For many new drivers, their first car is a hand-me-down from a family member. Sometimes they’re free, courtesy of a parent or a dearly departed relative, while other times they’re sold, at a reduced cost, by an older sibling who’s managed to save enough cash for a more entertaining (or more fuel-efficient) set of wheels.
All the vehicles in this edition of the $5,000 Challenge may have originated with a fictitious “Aunt Agnes,” who for one reason or another, no longer has a need for sensible, if not particularly sexy, transportation. Some may well have been first or second cars for Hemmings readers, adding nostalgic appeal. All appear to be in driver-quality condition, and most won’’t set off alarm bells with the neighbors when parked in the driveway.
Chances are good that it was Uncle Charlie’s idea to buy this car, and when he shed his mortal coil, Aunt Agnes drove it until it was time to surrender the keys. Fiction aside, this is said to be a single-family car with slightly fewer than 100,000 miles on the odometer, meaning the 460 V-8 should have plenty of life left in it. Even the claimed-original paint still looks decent, and there’s no chance of losing this plus-size Lincoln in a mall parking lot. The price of admission for all this 1970s-luxury excess? $4,500.
It was sensible, but stylish, and it served Aunt Agnes faithfully for her daily commute, weekend bridge club meetings and annual vacation to Boca Raton. Today, the Poncho sports a rebuilt 350 (an Oldsmobile 350 at that), with an Edelbrock 4-barrel carburetor, a performance camshaft, a freer-breathing intake and exhaust, and a new radiator. We’d address the few rust spots, and enjoy the Bonneville as a weekend driver. The asking price? $3,000.
When the weekend rolled around, Aunt Agnes was always off to one craft show or another in her GMC van, showing her homemade quilts (though we can’t recall if she ever sold one). This Easter Seals van, owned by the same family for the past 11 years, shows a reported 58,000 on the odometer, and was driven and registered until 2014. Said to be mechanically sound and relatively rust-free, it will need new paint to look its best. Toy hauler? Camper? Delivery van? Daily driver for a particularly large family? For the $3,500 asking price, there are no wrong answers.
It was larger than Aunt Agnes wanted, but Uncle Charlie insisted that a big car was a safe car. It did give her plenty of room for the nieces and nephews, even if she was a bit nervous backing it out of the garage. This Chrysler has reportedly been in the same family since new, and has never been wrecked or modified. The original paint could use a respray, but the sedan has minimal rust and comes with a selection of spare parts. The asking price? $3,600.
Aunt Agnes loved her Volvos, and she never missed a chance to tell others how safe they were, even if they weren’t quite as stylish as her friend Maxine’s Mercedes-Benz (which, we were told endlessly, she paid a lot more money for). This particular Volvo 244 DL comes from an estate sale, and the odometer reads just 81,563 miles. The description is on the light side, but “pampered” does appear to be an appropriate adjective for this Swedish survivor. The asking price? $4,000.