As the desirability and prices of a Volkswagen Type 2 continue to escalate, I'd like to remind everyone there's an equally cool if not cooler alternative that is way less expensive and 100% American: the Corvair Van.
In anticipation of the threat of rear engine dominance coming from Volkswagen, General Motors launched the Corvair name in 1959. Within a couple years was available in almost every body imaginable - coupe, convertible, sedan, wagon, pickup and van. The lineup lasted until 1969, and while not a disaster, was never followed up and remains to this day America's only rear engine production car. Fortunately for fans today the Corvair offers the uniqueness of rear engine setup at still affordable prices.
The van itself lasted from 1961-1965 and was available with either 6 or 8 doors. Unlike rear engine Volkswagens, all Corvairs had with 6-cylinder engines. The cabin-forward design put the driver over the front wheels, and the engine was way in back behind the rear wheels underneath a slightly raised bed floor.
This particular example is a '63 window van the seller bought off ebay from Arizona, then shipped it to Wisconsin. They intended to fix it up but alas never had the chance (how many times does that happen?) and are now offering it for sale with no reserve. COTC loves window vans for their airy outward appearance and passenger-friendliness from the inside.
The biggest issue on a van this old is rust, and while the seller says the floors are ok, they do mention some small holes in the doors.
Mechanically, they say the original 80 horsepower engine starts but putters. The a/c isn't operational and the engine is running off a gas can because the tank gas sat too long. That means this is going to need a bunch of engine work and new fuel lines and gas tank.
Cosmetically it looks rough, although I like the worn white and green paint and would personally be ok with it, older vans sometimes look better beat up than too clean and polished. This could look really cool in the right setting. Glass is an often neglected concern and this one is missing a few but the seller says they have replacements.
This is obviously going to cost money to fix, but could be reasonable done if you're doing the fixing.
Available here on ebay.
The Mercedes-Benz 190 (chassis code W201) is one of my favorite cars of all time, and easily one of the best, if not the best sedan Mercedes-Benz has ever produced.
The W201 was launched as an all-new small class of car in 1982 (interestingly, the same year as BMW's similar E30). Some aspects were classic Mercedes-Benz: four doors, rear-wheel drive, radiator-grille, three-pointed star on the hood. Other aspects were totally new, including the compact size, sleek aerodynamic body, utilitarian unpainted bumpers, and a new range of efficient gas and diesel engines. It was a bold new statement for the decade.
It says a lot that the sharp, slab-sided styling is the designer Bruno Sacco's favorite work ever. Since Sacco is a genius, that's saying a lot. I remember reading he especially loved the way the side lines meld into the rear tail trunk, likening it to the bevels of a diamond. You, Mr. Sacco, were truly a diamond of a designer yourself. He took all the styling cues previous Mercedes designers of the 60s and 70s had employed and cut, chiseled and refined them down into one definitive statement that summed up the whole brand. It's also an important stepping stone as it paved the way for the look of the 1986 W124.
Interestingly, the 'baby benz' never really took off. It was popular in Europe, but buyers in the US who could afford a Mercedes in the first place sprung for the larger W124 and W126. That's a shame, because the W201 offered remarkable thrift without any sacrifices.
As such, they aren't too many left but they do pop up. What you don't see anymore are low mileage survivors. Fortunately, these cars are from the golden era of Mercedes-Benz, when their products peaked in terms quality, durability and reliability, so high mileage that would be avoided on other used cars is normal and in some aspects even desirable. These cars are what the term "bank vault-like" was originally associated with.
This particular example has racked up 188,000, which isn't that high given the year. The seller is a dealer or collected and say they acquired it from the original owner. Everything seems to be original except an aftermarket radio, but even the original radio is included.
It's the 2.3 version, so it has a 4-cylinder engine. Lucky for enthusiasts, it's mated to a rare 5-speed transmission. This should transform the car from a capable cruiser into a fun little sports sedan, while just sipping gas (what looks like the original window sticker shows a respectable 23 mpg rating). The economy-enjoyment levels aren't easily found in today's entry level sedan market and definitely not under $20k.
