Home » Seven Cheap Cars I’d Be Tempted To Buy Right Now If Enough People Became Autopian Members

Seven Cheap Cars I’d Be Tempted To Buy Right Now If Enough People Became Autopian Members

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Crap crap crap. I’m trying to sell some of my cars off, but my right pointer finger can’t help but hover above my laptop’s “F” key. My body seemingly needs to visit Facebook Marketplace; the problem with this habit is that it tempts me with incredible, dirt-cheap cars — and you know what? Incredible + dirt cheap is a duo that kicks my ass every time. In an attempt to keep that boot-print from my arsecheek, I’ve decided that, instead of buying these cars I recently found for sale, I’m going to write about them so that one of you poor, poor bastards can snipe them from under me. Seriously, I need you to do this for me.

I realize that we here at The Autopian are a bit heavy on “cars found for sale” content, but there’s just so much good stuff that found its way to my computer screen lately, and I’d be a fool not to share it all with you. I figure, if I’m gonna bother all my friends and coworkers with this stuff, I may as well bother you all, too. We’re friends, right?

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Honestly, if enough of you sign up to be Autopian members, stupid ideas like these could become a more-frequent-than-ever reality (they will happen anyway, let’s be honest), and though that’s bad for my social life, it has the potential to be good reading. Anyway, let’s start with the big one: A FREAKING RENAULT FUEGO:

(Click the subheadings to see the listings)

1983 Renault Fuego: :$2,900

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It’s a Fuego Turbo, not just a lowly naturally aspired model. This little French-engineered car came to the U.S. after the Renault/AMC alliance of 1979 — an alliance that ultimately failed, in part because of cars like this.

The Fuego, outfitted with a boosted 1.6-liter four cylinder and a five-speed manual was apparently a decent car when new, but, like many Renaults, grew a reputation for less-than-optimal reliability. Here’s American Motors’ last CEO, Joe Cappy, talking about the “No-Go Fuego,” courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society’s interview:

And the year before the Renault Alliance, we brought in an export called the “Renault Fuego,” which was a cute car — a 2-plus-2, had a turbo engine, sold for 8500 without it maybe 10,000 with it — is was a really a kind of car that you’d like to have. The only problem is that is had a terrible quality problem. And the quality problem — it would stop. There was some kind of an electrical malfunction and, if you were lucky, you got it to the side of the road. This was happening — you know, our dealers were so excited; they were selling them like crazy. And we were increasing the number we were going to import, but then, everything stopped. We didn’t have the internet, but word got out, and nobody would step up and buy the car. Well, my boss couldn’t understand why we couldn’t sell this attractive, sporty, well-powered, great value vehicle. And he was getting pressure from Paris: “Why are you not moving these and why don’t you want to take more product?”

[…]

Correct. The Renault Fuego. And, finally, my sales manager piped up and said, “José, you’re right. This vehicle has all those attributes. It is one of the finest, best-looking products — sitting on the side of the road, all over the United States. Our dealers now call it ‘The No-Go Fuego.’” (Chuckles)

Yikes. I still want it, though.

1950 Dodge Meadowbrook: $4,500

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Woh this thing is clean. A Texas vehicle, this old Dodge features a solid body, decent black paint, and a classy interior!:

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This dash is nice!:

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Though the body and interior are pretty, it’s unclear how bad the engine issues are, as the seller says the vehicle has a “head gasket problem or maybe worse.” Yikes. We talkin’ a cracked block? Rusted-out cylinders? Who knows. How hard would it be to find a replacement 3.8-liter L-head (flathead) motor? I’m unsure. Here’s the seller’s full description:

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1950 Dodge Meadowbrook, flat head 6 and standard trans, body is very good, no rust, interior is fair. It is not running, has head gasket problem or maybe worse. I bought it to fix but haven’t had time, has clean title, can be seen in Lucas Tx 75002.

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I think that’s a hell of a deal regardless of engine troubles, but that’s coming from someone with Michigan-Mind.

