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Redusernab Asks: Given an unlimited budget, what’s the least expensive car you’d buy?

Jeff Glucker June 20, 2018 Hoonivercinema 61 Comments

It’s easy to speculate about the sort of vehicles you’d acquire given a budget that knows no bounds. But forget about the fancy or powerful stuff for a moment (Yes, even you Doc), and tell us about the cheap machines you lust over.

Given a Gatesian level of cash in your bank account, what is the least expensive vehicle that you’d purchase?

  • The least expensive new car I’d buy is a Fiat 124. As for used, I’m still kinda fancy. Maybe a 2002 Saab 9-2x that needs a little work (~$3K).

    • Zentropy

      I’m a big fan of the bugeye WRXs, but if I ever came across a 9-2x, I’d grab it in a heartbeat.

    • rovingardener

      Fiat 124 Abarth is just such a peachy thing, even if it isn’t fast by modern standards. Alternatively a Mazda6 Signature in God’s own Soul Crystal Red; faster than the 124 and hard to beat as a value proposition for luxury, even if the tires are pretty lame, easy fix.

  • Alff

    Even with cash I suspect that discarded orphans would still show up in my driveway for free. Probably even more, since my country estate would be home to many stupid mechanical hijinks.

    • Should that situation ever come to pass, please keep me informed of your estate’s address and the hours when your driveway will accept deliveries.

      • Alff

        See? It’s working already.

  • Borkwagen

    Does that budget include restoration/restomod costs? Because I’d get an old Saab 96 (suicide door if possible) and commission an engine swap.

    • Nope, not possible. The 96 never had suicide doors. They were discontinued for the 93F and late GT750 sedans and for all but the very early 95 wagons.

      • Borkwagen

        Aah, I had it backwards, I thought the early 96s had suicide doors rather than the late 93s having normal doors. I wonder if they could be retrofitted.

        • Of course they can be retrofitted: you’re rich!

  • If I were Uber rich I’d buy an old junkyard near Fort Hood, Texas full of post WW2 European vehicles and start having fun. The last time I drove to Killeen an old junkyard still had several Volvo’s, Saab’s, DKWs, Panhards and misc British and Italian stuff.

    • wunno sev

      you in central TX? i just moved outta Waco

      • Not any more. Lived in central Texas all my life but moved to another state when property taxes made living in the lone star state impossible. I used to scour the junk yards in and around army and air force bases from Killeen to San Antonio looking for parts for obscure cars. In the 50s and 60s Ft Hood armored troops typically rotated through Germany and sometimes brought back DKWs, Borgwards, NSUs, Mercedes, Porsches, VWs and from neighboring countries DAFs, Volvos and Saabs. My dad bought a Renault Dauphine with an electric clutch for $50 from a soldier rotating back to germany. We the going price for a used foreign car sold by a military man shipping out.

  • neight428

    Fun question. Likely something “elemental” in one way or another where additional cash just ends up smothering the experience or enabling some marginal technology that is likely to fail or require intrusive maintenance. I could see ultra-rich neight having a supercharged late model Miata and enjoying it regularly.

  • GTXcellent

    New – a cheap plow truck. 1 ton, regular cab, long box – although I’d definitely step up to cloth seats – vinyl in winter ain’t fun.

    Used? well, if I’m uber rich then I’m not working and have all the time in the world to play – I’m buying an old C10 that I can practice my restoration skills on.

  • P161911

    Probably a 1910s-1930s American car of some sort. Always wanted a Model T to play with. Nice restored ones seem to be in the $30k-$50k range for the best.

    Of course I would probably end up going to one of the big Barrett Jackson or other car auctions and just buy anything that looked halfway interesting for $5,000-$10,000. I could see myself with most of the world’s supply of Aeroback Olds 442s or something stupid like that. Real life would end up looking like one of my garages from Forza or Gran Turismo; supercars, fast cars, slow cars, odd ball crap, etc.

    • Some of the older low end cars at BJ Auctions go fairly cheap .

  • Maymar

    Considering my grandparents’ ’86 Crown Victoria (similar to this one, but with the bordello red interior) was one that got away, and no Panther is fetching big money any time soon, that’d probably be an easy one. This is of course excepting the idea that if I had unlimited budget, I’d be practicing wrenching as a hobby assuming I have a ton of free time and space, and there’s a long list of cheap stuff I’d like to play around with.

