By on March 25, 2019

1988 Lincoln Town Car Hood Ornament, Images: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta

A game of Monopoly — a family friendly game if there ever was one /sarcasm — over the weekend gives rise to today’s question. There’s one minor adjustment, however: just like a corrupt fat cat CEO, we’re adding a zero to our paycheck.

With an extra $2,000, let’s call it a bank error in your favor — earmarked for purchasing a project car, what would it be? It took all of 21 seconds to select mine from the Craigslist quagmire.

It’s a Lincoln Mark VII, of course. Having sold my own example of Ford Fox-body finery as part of an ill-advised fleet reduction program back in 2009, I’ve been jonesing for another one ever since. The beige champagne Mark to which I held the keys for six excellent years was surely one of the world’s rattiest examples, but it cleaned up nicely and had an exhaust on it that uncorked the 5.0-liter V8 with impunity. If it wasn’t a hot rod Lincoln, it was at least a warm one.

This example, offered at $1,800 by a seller north of Yonkers, is a terrible color but is one of my favorite Mark VII model years. Both 1988 and 1989 combined a just-right set of gauges (I don’t like the font on the ’87s) with a non-lunchbox steering wheel and the tall headrests. The single Craigslist photo doesn’t reveal a helluva lot but the air suspension looks level-ish and there are factory turbine wheels. I even seems to have the stock Marchal fog lights, at least one of ’em anyway.

What’s your pick, given a $2,000 bank credit that must be spent on a new-to-you project car? We know our comments section sucks but if you want to paste a link to your find down below in the interest of conversation, that’d be alright with us.

Now, how much is a flight to New York?

[Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta]

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65 Comments on “QOTD: The $2,000 Question…...”


  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    “…terrible color”?

    On behalf of Sajeev and the rest of the Brown Car Appreciation Society – them’s fightin’ words.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s literally the best color for that car. And if it actually has the dark brown interior with leather/velour sport buckets? Oh my!

      • 0 avatar
        SirRaoulDuke

        Amen.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          As always, the truth about brown cars is the same as the truth in matters of taste : EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG .

          The fact remains : brown cars are nearly impossible to sell, they’re death on the used car lot .

          If _you_ like this brown Lincoln you should certainly treat your self to it ~ I love my Forest Green Chevy pickup truck, many others hate the color, I don’t care and have zero interest in it’s resale value, burn it when I’m dead for all I care .

          _Someone_ needs to step up and save every American Land Yacht they can as they’ll never, _EVER_ be made & sold again .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    jack4x

    A 2 door full size SUV, but honestly for $2000 I’d just be hoping to get a rust free rolling chassis.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    The 1990 Nissan Maxima GXE. When I was 16 years old, my mom got this exact same car – same color and everything – this was the car I got my license in, the car I took out in the middle of the night without permission, the road trip car, and the car that had to be hit by another driver before it was taken out of service. This Maxima was quite possibly one of the perfect cars of this peak-Japan era of cars.
    I’d love to get my hands one one again and with the extra money, bring it back to life and remind myself about how much fun my younger self had with this car.

    (For some reason, pasting the link really screws up the formatting of the comment. It’s on AutoTrader, it’s $895, beige, and needs some interior TLC.)

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      https://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?listingId=288086864&zip=40201&referrer=%2Fcars-for-sale%2Fsearchresults.xhtml%3Fzip%3D40201%26startYear%3D1990%26sortBy%3Drelevance%26incremental%3Dall%26firstRecord%3D0%26marketExtension%3Don%26endYear%3D1990%26modelCodeList%3DMAX%26makeCodeList%3DNISSAN%26searchRadius%3D0&startYear=1990&numRecords=25&firstRecord=0&endYear=1990&modelCodeList=MAX&makeCodeList=NISSAN&searchRadius=0&makeCode1=NISSAN&modelCode1=MAX&clickType=listing

  • avatar
    gtem

    Two different directions: another cheap old pickup truck is the default route. Cheap and easy to wrench on, useful, easy to resell and make a few bucks on.

    indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/d/indianapolis-1989-f150-2wd-inline-6/6849671053.html

    Taking a walk on the wilder side, I’d fly-and-drive this beast home:

    tampa.craigslist.org/pnl/cto/d/saint-petersburg-1997-jaguar-vanden/6841202553.html

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I would try to find the most rust-free 1960s-1970s common 4-door car. An LTD, or Caprice, or anything that was just basic transportation for millions of people; but now those are mostly gone since they aren’t as collectible as a sports/muscle car.

