Welcome back to Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness! As you know, I love picking up dirt-cheap cars, motorcycles, and campers, and then telling you lovely readers about the dumb things that I do with them. I’m always looking for the next deal, but most of the time, I’m left empty-handed. At the same time, I love building a list of cars, trucks, and motorcycles that I would buy if I had the money.
Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness turns the long list of vehicles I’d love to buy into something for you all to enjoy. Some of them are cheap and some of them are not. Some of the vehicles I find are purely window shopping for everyone other than a collector like Beau or Myron.
Actually, you know what? We’re kicking Beau and Myron out this week. Oh yeah, this week we’re doing vehicles for $6,500 or less! Everything on this week’s list could be purchased without a massive dent in your bank account. I’ve even managed to find some imports, too!
1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster – $4,900
The price limitations of this entry mean we aren’t going to find any pristine classics. But you can still find some vintage iron worth driving!
As Hagerty writes, immediately following World War II, Chevrolet restarted car production to meet high car demand. In 1946, the Fleetmaster replaced the Chevrolet Special Deluxe as the brand’s middle-level vehicle. In the late 1940s, Chevy’s line separated themselves from each other with brightwork and interior upgrades. The Fleetmaster was available in a variety of body styles including a coupe, a sedan, a convertible, a fastback sedan, and a woodie wagon.
This Fleetmaster sedan is said to be an original survivor. If you’re into patina, it seems this car has just the right amount of it. Power comes from a 216.5 cubic inch Blue Flame straight six-rated at 90 HP. That’s backed by a manual transmission. Rust is present all over the vehicle’s underbody, some of it is more advanced, but I bet it can still be saved. The car comes with a new battery, exhaust, fuel tank, fuel pump, and fuel lines.
It’s $4,900 from the seller in Port Charlotte, Florida with 82,000 miles.
1966 Honda CA95 Benly – $1,000
Honda is a powerhouse in the motorcycle world. The Super Cub isn’t just the best-selling motorcycle ever, but the best-selling motor vehicle of all time. Honda is still selling them, too! Honda’s success is global. For example, in 1966, Honda had been in America for only eight years. Yet, it controlled 63 percent of America’s light motorcycle market.
Two of the motorcycles that helped rocket Honda to success are the Dream and the Benly. The latter motorcycle began production in 1959 and the name Benly? It means convenient in Japanese. The motorcycle rode on a welded pressed-steel backbone frame. This motorcycle is a CA95, which means it’s sporting a 154.6cc parallel twin making 16.5 HP. Honda’s Benly variants are smaller than the 305cc CA77 Dream but look like the bigger bikes. Thus, some called the Benly the “Baby Dream.” A leading-link front fork sits up front while a swingarm with a twin shock takes care of the rear. Claimed weight is 246 pounds. Top speed is around 90 mph.
The seller for this CA95 says it’s original, save for the red seat. The motorcycle runs and rides, but could use new tires. Its electric starter also doesn’t work, but the kickstart works great. Sounds like an easy winter project for just $1,000, or ride it as is! The motorcycle is located in Friendship, New York with 11,000 miles.
(Update: Fixed hyperlinks, they will now go to the motorcycle!)
2000 BMW Z3 2.8 – $5,995
The BMW Z3 launched in 1995 as BMW’s modern take on a classic roadster, from BMW:
The body of the BMW Z3 was designed by Joji Nagashima, who also created the lines of the BMW 5 Series E39 or the 3 Series E90. The Z3 continued the characteristic formula of BMW roadsters: long nose, short rear, very reduced overhangs and a rearward driving position, almost on the rear axle.
Without a doubt, the Z3 was a worthy successor, in compact size, to the legendary BMW 507 of the fifties. The design of the Z3 was able to perfectly combine modern and daring shapes with classic details such as the side gills. Today, the BMW Z3 design is considered a timeless classic aesthetic and is a roadster with fan clubs around the world.
Z3 production began in 1995 at BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It was the first BMW to be produced outside of Europe and the automaker says 297,087 units were built.
The top Z3 would be the hardcore Z3 M, but we don’t have the budget for one of those today. Here’s a BMW Z3 that should still be plenty of fun. It has a 2.8-liter straight-six making 190 HP and 206 lb-ft of torque. That reaches the rear wheels through a manual transmission. This particular example has nice dark green paint and a tan interior. It’s $5,995 from the seller in Charlotte, North Carolina with 84,910 miles.
1985 Saab 900 Turbo – $5,000
Amazingly, the Saab 900 had a production run of 20 years, from 1978 to 1998, though the first generation 900 was superseded for the last 4 years by the second-generation model, which was essentially a re-skinned Vauxhall/Opel Vectra. Just as remarkable is how little the 900 changed visually, though successive development of its 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine brought more power and higher performance from the base model’s single-carb aspiration, through twin-carbs, fuel-injection, turbos, intercoolers and a 16-valve engine.
