Two kids tend to consume every spare penny. I’m trying to put away cash for a potential cheap toy, but the classics I really want have ballooned in value well beyond a reasonable figure. I’m thinking I can scrape together about five thousand dollars to buy a new toy for the garage.

So, that’s my challenge to our fine and frugal readers: go shopping. Trawl the usual websites — eBay, Craigslist, Cars.com, or Autotrader — and post what you find for under $5,000. For eBay, make sure you post cars that have a Buy It Now price, as the starting bid may show $1 — though it’ll never sell for a buck.

I’ve picked a couple of my favorites — there are all kinds of weird ones on eBay, from a topless four-door Chevy Tahoe to the “art car” 1997 Honda Accord shown atop the page — but this selection seems to have potential:

1991 Buick Reatta

1991-buick-reatta-red-front-quarter

I always loved these as a kid. My dad nearly bought one — not sure why he didn’t, it’s not like he’d have kept it long — but I did prefer the 1990 Nissan 300ZX he bought instead. Still, even though this has a few flaws, it’s a beauty for $4,995.

1991 Ford Taurus SHO

1991-ford-taurus-sho-beige-front-quarter

That engine. Look at those sexy long intake runners. It’s not perfect — after all, it’s an old Taurus, with all that comes with that — but it looks like a solid, quick car that shouldn’t be too difficult to keep running for cheap. It’s only $4,000.

1989 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer

1989-ford-bronco-eddie-bauer-blue-tan-front-quarter

It’s a 28-year-old, two-door, full-size SUV with faded paint and an odometer that has surely rolled over. No matter — the Bronco is back, to the delight of enthusiasts like our managing editor (or slow-driving murderers everywhere). This one needs some work, but anything in this price range will have needs, and nothing is as cool as an Eddie Bauer Bronco, especially for $3,950.

1981 Porsche 924 Turbo

1981-porsche-924-turbo-grey-rear-quarter

This is my choice — I can finally go all Joey-from-Friends and legitimately wear all the Porsche swag I want without looking like a total fool.

Thank goodness no one could see my face when I wrote that.

Still, a $3,300 Porsche Turbo is appealing. There are plenty of caveats on this one: it’s across the country, it has failed California inspections, there are only three photos, and there is no title. All of these faults can be overcome with varying levels of money and effort, however, and this vehicle simply looks like fun.

So, go forth and find me a $5,000 car. Please, because links can appear funky in our comments, also list the year, make, and model of car you are posting so we can discuss without clicking back and forth too much.

Who knows — maybe I’ll open up my checkbook and actually buy something.

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133 Comments on “QOTD: What Fun Car Under Five Thousand Dollars Would You Buy?...”


  • avatar
    incautious

    nothing beats a v8 camaro/firebird or mustang. Go fast right out of the box with good bones and minimal maintenance requirements. Just pick one that hasn’t been abused. Can also find Corvettes in this price range but they will most likely need some work.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    I’ve heard good things about the 200.

  • avatar
    HivesOfWasps

    E34 535i w/ std. transmission

  • avatar
    NoID

    Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. Right now I see three on AutoTrader for under $5k.

    Mambo Italiano!

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Honda Prelude Gen 3, 4, or 5 if I can find one stock.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Saab 900 SPG, if you can find one.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Just mentioned it in the Mitubishi article, but a 1998-1999 Mitsubishi Montero (fullsize, not sport) with the “winter package” to get the rear locker. Good ones with 150k-ish miles can be found right around the $3500-5k mark. Catch it up on maintenance and wear items, throw on some all terrain tires and recovery gear, and away you go to explore the American West.

    Alternatively something older (mid 60s-mid 80s and American RWD)

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    The Reatta will be the most reliable since it has GM’s boat anchor 3.8 V6. But, it’s a sports car in looks only, which is probably why it never sold well.

    I’d go for the SHO, personally, just because I love them and the first generation ones are downright rare now.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    I did this once. In 2014 I bought an 1995 Miata with 60k miles on it. Not a spot of rust anywhere. Total garage queen. Black with tan leather and gold accents (badges, frankenstein bolts, etc).