  • avatar
    jatz

    A project car is a really selfish and thoughtless thing to do to one’s spouse/family. You’re never really thinking of anything else.

  • avatar
    d4rksabre

    This is so much tougher in upstate NY where everything is a rusty mess.

    I guess it would be this: https://buffalo.craigslist.org/cto/d/east-aurora-1990-colony-park-wagon/6846359265.html

    And then I’m going to buy a welder and learn how to use it.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      A full-size BOF wagon is a noble quest. And this one is goat-inspected!

    • 0 avatar
      aja8888

      You might even get the seller to thrown in a goat too!

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      dark,

      MIG with C25 gas is what you want – skip right over the ‘flux-core’ stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        d4rksabre

        I’m not super learned when it comes to welding, but I assume there’s an advantage to using C25 when it comes to automotive sheet metal work?

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          If you intend to work on that Colony Park Wagon, it’s steel, not aluminum, so TIG (GTAW) isn’t really the answer (yes you can TIG weld steel but I wouldn’t start there). And the metal on that vehicle doesn’t look super clean – TIG needs clean.

          Oxy/Acetylene (welding, not cutting) is magical, but slow.

          Stick (SMAW) is generally not what you want for thin gauge metal (Jedi-level can do it).

          The natural choice for automotive sheet metal is MIG aka “squirt gun”. “GMAW” uses shielding gas; “FCAW” uses flux in the MIG wire, kind of like stick (and kind of dirty and smoky like stick).

          (Some people would tell you to get a multi-process machine, but I prefer dedicated.)

          You don’t need a monster machine, because you won’t be working on super thick metal (even if you got into the frame, which you want to be careful about).

          The specific advice I am giving you is to save room in your welder budget to buy or lease a gas bottle and use shielding gas. The welds are ***so*** much cleaner and the solid welding wire is significantly cheaper than the flux-core wire.

          “C25” is the most common MIG/GMAW shielding gas – it is 25% carbon dioxide and 75% argon.

          Disappointingly, you’re essentially going to be making a series of spaced-out spot welds, slowly, so as to not distort the panels. Check out the Kevin Tetz videos at Eastwood – maybe even before you decide on a welder.

          Don’t work in the wind or you’ll lose your shielding gas and you’ll think I’m an idiot (for unwarranted reasons – I hate that). You’ll probably have to change the polarity on your machine for GMAW – check it. Ask about *all* the gas bottle options – it might surprise you how relatively cheap the larger ones are.

          It is ‘literally’ easier to learn today than ever before – check out Jody Collier and friends for welding in general, but Kevin Tetz is your guy for automotive sheet metal. Good luck!

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            Always always always give yourself a good ground when MIG welding (Jody Collier tip). On a vehicle, be sure that ground is as close as possible to the work (so you don’t send welding current through the vehicle’s electronics). And there are other precautions you can take when welding on a vehicle – although opinions vary as you’ll see.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            Oh and never weld on a closed container or pressure vessel.

            Class dismissed – for now.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    I answered that question last October: 1996 Ford Ranger XLT 3.0 Auto. Except I got it for $1500. That balance went towards ABS work and all the maintenance items (belts, fluids, shocks, etc.) for a baseline on that work and to make sure it was properly roadworthy.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Nice! I feel we have very similar automotive tastes/outlooks.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        It was more practical than that (I would jump at the Mark VII if I could).

