Home » Here Are Six Awesome Classic Cars You Can Buy For Under $30,000: Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness

Here Are Six Awesome Classic Cars You Can Buy For Under $30,000: Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness

Mmm Jenson Interceptor
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Welcome back to Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness! One of my favorite pastimes is searching for rare and weird vehicles for sale online. I’m always looking for something cool to look at and maybe buy, so I have a hilariously long list of vehicles just gathering virtual dust on my computer. I don’t always know what I’m looking for. Sometimes I find a Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI and buy it, and sometimes I find a lightly-used Boeing 757, but that’s the beauty of the internet.

Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness cracks open a morsel of my search history to show you the vehicles I’ve been looking at, lately. Some of the vehicles are affordable, after all, I do try to buy some of them, while others are better fits for a collector like our Beau Boeckmann. Some of the vehicles are just silly. I mean, who sells commercial jets on Facebook?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

As I mentioned last week, we’re currently trying out new ideas for this series. I’ve been writing about Facebook finds since 2020 and it’s been fun! However, writing about the histories of 9 completely different vehicles in one shot is quite the marathon that takes all day. So, I’m playing around with the number of vehicle finds each week to optimize Triple-M. We’re also playing around with headlines since the old ones might have gotten a bit stale. Bear with me here as I experiment!

Today, I decided to focus on nothing but classic cars. Not all of them will be American, but all of them will be under $30,000. There might be a car or two in here that you’ve never heard of before. Let’s take a look!

1971 Jensen Interceptor – $19,995

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Facebook Seller

I’ve long been a fan of the Interceptor, and here’s one that won’t break the bank. Well, won’t break the bank with your initial investment, anyway. This is a British car housing American firepower under its bonnet and it was arguably the most famous vehicle to roll out of Jensen Motors. The UK’s National Motor Museum gives a brief history:

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Specialist car builder Jensen created a sensation when they launched the Interceptor at the 1966 London Motor Show. The aggressively styled car with body built by Vignale of Turin was powered by a potent Chrysler V8 engine. Other than a few with manual gearboxes, most were equipped with Chrysler’s Torqueflite automatic transmission. The Jensen Interceptor, and its four-wheel drive derivative the FF, were aimed at the luxury car market.

From the 1930s, Jensen Motors supplied car bodies for many of the larger manufacturers as well as building a range of commercial vehicle chassis. In the 1950s and 1960s the company established a reputation as a builder of sporty GT cars such as the 541 and C-V8. The Interceptor built on this tradition. Jensen survived until 1976, eventually succumbing to financial difficulties in the aftermath of the oil crisis.

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Facebook Seller

Technically, the story of Jensen didn’t end there as Jensen Special Products (JSP) and Jensen Parts & Service Limited (JPS) rose from Jensen’s grave. The Jensen name also rose from the dead again in 2001, 2010, and 2015, respectively, with each different venture attaining varying levels of success.

The Interceptor, a revival of a model name used during the 1950s for another car, brought major change for Jensen. The company had been building body panels out of fiberglass for two decades and the Jensen was a return to a steel body. Design is credited to Carrozzeria Touring of Italy and power came from Chrysler in America.

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Facebook Seller

This 1971 Jensen Interceptor is a Mark III, which included revisions of the vehicle’s face and bumpers. I love the new headlight bezels added with the Mark III. Other changes included new seats, standard air-conditioning, new wheels, and a different steering wheel.

The seller of this 1971 Jensen Interceptor doesn’t make any comment to its condition, but tells us the car has air-conditioning and power windows. The vehicle’s paint and interior show some wear, but the car otherwise looks great. Power comes from a 440 cubic inch Chrysler RB big-block V8. Jensen sold two variants of the 440 in 1971. One had a four-barrel carburetor and produced 305 HP net while the other had three two-barrel carburetors for 330 HP net. It’s unclear what carburetor configuration this car has.

It’s $19,995 in Morgan Hill, California and the car has 70,808 miles.

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1997 Kia Vigato – $13,650

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Bring a Trailer Seller

Here’s a funky little car that time forgot. Remember the oddball Lotus Elan? Yeah, so Kia got its hands on it, too. As with so much weird car history, this story involves General Motors. As Lotus recounts, when General Motors took over the company in 1986, Lotus figured it needed a new small car to slot under the Esprit and Excel. I’ll let Lotus take it from here:

The big idea for this new car was that it would be front-wheel drive. Ditching the traditional front engine/rear-wheel drive layout would appeal to new generation of potential Lotus customers. It would provide sure-footed handling and tap into the popularity of the hot-hatches of the era.

