For years, the family car was a sure-fire way to inform the neighbors of a change in status. A tired Rambler may have been tucked away in the garage, out of sight, but the new Buick, Lincoln, or Imperial was proudly displayed in the driveway for all to see. Perhaps it was keeping up with–or one-upping–the Joneses, but for many, maintaining vehicular appearances was a postwar ritual in suburban America.
This $5,000 Challenge focuses on luxury cars–or, in some cases, near-luxury cars, from a range of manufacturers and decades. It isn’t likely that any will outshine the neighbor’s new Lincoln Continental, Cadillac CTS-V, or Lexus GS, but all are decidedly more affordable. Chances are good they’ll attract more attention at the local car show, too, and isn’t admiration an important component of status?
Lincoln is the Ford brand most often associated with luxury, but some of Ford’s products straddled the line between transportation for the masses and comfort for those not yet in the Mercury or Lincoln realm. The LTD brougham, for example, gave owners “a graceful, more formal roofline,” combined with an interior rich in “luxurious fabrics” and seats that delivered “lounge chair comfort,” according to Ford’s 1971 full-size brochure. This ’71 LTD brougham is said to be a well-optioned, two-owner car with no significant rust and a “garage paint job” that’s about seven years old. The asking price? $3,500.
In 1969, the crisp and distinctive lines of the previous-generation Imperial gave way to the “Fuselage Look” styling employed across Chrysler’s full-size lineup. While the 1969 Imperial may have lost its edge–literally–in exterior styling, period literature shows that the brand still targeted potential Cadillac and Lincoln shoppers, and remained Mopar’s most luxurious offering. This 1969 Imperial Crown two-door hardtop shows 77,000 miles on the odometer, is said to run well, and sports its original interior. It appears to be a driver-quality car in its current state, but with a bit of work (and a fresh paint job) might even be a show contender. The asking price? $4,750.
The 1985 model year was the final one for the eighth-generation Cadillac Eldorado, and the 1986 replacement model shrank in size and lost a bit of the French-curve-be-damned styling of its predecessor. This 1985 Eldorado still belongs to the original owner, who purchased the car after the four-year lease expired. Garaged for the last 27 years, the Cadillac reportedly retains its original paint and interior, and for an asking price of $5,000 appears to need little more than a new name on the title.
Like the Camry that replaced it, the Toyota Corona was never really intended to be a luxury car. The Japanese automaker did use it to help migrate the brand a bit upmarket, however, and Luxury Edition models came equipped with amenities like a “European-inspired, simulated aluminum dash,” a “padded steering wheel and shift knob,” “plush, reclining front bucket seats, upholstered in rich gray velour-type fabric,” and even an “AM/FM/MPX 3-speaker stereo radio,” according to period literature. A Rolls-Royce it wasn’t, but the popularity of these better-equipped models ultimately paved the way for Japanese luxury-brands Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura. This 1978 Toyota Corona Luxury Edition is said to show just 46,000 miles on the odometer, and given the rising value of Japanese cars from the 1970s and ’80s, the $4,600 asking price may soon sound like a bargain.
Germany’s Maico is best known for its motorcycles, but from 1956-’58 the company also produced microcars after buying Champion’s assets. While the 1958 Maico 500 shown here may not be luxurious, it offers the kind of exclusivity normally reserved for more rarified European marques. Roughly 6,300 Maico 500s (counting all models) were built before production ended in 1958, and of this total, about 210 were imported into the U.S. The two-cylinder, two-stroke, 452cc engine was built by former aircraft manufacturer Heinkel, and bodies came from Stuttgart’s Karosserie Bauer. At first, neighbors may wonder what’s parked in your driveway awaiting restoration, but after explaining that it’s a coachbuilt German car with an aircraft heritage, they may be scrambling to find a Maico 500 of their own. The asking price? $5,000.