The seller says the oil and filter were changed along with the air cleaner and rear shocks. It seems ready to go. The only other areas of concern would be the clutch, electronics, and body rust. I'd also ask for maintenance records, which, if it was just one previous owner who took care of it, should be available.
If it all checks out, this is a sweet commuter car. Since the mileage isn't anywhere near low, this thing deserves to be driven until it dies. Which might be a long time.
Available here on craigslist for $3,500.
Somebody call der firetruck!
This Volkwagen was imported from Holland where it served as an airport crash tender, spraying foam wherever there were flames.
The LT was the largest light commercial van VW produced from 1975-2006. Unlike the beloved Type 2 van, the LT had the engine in the front, like most vans today. It was available with either rear or all-wheel drive, four or six cylinders, and gas or diesel engines.
This particular exam is equipped with 2wd and a Volvo 6-cyl. diesel engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.
The car is now in Florida, that haven for easily titling imported vehicles. Thankfully, the seller seems to have a good reputation and currently possess a clear FL title in hand to go with this vehicle.
Mechanically, they say it has only about 4,800 kilometers which equals about only 3,000 miles on the odometer.
Cosmetically, they say the tiny tires are in good shape and the interior is clean but the front windshield is busted and there is exterior rust. They also say the haven't tested the actual firefighting equipment and assume it is not working.
This is a quirky little truck but with that low mileage it definitely deserves a good long life in caring hands. It could be converted to a flat bed and the engine to biofuel to make it even more efficient and useful.
Available here on ebay.
We're at the point where project cars from the 80s are starting to crop up in the market, although they are still few and far between. Most cars from that era are either ready to be junked or in collector condition. It's rare to find something in between, and even more rare to find a Ferrari in that status, but this Testarossa is precisely that.
The Testarossa really needs no introduction. It was the company's flagship during its production from 1984-1991, and it arguably saved and revitalized the brand, providing much needed competition against the Lamborghini Countach, along with a heavy dose of flash and glamour. The flat 12-cylinder engine was exciting, smooth, quick and great sounding. The styling was iconic and still fascinates today.
Most Testarossas on the market are either super-low mileage showroom cream puffs or accident losses. There's really no in between, as Ferrari owners, typically wealthy folk, notoriously never drive their cars, either out of lack of time or fear of damaging something.
So it's really peculiar to find one floating in purgatory, "80%" finished as the seller says and waiting for the next owner to complete it. There is no backstory on how it got this way, but the seller says the roof was cropped and the chassis was reinforced to make up for the loss of structural integrity. They are careful to note it is apparently NOT one of the better known Straman conversions but a homemade job. It doesn't look bad.
Fortunately, the original engine was totally rebuilt, with a new clutch, brake booster and master cylinder.
Cosmetically, the paint is stripped down but looks to have originally been red. The side intake strakes have also been removed, along with the front grille and lights. There are no photos of the rear. The seller also says the interior is included but needs to be redone as well.
This is a pretty unique opportunity to finish the project in your exact tastes. Personally, I would paint it black, do a black interior, black soft top, delete the U.S-spec side markers by filling and sanding, keep the original rare single lug wheels and maybe even keep the side strakes out for a clean look.
This project won't make sense unless you're talented and patient enough to do it. Hiring someone else to finish it takes the soul and accomplishment out of the equation and will be extremely expensive.
Available here for $28k which includes the seller's email and phone number.
If I asked you how much a car with four doors, all-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine would cost, what would you say? $40k? $50k? $60k? Probably some fancy Audi, right? Wrong! It's a $4,500 1988 Subaru.
Back in the 80s, Japanese manufacturers were eager to attract new buyers with all sorts of cutting edge technology and drivetrain combinations. Isuzu was bold back then. They made compact cars with all sorts of unique goodies. One example was this Loyale RX.
The Loyale was known as the Leone around the world and lasted from 1984-1994. In the US it was known as the DL and Loyale. These were normally quite sedate front-wheel drive four banger cars. But the "RX" trim took things to a whole new level with Subaru's patented all-wheel drive system, a turbocharged engine and a manual transmission. Suddenly, the small size and relatively light weight transformed the car into this sporty, grippy all-weather people carrying machine.
