The beauty of the old car hobby is this: There’s something to interest just about everyone, across a wide variety of price points. Most editions of the $5,000 Challenge have focused on automobiles from the 1940s to the 1990s, but this edition stretches things back a bit further to include a 1928 Willy-Overland Whippet 96A rumble seat cabriolet as one of our selections.
“Where will I find spares for a Willys that went out of production in 1931?” you might be thinking, but fret not – this example includes a variety of spare parts, and for the savvy negotiator, quite possibly a trailer, too. Besides, if a Willys-Overland Whippet was good enough for Erwin George “Cannonball” Baker to drive cross-country in 1926 (taking 14 days to complete the journey), isn’t it a reasonable choice for an affordable restoration project?
Inexpensive Chevrolet Corvairs are hardly uncommon, but most are equipped with Chevrolet’s Powerglide automatic transmission. For some buyers, that’s a deal-breaker, but most four-speed cars now dwell in the realm of the unaffordable. This first-generation Corvair spans that gap, remaining affordable by offering up a three-speed column shift. A driver-quality car, it has a few paint and body issues and may need the air-cooled flat-six engine dropped to address a loose rocker arm, but overall appears to be a reasonable project for the novice mechanic. The asking price? $4,900.
In 1967, Chrysler moved its range-topping Imperial brand from body-on-frame to unibody construction, resulting in a car that was lighter and less expensive to build, but no less luxurious than the previous model. Carrying over many of Elwood Engel’s design themes, the 1967 Imperial Crown looked good, too, and Chrysler sold 9,415 examples in four-door hardtop form, more than any other Imperial model. This example appears to be straight and rust-free, but it’s been sitting in a carport for several years and will need a bit of mechanical attention before returning to the road. The asking price? $2,800.
Now displaced from the American automotive landscape by the ubiquitous pickup truck, coupe utilities were once a common sight in driveways and parking lots across the nation. The Ford Ranchero was first to market, arriving in 1957, but the Chevrolet El Camino (introduced in 1959) soon overtook the Ranchero in market share. In 1979, the final year of Ranchero production, Ford sold a total of 25,010 utes, while Chevrolet more than doubled that number, selling 58,008 El Caminos. While not exactly rare, the 1979 Ford Ranchero GT seen here is at least uncommon, and perhaps more likely to stand out at the local show and shine than its cross-town rival. The seller of this particular 302-powered example doesn’t say much about the truck or its condition, though from the photos it appears to be in driver-quality shape. The asking price? $4,900.
Looking for a vintage compact car from Germany with a sporting heritage, but can’t quite afford a BMW 2002? How about an NSU Prinz 1000, the slightly larger and more powerful version of the Prinz that debuted in 1963? This example needs restoration, but comes complete with a pallet full of spares and replacement parts, including NSU’s hottest 1.2-liter engine, rated at about 63 horsepower in stock form. It will take lots of elbow grease (and, perhaps, a bit of engineering), but for the right buyer this could be a fun project to tackle. The asking price? $3,000.
If you’ve priced project-quality Ford Model As lately, you know the price of admission has risen in recent years. Part of their appeal lies in the availability of spare parts, since Ford produced several million examples from 1927-1932, but Model As aren’t the only interesting prewar project cars. This 1928 Whippet 96A rumble seat cabriolet was last restored in 1977 (and last run in 2012), but is offered complete with a collection of potentially hard-to-find spares, including a second engine and spare engine block. For thousands less than a Model A, the Whippet could prove to be a solid value for the right hobbyist. The asking price? $4,000.