The priority for Lotus was to find a new powertrain. A new-generation 1.6-litre straight-four in both naturally aspirated and turbo versions with an excellent power-to-weight ratio was identified from within the GM portfolio, and so the project was given the green light. Peter Steven’s ‘cab-forward’ design wasn’t to everyone’s liking but was aerodynamically effective.

Given the Type number 100 and the project name during development of M100, the Elan went on sale in 1989. Feedback from the media was initially positive and pent-up demand meant more than 1,200 had been sold by the end of 1990. The car picked up a prestigious award from the Design Council.

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Bring a Trailer Seller

Unfortunately for Lotus, the Elan was a failure. Lotus describes a list of reasons including the fact that the car was expensive to build and that front-wheel-drive betrayed what Lotus was famous for. Lotus also says having an Isuzu engine didn’t do it any favors, either. Thus, the Elan finished production after just six years and 4,665 units.

After Elan production ended in 1995, GM punted the car to Kia. The South Korean automaker made some visual changes (notably the taillights) before tossing in a Mazda-derived 1.8-liter T8D four. This engine made 150 HP, or more than the 130 ponies made from the naturally-aspirated Lotus Elans. Just 1,056 units were built.

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Bring a Trailer Seller

In Japan, the Kia Elan was sold as the Kia Vigato. This example of the Kia Elan was originally sold in Japan before making it over to Canada at some point in its life. From what I’ve been able to find, the Vigato was sold in LHD form in Japan, so this is a Japanese import you won’t have to adapt to. This example of the Vigato sold on Bring a Trailer for $10,100 in January. Now, the buyer from that auction wants $13,650 for the car. Judging from the previous auction, the buyer didn’t even drive the car. It’s in Toronto, Canada with the equivalent of 33,105 miles.

1982 Innocenti Mini de Tomaso – $15,800

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Garagisti

Here’s another weird car you’ve probably never heard of before. If you were intrigued before, you’ll be even more surprised to read that this little car is a variation of the iconic Mini. This story starts with Ferdinando Innocenti, an industrialist who cut his teeth experimenting with iron pipes in the 1920s. In 1947 after World War II, Innocenti was formed and would become known for its construction of Lambretta scooters. Later, Innocenti would move into the post-war market of tiny cars to get citizens on wheels.

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In 1961, a deal was struck between Innocenti and BMC for the former company to accept licenses for the Mini, Allegro, and Austin-Healey. Innocenti quickly rose to become Italy’s number two automaker, trailing behind Fiat. In 1972, British Leyland was impressed enough with Innocenti’s performance to buy the brand, just for BMC to fizzle out later that decade.

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Garagisti

Innocenti’s safety net ended up being Alejandro de Tomaso. Before this happened, Innocenti had already begun production of a re-bodied Mini with styling by Bertone. That’s why this car doesn’t look anything like the Mini you’re used to.

The rebodied Mini entered production in 1974 and in 1976, Alejandro de Tomaso got involved and made a sporty version. The 1977 Mini de Tomaso differed from the original Innocenti Mini with the use of molded plastic bumpers, extended arches, a hood scoop, fog lights, and sporty wheels. Power comes from a 1275cc BMC A-series four making 74 HP and bolted to a manual transaxle.

This 1982 Innocenti Mini de Tomaso appears to be in good shape and you can import it from Garagisti in Portugal for the equivalent of $15,800. The odometer reads the equivalent of 60,895 miles.

1973 Isuzu Bellett 1800 GT – $23,500

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Northeast Auto Imports

Here’s a Japanese car you might not have heard of before. The Isuzu Bellett traces its roots back to when Japan’s automotive industry was restructured in the 1950s. Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry wanted Japan’s automakers to produce a people’s car to get post-World War II Japanese on wheels. MITI also wanted to spur the auto industry’s growth into a world player. Prior to the Bellett, Isuzu was assembling the Isuzu Hillman Minx, a car built under license from Britain’s Rootes Group.

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Isuzu wasn’t content with building another automaker’s cars, so it set to engineer cars of its own. One of them was the Bellett, which launched in 1963 as the successor to the Minx and as Isuzu’s second original car after the Bellel. As Car and Driver notes, the Bellett was advanced for its day. The car had a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout and a fully independent suspension. Among the Bellett’s versions was the perky GT, which introduced disc brakes up front. That’s the car you’re looking at here.

