1991 Dodge Stealth R/T: Twin Turbo Project

Here’s a car I had nearly forgotten about but I’m certain is destined to be a future classic. This 1991 Dodge Stealth R/T here on craigslist is a desirable twin-turbo model with all-wheel drive and a manual transmission. The seller does disclose it needs some work and it’s likely to be somewhat pricey given how many systems came together to make this car perform the way it did. But with so many examples modified beyond any semblance of a cost-feasible return to stock condition, I’d rather start with a car that just needs some basic R&R but is in original form at is core. With 300 bhp, ABS, four-wheel steering and the ability to hit 150 mph, this Stealth R/T could be a supercar on the cheap!

1990 Chevrolet Beretta: Indy Car Special

Have you ever had a car burned into your memory? Believe it or not, an old Chevy Beretta had that effect on me. But it wasn’t just any version of GM’s L platform coupe – it was a Beretta Indy Pace Car replica. That’s why when I spotted this one here on eBay, I immediately thought back to the Anaconda Sports store in my hometown of Poughkeepsie, New York, where an employee parked it far, far away from any other car in the lot. It was also yellow but looked a lot better than this one, which is suffering from paint damage and a mismatched-spoiler on the rear deck lid. It’s worth bringing this one back, since only 7,500 Pace Car editions were made and the majority were teal in color. Clean up the paint and get the included decals applied, because this limited production Beretta would be easy to own.

1993 Pontiac Sunbird: First Car Material

When I was in high school, one of my best friends owned a Pontiac Sunbird Turbo. It was such a cool car, especially to a high-schooler who didn’t know what a boost gauge was. This Sunbird SE V6 (naturally aspirated) found here on craigslist in Arizona has only 39,000 original miles and brings back lots of fond memories. With the automatic transmission and leisurely acceleration (not to mention dirt-cheap parts), a Sunbird might make an excellent candidate for a high school student’s first car if they don’t have a long commute (V6s are thirsty!). It’s just old enough that it’s funky but not so far gone that it becomes a nightmare to keep on the road. For $4,350, though, that is top-of-the-market pricing. Thanks to Credit Card Classics reader Rohns for the find.

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.

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.

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 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.

1981 AMC Eagle SX/4: Outdoorsman’s Coupe

One of the lesser known tales of the automotive industry is AMC’s reinvention of itself from a company known solely for producing the Jeep to one that introduced a segment that is one of today’s hottest markets. Although we typically see the negative side of the energy crisis that stripped many vehicles of any performance credibility, the birth of the AMC Eagle was a bright spot: the company created a reliable, affordable vehicle with good power and 4-wheel drive capabilities. While the AMC Eagle is most recognized in wagon form, the SX/4 was a variation on the theme that combined the rugged AMC powertrain with a lifted coupe body. One of these rare variants is available here on craigslist in Michigan for $2,000 – would you consider it for your next hunting vehicle? Read more »

1987 Pontiac Fiero GT: Missed Opportunity

When you look back at the ways oil crises have shaped the American automotive landscape, it’s rather amazing how often manufacturers squashed cars with endless potential in the interest of a knee-jerk reaction to selling fuel efficient vehicles. Or, the tendency to shove ill-conceived engines into a decent platform for the same goal – either way, the outcome is similar: good cars saddled by engineering shortcomings that tarnish their reputation for life. Enter the Pontiac Fiero, a mid-engined coupe that should have been a home run if not for its economy car roots. This 1987 Fiero GT here on craigslist in Pennsylvania is a great example of what might have been for $4,950. Read more »

1994 Ford F150 Lightning: Bring The Thunder

Of all the automotive trends that have emerged over the last 25 years, the fast pickup truck is among my favorites. Utterly pointless and completely counter to the point of a truck with a bed, these hot rod haulers thumb their noses at sensibility, and isn’t that the calling card of some of our favorite niche vehicles? No one ever said the Countach made sense, and the Ford F150 Lightning isn’t much further away on the silly scale. But then again, an F150 can make dump runs, which is more than be said for the Lambo. Check out this ’94 Lightning here on craigslist in Tennessee for $3,800. Read more »