  • tonyola

    A clean ’86-’87 Honda CRX Si.

  • smalleyxb122

    With an unlimited, or effectively unlimited automotive budget, there are still plenty of cheap cars that I’d want. Of course, I’d buy the nicest one I could find, but there are plenty of cars that the nicest one in existence still isn’t expensive. For instance, I’d like to have a bubble-era kei sportscar, but I’d need the whole set (AZ-1, Beat, Cappuccino), and if I treat the set as a single purchase, it’s not the cheapest on my list.

    My first car was a Triumph Spitfire, the nicest of which barely crack into five figures.

    I think I’d track down a first-gen S10 with the Baja package. This one looks to have sold at Mecum in January for $6500. I figure even if I wait out for an extended cab with a 5-speed, I can keep it under $10k.

  • I’m already doing just fine on the “least expensive” vehicle front, other than becoming an unstoppable hoarder of even more of them, so I’ll interpret the phrasing as “least [expensive vehicle]” instead. The least vehicle I’d want for the most money would probably be a cyclecar, perhaps a Bédélia. To make it slightly more relevant to the original question, they were after all cheap when new.

    • 0A5599

      And what a bonny Bédélia that is!

    • Zentropy

      Never seen one of those before– had to Google it. Is it true that gear changes require action from both driver and a passenger?

      • outback_ute

        And the centre pivoted front axle with steering by bobbin and cable – one step up from a billy cart!

      • My understanding is that it’s not a requirement but more of a courtesy on the part of the front-seat passenger.

    • Alff

      If that’s the question my answer is easy. I want a Redbug.

      • Just the thing for your country estate.

        • Vairship

          Or for bigger estates that exceed the electric range, there’s always the Briggs & Stratton model J Flyer:

  • Zentropy

    New? I’d buy a Toyota 86. Older? I’d find a rust-free Volvo 240 wagon and restomod it with a 2JZ-GTE. Or, I’d find a pristine 2002/3 (bugeye) WRX wagon, slap an STI turbo on it, and daily it.

    • neight428

      If left unattended with piles of money, I would attempt every compelling engine swap that comes to mind. I would also rig up a rear subframe that used the FWD Olds Toronado drivetrain that I would implant in to a succession of crapboxes.

      I would also need to go to fabrication school.

      • Zentropy

        I agree. The possibilities are endless, and tempting.
        Interesting idea about the Toronado drivetrain…

      • From what I see on CL, no car is cheaper than an abandoned/aborted swap project…

        • neight428

          Speaks to the irresistible nature of the enterprise. Even without time, talent, or money people will still give it a go. If I’m stupid rich, I’m 2 out of 3 by that count!

  • Jofes2

    I want a Volga. Preferably a 3102, or possibly a 24 or 3110.

  • George Goshgarian

    EM1 Civic SI

  • Zentropy

    Except for the Mariner Blue, it’s a great answer.

    • richdelish

      Pardon your opinion, but the other colors just don’t work as well when I’m parking it next to this:

      • Ah, rich people problems…
        Well played, sir!

      • Zentropy

        Haha! Perhaps true, but I wouldn’t choose this heinous hue just because I worked at Marvel Studios. (In all seriousness, I just really dislike blue as a car color, unless it’s very dark.)

    • crank_case

      Everyone knows mica blue is the correct answer, the only reason I haven’t put one on my list is I have one, I just need to get it on the road again..

      • Zentropy

        Mica blue I can appreciate.

  • ptschett

    ’73 Mercury Cougar XR-7 hardtop, 351C 2-barrel/automatic, preferably medium blue w/ white vinyl canopy top and white w/ medium-blue interior.

    [My 1st car (after it was my parents’ spare car), but possibly more because my Cougar was originally my grandma’s car when I was a kid, now that she’s 90 and seems to have aged 20 of those years in that many months…]

  • outback_ute

    An old, space-efficient hatch to use as an around town, don’t-have-to-worry-about-it, under-the-radar runabout. I’m thinking Honda Fit/Jazz or similar.

    Also many old British cars are still pretty cheap in very good condition, easily under $10k.

