The Ford LTD (pronouced el-tee-dee) was first built in 1965 on the Galaxie platform as a top of the line for Ford’s full sized offerings. In 1979 the LTD was downsized to Ford’s Panther platform and in 1983 it was turned into a midsized thing on Ford’s Fox platform…which was a good thing for people who enjoyed a fun driving experience. The new rack-and-pinion steering, unibody construction, and drivetrain/suspension parts shared with the Mustang meant the LTD finally went from making its drivers sick to making its passengers sick. Find this 1985 Ford LTD LX 5.0 offered for $6000 in Berkeley, CA via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!
Volvo Cars as founded in 1927 on a platform of safety and the ability to survived the rugged Swedish climate and terrain, but it has really been three different organizations over the years. The first was the classic Volvo that produced a bunch of interesting rear-wheel-drive cars from 1927 through 1999, and then there was the Ford era when Volvo built cars on shared platforms with from 2000-2010, and finally there is the Geely era. But the functional realities of product development lead times mean that changes to design/platforms don’t happen until at least 5-7 years after a change in ownership, so although this car was sold in the era of Ford product design, it is probably the last of the actual Volvo designed things. So what do you make of a top-of-the-line C70 (the C70 never got an R version like the S70 and V70) coupe with a high pressure 2.3 turbo 5-banger and a manual gearbox. You’ll probably be the only one driving one in your zip code, but is that a bad thing? Or a good thing? Find this 2000 Volvo C70 T5 offered for $3000 in Richmond, CA via craigslist. Tip from Matt V.
The ST185 generation Toyota Celica All-Trac was known as the “Super Round shape” version of the high performance version of Toyota’s liftback Celica (1989-1993). It combined a turbocharged 4-cylinder 3S-GTE engine with all-wheel-drive and a 5-speed manual gearbox. With 200 horsepower in the USA version, it won’t be the fastest car you’ve ever driven, but it is a part of Toyota’s rally history and will be a desirable classic someday…if it isn’t already. Find this 1990 Toyota Celica All-Trac offered for $7000 in Katy, TX via craigslist. Tip from Graham.
The Nissan Xterra (1999-2015) might not have the off road chops of Chrysler’s Jeep or the turn-key reliability of the Toyota 4Runner but it was truck based body-on-frame (built on the Nissan Frontier) and available with a manual gearbox. What it lacks in off-roading capability and easy maintenance it makes up for being cheap to buy. Really cheap. Find this 2003 Nissan Xterra offered for $3900 in Decatur, GA via craigslist. Tip from FuelTruck.
I have strong memories of an 81/82 vintage Toyota Corolla and let me tell ya…they ain’t good memories. The car was owned/driven by a friend of mine and it was slow, an ugly shade of jaundice, handled like crap, and saddled with a recalcitrant slushbox. Did I mention it was slow? But here’s the thing…with the all other cars from that era, I remember having to find a payphone to call someone for a ride, or needing a quick fix on the side of the road, but that stupid Corolla just kept running and running. It is no surprise that Toyota sold 44 million Corollas from 1966 through 2016 because they figured out how to make a car that, although soulless, was reliable. Perhaps an injection of horsepower could make this thing fun, but then would you need to remove the custom clutch pedal extender? Find this 1982 Toyota Corolla offered for $6,350 in Philadelphia, PA via craigslist. Tips from ME and Cory.
There are a few things I don’t like about this next car. First, it is white…which is a great color for a commercial delivery van or a lawn company truck, but not so good on a sports-coupe. Next, this thing has an aftermarket set of aero-ish parts that might look okay when new, but a few curb dings and they look like crap…so I’m wary of that. And, lastly, I don’t like the wheels. But other than those few complaints, I love the interior, the manual gearbox, and even the de-badged look. Find this 1998 Lexus SC300 offered for $4,950 in New York City via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
I don’t like posting cars that are “expensive” and this next car is no cheap and depreciated luxury barge…but…BUT…it features the second most beautiful shape from Jaguar (first is the E-Type…hands down) and it is equipped with the rarely-seen-on-this-side-of-the-ocean manual gearbox. This is a combo that is hard to beat. Find this 1993 Jaguar XJS offered for $25,000 near Houston, TX via craigslist. Tip from FuelTruck.
And the award for the 7 seat SUV that is least likely to have an available manual transmission goes to…drumroll…the first generation Suzuki XL-7. We’ve all seen manual gearboxes in little Vitaras and other RAV4/CRV competitor mini SUVs, but the idea of offering a manual gearbox is a plus sized SUV in 2004 is simply insane…but the product planners at Suzuki didn’t listen to conventional wisdom or the so-called “marketplace” and they shoved a 5-speed manual behind the basic V6 that puts power to the rear-wheels in this body-on-frame vehicle…are we sure this isn’t an American SUV from the 80s? We miss you Suzuki…please come back to America and sell us your wacky stuff again soon. Find this 2004 Suzuki XL-7 offered for $3,400 in Phoenix, AZ via craigslist.
The W124 generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class was engineered to a standard of excellence that is almost unmatched when compared to any other car platform from the late 80s/early 90s. These cars might not be the sexiest or the most desirable of cars from the era…but they introduced advanced features (like aerodynamic integration of lights/bumpers/mirrors and plastic undercarriage covering) in a mass market car that have been adopted by competitors. A few decades later and you can still drive one every day if you enjoy a stately driving experience mixed with the knowledge that you are better than everyone else. Find this 1986 Mercedes-Benz 300E W124 offered for $9,500 in West Chester, PA via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!
I spent some time bashing front-wheel-drive automotive based crossover SUVs in the Suzuki Vitara post the other day…but if given the choice, would you take the Vitara over a Rav4? And what if that Rav4 was covered in the ultimate tribute to the 90s paintjob? Oh man. And it’s 4X4 instead of just rear-wheel-drive. This is a difficult decision. You tell me in the comments which compact sportish ugly vehicle you’d pick. Find this 1996 Toyota Rav4 4X4 offered for $4,500 in San Mateo, CA via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!