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The return of the $5,000 Challenge, over-the-winter project edition

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Once again, a colorful autumn has descended on the Northeast. While some here dread the inevitable arrival of winter, with its frigid temperatures and potentially ample snow, others see opportunity in short days and long nights. The time is right to fire up the space heater, turn on the overhead lights, and retreat to the garage to ready the latest project for the spring show season.

It’s been a while since our last $5,000 Challenge, which means that the selection of inventory from our classifieds was ample. This time around, candidates include cars large and small, with some requiring little more than cosmetic attention and others in need of a comprehensive restoration but priced accordingly. For those with the right skill set, all could be road-ready before the last of the salt is washed from Vermont’s roads next spring.


1975 Buick Skyhawk hatchback

1975 Buick Skyhawk

Buick’s first-generation Skyhawk was a badge-engineered variant of its subcompact GM cousin, the Chevrolet Monza. Built atop the H-body platform debuted by the Chevrolet Vega, early Skyhawk models retained the same wheelbase and width as the Vega but served up radical new bodywork, powered by a sensible 3.8-liter Buick V-6 beneath the hood. The hatchback design enhanced the Skyhawk’s versatility, and in its first year on the market, 1975, Buick sold nearly 29,500 examples. Few survive today, which makes this low-mileage, first-year example an exceptional find. It appears to be in good shape overall, so we’d change the fluids, belts, and hoses, source a proper set of wheel covers, and then do what we could to preserve and maintain the car’s originality. For $3,500, you probably won’t find a car that gets more attention at the local cars and coffee.

1975 Buick Skyhawk 1975 Buick Skyhawk 1975 Buick Skyhawk 1975 Buick Skyhawk


1972 Datsun 240Z

1972 Datsun 240Z

Early Datsun Z cars used to deliver affordable fun, but over the past four years, prices have gone nowhere but up. According to Hagerty, the average price of a driver-quality 1972 Datsun 240Z in January 2014 was about $12,000, but by September of 2018, this price had climbed to roughly $18,000, a 50-percent increase. Concours-quality examples grew in price from around $31,000 to roughly $56,000, and the segment shows no signs of cooling. While completed Z cars may be priced beyond reach for many, here’s a never-finished project car that may be the perfect opportunity for those with restoration experience but a modest budget. Yes, it will need floors and paint, and the rebuilt-in-1978 engine should be gone over before putting it back in service, but if the majority of parts are present, the asking price of $2,900 seems fair.

1972 Datsun 240Z 1972 Datsun 240Z 1972 Datsun 240Z 1972 Datsun 240Z


1968 Chrysler New Yorker

1968 Chrysler New Yorker

In 1968, the New Yorker four-door hardtop sedan was the most expensive automobile offered by Chrysler, aside from its separate-division Imperial models. In literature, Chrysler described the New Yorker as “…the ultimate Chrysler. In detail, and by design. The quiet performance. The look of burled walnut. The smooth feel of nylon-knit upholsteries. The grain of optional leather trim. All the latest new car features.” It was, in short, a car that anyone would be proud to own – even decades after it left the factory. This example, offered from an estate, was once someone’s pride and joy, but has been in storage and off the road for roughly five years. Though the paint is tired, the interior appears to be well-preserved and the car looks to be relatively rust-free from the pictures provided. The asking price? $4,100.

1968 Chrysler New Yorker 1968 Chrysler New Yorker 1968 Chrysler New Yorker 1968 Chrysler New Yorker


1928 Durant M2 four-door sedan

1928 Durant M2

Billy Durant was ousted by GM’s board of directors (for the second time) in 1920, and in 1921 he established Durant Motors, intent on going head-to-head with a variety of GM’s divisions. The four-cylinder Durant A-22 hit the market in 1921, followed by the six-cylinder B-22 in 1922. In 1928, his value-priced Star line of cars was shut down, and the four-cylinder Star M2 became the Durant M2, produced in 1928-’29. This M2 four-door sedan is described as a two-family ownership car in clean, original condition that runs and drives. The temporary plastic fuel tank and roof dents tell us the car will still need sorting, but the $4,900 asking price seems to be in line with the car’s condition.

1928 Durant M2 1928 Durant M2 1928 Durant M2 1928 Durant M2


1972 Lincoln Continental

1972 Lincoln Continental

Lincoln’s fifth-generation Continental debuted for the 1970 model year and aside from a minor restyling for 1971, remained largely unchanged into 1972. For its third year on the market, the Lincoln received more styling updates (including less chrome and a hood ornament, the first since 1967), but the big news was a lowering of engine compression on its V-8 from 10.5:1 to 8.5:1, a move intended to reduce emissions. It also lowered horsepower, but since ratings changed from SAE gross to SAE net from 1971-’72, it’s not precisely clear how much the output dropped (SAE gross in 1971 was 365 hp, while SAE net in 1972 was 212 hp). This example is described by the selling dealer as a “nice running cruiser that needs a bit of tender loving care,” and its most obvious flaws are found in the paintwork. Respraying a 19-foot long Continental may take a bigger than average garage, but at an asking price of $3,900, this plus-size Lincoln could deliver a value proportionate to its size for the right buyer.

1972 Lincoln Continental 1972 Lincoln Continental 1972 Lincoln Continental 1972 Lincoln Continental