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Car Lust: $1,500 Used Car Challenge

Car Lust $1,500 Challenge
Reader's Challenge Introduction
Reader's Challenge Results
Hafner's Challenge Introduction
Hafner's Challenge--Traditional American Car Candidates
Hafner's Challenge--Imported/Sporty Candidates
Hafner's Challenge--Truck/Wagon Candidates
The Winner--1973 Ford Gran Torino Wagon

As I've confessed here in the past, I'm a certified used-car classifieds junkie. Whether I'm in the market or not, I love to troll through the listings and imagine myself owning and driving the various jewels in the rough on display. In some cases, the rougher the jewel, the more it engages with my imagination. Shopping for used cars is all bound up in my Car Lust addiction; in fact, if my posting on Car Lust is the way I can vent my passion for cars, my classifieds browsing is where I can flirt with turning that passion into tangible form.

Over the last few years, we have run several Used Car Challenges, which are essentially contests in which we all engage in a used-car treasure hunt and share the wierd and wonderful things we find. At the end, I pick out a few standouts and crown them winners.

Past price-constrained challenges have taken place at these levels--$5,000 (challenge, results), $25,000 (challenge, results), and $2,500 (challenge, results). That last challenge had some particular significance for me, as I was engaging in my own $2,500 challenge at the same time and wound up buying a car as a result.

Well, it's time for another challenge, and this time I'm dropping the price limit to $1,500--both because I want to expose how much desirable hardware is available for that price, and because I ... well, I searched for and bought a car in that price range over the weekend. Just like last time, I ran a real-world used-car challenge and am excited to see how your finds stack up against mine.

This week, please drop your finds into the comment section of this post, with a URL for the listing so that I can grab photos. Once the pace of submissions has tailed off, I'll compile them, post them, and award winners. Next week I'll walk us through my finds and eventually culminate this festival of low-priced awe and wonder with an unveiling of my real-life challenge winner.

--Chris H.


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I love the old b-bodies. Getting parts will be easy as will any work required.

I love these challenges. Here's my pick: Where else can you find a unique and running 1961 Mercedes - WELL under the threshhold and leaving enough in the kitty to get the brakes sorted? Maybe even enough left over to throw on some period correct beaded seat covers!

Gotta love what this seller mentions about his plans for the interior. Old Duster with the interior of an 80's Dodge Daytona including the voice module? WORLDS ARE COLLIDING!

I love '73 Dusters with the interiors of a mid-80's Daytona (including voice module). Really?

Volvo 240 SW 1993

Acura Integra

For 1650 I found a 97 Cherokee.... tempting...

And here...we...go!

96 Mazda mx 6 - $1300. Only one tiny picture, but sounds decent on paper.

1979 Chevy Ambulance - $1500. A '70s heavy duty pickup with an ambulance backside and "SECURITY" written all over it? If that isn't just begging for shenanigans, then I just can't help you.

1964 Plymouth Belvedere - $1500. 2 door, pushbutton automatic, straight and clean and damn handsome in black. Fix the brakes and either keep the (original?) 318 or drop in a bigger mopar engine for high power Sunday night ice cream run fun. I like!

urgh, fishing around on my wife's netbook is painful. I'll be back tomorrow when I can get on my desktop. Yeah, then we'll have some fun...

I once bought a 1990 Miata for $1500. It had some rocker panel rust and faded paint, but was otherwise in good shape. It was really fun!

I think if I had room left in my garage, I could win this competition. I currently own two cars that together cost less than $1500

One is my daily commuter: a 1995 Ford Ranger Pickup which I bought 2 years ago for $200. It had less than 100,000 miles. After I drove it home, I replaced the airbag, got a new plastic grill ($100 more), and cleaned it really well. It's been a great vehicle for me. It was easily worth $2000. I got a great deal.

The other car that I currently have is a 1989 Ford Mustang Convertible, 25th Anniversary edition. I purchased it last month for $400. After I drove it home, I've been working on the engine. At this point, I think it has a bent flexplate because it make a loud hammering sound just between the engine and the transmission.

If I had room in the Garage, I would probably get this 1986 Ford Thunderbird 4 cylinder Turbo Coupe: for $650

Not bad eh?