        Needed a knockaround vehicle for suburban home and yard work, son was soon to get his license, and extra vehicle for wife to drive in case her car was in the shop (she can’t/won’t drive a stick and mine is manual). So…cheap, automatic, pickup.

        I looked for *three years* to get the deal I did. Trucks – even old Rangers – cost an unreasonable fortune around here.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff Weimer

          Oh, and we bought it from a wonderful couple – he owned it for the last 18 years, his wife was my kids elementary school librarian, and he already knew (and loved) my wife from her helping him often at her Walgreens job.

          And it was a curbstone we found not even near where any of us lived. Another guy tried to ace me out on the deal, but I bought it right in front of him.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I’d look for a Saturn S coupe from down south with no undercarriage rust.
    Fix whatever is wrong, nice MAACO paint job (when they have the half off sale) and give it to #1 grandson in a year.

  • avatar
    forward_look

    I’d make a pile of $100 bills and set it on fire instead. Then I’d have lots of free time to do something useful.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Mark VII? Just do it.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    This is truly great news, a recent price drop has put me in budget!

    https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/arvada-1992-k5-blazer-price-drop/6840206329.html

    Of course, 2k is the cost of entry. Paint, 5.3 LS & 4L60 swap will be extra, but worth it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    $2000?. Probably some ’88-’95 GM H-body.
    Maybe a 3.3L A-body. I’d kind of like a black Century.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Find a 3.8 A-body. I had a 1988 Cutlass Ciera that was a factory hotrod.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Didnt they stop putting 3.8s in the A-body at some point?

        The H-Body idea isnt bad though, I had them on my radar for a time.

        • 0 avatar
          CobraJet

          Yes they only used the 3.8 for a few years in the 80’s. It was an optional engine. Some had the 2.8 60 degree V6.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          3.8 liter PFI and SFI V6’s were offered up until 1988 on A-body Century’s and Ciera’s. it was introduced all the way back in 1984 as the PFI version but those only made 125 HP. 1986 saw this engine upgraded to SFI and distributorless ignition and 150 HP/200 torque. In a 2800 LB A-body this was a lot of mill and they were all tied exclusively to the 440 4 speed trans-axle with 2.84 gears.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      My Mom bought a new Century 3.3L in 1990 with the rare “Empress” pkg (extra nice velvet interior, lights on the doors, extra chrome inside & out, luggage rack, etc.)….she had the dealer swap the wire wheels and whitewalls for alloys on plump blackwalls, God love her. That car was quick! Racing my buddy in his Mom’s 2.8L V6 Celebrity and another buddy in his Buick Somerset 3.0L was nooooo contest :)

  • avatar
    scott25

    The majority of my dream cars (Rampage, Subaru XT Coupe, Suzuki X90, Nissan NX) are WORTH less than $2000 but finding a decent one being sold for less than that is much more of a challenge since they’re usually owned by the rare=valuable crowd.

    If it had to be a project car that needed some tinkering I’d look for a MK1 MR2 or MK2 Supra.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Always wanted a little Spitfire, and you can still find not-terrible project cars under 2 grand: https://losangeles.craigslist.org/wst/cto/d/redondo-beach-1978-triumph-spitfire-1500/6843391026.html

    Who am I kidding? Every British project car is terrible, but I still want one.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      “Missing parts.” A missing engine would give it a nose-up attitude like that. 1978 model year in California means that once you get it together, it has to pass SMOG in completely stock trim, which will make it about as fast as a Mahindra Roxor.

      Interesting Seville coupe in the background though.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Wow, a forty year old car has to pass smog? Not that it matters, if I want to kill myself going fast that’s what motorcycles are for.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          LOL ! a dead -and- dented British car for $2K ?! . that’s rich, runners are still available for $1,500 anywhere in Southern California .

          Be very careful buying -any- British car, they tend to be very addictive .

          -Nate

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    My two VII LSCs were deep maroon and Titanium, I agree that brown is nasty but seems like a deal.

    My 2 Grand would probably, predictably be spent on yet another Miata…..

