1986 Isuzu Impulse Turbo: Dream Project

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted an Isuzu Impulse Turbo. As a fan of MK2 Volkswagens, I saw it as the Scirocco VW should have built, with rear-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine. Factor in the other touches of 80’s period goodness, like the flip-up headlights, clamshell hood and ample Turbo graphics, and you have one of my favorite potential project cars. This 1986 model here on craigslist is available for $2,500 and looks like a great starting point – the automatic is unfortunate, but these cars are hard enough to find in any form that I’d gladly buy it as-is. The interior is in astonishingly good condition for the age, as are the polished OEM wheels. A car I wish I could buy, right now. If any of our readers have experience with these turbocharged hatchbacks, let us know in the comments below.

1988 Ford Escort EXP: Child of the 80s

Despite not being a great era for performance, the ’80s saw an uptick in manufacturers pumping out coupes with sporting intentions in mass quantities. Chrysler was turbocharging everything that moved, Pontiac started making the Fiero a competent performer right before they killed it, and Ford was slapping 5.0 badges on Mustangs like their house was burning down. But they also began their dalliance with cheap, economy-minded performance in the Ford EXP, starting with the super-weird (and rare) early ’80s version before morphing the yawn-inducing Escort into a great looking coupe with OK performance. This 1988 example here on eBay benefits from a recent repaint and an owner who believes in using OEM parts for replacement purposes – Motorcraft all the way. Plus, the factory body kit and sport seats look to be in great shape; now, it just needs the correct Marchal fog lights to be perfect.

1978 Saab 99 EMS: Well Loved

This 1978 Saab 900 EMS is a great candidate for a project car, given its versatility whether used as a rally-x build or as the basis for a survivor-grade restoration. Available in sunny California here on craigslist for $3,500, it’s mostly rust-free and is for sale by a Saab enthusiast who has a good grip on the car’s assets and needs. The best part about this spunky 99 for me is its adherence to pulling from the OEM parts catalog, from the Inca-style wheels to the original (and rare) accessory steering wheel found in the cockpit. The seller notes the EMS comes from a long-line of Saab fanatic owners, and it shows. While the paint may be rough and the interior starting to show its age, this 99 benefits from sensible maintenance that swapped some key Saab 900 parts in for easy future servicing – upper and lower control arms, brake rotors, hubs, pads, master cylinder, axles, radiator core, and fan among them. Potentially one to buy, with the vanity plate being the icing on the cake. Thanks to CCC reader MJ for the find!

1991 Volkswagen Corrado: Unfortunate Auto

The Corrado has always been one of my favorite cars. To this day, the styling is among the best I’ve ever seen come out of Wolfsburg, and clean Corrados still look surprisingly new when you see them on the road. This example here on eBay is a 1991 G60 model, supercharged from the factory. Sadly, it is saddled with an automatic transmission which is less than ideal for a car that relies on boost to make speed. It’s a shame, because this car appears to be a survivor-grade example when many have been extinguished from the roads either due to abuse or excessive repair costs. Of course, it could be that slow-shifting auto that kept it from such fates. The seller doesn’t offer much in the way of detail, which you’ll want before committing to buy – but for $3,900, you could likely make most of that money back by parting it out if it turns out to be a dog.

1984 Pontiac Trans Am: Get In Early?

The Firebird and Camaro of the early 1980’s have long sat at the bottom of the price scale, largely for being a bit of a black eye in the history of a celebrated American muscle car. Low on power and somewhat shoddily built, these were not heirloom vehicles. This 1984 Trans Am here on craigslist is needy and doesn’t possess any rare features, but it might be the cheapest way into a stock, unmolested car – especially if the market ever reverses after realizing these big coupes have been cheap for many, many years. The car is a claimed barn find that runs and drives but will need both tires and interior work. Although the seller states that it has Ram Air, I suspect he is referring to the factory cowl induction system used on this generation of Trans Ams, which is a neat period piece. For $1,800, I might still bargain down a bit – but the day could be coming when this looks like a steal.