    • Zentropy

      Dang, another good car I didn’t consider. The Honda Fit is huge fun to drive. It’s a far better value than a Mini Cooper.

  • Lokki

    For me it would have to be a 1975 Citroen DS ‘Goddess’. You can buy a very nice one for $25,000 which is Toyota Prius territory. The 1975 had a 2 liter engine, air conditioning, and headlights under glass which can move with the steering.

    Of course, since I (would) have stupid money, I would probably do a resto-mod engine transplant. Perhaps a Subaru flat six would fit, although given my (unlimited) budget, perhaps a Prius drivetrain
    to allow for more power, and a modern a/c unit.

    • Always a good choice!

    • That’s the first time I’ve heard of a Prius drivetrain swap for more power. Frankly, that’s the first I’ve heard of anyone proposing a Prius drivetrain swap.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    I’d buy what interests me or tickles my nostalgia so VW Scirocco would probably end up in the garage alongside an engine swapped Citroen DS

  • wunno sev

    the used question is tough. i’ve bought like nearly half the cars i’ve owned for $2500 or less. the thing is, if i’d had a ton of money when i bought them – or if they’d been properly planned purchases rather than impulse buys – i’d have bought nicer examples of each. so i don’t know that i would, on a Gatesian budget, really buy the same specimens of the cars i owned, even if i still wanted another Maxima or 240D or MR2. an 97-98 Maxima SE would probably be in my garage, just for nostalgia’s sake, and it’d probably be super cheap to buy even a pretty nice example today, so i guess that’s my absolute cheapest when i’m packing those Bezos bucks.

    but if we’re talking new/nearly new, i’d have a 1.0 Fiesta in my fleet. i was looking for one of those before buying an ST instead, and they were going for like $12-13k brand new in 2016. (if my garage’s volume isn’t infinite, i’ll probably not get the 1.0 so i have space for an ST. legit can’t think of any new car priced between the 1.0 Fiesta and the $18k you need to get an ST that i’d want.)

  • crank_case

    Daihatsu HiJet

    ..and something small and French, like a Citroen AX, Peugeot 205 or 106, which even though they’re thin on the ground, still don’t fetch much over here if they aren’t a Rallye/GTI, buy a boggo one and prep it lanes rally style

    Also have a weird want for 4×4 Mazda MPV

  • Tank

    Either a Pinto Wagon, a Yugo, or an Old Beetle…. I’d have all of them but I don’t know which would be cheapest. I imagine with Parts and reliablilty taken into context with the price… it would be the Pinto

    • Zentropy

      A classic Beetle is a great call– there’s something appealing about driving a Bug that has nothing to do with horsepower or automotive prowess in general. It’s a kind of fun you would pay decent money for, even if they weren’t cheap.

  • Tomsk

    At this very moment? A ’96 Buick Park Avenue Ultra, the first year for the better-breathing, more-sorted-out supercharged 3800 Series II V6 and the last year for the C-body Park Avenue.

  • My ultimate garage would definitely have room for an N12 EXA Pulsar NX.
    I cannot explain why, but it would.

  • kogashiwa

    MR2 obviously, how is this even a question. Gen 4 SW20 with the BEAMS 3S-GE.

    • Zentropy

      Yep, but no way would I want the turbo version.

  • DoctorNine

    I’ll be honest. I’ve been thinking about buying one of those 5-speed manual Versa sedans for about $12K brand new, and then taking it apart, and welding in a space frame to autocross with.

    There is always so much potential in a little economy car that goes untapped. It would be a hoot.

    • wunno sev

      the Versa is a penalty box. get a 1.0 Fiesta for the same price and at least have a decent chassis and interior. you can swap in the ST suspension to effectively have the same car as the Zetec S model sold in the EU, but with a couple extra doors.

  • I saw my first 1st gen Miata in Mariner Blue two days ago. I wish I would have taken a picture of it. In person it looked great. I didn’t know the color name until I looked it up. Reminded me of the French racing blue I’ve seen on DB Panhards and Alpines. Now I want one bad.

  • My last two daily drivers cost my $1,700 combined. I’m not sure how having more money available will lead me to less expensive choices. 😀

  • Hubba

    V8 Miata

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