  • avatar
    Boff

    I’d want a little utility with my beater, since I already own a sports sedan and a sports car.

    “2007 Subaru Forester 5dr Wgn Manual 2.5XT Premium” – $1700

    https://www.autotrader.ca/ico/subaru/forester/muirkirk/ontario/19_10574138_/?showcpo=ShowCpo&ncse=no&orup=24_15_36&pc=N6A%205B7&sprx=-2

  • avatar
    incautious

    Grand Marquis. RWD practically indestructible grand pa car. Can probably find with reasonable low miles. No worries about stuff like air suspensions, timing belts CV joints ect. Heck even if the trans is bad, they are dirt cheap to fix as opposed to fwd transmissions.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    My father-in-law recently passed and left a 1985 Lincoln Town Car. He was the only owner. Garage kept all its life and no rust ever. If I had a place to keep it I would buy it from the family.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Had my eye on a ’91 Legend for $2k, but once I talked to the owner I learned that the ACs dead and the seats are worn out, but its got a touch screen DVD player!

    For a semi-project I’d get a plain Volvo 240 sedan (if I ever found one), refresh the suspension and cosmetics but keep it stock. I cant stand cheap CD players and screens in old cars. Lowering springs wont help me get to the store and back any quicker.

    For a regular car I’d another Panther-chassis boat, maybe a 4DSC Maxima or one of the weirder Infinitis. Camcords cost too much.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I already have my pile of $2k or less beater projects: 240SX, two Sentras, and a Pulsar. I did pay $2k for my old GMC, but I think buying the equivalent truck today would be closer to $4 or 5k.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Honda Civic or BMW 3-series. Great handling and easy to mod.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Anything with a huge catalog of potential go-fast parts, so the usual suspects – Fox body, Civic, Golf, A/G-body, B-body, Miata, F-body.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Cant go wrong with a old school rugged SUV Nissan Xterra for a mere $1900.

    https://newyork.craigslist.org/lgi/cto/d/elmont-2003-nissan-xttera-xe-awd-191k/6846666326.html

    Or for a nice summer ride a final year GM2900 platform 2003 Saab 9-3 manual droptop with only 99k on it for $1850.

    https://newyork.craigslist.org/fct/cto/d/guilford-2003-saab-turbo-manual/6846542829.html

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I think ’03s had an engine probe to sludge due to how the oil system was routed, the oil would heat up due to the cat I think it was? I could be wrong though.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Xterras are very undervalued/underappreciated SUVs. Mechanically very sturdy (moreso than an XJ Jeep), gen 1s are pretty sluggish and bad on gas with the VG33, but older gen 2s are getting extremely affordable. My brother’s friend bought a used ’05 “OFF ROAD” Edition (Pro-4X before they called it that) with a 6spd, awesome truck. That and the Montero Sports, which are still relatively plentiful and cheap, although getting increasingly critically rusty in the salt belt.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    I already play this game every day. Search craigslist for $50-$3000, 1900-1990, and calculate the odds of my wife leaving a knot on my head if I drag any of the cars home.

    I’ve been trying to find a ’68-72 GMC but every hot rod show has been featuring those lately and prices are stupid-high. I can buy a running, driving GMT400 for what a rusted out C10 shell goes for.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Craigslist window shopping is definitely a favorite passtime. Alas, I’m locked in with my current fleet and not dragging any more stray cars home.

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        I’m also not dragging any more home any time soon. The odds of receiving a knot are too high. All my money is tied up in building a shop and I already have four other car projects that need finished first.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Ramcharger or Trailduster.

    https://janesville.craigslist.org/cto/d/beloit-ramcharger/6841660950.html

    I already have a 435hp small block I could detune a bit to go in it.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Most any V8 equipped full frame GM A/G-body coupe would fit the bill for me. Second choices being the GM B-body cars or Fords Panther series cars. Simple, cheap, easy to work on, reliable for the time and I know these things inside and out and know where to get certain parts for them. Getting hard to find rust free versions in the Upstate, NY area so a visit to PA/other southern states is a must.

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