    Fun car. Terrifying on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I would go with a mint-ish B-body or G-nody from the 80s – pick your poison! Impala, Bonneville, Malibu, Regal, Cutlass, etc – it will be a good base car to modify.

    El-Cheapo speed: a Mustang with a V8. Any year, just get the cleanest one you can find. There will be plenty of aftermarket go-speed parts.

    It is also possible to get a 1st gen BMW MINI S in this price range as long as you don’t mind higher miles. But the costs to keep on the road could start eating into your pocketbook. My wife’s 03 is *knock on wood* surprisingly reliable but the previous owner put a lot of money into it.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Give me a G-Body hard top, shovel nose Cutlass in the Calais trim with proper bucket seats, floor shift, rally gage cluster and V8. 442 would be better but I doubt you’ll find one worth owning for $5K.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    I’m at work so links aren’t going to happen – they block all of that fun stuff.

    But as for what you might be able to get depending on your area, and also what you want to do with it. For sports cars, I’d look at the following:

    * Manual S13 assuming it hasn’t already been turned into a drift missile. Endless aftermarket means you can turn it into whatever you want.
    * Mustang – Fox body 5.0 can definitely be had, or depending on condition you might be able to get a SN95 GT, particularly the 5.0 powered 94-95 variety?
    * LT1-powered F-body?
    * Conquest or Starion for some 4G63 80s love
    * MKIII Supras might be had under 5k too if you get lucky

    For an off-roader you’re on the right path with the Bronco, but just remember the 90s was the heydays of the real SUV, almost anything can be had with real 4×4. 2-door Cherokees sell much cheaper than 4-door ones and have a stick more often, so that can be a possibility. Also, a Rodeo could be a dark horse – I got my old beater for $1k and it was also 4×4 with a stick.

  • avatar
    Shawnski

    The one I AutoX (ESP); ’82 Mustang GT Fox body.

  • avatar
    Rochester

    I still want a 2006 GTO in Cyclone Gray, against my better judgement. The heart wants what the heart wants, I guess.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    There are a couple of nice looking Porsche 924S s out on Autotrader right now. If you’re not familiar with that model it’s the original 924 body style but with the 2.5 liter engine out of the 944. There’s a red one in Utah with 64K miles for $4500 and a black one with 69K miles in Illinois for $4995. A 924S is the best value you’ll find in the Porsche camp.

    These two cars are AutoTrader IDs AT-19697DC5 and AT-1A51964B.

    An old 924 Turbo’s maintenance is apt to eat your lunch.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Go for the Bronco or the Reatta.

    The Bronco looks to be in good shape overall, and it’d be easy and cheap to work on. Parts shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, you’d have a practical vehicle.

    And the Reatta is in amazing shape. I could see parts being a problem, though (“you want HOW MUCH for the instrument cluster?”). On the plus side, 3800. Amen.

    The Taurus and Porsche look like two 100% effective ways to burn money to me.

    Have fun!

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I’d go for a 70’s or 80’s Towncar. Easy to find in good running/driving shape for under $5k; parts and upkeep are simple and cheap.

    They’re fun attention-getting cruisers that are great for going out with a group.

    Bonus points: A well-kept stretch limo version of the above; which can also be found for $5k or less if you are patient and careful with the buy.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    This is a great question. I can honestly say at my age I really don’t want to have to do any serious work on an old car for a variety of reasons.

    BUT… if I could buy a toy that I would enjoy and if I could find one in good shape, my first choice would be a Buick Reatta.

    Next? I have no idea.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    2000-2006 New Beetle TDI, with a 5-speed. You can get one for real cheap in good running condition.

    2003-2004 Infiniti M45, because it’s the best Infiniti design they ever sold.

  • avatar

    Acura Integra of any vintage (although I’m partial to my old ’92).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice picks but my gosh oddball stuff has gotten expensive.

    Given this “list” its either the Bronco if I can get it in 351 (or perhaps the 300 for lulz) or the Porsche because you never specified if this was our only car or not.

