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!
Whenever I’m in a public place and somebody says, “hey, nice hardbody” instantly crane my neck looking for that sweet boxy Nissan pickup…but most of the time it is just some dudes on steroids or ladies who spend too much time at a CrossFit gym (sidebar; why do Crossfit gyms always have names that sound like something you wouldn’t want to get as a prognosis from your doctor: I’m sorry Bill, you’ve got change your eating habits, you’ve got a bad case of beach box. Ohh…is it fatal? No, but if it gets worse, it could become squats and shots). Anyway, back to the Hardbody– it is the name given to the D21 generation Nissan truck sold from 1985 through 1997 and what this next one lacks in bed space is sure makes up in original clean condition. Whooo oooh. Find this 1986 Nissan Hardbody offered for $4,500 in Ft Lauderdale, FL via craigslist.
The 2nd generation Toyota Celica released in 1985 on an all new transverse front-wheel-drive platform (previous generations dating back to 1970 were rear-wheel-drive). The new Celica was more refined than the previous version and a new 2.0 liter engine promised more performance, but it wasn’t until the release of the GT-S version (ST162) with 135 horsepower from its 3S-GE DOHC inline-4 that performance was improved over the previous Celica. With the GTS you also got disc brakes at all four corners and 5-lug wheels…but not a turbo or all-wheel-drive (for that you had to pony up to the Turbo All-Trac GT-Four version). Find this 1989 Toyota Celica GTS offered for $5900 in Watsonville, CA via craigslist.
The Acura Legend wasn’t a car that pushed the boundaries of technology, speed, style or anything…but it did ease into the next boundary with a whimsical smile on its face. It also didn’t make much of a splash when it was launched, but I can guarantee that engineers at BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi freaked out when they discovered the fit-finish-and-finesse of Acura’s luxury sport coupe/sedan entry into what was exclusively a German marketplace. The world of luxury cars has not been the same since. The asking price on this next example is eye watering…but just look at the condition…it’s cleaner than a freshly sanitized shopping cart handle. Find this 1991 Acura Legend 3.2 L with 5-speed offered for $14,500 in Los Angeles, CA via craigslist. Tip from FuelTruck.
I am constantly amazed at how much Fiat-Chrysler-Daimler-Stellantis can charger for a new Jeep Wrangler. The things start at $28k MSRP but can exceed $50k with options. Really, people are willing to shell out $50k for a car built on a chassis designed during WWII? For my money, I’d get 10 used Wranglers for the same amount of cash…or just one Wrangler and save the cash for a getaway home in the high desert somewhere. Find this 1988 Jeep Wrangler offered for $4400 in Los Angeles, CA via craigslist.
The Nissan Sentra SE-R isn’t a car for an extrovert. If you want people to know that you’ve made it — this won’t do at all. Most people will not even look twice at what appears to be a 30 year old Nissan econobox…but a few kooks will go out of their way to engage you in conversation; “Is that a real SE-R?” “I raced one of those in SCCA back in the day” “Would you like to see my collection of antenna balls?” The answer, in case you were wondering, to those conversations is an emphatic YES, because you are the guy driving the rarest of all 3rd generation B13 Nissan Sentras and you know a thing or two about being eccentric. The SE-R won’t feel fast compared to modern front-drive sport compact machines, but with only 2500 lbs to toss around and 140 horsepower from a SR20DE inline-4 mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox plus a limited slip differential…it isn’t slow or lame at all. Find this 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R offered for $6,000 in SF Bay Area, CA via craigslist.
This next car isn’t the perfect little old lady driven classic in mint condition that you dream about…and it does have some rust and dings and missing trim. It also has the remains of an RV towing mount, which means it probably logged some miles being towed through who-knows-what kind of environment. That is probably why, despite wearing vintage 1981 Cali Sunset plates, it has some significant surface rust. However, you don’t find driver condition Civics with manual gearboxes just sitting around at this price…so I give it a cautious one thumb up. Find this 1981 Honda Civic 1500GL offered for $4000 in Palmdale, CA via craigslist.
The second generation (N120/N130) Toyota 4Runner is known around the globe for its legendary reliability, ruggedness, and durability. Equipped with Toyota’s 22R inline-4 or 3VZ V6, it was also known for going to distance with basic maintenance and isn’t a bad looking SUV from an aesthetic perspective, unless you hack the rear tailgate off and turn it into a Ridgeline looking El Camino thing…and then…uggg. Don’t get me wrong, usabiliy will be great for tailgating, throwing your boogie boards in the back, or setting up a tarp-tub…but…it isn’t going to win any design awards. Find this 1991 Toyota 4Runner Pickup offered for $5,000 in Canoga Park, CA via craigslist.