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Northeast Auto Imports

Power comes from an 1800cc inline-four, which was rated at 113 HP when new. Car and Driver notes that while that’s less power than a BMW 2002ti, this car has a 200-pound weight advantage over the Beemer. This example sports some modifications including 13-inch Watanabe wheels, a UPower exhaust, and a Nardi steering wheel. This vehicle crossed the Bring a Trailer auction block in January, failing to sell for $17,751. The selling dealership, Northeast Auto Imports of Hudson, New Hampshire, wants $23,500 for the 45,000-mile car.

1953 Chevrolet 3100 – $28,350

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Hemmings Seller

This truck is so glorious teal that I cannot stop looking at it. I would put on a dress and lipstick matching the paint if it were mine. Launched in 1947, Chevrolet’s Advance-Design series of pickups was the automaker’s first truck design update after WWII. These trucks were marketed as bigger and stronger than their predecessor, boasting a then-modern design. A brochure talked up the truck’s optional feature that circulated fresh outside air around the cabin, the cab’s high visibility, and the truck’s recirculating ball steering.

This Chevrolet 3100 represents what a half-ton pickup looked like in the 1950s. The truck is said to have been with the same family since 1974 and the paint you see, which was done in 2013, is what the truck should have looked like when new. Power comes from a 235-cubic inch straight-six that wasn’t original to the truck.

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Hemmings Seller

This engine was rated for 125 horsepower and 204 lb-ft of torque when new. That power reaches the rear wheels through a three-speed column-shift manual. According to Chevrolet, this truck was originally equipped with a 216 cubic inch Stovebolt called the Thriftmaster. This was good for 92 HP.

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It’s $28,350 from the seller in National City, California and the truck has 113,374 miles on its odometer. True mileage is unknown

1958 Plymouth Plaza – $25,000

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Facebook Seller

Here’s a clean enough classic car that won’t require you to sell a kidney. As Hagerty writes, the Plaza was introduced in 1954 and slotted under the mid-range Savoy and under the top-line Belvedere. For a fun fact, Plymouth liked naming its cars from swanky hotels and in this case. Reportedly, Plymouth’s 1954 lineup helped the brand stay in third place in sales for 1954. Sadly, Buick passed Plymouth, putting the brand in fifth place for 1955. In 1954, Plymouth advertised such features as an automatic transmission, automatic overdrive, and full-time power steering. Given the Plaza’s positioning as the bottom run, Plymouth marketed the vehicle as the brand’s economical offering.

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Facebook Seller

Later the Plaza received styling from Virgil Exner and the Plaza would be positioned as an affordable option for buyers who wanted the space of a full-size car and a V8 engine. The big news for 1958 was a wide array of color options. Sadly, this one is plain black. Other features noted in the brochure were a defroster, power brakes, and a push-button automatic transmission. Power comes from a 350 cubic inch V8 rated at 305 HP and backed by a Hurst 5-speed manual.

It’s $25,000 from the seller in Carolina Beach, North Carolina.

That’s it for this week! Thank you for reading.

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Myk El
Myk El
2 months ago

That seems a bargain for a Jensen. Not surprised it was listed sold by the time I saw it.

Sledgehammer
Sledgehammer
2 months ago

My Dad used to speak of a flat mate from his youth with the Isuzu in Australia. His father pressed him to buy a Holden HB Torana that was sounded like a lemon as it used to boil in traffic going up hill. Said the Isuzu was a better car in every way from driving experience to extras like a radio!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
3 months ago

That Plymouth Plaza looks badass! I love Christine (58 Fury) One of my favorite movies- lately I’ve been thinking about how well made that movie was. The seller of this Plaza has 1 pic of Christine in the ad and says it’s been driven 666 miles, ha ha
Great article

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
3 months ago

Wow! I am pretty on board with all of these vehicles! I don’t know if that has ever happened. I didn’t used-to appreciate the Interceptor, but it has grown on me. Weird butt aside, those leather seats are either cozy heaven or completely claustrophobic. I still want to try them.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
3 months ago

I used to want an Interceptor, but I guess the charm of them has worn off.

What hasn’t worn off is the appeal of the Plymouth. It’s a perfect car for Halloween season. And because I celebrate Halloween any time I feel like it, it’s a perfect car. Especially modded with a Chevy 350 and a 5 speed.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
3 months ago

This is a truly magnificent selection of cars!!

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

Being weird I’ll take the Innocenti Mini Mini and the Isuzu Bellet. The Italian Minis were always sharp looking and pre MITI consolidation Japanese is often interesting

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
3 months ago

Of the cars on this list, my pick would be that ‘Kia Elan’.

