The passenger pigeon was once the most common bird in North America, with a population estimated as high as 5 billion, but on September 1, 1914, the last surviving example – a female named Martha – died in her enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The American bison population once measured over 25 million, but by the dawn of the 20th century, just 30 or so existed in the wild. Thanks to conservation efforts, the bison – along with the grizzly bear and Eastern wolf – have battled back from the brink, but the lesson is this: Every population, even the inorganic ones, has its point of no return.
Once common, or at least not uncommon, the vehicles selected for this $5,000 Challenge have all but vanished from the automotive landscape. Midsize wagons and personal luxury coupes are things of the past, not to mention moderately priced sports cars that favor handling over output. How much longer will it be before the above automotive genres go the way of the dodo? Isn’t that reason enough to rescue one of these five survivors, each clearly on the endangered list?
Designed as the successor to the 914, the 924 was to be another collaboration between Porsche and Volkswagen, sold by dealerships of both marques to slightly different clientele. Market changes prompted VW to withdraw from the car’s development midstream, leaving Porsche to launch the 924 on its own, as an entry-level model, in 1976. Though criticized by some as underpowered, the 924 – which would remain in Porsche’s lineup for 12 years – was praised by nearly all drivers for its handling prowess and near-optimal weight distribution. Later models, such as the last-model-year 924 S offered here, made sufficient horsepower – in fact, some would argue that the 1988 924S was actually faster than its upscale stablemate, the 944. This indoor-stored example seems to have escaped the ravages of those looking to enhance the Porsche’s output and handling, and while the A/C, sunroof and rear wiper aren’t functional, the rest of the car appears to be in good overall condition. The asking price? $4,000.
The last AMC Eagle wagon rolled off the assembly line in December of 1987, following Chrysler’s takeover of American Motors in March of that year. Though few realized it at the time, the Eagle had brought all-wheel drive to the masses, and its demise opened the door for brands like Subaru and Toyota to achieve success with AWD wagons, catering to traction-loving buyers in snowbelt states. It probably isn’t a stretch to call the Eagle station wagon the first crossover, meaning that AMC predicted where the market was going roughly 35 years before it got there. This 1985 example hails from Mesa, Arizona, and the desert air may account for its impressive state of preservation. If the A/C is the only thing that needs repair, the $2,500 asking price may well be a legitimate bargain.
Pontiac debuted its fourth-generation Le Mans for the 1973 model year, and the A-body carried its own interpretation of the Colonnade styling shared with Chevrolet, Buick, and Oldsmobile. Billed as “Pontiac’s sporty new mid-size car” in two-door coupe form, the Le Mans was available with an array of packages, options, and engine choices designed to meet every taste and budget. This 71,000-mile example carries a V-8 instead of the base six, but otherwise appears to be a low-option car. The seller states that the A/C condenser will need replacing, and it appears as if the interior could use a bit of attention, but the Pontiac looks to be a solid starting point for a weekend driver or restoration project. The asking price? $4,500.
Before crossovers and SUVs, station wagons were once the family vehicle of choice for suburban Americans. Those with large families (or large budgets) shopped for full-size wagons, while those with more modest hauling requirements or incomes opted for midsize wagons. For 1962, Ford moved its Fairlane to an intermediate platform, though period advertising promised “Family size. Sports-car feel. Big-car ride. Fine-car quality.” This example comes powered by a 260-cu.in. “Challenger” V-8 and is equipped with a column shift and factory overdrive. The paint is described as “presentable” and the interior as “serviceable,” meaning it may already be suitable for use as a weekend driver without much additional work. The asking price? $4,950.
Dodge’s first Magnum was a personal luxury coupe, sold in the United States for only the 1978 and 1979 model years. Wearing sheet metal more aerodynamic than its Charger stablemate, the Magnum was raced in NASCAR by several teams, including Richard Petty Enterprises. It was, in fact, the last Chrysler product campaigned by the King, who switched to GM products in August 1978, once it was clear that Chrysler would end sponsorship of stock car racing in 1979. That footnote to history aside, today the Magnum represents an unusual choice of weekend driver, with a rarity that only adds to its appeal. This example would benefit from fresh paint and some interior work, and we find ourselves wondering just how hard it would be to fit a contemporary HEMI V-8, possibly mated to a six-speed manual, between the Magnum’s front fenders. The asking price of $1,995 certainly seems to leave room in the budget for restoration or resto-modding, depending upon its next owner’s preferences.