Good morning! It’s Valentine’s Day, and to celebrate, we’re looking at a couple of cheap cars that aren’t completely embarassing, for once. But before we find our perfect luxury coupe match, we need to see which of our twos-of-a-kind you chose yesterday:
There you have it. Prince Valiant and his rusty sidekick emerge victorious. Several of you pointed out that both of those stalwart slant-six classics are probably worth fixing up, rather than relegating one to parts-car status, and I’m inclined to agree. (Get it? Inclined, because slant six… ah, never mind.)
Now then: One of the big problems with the cheap-car lifestyle is that the cars you find at the bottom end of the price spectrum tend to be a bit rough-and-ready. They’re fine for driving to work, and no one is going to turn their noses up at them at a gas station or supermarket, but sometimes you just want something a little less scruffy for those two times a year you splurge on dinner at a place with valet parking, you know? Well, fear not, because I’ve managed to find two good-running, good-looking two-doors that are just the ticket, and won’t keep you from affording that fancy dinner. Let’s take a look.
1999 Mercedes-Benz CLK430 – $2,800
Engine/drivetrain: 4.3 liter overhead cam V8, five-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Clackamas, OR
Odometer reading: 151,000 miles
Now, right up front, let’s be honest: none of us are going to be impressed by a 24-year-old Mercedes. We know better. We’re going to take one look at it and think about the condition of the wiring harness, and start putting together a mental shopping list from PelicanParts, and wonder whether those foggy headlights are going to polish up or not. But what we might not see, at first glance, is what the rest of the world sees: This is a nice little car.
This was the top of the line for Mercedes’s small coupe in 1999, with a 4.3 liter V8 shoehorned in place of the typical four or V6 engines. A year later, that V8 could be punched out to 5.4 liters in the AMG-ified CLK 55, but you’re not likely to find a nice one of those for under three grand. If I’m not mistaken, this one has the seventeen-inch wheels of the AMG version, which were available as part of a “Sport Package,” or on eBay anytime in the intervening two decades.
Inside, it’s all leather and wood as you would expect, and except for some wear and a popped seam on the driver’s seat, is in good shape. There is some scorched paint (or clearcoat) on the outside, but it’s still pretty shiny. Those foggy headlights will need a little attention. We don’t get much to go on in terms of mechanical condition other than “runs and drives excellent” and assurances that the HVAC system works as it should.
I suspect that the seller photographed it at night to hide some of the cosmetic flaws, but that’s not a big deal – we’re not going for perfection, just trying to avoid embarrassing our date. The three-pointed star still carries some cachet outside of our jaded little enthusiast’s world, so at least it won’t stick out like a sore thumb in the parking lot.
1998 Lincoln Mark VIII – $2,200
Engine/drivetrain: 4.6 liter dual overhead cam V8, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: San Diego, CA
Odometer reading: 150,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does!
Looking for something a little more distinctive, though maybe less prestigious? How about a lipstick-red Lincoln with the heart of a Cobra? Ford’s last-hurrah personal luxury coupe is still a sharp-looking car, even twenty-five years after the last one left the production line. And it has a little bit of hot rod panache that makes you feel a little bit cooler behind the wheel than some staid German.
The Lincoln Mark VIII is powered by a four-cam version of Ford’s Modular V8, a slightly lower tune version of the engine used in the Mustang SVT Cobra of the same era. It’s a far cry from the soggy Mark V we looked at on Friday. It’s still meant more for comfort than for canyon-carving, but it’s a step closer to the European concept of a grand tourer than the American personal luxury coupe ideal.
After 150,000 miles, this Lincoln is showing some wear around the edges, but it’s still presentable. The seller says it runs and drives well, but the air conditioning is inoperative. Not a deal-breaker this time of year, but get it fixed before taking a date to a July 4th picnic.
I like the styling of this car. The Continental spare-tire hump in the trunk lid is barely there, more of a suggestion of past glories than an in-you-face anachronism. Ford did a nice job of distinguishing this car from the cheaper Thunderbird, making sure everyone knows that it’s special. Will it impress that special someone? Maybe not, but they won’t be embarrassed to be seen getting out of it, either.
Shitboxes and style don’t often go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things. You just have to dig a little deeper. I don’t think either one of these would impress anyone, exactly, but there’s nothing here you’d have to explain away either. Just a couple of nice, comfy coupes. Which one are you picking up that special someone in?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
I’d be concerned my date would think the Lincoln is an old man car.
If you are going to try to impress someone on a date with a cheap used car, definitely go for the Mercedes. Just have it detailed beforehand, so it looks new. If she is as cheap as you are, she won’t notice that it has 150,000+ miles. You will not impress a woman with an old Lincoln. They are looking for a car that makes you look wealthy.
My Lexus is 16 years old, and women compliment me on it all the time. They don’t have a clue that I paid 20% of the new price for it.
I voted Lincoln because it’s a lot cooler car, but even new these Marks weren’t that great to drive; maybe there was a sporty tune of that chassis possible, but Lincoln didn’t offer it.
Dad traded one of these in on a V8 Taurus SHO and the SHO was vastly more fun and a hell of a lot cheaper.
The Lincoln was bleeding edge for an American car when it was released, and it’s still gorgeous today. I put it on the short list of American GTs that could legitimately say “we can do that too” to the Europeans. It’s the final and greatest form of the American personal luxury coupe.
This one is also the right color and the right price. If the rest of it is in solid shape, I’ll drop an extra $1k or whatever for new A/C everything without batting an eye. I don’t want to BEGIN to know what I’d be signing up for with a 90s Benz.
I had a 93 Mark VIII hunter Green, tan interior, my dad beat the shit out of it before I got it. I loved that car! Damn thing tried to get speeding tickets! Step on the gas and over 90 you go!
Yes Lincoln, because a cheap date is more likely to be impressed by a shiny red lincoln. Now the Merc you are scoring MILF TAIL.
Lincoln for me. Nicer paint, non-foggy headlights and parts/service that is likely way cheaper. Also this era Mercedes cars had a big drop in quality.
Sure, the Mercedes of this era weren’t perfect with their rust and electrical gremlins if you could stretch it out. However, find one that’s been nicely and decently maintained, they can go on for much longer. BTW, I’m not saying this in comparison to the Lincoln, just rather saying that the Mercedes of this era weren’t as bad as some make them out to be. The powertrains and transmissions of this era of MBs were solid especially the 320s and even 430s…
Now the big question:
Does a Lincoln impress any dates under the age of 60?
I still chose the Lincoln.
Just tried looking for that Lincoln, Absolutely zero in Canada. If i was close I would go buy it right now.
First the Lincoln has PAINT as Slid would say, second, I absolutely hate the round headlight Mercs, the styling is stodgy, even the E class, it’s poo, the Sonata actually did it better. Heck even the Kia.. At least you knew they weren’t supposed to try.