You're right, a bunch of interesting stuff does turn up at that level:

An '83 Dodge full size pickup in near-perfect condition with 89k .. I'm tempted myself!

Silver '88 Fiero GT, looks nice and clean

Filthy but straight-looking 1960 Studebaker Lark body laughably advertised as "winter project"

International Harvester Loadstar, looks like it could actually be a winter project.

Here's what I love, not only is this Tempo cheap and beat up, someone bothered to take and upload 19 pics of it.

Forgot how much these suckers looked like they were drawn with a ruler.

Why Not a K-Car?!?!?

Beat this - 73 GMC Sprint! -

From the "You just don't see that very often" category - 1959 Anglia - - when new they produced a stunning 36 horsepower! It is the ugliest of the Anglia's, but still...Anglia!

1990 Fed Ex Truck $1500 - - I'd love this thing! - "with only 495,000 miles"!

64 Chevy Bel-Air -

76 Jeep Cherokee - $600 and I could have it running well within a few weeks.

Chris: Aw man, that Fed Ex truck has "RV Project" written all over it! I'll take it!

There are a lot of these here near Chicago! There were about 250 listings just from December 9th. I limited it to cars that have motors and run...

Blue Alero...with as the ad says, Very Nice COLOR!!

A '94 Camaro with 230K but looks like somebody's loved it...

A '99 Taurus with "no ticking no noise!"

A non-locking Century...

A Yellow Cab?

You have to love this guy and his 70-something Country Squire...

A badass Nova...

And a 22 year old suburban Volvo.

You really can get some good stock for this price...

While I am normally a Euro-car dweeb, I have a place in my heart for the Boat Tail Riviera. So, from Okaloosa Florida:

Extremely rare find.
1971 Buick Riviera Boat-tail.
Strong running 455 engine with a true dual exhaust
Interior and exterior needs work
A perfect project car

Slim pickings in Northeast Ohio at this price point.

1993 Camry, "exciting" version with a stick shift, pushing a quarter million on the odometer:

1997 Neon with "highline" trim (whatever that is), 148k on the clock:

Finally, two that should hit Chris right where he lives:
1989 Caprice, $850:
1989 DeVille, $1,500:

Good stuff, everybody - I think I'll leave this open through the weekend and then I'll compile and present the awards on Monday.

These Mazda based early 90's Escort GT 16 valvers are pretty fun. For $800 (might get it lower upon negotiation) you would have a nice sum to add an exhaust, cam, and make sure it is tip top. For $50 a trip to Pic N Pull would take care of that f fender.

You guys aim too low--take the top gear challenge:

First year Porsche 928:

1986 Porsche 944:

1977 Porsche 924(and I think it has pasha seats too!

Of course, maybe you prefer to roll with Lucas Electronics:

Or maybe the coupe is too aggressive, and you're a fan of The Equalizer:

But why go so staid as to get a British Buick when you can own a Maserati!

But don't go for the counterfeit Maserati when you can get the real thing, with that awesome Italian reliability!

The first year 928 makes me feel like a U-boat commander! How about a 924 with only 44K miles?

High miles and bad paint, but at least it's a 5 speed...

I'm buying this one. Negotiated a price, should still be under $1500 even with shipping.

'69 Miller Meteor Hearse for $1,195. Fun for the whole family.

I must say, there are quite a few that could be real jewels...I was impressed at the number I found, just in the OKC area alone. I hope I'm not too late, here are a few:

1964 Corvair Greenbrier

1972 Corvette Convertible, in primer

1977 Oldsmobile Delta 88 (My grandparents had one for many years in a different color)

1978 Lincoln Mark V 2-door

1985 Ford Mustang LX, 4-cyl, 5-speed
(I'm a sucker for Fox Mustangs, and this one actually looks like it's in good shape.)

1979 Ford F100 stepside

Lifted 1991 Samurai
This one fascinated me...nothing like making THAT particular CoG higher and thus the whole thing even more unstable, but it actually looks kinda cool and might be fun to drive!

Couldn't leave this one unincluded, knowing there's something of a serious lover for these around here:
1977 Mustang Cobra II (project)

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Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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