    “the next opportunity to flip for a profit”

    None of those is going to be “flipped for profit” as they are already priced too high for resale. Oh I gots to have me an avg Reatta, here’s 6K! Riiiiight.

    178K on that SHO btw… I got $750 for it right here.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Wow, there was a time when I thought paying $5k for a car was all the money, I was shopping in that $500 area back in the early 90’s. Any who.

    I would find a Wrangler, parts are everywhere and for the most part they are easy to keep going.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    Without a doubt, a 1998-2000 Jaguar XK8 Coupe. Undeniably one of the best looking cars from Jaguar over the last 20 years (yeah, yeah, yeah F-type. Way better looking in the concept than the execution). Hilariously cheap ($5K gets you a well maintained 100K mileage car, no matter what posters think they are worth [edit: ask me how I know this]) and actually pretty robust – except for the transmission. ZF-5HP24’s are known for weak baskets, and they are [edit: again, ask me how I know this]).
    You will never/almost never see another one next to you, your wife/significant other/non-car partner will see nothing but sex on wheels, and you get a pretty sweet ride.

  • avatar
    rutabagaman

    This is how I bought my last car. <$5k (CAD) and manual transmission filter on Kijiji. Ended up with a modified and decently maintained, albeit somewhat rusty 1987 BMW 535i. What a great car, at least in terms of how it drove. Necessitated buying a CAA (towing service) membership, left us stranded 2 or 3 times, and cost it's $3500 purchase price in maintenance and repairs over the 2 years we owned it. Still miss it.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    That Bronco looks too nice in the picture for only $3950. Must be something wrong with it.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Under $5000? How about under $500.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    1977 Chrysler New Yorker 2dr hardtop. 400 (4-bbl?). No price in ad, but presumably well under your $5k limit.
    http://cbodydrydock.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?186904

    1972 Dodge Monaco 2dr hardtop. 318 2-bbl. $3500 obo
    http://cbodydrydock.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?186549

    1973 Imperial. Looks to be in excellent condition! 440/727 auto (both rebuilt) “All power features work on the car.” $5500 asking price is a bit over your limit, but seller may take a $5000 offer.
    https://cleveland.craigslist.org/cto/5936423491.html

    1975 Chrysler Newport $3600
    https://detroit.craigslist.org/okl/cto/5963125865.html

  • avatar
    jack4x

    The one I bought last fall. High mileage but good running 2001 MR2 Spyder for $4200. Lighter than a Miata, mid engine handling, Toyota reliability. It could never be anyone’s only car but as a weekend/track toy it’s a blast to drive.

  • avatar
    buffaloboxster

    ’94 to ’01 Acura Integra GS-R

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Some sort of Jeep Wrangler. Probably have to wrench on it, but no big deal. For a guy who already has a sports car and a DD sedan, this would be the most fun option.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    Bought an 01 Ranger XLT 4X4 Off Road Package, one owner, 200k miles, for $2600.

    It is our fifth vehicle. Thank goodness for a long driveway.

    New shocks, outer tie rods, alignment, and various other maintenance items. Truck runs great. Put some CVPI steelies and all terrain tires on it. Gonna do my first mild off-roading trail when I can find the time.

    5-yr old son loves riding up front, too! His favorite car to ride in.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’d have to say ’06-’07 Grand Prix GT.

    Last years of the supercharged 3800, and more importantly the SC Series III is the only version of the 3800 I’ve never owned.

  • avatar
    sutherland555

    Stock 6th gen (1998-2000) Civic Si. My buddy had one back in the day and still misses it. It was scary fun being a passenger when he drove.

  • avatar

    I keep looking at 1st or 2nd gen RX-7s. You can still get a decent one for around $5k, but they are going up in value. The same is true of the ’79-82 Datsun 280ZX and the Z31 300ZX.

    You can also find a Mitsubishi 3000GT for that price. The sub-$5000 models all have high mileage, and I wouldn’t touch a VR-4 at that price. But you can find a base GT in relatively good shape.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I really like the first gen RX-7s, especially the 81-84s with the restyled bumpers and license plate area. A GSL-SE would be preferred, if possible, I understand that parts for the 12A engines are getting scarce.