1982 VW Rabbit Truck: Clean Interior

Don’t judge this VW Rabbit pickup by its exterior. It absolutely has one of the best interiors I’ve yet seen on a VW of this generation, and rarely do you find these old work trucks with clean accommodations. Listed on craigslist for $4,000, the owner has worked on it for the last 3 years to make it a reliable daily driver and the interior a place you won’t mind spending some time. The drivetrain has received some significant attention, from a new headgasket, glow plugs and a transmission from a 60K mile example. Some fresh paint to address the primered areas that are merely controlling some surface rust spots would make this truck shine. And the MPGs can’t be beat!

1985 Dodge Daytona: Turbo’d Z

The Dodge lineup in the 80s would seem like a tuner’s dream come true: liberal use of turbocharging, Carroll Shelby was a product planner, and the emphasis on air dams and wider wheels made for some sexy shapes. But rumor has it that build quality was nothing short of abhorrent, making even pocket rockets like the Shelby GLH a fairly miserable place to spend time. This 1985 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z found here on eBay is listed as a survivor-grade car for $4,900 and does look largely original. The 16″ wheels from the later Daytona Shelby edition are a nice OEM+ upgrade for this car, which thankfully is equipped with a manual transmission. The aero kit underneath the front lip and along the side sills looks pretty rough, so I’d probably strip that off and then get to extracting whatever is left of the engine’s 160-lbs. ft. of turbocharged torque!

1988 Nissan 300ZX Shiro Special: Rare Edition

I have a special connection to this extremely limited edition 1988 Nissan 300ZX Shiro Special here on craigslist. A few months back, I visited a local salvage yard I hadn’t been to in years. There, I spotted this entirely-white Nissan 300ZX, with color-keyed accents throughout and some very tempting (if not mildew stained) Recaro front seats. That was when I got an education in the 300ZX SS, of which only 1,002 were made. In addition to the cosmetic tweaks, Shiros came with a viscous limited-slip differential, t-tops and a unique front chin spoiler.  These Z31 chassis 300ZX SS cars are tough to find in any condition, and $5,000 is one of the better prices I’ve seen for a clean example without too many modifications. Oh, and those gross, junkyard Recaros? A shop  vac and some switchgear later, and I was enjoying a decent amount of eBay profit!

1989 Honda CRX Si: The Icon and Original

Very few cars have set a standard in the hot-hatch category that still exists today like the original CRX Si. This example on eBay is definitely driver-quality, but it’s also cheap – a $3,800 Buy-It-Now is a bargain in today’s market for unmolested Si’s. Lightweight, lithe handling, and can’t-kill-it reliability all made the CRX into the cult classic it is today. And were it not for the tin worm, it might even still be easy to find a project-grade example given their original popularity. Unfortunately, weak sheet metal is a common failure point for Hondas of this era, as is the tendency to find cars that have been modified and beat upon mercilessly by teenage owners. With only 142,000 miles and the timing belt job already done, this ’89 CRX Si is either a future classic or autocross champion in waiting, so I’d consider buying now while it’s still cheap.

1988 Ford Bronco II 4X4: Mountain Goat

Seeing this survivor-grade ’88 Bronco II on eBay immediately brought back memories of some of my favorite Buddy L toys: I had a Bronco II and Ranger pick-up as part of a matching set, complete with the 4×4 graphics on the side and white-letter tires. Mine are wrapped up in the attic somewhere in my parents’ house, much like this super-clean and well-optioned Bronco II that has been garage-kept for many years. The body flares are a desirable look and the factory 5-speed manual is an added bonus, and with the locking hubs, I’m sure this short-wheelbase 4×4 is a hoot on mountain trails. You’ll certainly have to enjoy the color red if you plan on spending any time in that interior, as it’s covered from headliner to carpet in a shade that’s nothing short of loud; but then again, most things from the ’80s are. It’s too bad this class of vehicle didn’t take off – like the Dodge Raider of the same era, I’d love a two-door, 4-wheel drive rig like this to use for weekend projects and off-road escapes.