The styling giddily hints at the specialness of this thing with the all-white look popular in that era, front and rear spoiler, ground effects, red accents and "TURBO" text cooly placed on the trunk.
The seller is well-known in internet circles for their low-mileage "new" classic cars that they somehow acquire. I admit, they've got an eye for it. And while they sometimes price the cars ridiculously high, they want just $4,500 for this one. Granted, the milage is at 186k, but at that price you don't feel too bad if something goes wrong. Which if the cosmetic condition is any indicator of the mechanicals, is unlikely. Parts should be plentiful and cheap and repairs easy, anyways.
This was a high watermark for Subaru and cars in general. They offered a lot with clean styling and compact dimensions.
Available here on ebay.
Pickups are weird. They have this kind of raw, pure feel similar to British convertibles. Especially early Japanese pickups like this amazing Nissan survivor. In today's market the compact pickup is dead, replaced by Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota behemoths. Even Ford canceled their much-loved mid-sized Ranger. But back in the 80s, the Japanese broke into US with smaller, more practicable offerings.
Nissan's pickup actually had roots that went a ways back. Their first offering was in 1950s Japan. The model grew and was replaced by subsequent generations until 1980, when the 720 debuted. It was available in either 2- or 4wd and only with a 4-cylinder engine. It lasted until 1986, when a larger body was introduced.
This remarkable example still retains its California blue plates and has accrued just 45,308 miles during its life so far, extremely unusual for an old pickup truck in a bustling region of the country.
It looks absolutely terrific in glossy black paint over tan interior. We especially like the thin stripe white wall tires over aluminum wheels and white "Nissan" text on the tailgate. The slightly tinted rear window is actually a nice feature if you live in a hot sunny climate. The only thing cosmetically needed is a rear chrome bumper to match the front.
Although it's an automatic, it's just the 2wd version, so this puppy is ideal for cruising miles of warm, dry highway and hauling lite loads.
I think it's absolutely beautiful and hope the owner keeps her as is.
Available here on ebay.
Quick! Do you want drive something flashy without having to fork over the dough normally associated with doing so? Answer: a replica Ferrari.
These cars are looked down upon by 99% of automotive enthusiasts out there. I could care less. I love replicas! When I was younger I used to build LEGOs all the time. On a couple occasions I made a few model cars. Building a LEGO car is like building a replica car: it ain't gonna come out exact, but the harder you try the closer you get, until you realize the effort was the fun part, and the end result is something greater than the actual thing because it's unique and your experience was involved in it.
We've all heard of the Ferrari Daytona replicas and then of course there was the Pontiac Mera, which imitated the Ferrari 308. But you don't see Ferrari 512BB replicas often. Part of it is personal preference. A replica 512BB sure as hell doesn't have a 12-cylinder engine in the back the way the actual car did. So the body styling must have appealed to somebody along the way enough to make a replica.
This one is okay looking. There are for worse replicas. The seller doesn't specify what the mechanical underpinnings are, but it looks to be a Pontiac Fiero, based on the proportions and interior. The seller does say it was built by Corson in Phoenix in 1989. A little internet sleuthing revealed there was indeed such a company, the cars were in fact based on a Fiero chassis and some apparently had V8 engines. Impresssive. I also found this neat vintage ad:
Unfortunately seller doesn't specify what engine is in this example, so it's anybody's guess - four, six or eight cylinders. They do however say it's not bad on gas, so it probably isn't an eight cylinder.
Mechanically the say it has only 45k miles, a warranty on the engine, and updated a/c. Cosmetically it looks pretty flawless, but you want to check the (presumably) fiberglass body for cracks or accident repair.
If you don't live near a bunch of car snobs, this is a fun ride that provides all the classic style of European cars without the headaches and expenses. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Available here on craigslist for $10,000.
This may look like a car from the 60s, but you read the year right: it's a 1991.
Nissan only made about 20,000 of them in the early 90s for the Japanese market only. They were so popular that owners were chosen by lottery.
