According to domestic automakers, new car buyers in the United States only care about crossovers, SUVs and trucks. Sedans are an endangered species, as are station wagons. Personal luxury coupes are altogether extinct, and convertibles – at least those with room for four adults – are as well. Want a distinctive grille or a fastback? Fuggetaboutit.
Which is yet another reason to embrace the old car hobby. Looking for a station wagon to haul a whole family and tow a boat? They’re easy to find. A convertible that seats four or five in comfort? Not a problem. A car with distinctive styling that won’t get lost in a parking lot? It’s just a few mouse clicks away. Today’s $5,000 Challenge illustrates that point, serving up a variety of affordable selections that range from projects with potential to driver-quality cars in need of little more than a new name on the title.
Like patina and cherish cars with unique style? This Studebaker Champion could be the stuff dreams are made of. The current owner states that the car runs, but will need work to turn into a driver-quality car. It’s sold with boxes of parts (and catalogs that may simplify the parts search), including what may be the original engine. Though it won’t provide instant gratification, this bullet-nose coupe seems like a reasonable starting point for a first restoration, at an asking price of $4,800.
It’s a saga nearly as old as boy-meets-girl, but grandpa-buys-sensible-classic-for-grandson rarely ends on a happy note. From the ad copy, this nailhead-powered Buick appears to be a comfortable weekend driver, at a price that won’t break the bank. Its only advertised flaw is that it isn’t a pony car, but the seller’s loss could well be your gain. We’d drive it as-is, and sink money into any repairs or preservation on an as-needed basis, but it appears to be a solid starting point for a first restoration as well. The asking price? $3,950.
Six years after Saab ceased building internal combustion automobiles, the Swedish brand still retains a loyal following, aided by an ample number of repair shops that specialize in the marque. Saab 900s remain desirable regardless of mileage, as long as their bodies remain rust-free. This 1991 900 Turbo SE convertible has traveled nearly 262,000 miles, but its owner claims the original-paint example has never been in an accident and has been well-maintained, with paperwork to back it up. It isn’t likely that Saab will ever build another 900 convertible, so in the long run, even a full restoration is a viable option if the car is as solid as claimed. The asking price? $2,500.
The seventh-generation Mercury Cougar, launched for the 1989 model year, was the last hurrah for the model as a rear-drive luxury coupe. For a car that wasn’t designed with performance and handling as its primary goal, its MN12 platform included an unusual feature: An independent rear suspension instead of a live axle. During the first model year of the seventh-generation, a V-8 wasn’t available, though a supercharged V-6 was, and could even be mated to a five-speed manual transmission. This LS model Cougar comes with the normally aspirated 3.8-liter six mated to a four-speed automatic, but its biggest selling point may be its one-owner, 23,000-mile status. For $4,500, it’s a car that can be enjoyed as-is, and preserved for future generations who wonder what the “greed-is-good” 1980s were REALLY like.
Let’s be clear up front: This Charger will need a significant amount of mechanical and body work to put back on the road, and its two-barrel 318 V-8 (rated at 230 horsepower) won’t make it a terror on the drag strip. Were it a 1968 Charger, even in this condition, there’d likely be a “1” in front of the first digit in the asking price, and Mopar products from the 1960s appear to be perpetually rising in price. While there are no guarantees of a return on investment for restoration speculators, those willing (and able) to tackle this car as a home garage project will likely enjoy an unusual weekend driver for their efforts and investment. Dodge only sold 15,788 Chargers in 1967, so chances are good you won’t run into another at the local show-and-shine. The asking price? $4,500.