1965 Jeep Wagoneer: $7,200

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I realize it’s hardly cheap at $7,200, but it’s an early Wagoneer with a Rhino grille! It’s pure class. Here’s the seller’s description:

1965 Jeep Wagoneer 327-V8 Vigilante, 3-speed on the column,power steering, AC. Back window works as it should. I bought the car a couple of years ago from the original owners and was told the mileage is actual (53535.0). Has the original washer bag under hood, all lights work including the dome light as well as the horn and wipers. All the glass is good. New/Replaced: Tires Brake Master Cylinder Carburetor with electric choke Plugs Plug Wires Electric Fuel Pump Alternator I have most of the original parts that were replaced. The body only has surface rust. I have no seen any rust trough on the body but the floors do need to be replaced. I covered with license plates, I like it so I was going to leave it that way. Let know if you have any questions. I have a clear title in my name

Under 54,000 miles? Three-speed on the column? V8? Come on — just look at that three-piece front bumper, those dogdishes on the inside and headlights on the outside, and that tall and narrow grille. It’s almost perfect, despite needing a new rear bumper:

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It’s not clear how well it runs and drives, but the way the listing is written, it seems like it does? All I know is: I want it.

A Brown 1980 Toyota Celica: $5,000

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I know some of you will see the 448,976 alleged miles on the odometer as a bit of a bummer, especially when attached to that $5,000 price tag, but look at how nice the brown paint looks in these pictures! Five grand for a stickshift Celica?

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And look at the wheels; this thing is brown-on-brown! And we all know the classic car-buying advice passed down from the car-gods:  “If the car is brown, don’t turn it down.”

(Unrelated: Look at the Forest Green Jeep ZJ in the background with a Flame Red door. Nice).

1992 Isuzu Trooper: $3,900

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You can’t tell me you haven’t always liked these things. I do prefer the boxier first-gens, but it was the early 90s when the second-gen Trooper came out, and everyone was ditching sealed-beam headlights, installing plastic bumper covers, rounding hoods and fenders, raking back windshields, and adding tumblehome. Honestly, that jump from the mid 80s to the mid 80s was massive, styling wise, and really set a lot of trends that continue to this day.

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Still, while I like the old boxy Trooper, this thing here ain’t bad. $3,900 for a five-speed?

A Manual BMW X3: $5,000

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I’ve always loved the idea of a manual transmission luxury car; why do I have to suck up cloth seats and no options just because I want to row my own gears? It’s unfair, really. And though the X3 — especially this X3 — is far from an S-Class Mercedes, its cabin ain’t bad. Check it out:

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Our BMW expert, Thomas Hundal just told me “M54B25, manual gearbox, relatively low spec. It doesn’t seem like a terrible idea,” before warning me that I’d need to do a cooling system refresh, just in case. The 185,000 miles on the clock aren’t nothing, but if I could snag this rare 2.5-liter machine for $4,500 I’d have a car in my fleet that was almost respectable.

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TWO Postal Jeeps: $1,000

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I have to admit that I’ve missed my old DJ-5 Dispatcher since the day I sold it in 2020, shortly before it was apparently crashed and then sent to be crushed at a junkyard. It’s honest and simple; it does a great job of carrying lots of stuff while remaining small and nimble; its AMC inline-six, Chrysler 727 transmission, and Dana 44 rear axle were stout; its ride quality was better than you’d think; and above all, it was just so damn charming. I mean, just look at that little guy for sale up there for $1,000. I need that!

And what’s great is that it comes with a second postal Jeep absolutely free!:

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The charm-per-dollar ratio is off the charts.

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All images: sellers

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Dave
Dave
1 year ago

@DavidTracy-
You need to remember that you’re about to be living in CA, the land of draconian emissions regulations. So no post – 1974 cars that you are not ABSOLUTELY SURE you have all of the CORRECT and FUNCTIONING emissions gear. So “NO” to the Fuego, X3, Celica, and unfortunately the Trooper. The Postal Jeeps are a question, since neither you nor the ad mentions their vintage. The Meadowbrook and the Wagoneer are still viable options, and I think we all know which you’d prefer (three on the tree).