The styling is one of the earliest examples of retro designs like the New Beetle, 2002 Ford Thunderbird and Mini Cooper. It works well, especially with the flat periwinkle paint, white top and white wheels (inside very small tires). "Cute" would be a word the casual observer might use.
Inside is a right-hand drive non-airbag steering wheel, nice leather seats with piped trim and classy white face gauges.
The actual mechanicals are just as low key and simplistic, with front wheel drive and a four cylinder engine under the hood. Thankfully, the engine was turbocharged to provide a little extra boost.
The actual mechanicals are just as low key and simplistic, with front wheel drive and a four cylinder engine under the hood. Thankfully, the engine was turbocharged to provide a little extra boost, while also being really good on gas: the seller claims it gets 57 mpg.
The seller says it was titled in Florida and Texas before making its way to California where it is now. They say it has about 75,000 km which is about 46k miles on the odometer. The only flaws they point out are cosmetic: cracked seats and dash. Fortunately, they say everything mechanical works and is ready to go.
The also say it's just one of three in the US at the moment. This one isn't practical. It's all about what your heart says.
Available here on ebay with 1 bid at $10k and reserve not met.
I looooove these things! They're on my list to own someday. I'm one of the people that cringes at most sport utility vehicles. Let's face it: despite their girth, most are pretty un-manly and get used to haul groceries and soccer equipment. On top of that, they consume heinous amounts of fuel per gallon. And they look ugly.
The Vehicross gets my vote for Coolest SUV however. In fact, it's probably the only cool SUV, except perhaps for stuff like the Mercedes Galendenwagen or Land Rover Defender 90, but those are ridiculously expensive to acquire and maintain.
Underneath the spacey metal is equally impressive technology. While Japan was privy to either a 2WD or 4WD version, Americans were thankfully just given the amazing 4WD version. The unique Torque-On-Demand (TOD) system had 12 different sensors detecting which wheel was experiencing the most amount of spin and redirected power to the wheel with the least. This made handling and control over even the most wet and icy of roads manageable.
Inside, the interior was the only week spot, with a dashboard recycled from the Isuzu Trooper or something. But they spiced it up with cool two-town seating and doors, this one in red.
Sadly, only around 5,000 were produced between 1997 and 2001. These are hard to find now and command a premium when they do hit the market because the loving owners almost always know how rare they are. Fortunately, the price is usually worth it. These were solid, reliable cars with no glaring issues over time. They can go for 100k-200k+ miles before major repairs. Isuzu was a good brand. There is nothing quite like the Vehicross anymore.
Available here on ebay with bidding starting at $10k.
Oh Mercedes-Benz. How far you've come. I'm slightly worried about you despite your incredible fame and fortune, however. Sure, you're one of the oldest and richest car companies in existence and show no signs of slowing down. But you just aren't the same anymore, and I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Mercedes changed once BMW caught up with them in the 80s. They were really never the same from the 90s onward. Instead of careful attention to detail and quality that could last forever, they increasingly focused on flash, bling and the yuppie market instead of long term planning for the future. The designs got sloppy. The cars lost the heavy steering. Electronic gadgets were everywhere. Reliability plummeted.
In the mid-80s however they were still king, and perhaps no other car can exemplify their craftsmanship than this European specification 230CE. The engine was never available in the U.S. and has more power and spunk. The beautiful headlights and small chrome bumpers are Euro-only delights.
The W123 lasted rom 1976-1985 and resulted in 2.7 million units made. It was a commercial and critical success and is to many the definitive Mercedes-Benz, blending their old-world grace with new world durability, practicality and refinement.
The seller says the car was well-kept by the first owner and still wears its original paint. The rare cloth interior looks terrific too. They say the clutch shifts well and the rest of the car has no mechanical issues.
The seller has an auction and a $9,500 buy-it-now, which ain't bad. Considering this is easily one of the greatest cars ever built, you're getting your money's worth. This baby is fine doing weekend errands or making long trips. It's a versatile, strong, sexy automobile. And it has many more miles to go.
Available here on ebay.