Remember when Mercedes-Benz built big sophisticated pieces of rolling art that cost a bucket of cash because they provided quality and experience that was unmatched. They had interiors that would survive serious abuse without showing wear (just look at those 30 year old MBTex seats!!) and instead of stupid touchscreens they had pop-up (lockable with a key!) cell phone dial pad in the dash. Luxury! Performance! Sophistication! Depreciation? Find this 1993 Mercedes-Benz 400SEL offered for $5900 in Beverly Hills, CA via craigslist.
I had a good friend who always said: If you are going to do something crazy — don’t go half way. Commit. Full send. No regrets. I don’t talk to that guy anymore because he was insane, but I think I might have found his next car, or at least a conversation with a kindred spirit. Because if you are going to have a car that is dedicated to the Joker, it better be purple…and the only thing I’d change is it needs some green rims. Find this 1999 Mercedes-Benz E320 offered for $7650 in Maspeth, NY via facecut marketbook. Tip from Cory.
The Type 181 Volkswagen Thing is not a pretty car…but it is pretty useful. It started life in the 1960s as a stripped down mild-off-road capable light vehicle used for West German military use, but VW built a civilian version a few years later. This next example has been given a significant restoration and modernization (LED lights, disk brakes, larger engine, 6-point cage) that should allow it to function well into the 21st century — no touch screen required. Find this 1981 Volkswagen Thing Type 181 offered for $14,999 in San Diego, CA via craigslist.
I love cheap cars as much as the next guy…probably more, in fact, but a sub $3k Audi TT is pushing the limits of what you’d want to drive around without a chase car. The first generation Audi TT was a re-badged VW Golf, but I don’t say that in a bad way. This next car will need some restoration before you can take it to the next German car show, but for the asking price it isn’t bad. Find this 2001 Audi TT offered for $2,500 in San Marcos, CA via craigslist.
The first generation (E53) BMW X5 was released in 1999 as the first SUV produced by BMW and, needless to say, the purists were upset. How could BMW spit in the faces of luxury sedan owners all over the world by producing a sport futility vehicle? Lemme tell you how. They did it with the precision and focus that BMW does in everything it creates…which means that if you want the ultimate driving machine with an upright driving position and mild off-roading capability, get an X5, and try and find a manual gearbox version. Find this 2002 BMW X5 3.0i offered for $4,500 in Berkeley, CA via craigslist.
The Mercury Capri is one of those cars that people don’t understand. Or at least they didn’t understand when it was new. It was a sporty manual gearbox equipped 2+2 built in Germany that was sold at Lincoln-Mercury dealers for much less than a Mercury Cougar. But Elvis understands the Capri. He gets the international roots and the sublime handling that goes with a small 2.6 liter Cologne V6. Find this 1971 Mercury Capri offered for $14,500 in Quakertown, PA via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
The Porsche 968 is not the prettiest Porsche to be built in the 1990s, but it is one of the rarest. And that means something in the cult or Porsche, or it should. The fact is the 968 is still a hidden gem in the front-engine water-cooled Porsche experience and it will be worth something someday. But for now, they are cheap. Find this 1995 Porsche 968 offered for $13,500 in Phoenix, AZ via craigslist.
The BMW 1-series first appeared in 2004 built on the E87 chassis (E88 in convertible), which was a scaled down version of the E90 3-series chassis. The 1-series could best be described as similar to the previous generation 3-series because it kept the signature rear-wheel-drive fun of the 3-series without the ever increasing weight and bloat that seems inevitable in the auto industry. This particular car has not only the coveted single turbo N55 (it kept the same power as the twin-turbo N54 but its reportedly less troublesome) but also a 6-speed manual gearbox to boot. If you are looking for a late model open air car with a small set of back seats, you could do a lot worse. Find this 2011 BMW 135i Convertible offered for $15,988 in San Francisco, CA via craigslist.
The W210 chassis was marketed by Mercedes-Benz with the as the E-class from 1995-2002. It offered an expensive and elite ride for the wealthy and well-to-do. Mercedes offered some versions with 6-cylinder engines where the E stands for executive, but in 1998 the E for eggads my spleen just ruptured AMG version was released. Today’s version is cosmetically modified with some interesting choices, but the price is right. Find this 2001 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG offered for $5,800 in Arrowhead Lakes, AZ via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; if you need a minivan, get a limo. You get seats for 8 people and none of the mind numbing styling and van handling that you get with the typical vanilla domestic market minivan. Granted, an 80s Benz 250S is not a Lamborghini, but it is certainly more interesting to drive than a Toyota Sienna. Plus, this one has an 80s vintage cell phone mounted up front and a stereo mounted where the rear passengers can control the tunes. Stereo controls in the back wouldn’t be annoying with little kids at all. Find this 1983 Mercedes-Benz 250S Limousine offered for $12,500 in Petaluma, CA via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!