Toyec
Toyec
1 year ago

Oh yes, a Fuego !!!
By the way, talking about Renaults : I never heard about the Dodge Meadowbrook until today, but now it is cristal-clear to me that it was the inspiration for the Renault Frégate. See by yourselves : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_Fr%C3%A9gate

Myk El
Myk El
1 year ago

I imagine everyone that would be interested in possibly owning a manual X3 probably visits this site and you did the seller a big favor linking it.

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

I suggest this Amigo over the trooper, just because of the removable roof piece and…. California https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/16851a21-c9bb-4694-895d-7b35951e26bc/

Also once you get to LA, consider this Avanti. Easy enough to fix GM drive train, yet it is a big enough pile for you to actually want it. https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/c97d51d3-bd5c-4753-9958-afea11cc4c72/

David Smith
David Smith
1 year ago

“We’re friends, right”
Lists an ’83 Fuego as something I should buy. No, we are not friends.
Dodge Meadowbrook?
OK, we’re not exactly enemies.
Wagoneer?
Three on the tree? You’re getting warmer.
Celica?
Whatever.
Isuzu Trooper?
A seeming rust free Trooper in Michigan? If I lived in Michigan. I’d grab this up.
X3?
I’d just like to know what “185,000 on the cock” means?
2 Postal Jeeps?
I talked to my regular mail carrier about the LLVs and the only good thing he had to say about them was “I’ve never had one catch on fire while driving one”.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  David Smith

‘I’d just like to know what “185,000 on the cock” means?’

I think he’s just calling BMW owners AND vehicles dicks. Usually, people just say it about the owners.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 year ago

David. The Dodge. Buy the Dodge! If the engine is lunched that’s almost a bonus – set up a Texas Autopian Reader Event where a bunch of us descend on the Dallas suburbs and we 5.7 hemi-swap the thing over the course of a week and get you on the road. Then you could leave all your new snooty LA friends wondering “how can he afford to drive an Icon Derelict?” 😉

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

I forgot to mention in my previous comment – the site improvements are real and noticeable, thank you! But now that the comments are way longer (A Good Change!) it would be really nice to have the ‘Post Comment’ text box at the top instead of the bottom.
Also, I’ve put an Autopian membership on my Xmas list this year. Whoever decided to make them giftable – great idea!

HeyCharger
HeyCharger
1 year ago

That Dodge is beautiful! I’m far from an expert on that era, but that engine would likely be the same six as the trucks and others from the era.

Also a prime candidate for an engine swap at that price, if it were here in Australia I’d consider maybe a Ford crossflow six, sure a Hemi six would be the obvious choice but all my other classics already have them installed!

That’s exactly what I’m looking for as my next project, a 30s to 50s sedan I can mildly hot-rod and update the brakes and suspension to turn into a long-distance cruiser. Something a bit different to my Valiant Charger and Valiant Ute.

I’ve had Valiant sedans before but always end up moving them on because they just feel too similar to the Charger + two extra doors to be interesting to me in their own right.

Ultimate for me in this category would be a late 30s Packard, maybe a One-Twenty. Did actually see one in an alley in a small town about 2 hrs from me this year, really should ask around next time I’m passing through!

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
1 year ago

Oh God David’s gonna blow all our money. Please tell me someone else is in charge of the slush fund

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
1 year ago

*ctrl-F*
*mazda*
Sees 0/0

SMH, David, if you’re going to sell mostly everything and start fresh, it’s time to finally get that SA/FB you’ve always wanted. Probably some nice rust free ones in California!

Otter
Otter
1 year ago

…or for $500 you get THREE postal jeeps.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
1 year ago

I’ll save you the cost, how about you come help me throw the seals in my D100’s transmission so it will retain fluid for a change? You’ll get the joy of cursing a lot at an old vehicle while cramped under it and covered in rust without the commitment of ownership!

Really I’m just looking for a way to not have to do it myself or paying someone way too much money to change $21 worth of seals.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago
Reply to  Cool Dave

Axle seals aren’t bad to do man, you got this!

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Axle seals probably aren’t, the ones I need to do are the two shift shaft seals on the transmission, probably the pan gasket and mayyyybe the neutral safety switch. Hard to tell where all the damn fluid is going with how messy it is so I need to clean it all and cover my bases at the same time!

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Careful, don’t be so eager to wrench that you cut into the $6000 package here.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

Shhh let me get a workaround first! I’ve never paid for a job with inconvenience before!