    • 0 avatar
      scrubnick

      3000GT. I bought a Stealth for $2200 bucks a few years ago. Lots of fun, be sure to replace those ECU caps, though.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Oh, that’s the one. ’91 was the last year for the 1G SHO, should have a couple goodies on it. IIRC these should be rod-shifted, not the sloppy cable shift from the ’89-’90s. (it can be retrofitted, too).

    Look for oil in the plugwells, and ask if the 60k has been done. If not, knock a G off the price.

    They’re fun and definitive future classics.

  • avatar

    I’ve had this scenario, and purchased a 1992 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer for $3000 in 2015. At that price, it had only 61k miles and the interior/exterior were absolutely pristine. The truck even smelt new, the leather had no blemishes, and the paint was flawless. Aside from the factory radio, every electronic accessory was working as well as the AC. Mechanically, the engine and, surprisingly, the notoriously feeble automatic transmission operated perfectly. Under the engine was a oil leak from the front main seal. The truck also came with the original window sticker and all maintenance records. For the price, it’s a solid, reliable, and fun vehicle.

    Recently, my work moved and I wanted a beater for the longer commute and to sit outside all day. For $700, I inherited a 1999 Suzuki Esteem wagon with 131k miles. Okay, it’s not exactly dream car material, but at that price it was a steal. Aside from needing a new ignition coil and tightening of some suspension parts, it runs perfectly. Even the AC works, it was registered for a year, and passed emissions. The interior is nearly spotless after a good clean. The exterior was worn paint and a few dents, but overall it looks presentable. Even though it’s not glamorous, I like the little guy. He’s reliable, kinda fun to drive, quirky, and is an odd automotive unicorn

    Thanks to Craigslist for both!

    • 0 avatar
      Paragon

      Speaking of the Suzuki Esteem wagon, I periodically search craigslist and autotrader for any decent examples with a manual transmission. I like the idea of an oddball car for a DD. Plus it would be economical, and practical as a wagon. And, because I miss normal height wagons.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    You can buy my W220 S-Class (2000 S500, 160k miles) for 4K, no rust and airmatic replaced with arnotts, front end and brakes done in last year.

    Myself, I would probably buy a boat here in WI, for extra 5 grand lying around, but with three kids in the house the tax refund is going to college fund.

    Sticking with cars I would go with a well maintained (timing chain replaced) E38. While others would be faster or ride better, they simply do not feel like an E38. There should be enough cash left to do a stereo upgrade as well for under 5 grand.
    Another option would be this guy
    minneapolis.craigslist.org/dak/cto/5945081042.html (probably get me divorced)
    or this guy
    http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/dak/cto/5954014557.html(equally injurious to the marriage)

  • avatar
    CowDriver

    You want fun? How about a car that is all ready for you to race in the 24 Hours of LeMons, run in one of LeMons rallys (it is street-legal), or simply amaze people at Cars & Coffee by starting it with the hand crank. Yes, it is the award-winning Humber Super Snipe! See it here, for only $1299:

    http://forums.24hoursoflemons.com/viewtopic.php?id=33154

    Yes, this is a blatant self-serving conflict of interest; I am the owner/seller of this fine piece of British craftsmanship. I’ve had my fun with it, but it is time to move on to other automotive pleasures.

    Alan

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I just voted with my own dinheiro for a 1999 Honda Civic Si. Inexpensive parts, good rust protection, safe, and great fun to drive, with a powerband that starts at 7000 and ends at 8000.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    No Tacomas in 1988:
    https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/5965969867.html

    A spare for gtem:
    https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/5941468195.html

    I bet you could do a manual swap for less that $4,000:
    https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/5965529134.html

    Gtem fixer-upper special:
    https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/5965498245.html

    Corey cruiser:
    https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/5960118467.html

    Grand Marquis de Sade:
    https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/5965167526.html

    cruise the land slowly:
    https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/5964974520.html

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Hoo jeez 307k on that 4Runner. By no means impending doom for these trucks, but there are some lower mile options for not a whole lot more cash. My friend recently bought a ’97 Limited like mine but without a locker and a bit of superficial rust and 170k miles for $3600. Needed valve cover gaskets and fresh O2 sensors, both cheap and easy jobs. Nice camping/hauling rig that will retain value like crazy for a minimal investment.