Black Peter
Black Peter
3 months ago

Whenever this car comes up in “conversation”, I always have to mention it’s much better looking IRL,

Torque
Torque
2 months ago
Reply to  Black Peter

I remember when the (2nd time around) Lotus Elan came out, I saw it up close at Road America in the paddock.
Decent yet very different looking than other roadsters/convertibles since the ff arangement allowed for such a short hood.
Learning (then) that it was FF had me thinking wtf.
I have never heard that supposedly the idea of the FF was to appeal to people buying hot hatches.
If that is true it seems like a really weird choice since the biggest advantage of a FF hot hatch is that it is still a practical car that can fit 4 people or 5 in a pinch + the huge back hatch can fit a ton of additional stuff as well.
It seems probable the people included in the overlapping vinn diagram circles of buying a new hot hatch and a highly impractical very small 2 seat roadster/convertible would be exceptionally small
Above said, I never knew that Kia was given the rights to be able to sell and did sell the 2nd Elan as a Kia!

Last edited 2 months ago by Torque
Black Peter
Black Peter
2 months ago
Reply to  Torque

We recently discussed FWD in the thread about the Cimarron. In the 80s and into the 90s FWD was marketed not as an inexpensive manufacturing technique but as a superior drive layout. No one clocked to the fact that as the price and performance went up, FWD was hard, then impossible to find. In fact I have little doubt that many people in that era questioned why Porsche, Ferrari et al weren’t making FWD cars. I have little doubt that Lotus did this as a cost cutting measure, but I don’t know why they didn’t do what Toyota did with the MR2, just plunk the FWD package in the rear. Again, probably cost cutting and gambling on the FWD not dissuading buyers.

Torque
Torque
2 months ago
Reply to  Black Peter

That’s a good point about the prevailing thinking in the late 80s and 90s at the time being FF was “the way to go / trend / we (group think among engineers (and/or leaders) across multiple large auto manufacturers…

A potential important contrarian viewpoint would be how people seem to like the feeling of having the moment of inertia, as a vehicle negotiates a turn exist either right about at your butt (i.e.your center of mass) or slightly behind your butt; it feels more engaging or like you get a more direct vehicle feedback from your steering input.

Which is exactly what you get with a FR (front engine rear wheel drive) set up (assuming near(ish) 50/50 weight distribution front to rear.
Or a MR (mid engine rear wheel drive) or with RR (rear engine rear wheel drive set up.

With a FF setup the moment if inertia is always in front of the center of your body, unless the FF you’re in is also a cabover design like a VW Bus if it were FF then the moment of inertia could be center (or likely still behind) yout body.

For a roadster/convertible/sports car this feeling should be paramount especially with a small sport car that doesn’t (relatively even then) have a ton of hp.
Moment of inertia being at or behind your body’s center of mass is a massive intangible that leads to the happy owners saying things like “I don’t know why, I just love the way this car feels / drives!”

Black Peter
Black Peter
2 months ago
Reply to  Torque

It’s that exact “feeling” that marketing wonks told people “the car pulls you” implying pushing from the rear is terrible, and pulling, like a tow truck or roman chariot was better. I admit I was sucked into the lie right up until the first time I drove my Mk1 Jetta into a snow bank. A few years later I became a full anti-FWD zealot when I got my Mk1 MR2, that thing was great in the snow, and of course the dry too. Now technology has gotten us the active diff and so many improvements I was confident the GTI was a safe bet and owning it has proven that. It’s pretty hard to believe it’s FWD.

Torque
Torque
2 months ago
Reply to  Black Peter

Ha my 2nd car* was a 84′ MKI GTI in what used to be red paint (it was pretty well faded), which was followed by a 90 Jetta GLI.

I’ve long thought for +99% of drivers even in regularily snowy locations a FF with a mechanical lsd + snow tires would work even in +6″ deep snowed roads.

If you can left foot brake and are decent enough at the Scandinavian flick you can eliminate the vast majority of FF understeer, but most people aren’t going to bother learning about either.

Of course FF cars can be aligned to give more natural handling characteristics too since from the factory nearly all cars are designed to understeer as studies show for the average driver it is the safer ‘failure’ condition…

*1st car I bought (w/ my money St 13 saved from a lawns + paper route) was a 78′ Triumph TR7, and ironically given the discussion topic only one of 2 FR engine/drive set ups I’ve personally owned, the other being a 74 MG B GT 🙂

Last edited 2 months ago by Torque
JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago

The Jensen or the Kia would be my choices in this list. I do love that plymouth but the Kia is such an oddity that I would love to take it around places and I have just always loved Jensen Interceptors. It would be great to do a resto mod Interceptor.

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