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

North Texas.. feel free to swing through on the way to California!

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
1 year ago

Wait, is Autopian Membership just one big scam for David Tracy to restart his shit heap collection in California?

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 year ago

I can’t speak for everyone but that’s why I signed up for it.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

I certainly frickin’ hope so.

Nathan Williams
Nathan Williams
1 year ago

It always surprises me how there appears to a lack of REALLY cheap cars in the USA. Thinking <$800 stuff. Though thinking about it, they're less common here now too (the UK).
Also, "mid 80s to mid 80s" (Isuzu) and brilliantly "The 185,000 miles on the cock aren’t nothing, but if I could snag this" (X3)

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 year ago

I owned a couple of R5s and one Fuego- it actually ran pretty well- the electrical system was a mess and the sunroof opened one day and the motor caught on fire, that was the end of that one. I would run away from that thing

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Sklooner

IDK, this sounds like a ringing endorsement to me.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
1 year ago

You’ve got to love when dealers leave the clean carpet covers in the driver’s wheel well.
“No wear and tear under here! Just protecting our nice, perfectly clean and intact carpets with this big, brown paper!”

Cayde-6
Cayde-6
1 year ago

Get the Dodge Meadowbrook.

Use it for an EV conversion.

Unclewolverine
Unclewolverine
1 year ago

As an actual rural carrier, someone needs to buy me those jeeps so I can put them back into the service the AMC gods intended!

Fruit Snack
Fruit Snack
1 year ago

The Wagoneer is awesome and you would just have to fabricate a floor for it apparently. The Dodge would be more interesting if you did something like swap a diesel into it. The Celica would just work and look cool.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago

Gimmie dat “no event” option for $50 and I’ll contribute to your addiction. Maybe a Vinyl sticker, NOT a bumpersticker (barf)

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I feel there should be a service-barter option for membership.

If your proposal of skills or simple hard labor is accepted, you’re in, but be ready to go. And you’d also get the option to add your own sticker to the vehicle you worked on.

Fuhrman16
Fuhrman16
1 year ago

I’ve been eyeing up that Fuego since the original ad for it popped up nearly two weeks ago. Surely there’s no way buying a ratty, obscure turbo’d French car could go wrong, right? After all, the ad claims it runs and drives. I don’t see any fail with this plan.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago

David, I’ve noticed that there tends to be an intersection between Jeep owners and Buick owners. I’m not entirely sure why, but maybe it’s because they’re legacy American brands with very honest, earnest vehicles. I really wish I could embed a picture of this for you, but this 1940 Buick Super 8 is gorgeous, clean, and complete* for only $6600!

https://www.bismanonline.com/mcintosh_sd/1940_buick_super_8

*just add keys and title

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I can’t believe I forgot about that, you’re right, the Dauntless is an awesome engine and brings two good things together.

I’ve owned a car with nearly ever engine configuration out there (including an inline 5), but I’m remiss to say I’ve never enjoyed a rotary or a straight 8 yet. If I had to guess a straight 8 is like an old W123 powertrain. Low on horsepower, but smooth, steady power delivery, with the ability to hold it on the highway all day. It delivered it’s peak 203 Ft-Lbs of torque at a whopping 1000 RPM.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

One nice thing about those old flathead straight 8s is you can literally change the head gasket in 2-3 hours. Like, get off work on a winter day and take a test drive before dark-even with beer & other handicaps involved.

Iain Delaney
Iain Delaney
1 year ago

Dear God, you do not want a Fuego; they were crap brand-new. My mother was going to buy one and my father and I had to talk her out of it. Aside from the cloth sunroof that would be awful in the rain and snow, the spare tire is mounted under the rear, like some SUVs. It would be hell to get at in any kind of bad weather.
Mom ended up with a VW Scirocco Wolfsburg, a much nicer car that lasted a lot longer than the estimated lifespan of the Fuego.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  Iain Delaney

Wow…those are two of my favorite oddball coupes from that time period. And as much as young me was beguiled by the Fuego (loved the high-trim wheels) and its indefinable French cool, I sensed the Scirocco was likely the better bet in my mental fantasy car roster.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
1 year ago
Reply to  Iain Delaney

I remember we used to call them the “Guano” when they came out.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Iain Delaney

I LOVE CRAP THO

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

Counterpoint: Autopian purchases an actual nice, well sorted (but notoriously finicky) car and has to keep it that way. Like a ’80s Ferrari or something.