  • avatar
    xflowgolf

    1) The cleanest rust free mk1 VW Rabbit GTI you can find.
    2) The cleanest rust free mk2 16V GTI you can find.

    Mechanicals are cheap and aftermarket is plentiful, but finding dry complete examples is becoming harder so scoop one up now.

  • avatar
    warrant242

    No one’s said Jeep CJ yet?

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    For under $5k…
    a ’53 Buick Special 2 dr hardtop
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1953-Buick-Other-/182424075198?forcerrptr=true&hash=item2a79527bbe:g:TDIAAOSwt5hYfQcA&item=182424075198

    or a ’54 Bel Air… man, I’d kill to have this. My shop already has a project, so, have at it
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1954-Chevrolet-Bel-Air-150-210-/172486072848?forcerrptr=true&hash=item2828f89a10:g:YE4AAOSw2xRYeZBV&item=172486072848

    I’m certain a bugeye WRX or a 5.0 SN95 GT can be in this range too.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I came home from the hospital in late 1960 in a 54 Bel Air like that one. It had the stove bolt-6 and power-glide. I have fond memories of riding in it. Holding on to the rear seat strap and waiting for the Motorola tube radio in the dash to warm up. The aftermarket Stuart-Warner gauges under the dash were nice. Once my dad rebuilt the transmission and used my skateboard to move it from under the car.

      By 1968 my dad sold it for $75 to a neighbor who installed a new radiator in it and got a few more years out of it. After that it was two 62 Chevy’s, A Bel Air with the stove bolt-6 and Impala with the 327. I know people love the tri-5’s but I’ve always had soft spot for 53-54. You can still find restorable ones quite reasonable.

  • avatar
    threeer

    If possible to find, a clean Fiat X 1/9 where I (and my mechanically-inclined buddy) could gut the original drivetrain and drop something a wee bit more powerful (and reliable) in. That little wedge just gets me all a-twitter!

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I’ve already shown Chris what he needs to buy. It’s very rare, $5000, and says Alfa Romeo on it.

    http://elpaso.craigslist.org/cto/5951608711.html

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I think Quadrifoglio Verde is Italian for “headache”. I actually saw a white 164 in the yard a few years back and I so desperately was trying to come up with a reason to trip parts from it. Alas I could not come up with anything useful.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      Other than the complete lying BS the seller put in his ad (“Designed by Legendary Ferrari engineer Pininfarina, There are records that only 15 164s quadrifoglio where imported from italy, They go over 20,000 dlls at the auctions and they don’t even have records of the vehicle…I do”) this looks like an interesting car.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Here in Ontario, Safety check and emission testing requirements , at time of transfer, are pretty stringent. As a consequence the $5000 dollar vehicle is pretty rare.

    Essentially , if won’t pass, its a candidate for the scrap yard . If you know what your looking at, and you have some DIY skills, there is some bargains to be had. I’ve looked at a few late 90’s “as is” trucks in the $2200-$2500 range. What I’ve seen, are for the most part junk. The body metal on one was pretty good. I peak underneath and i’m looking and rusty fuel, and brake lines. I don’t think the tires would pass a safety. Odo readings in the 300 KLM {240 miles} range. Maybe $2000 would get it road worthy? Maybe not.

    I’m too old to take on the aggravation . For a younger guy, it might be worth taking a chance .

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      Import a pre-1987 vehicle from the US. :)

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      A couple years ago, I stopped at the gas station across from a guy filling up a very nice M-body New Yorker / Fifth Avenue. I complimented him on the car. He said he had recently bought it from the estate of a deceased neighbour or something like that, it was always garage kept, etc. He also said he was going to use it as a year-round DD. I felt sad for it being well-kept this long, to ultimately be subjected to road salt, beaterdom, possibly the derby, then the scrap yard.