The Turbo model was available right from the start, and while turbos are commonplace today, it was a bold and unexpected move for a prestige car maker in a mainstream model. Turbochargers had a reputation for wild performance and fragility, but in the 900 Turbo Saab developed a svelte, fast and characterful car with great durability.
The 900 has aeronautical cues in its design, including a deeply curved wraparound front windscreen and a curved dash with controls placed according to their frequency of use. It was, and still isn’t, like other cars. The transmission is mounted under the engine, for example, driven by a crank at the front of the motor rather than the rear.
This Saab 900 Turbo convertible sports a 2.0-liter four making 160 HP and 188 lb-ft torque. That reaches the front wheels through a manual transmission. The seller says they bought it from a pharmacist to replace a 1991 Saab Turbo that got stolen, only to be found later. They kept this 1985 900 Turbo convertible until now, and the seller has decided it’s time to let it go. Apparently, this car has a story somehow relating to the imploded OceanGate sub, but that’s for the buyer to find out.
Otherwise, the car is said to run and drive well. It’s $5,000 from the seller in the Seattle neighborhood of Greenlake with 259,060 miles.
1950 Dodge Wayfarer – $6,500
In 1949, Dodge released its first freshly designed models after World War II. The new models got snazzy names and among them was the Wayfarer, Dodge’s first Detroit-built roadster since 1931. The Wayfarer represented the entry-level of the Dodge line and it featured body styles including two-door sedans, two-door coupes, and two-door roadsters.
Early roadsters didn’t have windows that rolled down. Instead, the plastic windows detached and stored in door pockets. Later models had rolling windows. Power comes from a 230 cubic inch six making 103 HP.
This 1950 Wayfarer Roadster was restored in the 1990s and features rolling windows. The seller indicates the paint and the convertible top were replaced during that restoration in the 1990s. It runs and drives, but appears to be missing some interior pieces. The vehicle is $6,500 from the seller in Moriah, New York.
1999 Volkswagen Lupo 3L – $1,270
Before I continue with this lovely little fuel sipper, it was constructed sometime in 1999 and first registered that December. Officially, you’ll have to store this car in Germany for about a year before it can come over. An experienced importer should be able to help with that.
What you’re looking at here is a car that is technically linked to the development of the original Smart Fortwo. See, when Nicolas Hayek and Swatch partnered up with an automaker to make a trendy city car, it initially chose Volkswagen. Wolfsburg was developing the Swatchmobile when Ferdinand Piëch became CEO in 1993. Piëch ultimately canned the Swatch project in favor of the development of the Lupo 3L.
As an archived Lupo 3L review notes, Lupo 3L development started in the early 1990s when Europe challenged its automakers to create a vehicle that consumed around three liters of fuel per 100 kilometers. Piëch reportedly became obsessed with building a 3-liter car and like other famous Piëch projects, devoted much of Volkswagen’s resources to making it a reality. Apparently, the idea of a 3-liter car was so prevalent in 1990s Europe that the term “3-liter car” was a trendy marketing buzzword.
The Volkswagen Lupo was introduced in 1998. A year later, Piëch achieved his mission of creating the world’s first production 3-liter car with the Lupo 3L. In an explainer Self-Study document, Volkswagen explains that some 80 percent of the parts of the standard Lupo had to be changed to create the 3L.
Volkswagen says it met the 3L goals by cutting weight, improving drivetrain efficiency, reducing rolling resistance, and by making the city car more aerodynamic. To do this, the Lupo 3L was put on an extreme diet. The windows were made thinner while the hood, doors, and wings were made out of aluminum. The hatch was made of an aluminum and magnesium composite concoction. Seats were given aluminum frames and even the vehicle’s insulation was given a weight cut. Volkswagen further says that joints were riveted like they were on the Audi A8 and laser welding was used to create higher quality joints. In other words, if it could save weight but still make a strong car, Volkswagen did it.
As a result, the Lupo 3L weighs just 830 kg (1,829 lb), 150 kg (286 lb) less than a regular diesel Lupo. To put that into perspective, this thrifty four-seat city car weighs as much as a smaller Smart Fortwo.
Other improvements include a thinner sheet steel body redesigned to be more aerodynamic and the development of a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine with an aluminum block, pump injection system, turbo, and charge air cooler. Yep, VW even shaved off weight from the engine! VW also gave the Lupo 3L a Tipronic transmission with lightweight gears and tuned for fuel economy. All of this and more resulted in a car that achieved 2.99l/100km, or 78.6 US mpg. That little diesel engine makes 41 HP in eco mode and 61 HP in sport mode.
