It’s easy to blame internet car auction sites for inflating the values of all the cars we know and love. After all, by opening up a finite pool of cars to a much larger audience, supply and demand suggests that prices will rise. However, a rising tide doesn’t lift every ship, and thanks to remnants of the insane COVID market, there are surprisingly cheap cars to be had on internet auction sites. Let’s check out some budget enthusiast cars we’ve seen recently, just for kicks.
Welcome back to Gavel Gazing, a series in which we take a deeper look into the stuff we see on internet car auction sites, and highlight anything notable. Last time, we noticed some early signs that the wild enthusiast car market could be softening, with many cars failing to meet reserve. It seems that for the most part, COVID prices are gone, and now sellers need to catch up with the new reality.
I bet you didn’t expect Pintos to become collectable. This slab of malaise era austerity may have risen to fame thanks to fuel system intrusion in rear end collisions, but don’t let the banter get you down. This classic’s in surprisingly nice shape, features a four-speed manual transmission, and shows just 63,000 miles on its five-digit odometer. Is it possible this thing’s rolled around? Perhaps, although given how unrepentantly terrible cars of the 1970s were, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re looking at a low mileage car.
Sure, we’re not looking at a concours condition car here, with damage to the rear bumper, various dents, surface corrosion underneath, some light corrosion peeking out from behind the chrome sill panel trims, and a missing storage compartment in the console, but this is a Pinto. Don’t expect perfection, but do expect a whole lot of love.
This Pinto even comes with a Marti Report, a surprising piece of enthusiast documentation more commonly sought for Broncos, Mustangs, and the like. Johnnie Harper Motors in Wheatridge, Colo. in April of 1979, and actually sold at the end of that month. The spec is thoroughly unremarkable, but that’s part of the appeal. There’s joy in bygone mundanity, and these were disposable cheap cars, so few survived. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw a 1979 to 1980 model with the rectangular headlights, so this is one anomalous survivor worth keeping around. Besides, this thing’s the sixth-cheapest Pinto ever sold on Bring A Trailer (that felt wrong to type), so I’d consider it well-bought.
Look, I wouldn’t recommend a B5 Audi S4 to anyone, especially considering the litany of reliable cheap cars out there, but I can’t deny that these cars are a hoot. With a punchy 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that has massive tuning potential, all-wheel-drive, a six-speed manual gearbox, and a footprint smaller than that of a new Toyota Corolla sedan, this city-sized rocketship is a massively overlooked European performance car.
This particular example is a fairly standard silver-on-black spec, but it boasts just 82,961 miles on the clock and a host of recent maintenance jobs. The major timing belt service was completed in 2020, the rear main seal and oil cooler were done this year, and it got new dampers, new upper control arms, and new tires all within the past few years.
Mind you, this B5 S4 has some stories. It’s a theft recovery from 2002, has lived in New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, and reportedly has signs of oil in its cooling system. However, all B5 S4s are somewhat problematic, and this is a clean, low-mileage chassis that someone could have a ton of fun with. For $8,500, it seems worth the dice roll, and is still among the cheaper S4s ever sold on Bring A Trailer.
These days, it seems like Volkswagen camper vans are for trustafarians and wealthy collectors. However, not every Volkswagen van commands blue chip pricing, and someone absolutely stole this EuroVan MV on Bring A Trailer for the incredibly low price of $4,444. You can barely buy a decent Camry made in this century for that sort of money, let alone a freaking Volkswagen van with a table. As far as cheap cars go, this one’s pretty ace.
Granted, the EuroVan MV isn’t the whole nine yards of campervan. There’s no pop-up roof here, no upper-deck bed, no sink, and no stove. To that I say, no problem. It’s still incredibly spacious, has one folding bed, and is perfect for camping out at music festivals. Build quality is far above what you get in most American conversion vans, so if you can live with the brain matter grey interior, a EuroVan MV will satisfy your big weekend out needs.
However, this is still a cheap, used European vehicle. For a price this low, expect a few minor problems. This EuroVan isn’t mechanically perfect, with a P1624 code store on the onboard diagnostic system that warrants further investigation with VCDS or another Volkswagen-specific scan tool. However, this van still runs and drives, and so long as you aren’t in a state that does emissions testing, you should be able to drive this van for at least a bit. There’s also the more minor problem of the shift knob being haggard, but that should be trivial.
I’ll give you a second to pick yourself up off the floor. Not only is this 1986 Pontiac Fiero the world’s least convincing Ferrari Enzo replica, this abhorrent crumbling pile of fiberglass is actually famous. This thing has been floating around the internet since eBaum’s World was popular, the YouTubers at The Car Bros snuck this thing into The Quail, arguably the most prestigious event at Monterey Car Week, which is already the most prestigious automotive event in America. As soon as I saw this had happened, I cackled. It’s glorious, glorious trolling in the best possible way.
The list of flaws is as long as it is obvious. The listing on Cars & Bids claims a “Panel gap fitment issue on exterior,” which should be obvious to anyone with at least one semi-functional eye. However, things get more comedic from there. Apparently, the “taillights do not illuminate when the headlights are on” and various wires are exposed, so who knows what wiring shitshow lives beneath that coat of red paint?
The Fierri still has five days to go on its auction, but it’s hammered on Cars & Bids before for a reasonable $5,001, and I doubt that this thing has appreciated much over the past three years. At minimum, it’s a fabulous conversation piece, a rolling example of cringe comedy. As a bonus, many Pontiac Fiero parts are still fairly easy to get, so this thing shouldn’t be a nightmare to keep going.
It’s All Relative
Of course, cheap cars aren’t the only bargains to be had. It’s also worth considering the litany of cars that hammer on internet auction sites for competitive prices. For instance, this manual 996 Porsche 911 cabriolet recently hammered for $18,246 on Bring A Trailer, a good deal compared to what I’m seeing on major used car classified sites. Sure, the seller claimed that a clutch replacement was due in the near future, but with good 996 cabriolets going for noticeably north of $20,000, there’s some wiggle room here to do a clutch and enjoy a fantastic car.
Over on Cars & Bids, this 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake S sold for $35,500, which is near the bottom of the pricing spectrum for XF Sportbrakes listed on used car classified ad websites. Sure, the market for longroof Jaguars is small, but considering how the enthusiasts seeking these cars are willing to look high and low, this black-on-black example is well-bought.
The bottom line? Even if you don’t live in a mansion or have a ton of money to blow on a top-grade collector car, don’t write off the online auctions. Depending on what you’re shopping for, there may still be cheap cars out there. Just remember, don’t buy cars to speculate, buy them because you enjoy them. Hobbies don’t have to make money, and there’s so much joy to be had in losing the hustle mentality.
(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer, Cars & Bids)
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