      My point is that they’re still out there, even in southern Ontario. I don’t know what this guy paid, but I doubt it was $5k.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Volvo V70 T5 or R please. Then I’ll need another $5k to fix the awd, and all the various issues that it will invariably have. Plus all of them seem to have 200k miles on them.
    Whatever, I’d still have one. I love the song of that turbo five cyl.

  • avatar
    Acd

    BMW Z3. Faster, better built and less cowl shake than an Alfa Romeo Spider, more presence and substantial than a Miata but still fun to drive, it will do everything a Miata will (as long as you don’t take it on a race track) and give the illusion you spent a lot more for it than you actually did. They are fairly reliable and use off the shelf parts (some are surprisingly cheap) from other BMW’s and are actually pretty simple cars with all the driving goodness of BMW’s from the past without the fussy electrics of a modern BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      e30gator

      You beat me to it. I have a ’96 BMW Z3 roadster sitting in the driveway right now. It looks and drives like a million bucks.

      It’s amazing fun to flog like hell around town and gets more looks of admiration than any modern Mustang, Camaro, or anything else that currently costs 10 times as much as what I paid for it.

      As a nice bonus, it’s as easy to work on (and nearly as cheap if I shop ebay or hit the junkyard) as my old Saturn SL2.

  • avatar
    r129

    For the sake of keeping it simple, I’m limiting myself to my local Craigslist in the Western NY. Living in the rust belt, the number of good cheap older cars is very limited. Here is what I consider the most interesting of what I found, although there’s not much to choose from at this time of year:

    1988 Pontiac Trans Am, 305, 5 speed, 116k, $3700
    http://rochester.craigslist.org/cto/5964597319.html

    1988 Monte Carlo SS, 305, 26k(?), $4,900
    http://rochester.craigslist.org/cto/5945057475.html

    1995 Chevy Caprice Wagon, 350, 81k, $3,500
    http://buffalo.craigslist.org/cto/5957381631.html

    1978 Mercury Monarch coupe, V8, 60k, $5,000
    http://buffalo.craigslist.org/cto/5932155064.html

    1993 Buick Roadmaster, 350, 68k, $5,900 (over the limit, but could get close)
    http://buffalo.craigslist.org/cto/5937635444.html

    My most recent under-$5,000 fun car purchase was a well-maintained 2002 Camaro V6 convertible. I don’t regret buying it, but I often wish for either something more sporting, or more of a big old boat of a car.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Miata is a default answer and a good one, but Chris already has one. I’d personally consider an early 90s MR2 or Integra:

    http://www.internationalautooutlet.com/vehicle-details/1995-acura-integra-ls–5speed-hatchback-0e6336dedab8644ea7b7e892446c6bbe/

    But for Chris, how about a 2005 Infiniti G35 w/ 100K?

    http://www.suburbaninfinitiofnovi.com/VehicleDetails/used-2005-INFINITI-G35_Sedan-x_AWD_Sedan-Novi-MI/2896305883

    Doesn’t peg the exciting or rare meters, but it is quicker than the SHO, handles very well, and has a good shot at being reliable.

    I thought a Buick Grand National might be fun until I looked up prices. Heh.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Grand National is only somewhat fun in a straight line. Stopping, turning, build quality, and so on is not good. Even for $5K I wouldn’t want one – I would find a LT or LS-powered F-body with a 6-speed manual instead.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Sure. But at $5K and a 1989 Bronco given as an example by Chris, I am open to many different definitions of “fun”. A frumpy, plasticky, badly assembled representative of 1980s Americana with a beast motor could be one definition.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      If your getting a toy get the G35 Coupe not the sedan. Its basically the same as my 350Z but with a tiny back seat and a trunk instead of the hatch.

