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The $5,000 Challenge, from Cambridge to Le Mans edition

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Perhaps it’s because the vernal equinox has passed (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), but a quick glance of our classifieds shows an embarrassment of riches in the $5,000 and under price category. With winter now (mostly) a memory, it’s time to clean out the garage, meaning that affordable project cars abound.

It’s almost unfair to call the selections below “project cars,” since all appear to already be in driver-quality condition. A few need paint or tires, while others need little more than a new name on the title. From the practical to the obscure, this batch has it all, and we’re willing to bet that most will be gone before the next $5,000 Challenge appears.

1984 Ford LTD

1984 Ford LTD

Redesigned in smaller, more fuel-efficient form for the 1983 model year, Ford’s LTD served up a sensible blend of ride comfort, near-luxury and affordability. Perhaps not an aspirational car, the LTD was purchased when dependable transportation was needed, often to visit the grandchildren in a distant state. This 1984 example, offered by a dealer in Palm Springs with 48,000 miles on the odometer, appears to be in show-ready condition, with even the chrome dash trim in factory-fresh shape. A reminder of what came between the Granada and the Taurus, few survived the decades, meaning this humble sedan will probably attract more attention than a tricked-out Mustang at car shows. The asking price? $3,900.

1984 Ford LTD 1984 Ford LTD 1984 Ford LTD 1984 Ford LTD


1952 Plymouth Cambridge

1952 Plymouth Cambridge

The current owner of this Truman-era Plymouth sums up the situation perfectly with his opening line: This car wants to be restored. With that goal in mind, it’s received new brakes, a new starter, a new flywheel and a new-ish alternator, replaced in 2013. It’s got new plug wires, too, and the transmission and differential have both been serviced, indicating that someone made a serious attempt at getting the Cambridge back on the road. The seller doesn’t state if the car is currently operational, but as projects go, this could be an affordable entry into the collector car hobby. The asking price? $3,900.

1952 Plymouth Cambridge 1952 Plymouth Cambridge 1952 Plymouth Cambridge 1952 Plymouth Cambridge


1962 Pontiac Tempest LeMans

1962 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans

Pontiac’s performance cars grabbed most of the headlines in the 1960s, but the GM division also built stylish and sensible automobiles, like this well-preserved rope-drive Tempest coupe. Powered by the Indy 4 (here, mated to a TempesTorque two-speed automatic transxle), Pontiac pitched the car as, “The gas-saving ‘4’ with the Pontiac punch,” targeted to families as an ideal second car. In its current state, the Tempest could use a bit of dent repair, a repaint and some new chrome, but much of this work can be carried out while the car is being enjoyed as a weekend driver. The asking price? $5,000.

1962 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans 1962 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans 1962 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans 1962 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans


1990 LaForza

1990 La Forza

In the days before luxury SUVs were all the rage, manufacturer Rayton-Fissore had a grand idea: Take its Tom Tjaarda-designed, military-grade Magnum 4×4, drop in a 5.0-liter Ford V-8, add appropriate amounts of leather and wood veneer to the cabin, then market this to American buyers as the “LaForza.” Sold on these shores from 1988 – 2003, the LaForza never enjoyed the same success (or off-road credibility) as it’s perceived rival, the Range Rover. Today, it represents an interesting footnote to automotive history, and it’s all but certain you won’t encounter another in the neighborhood. The ideal complement to the Tjaarda-designed 1966-’85 Fiat 124 Spider, this LaForza is priced at $3,900.

1990 La Forza 1990 La Forza 1990 La Forza 1990 La Forza



1955 International R110

1955 International R110

With a little bit of work and a fresh coat of paint, this pickup could quite possibly be a show winner. On the other hand, its mechanical needs appear to have been addressed, and its current condition (complete with plywood door cards) is not without its own unique charm. For use as a weekend work truck, all it really needs is a new seat cover and a fresh coat of green paint, though we’d likely enjoy shopping swap meets for the odd original replacement bit. The asking price? $4,900.

1955 International R110 1955 International R110 1955 International R110 1955 International R110