This 1999 Lupo 3L has covered 376,000 kilometers (233,635 miles) and still looks pretty good. The seller says the magnesium wheels are in good condition and the car itself is in overall good nick. Noted imperfections are some rust on the wheel wells and rockers that were replaced at some point in the past. Apparently, the car still passes MOT, so it doesn’t sound like a total crapbox yet. It’s the equivalent of $1,270 from the seller in Fulda, Germany.
1993 Renault Twingo – $2,754
Spending well south of $10,000 doesn’t lock you out of being able to import something fun from another country. Though, sadly, you’ll spend at least a couple of thousand dollars getting your cheap Renault Twingo to America.
I’ll let the excellent Rex Bennett of the Lane Motor Museum explain what you’re looking at here:
It debuted at the 1992 Paris Motor Show as Renault’s newest city car, the smallest passenger car class defined by the European Commission. The name Twingo is a portmanteau of twist, swing, and tango, which are all dance styles that did not originate in France. I suppose Renault Cancan didn’t sound as marketable.
At its launch in April 1993, the Twingo was fitted with a 57hp, 1.2 liter overhead valve four-cylinder, coupled to a five-speed manual. An automated manual came a few months later under the “Easy” trim level (how delightful!). The Twingo has arguably one of the friendliest faces of the 1990s, right up there with the first generation Dodge/Plymouth Neon. The rear of the car is a simple affair, with one rear backup light in the upper right taillight cluster, and an unusual-to-me bumper-mounted license plate light that shines up onto the plate, as opposed to down from above.
This 1993 model comes with the same 1.2-liter four pumping out a cheerful 57 ponies to the front wheels. It’s backed by a five-speed manual and a wonderful interior pattern. While there are cheaper Twingos, I chose one that appeared to be in good condition in a cool color.
It’s €2,600 ($2,754) by the seller in France with the equivalent of 87,745 miles. If the car above is too expensive, I found one even cheaper. There’s a 1998 Twingo for €240 ($254) by Jet Cars BV in Rotterdam, Netherlands, with 162,450 miles.
1984 Dodge Rampage – $5,501
In decades past, Americans were able to buy their own coupé utility, a car-based pickup with a passenger compartment up front and a bed in the back. You may also know these vehicles by the term “ute.” As Hagerty writes, in the early days of the car you had vehicles like the Ford Model T, which you could buy as a truck or as a car. It would take until about the 1930s to combine the two into a single concept. In Australia, farmers wanted a vehicle that could do work during the week and go out on the town on the weekends. The result was the coupé utility, a sedan-based pickup. These types of vehicles flourished around the world for some time. By the 1980s, Ford had pulled out of this market, leaving behind the likes of General Motors, Subaru, and Volkswagen.
Starting in the 1982 model year, Dodge answered the demand for a ute by offering the Rampage, a coupé utility based on Chrysler’s L-body platform, and sharing parts with the Omni. It also gets the Omni’s carbureted 2.2-liter inline four making 84 HP and manual transmission. It boasted up to 29 mpg on the highway and a 1,145-pound payload rating. Production ended in 1984 after 37,401 units were produced.
The seller says nothing about the vehicle’s condition, instead, choosing to write a silly story. It’s $5,501 from the seller in Kennesaw, Georgia with 58,111 miles.
1986 Mercedes-Benz 300SDL – $5,000
Here’s an opportunity to own a luxurious 1980s Mercedes W126 with the torque and reliability of Mercedes diesel power.
As Autoweek explains, in 1978, Daimler set up two production lines in its Sindelfingen, West German facility for the S-Class. Multiple fuel crises of the 1970s pushed Mercedes to clean up its big cars. The W126 would weigh less than its predecessor and feature a more aerodynamic body with a coefficient of drag of 0.36. Mercedes also employed a high amount of high-strength steel, alongside giving the car a lower, sleeker profile.
(Correction: A sentence in an earlier version of this entry implied that Daimler set up two separate West Germany factories for the S-Class. I have clarified that such wasn’t the case.)
The 300SDL was introduced in 1986 and featured a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder turbodiesel. It’s making 148 HP and 201 lb-ft torque. Power wasn’t really the selling point of the SDL, but the fact that it rode on a 121.1-inch wheelbase and came in at 208.2 inches long.
The 300SDL was discontinued after 1987. In 1990, Mercedes introduced the 350SDL, which featured a diesel six bored out to 3.5 liters, but it punched out less power with 121 HP and 165 lb-ft torque. This example is said to run and drive fine but has defects in the form of blemishes in the paint, some minor rust, and a non-operational air-conditioner. It’s $5,000 from the seller in Auburn, Alabama with 187,618 miles.
That’s it for this week, thank you for reading!
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