  • avatar
    computiNATEor

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the early 00s BMW lineup. Full disclosure: I own one. Maybe not fun cars, but something like an 01-03 530i with a few miles (~160k-200k) would be a great cross country cruiser for not too much money. They’re more solid than people give them credit for. Something like this one:
    http://orangecounty.craigslist.org/cto/5962614006.html

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I found a couple of 2000 Celica GTs in the sub $5K range. Probably not as powerful or zippy as nostalgia leads me to remember, but I’d still like to have one.

  • avatar
    never_follow

    Having just played this game, my answer is a mk3 VR6.

    Cheap, plentiful, fun (in a straight line stock, in the curves with some upgrades). And the sound. The GLORIOUS sound. Under 3k, it sounds like a bar full of drunken wookies. Past 3k, it sounds like God tearing silk.

    Plus given how many variations there are and how many market specific bits you can still find, it’s a never ending project – which is fantastic if you’re someone like me.

    Just have to watch out for rot, but really, a fun cheap car is it’s own joy as you don’t have to care!

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    Miata is certainly the answer. Last December when beginning the search for a first generation RX-7 in the $5,000 price range, a 54,000 mile 2001 Miata British Racing Green edition turned up at my local Mazda dealer. I bought it for only $6,800. Convertible prices are a great bargains in the Twin Cities during the middle of winter!

    Right now, there is a 1988 Mazda RX-7 convertible listed on autotrader with only 88,000 miles and an asking price of $4,900. That would make a fabulous 5K toy! From the pics, it appears to be in great condition. Nothing quite like the vintage rotary engine feel.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    1991 Eunos Cosmo, right around 5k with shipping:
    http://www.goo-net-exchange.com/usedcars/EUNOS/EUNOS_COSMO/700090321220120507005/index.html

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Since you have the Mazda, I would go 2 door volvo or 2 door saab 900 can be had w a stick, funky and cool in their own way. maybe a Puegout 505 ? They are out there but no idea how parts would be obtained but since your no DD it not a major issue.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’ve always had a soft spot for GM personal-luxury mobiles. Would love to have that Reatta, the 3800 seals it.

    Closer to home here’s a couple finds:
    VW streetrod, with flames!: https://corvallis.craigslist.org/cto/5965094218.html
    Clean and loaded Mustang 2. I never expected this design to age so well: https://corvallis.craigslist.org/cto/5935381660.html

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Under $5000 it becomes more about the particular car than about the type of car. That said, for fun under $5000 I really like the high-mile VTEC Civic Si suggestion. Spend $5000 to buy it, throw another $2000 into parts and some labor, and FEEL VTEC KICK IN YO.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Just for kicks I fired up AutoTrader, put in my zip and the $5K limit and came up with these within 25 miles of me that I would consider “fun”. There were tons of cheap run-abouts, various SUVs and tons of rental car garbage that I ignored.

    ’04 Acura RSK 106K
    ’06 VW Beetle (no mileage listed but its flower yellow)
    ’03 Infiniti G35 Coupe 109K
    ’05 Jaguar X-Type 127K
    ’06 Mazda Miata (no mileage listed, but nice blue color)
    ’91 Chevy Corvette 99K (arrest me red)
    ’01 Audi TT (no mileage listed)
    ’01 Ford Mustang 75K (yellow with black stripes + convertible = win!)

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Here’s a few for well under $5k:

    2004 Accord coupe manual. $2700
    https://newyork.craigslist.org/lgi/cto/5959703178.html

    2005 Saab 9-3 Turbo 5 speed $2700
    https://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/cto/5951654394.html

    1978 Pontiac Grand Prix V8 W/ buckets/console $2400
    https://newyork.craigslist.org/lgi/cto/5966816975.html

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    Ooh, I found another one! 78 NYER 2-door. Nice colour combo, great condition, 440, asking $4900.
    http://knoxville.craigslist.org/cto/5927377093.html

  • avatar
    Dieter

    I purchased a 87 BMW e30 325is as my $5k fun car. Its been about 5years and 4Ok miles later and it still makes me happy. I have had to do basic maintenance of course, but all in all, incredibly reliable and fun to own. Here in the PNW there is a strong following and a great e30 picnic to attend every summer to boot.

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