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The $5,000 Challenge, shiny new year edition

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The dawn of a new year generally brings with it a sense of hope and optimism, particularly when one is past the age where January 1 is spent nursing a hangover. With the winter solstice behind us, the days are getting longer, and no matter how much snow is on the ground or how low the thermometer has dipped, spring is already in transit to your location.

That glass-is-half-full wisdom dispensed, it’s still damn cold in the Northeast, with upcoming wind chills expected to reach negative double digits in Vermont. Even readers as far south as Jacksonville, Florida, have had a taste of winter this year, so perhaps time is best spent indoors, searching for new project vehicles instead of risking frostbite and hypothermia working on current ones.

It’s been a while since we published a $5,000 Challenge, so we’re ringing in the new year with a bonus find, upping this segment’s count to six candidates. Which would you be most eager to tackle, once heading out to the garage isn’t a life-or-death ordeal culled from a Jack London story?

1965 Mercury Monterey four-door sedan

1965 Mercury Monterey

Mercury positioned its mid-decade Monterey as the perfect “move-up-to” car, blending luxury amenities and big-car comfort with an affordable price tag. Even the base model came packing a 250 hp, V-8, meaning that its performance was respectable by standards of the day. The seller of this Monterey four-door sedan is up front about its shortcomings, which include rust in the quarter panels and an interior that needs attention. For those proficient with body work and upholstery, this Merc could represent a sensible choice for an affordable collector car. The asking price? $3,200.

1965 Mercury Monterey 1965 Mercury Monterey 1965 Mercury Monterey 1965 Mercury Monterey


1974 AMC Hornet Sportabout station wagon

1974 AMC Hornet Sportabout

Before there were “crossover vehicles,” the hauler of choice for small families, or families on a budget, was the compact station wagon. AMC’s offering in this arena was the Hornet Sportabout, introduced for the 1971 model year and produced until 1978, when the Concord station wagon took its place. Once a common sight in parking lots nationwide, Hornet Sportabouts have all but disappeared from the automotive landscape, meaning this 1974 example is guaranteed to draw a crowd wherever it’s parked. Tracking down restoration parts may prove challenging, but from the (limited) description provided, it doesn’t sound like this example needs much work. The asking price? $4,200.

1974 AMC Hornet Sportabout 1974 AMC Hornet Sportabout 1974 AMC Hornet Sportabout 1974 AMC Hornet Sportabout


1954 Dodge Coronet

1954 Dodge Coronet

All too often, we hear that collector cars are priced beyond the means of the average person, and as a counter-argument, we present this 1954 Dodge Coronet. Said to be a rust-free example powered by the “Get-Away Six,” mated to a PowerFlite automatic transmission, it should be about as simple to wrench on as classic cars get. The current owner had plans to restore the car, but even in its current state, it appears to be driver quality. The asking price for this ticket to a lifetime of enjoyment (and the occasional busted knuckle)? $4,500.

1954 Dodge Coronet 1954 Dodge Coronet 1954 Dodge Coronet 1954 Dodge Coronet


1980 Toyota Celica ST

1980 Toyota Celica ST

What makes a car collectible? Is it rarity or obscurity? Could it be that a particular vehicle triggers a sense of nostalgia, or a longing for a simpler time? If those are the criteria, this 1980 Toyota Celica ST is indeed a collector car. Though a few hundred thousand second-generation Celicas were likely constructed between 1977 and 1981, few survive today. The majority were consumed by the tinworm (particularly in snowbelt states), while the remainder were treated as disposable goods, passed down until used beyond the point of reasonable repair. That makes this survivor the exception to the rule, and with an asking price of $3,200, it’s within reach for most entry level hobbyists searching for something different. Or perhaps familiar, for those who learned to drive in a similar model.

1980 Toyota Celica ST 1980 Toyota Celica ST 1980 Toyota Celica ST 1980 Toyota Celica ST


1962 Chevrolet Corvair coupe

1962 Chevrolet Corvair

The Chevrolet Corvair is an excellent candidate for a first restoration project, particularly when the starting point is a largely dent and rust-free example. Powerglide-equipped Corvairs are plentiful, so a four-speed Corvair in reasonable shape at an affordable price is worth noting, particularly for those who enjoy a properly apexed corner as much as a properly rebuilt carburetor. This example has reportedly been stored for over 35 years, and is described as needing a “general restoration.” With a bit of sorting (tires, brakes, fuel system, etc.), it may even be in drivable condition until the parts (and perhaps, the parts budget) are amassed for a more comprehensive restoration. The asking price? $5,000.

1962 Chevrolet Corvair 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 1962 Chevrolet Corvair


1970 Chevrolet 60 tilt cab

1970 Chevrolet 60 tilt cab

Unless you own a farm or a ranch, chances are good that you don’t need a worn cab-over stake bed truck. The neighbors would likely voice their displeasure if this example appeared in a suburban driveway, but where others see rusty steel and faded paint, we see endless potential. Could there be a more appropriate hauler for a big block Chevy-powered vintage race car? If classic fire apparatus is your thing, how hard can it be to source replacement rear bodywork?  How about the perfect underpinning for a vintage camper? Sure, the rig will need some work before it’s returned to the road, and cosmetically, it’s seen better days, but this T60 appears to be largely intact and is said to be in running condition. The asking price? $2,500.

1970 Chevrolet 60 tilt cab 1970 Chevrolet 60 tilt cab 1970 Chevrolet 60 tilt cab 1970 Chevrolet 60 tilt cab