“Hey slow down, back that up more carefully…you know how much those taillights cost?!”

“Just got back from Pep Boys and they didn’t have the wiper blades. Said it wasn’t even in the system.”

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

So you are saying that Adrian needs to write some stories about keeping his Mondial running?
Not a bad idea.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

That was EXACTLY the model I was thinking of.

But really anything that’s a lesser-loved model from a famous European manufacturer…so reasonably affordable but extra-challenging to keep up for any number of reasons. A Porsche 914 would do fine too.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
1 year ago

Does Jason or maybe Beau have a program setup to help you move? Will they ship you some rusted part or assembly and have you clean it and rebuild it, then ship it back to them, only to then receive another so you can do it again?
Just how are you going to weather the storm of DTs coming your way? Should you ship the Nash out to you so you can wrench on it, just to ship it back to California?

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr.Asa

Sidenote: I wish I could get my avatar working. I’ve tried like three times

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr.Asa

Yeah, when I click on Account to see what’s up with mine it just takes me to the “enter your email” link, but I already successfully did that yesterday.

I don’t want to log out and back in in case something is amiss, but I also miss seeing Clark Gable when I post.

I saw the “create an avatar” link in the success page, but I figured it would bring over my old one when the comments are moved, so I closed that.

Cristiana Yambo
Cristiana Yambo
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr.Asa

I was having problems with my avatar too, but I did get it fixed. First you need to create a gravatar account if you don’t already have one. Then once that’s setup, if the account is the same email address that you use to login here you are all set. If it isn’t, then you have to add that email address to the gravatar account.
This is where I was having problems, once that was setup my avatar still wasn’t showing. I kept reloading and nothing. Turns out I just had to wait, by the next day my avatar was working fine.

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
1 year ago

Ew.

I don’t want a gravatar account. I already have an Autopian account.

I’ll just be blank for a bit and hope they redesign the redesign.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

So, you’re feeling the itch, right? The itch to fix a car? Well just listen to Johnny C, my friend. Fix it one piece at a time.
Have Beau box up a cylinder head. Lap the valves while you’re typing up your next article or editing the next Project Cactus vid. Get Jason to send you a box of carburetors (expert mode: they’re already disassembled and all the parts are rolling around inside the box) rebuild them and send ’em back.

Maybe you can solicit parts from Autopian readers above a certain membership level to help stave off the darkness!

We’ll get you through the shakes, you just have to make sure you don’t hit that “Buy It Now” button.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
1 year ago

Literally yesterday morning, I sprung for a membership, then a CEL showed up on my only car yesterday afternoon. After a scan this afternoon, I may be in the market for a cheap daily! Maybe you could steal a page from the old place and do a “find me a car” feature, but much cheaper and less reasonable in its advice.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 year ago
Reply to  David Tracy

A side-effect of membership is that you’re going to install CELs in my cars? Go ahead and hook them up to be on all the time, as that’ll save a lot of redundant effort.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago

Wouldn’t even have to be consistently cheaper cars. I’d love to see what everyone comes up with at all sorts of price points. “I need to replace my Geo Metro for $2800” and “My dealer can’t get me a C8. What should I buy?” would both be great.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

As long as at least a couple of the suggestions are complete lateral moves out of the part of the brain that thinks “what’s the worst that can happen” I’m down.

Drew
Drew
1 year ago

Oh, yeah, I assume the C8 suggestions would be absolutely ridiculous and unlikely to be what any C8 buyer would be looking for. I also think that something like they did for the double bass player would be great, so they could be genuinely helpful and borderline abusive in the same set of suggestions.

https://www.theautopian.com/help-me-figure-out-what-car-my-double-bass-playing-friend-should-buy/

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

(If any of you decisionmakers are reading this and decide to start this regularly, PLEASE make sure to allow each contributor to give at least one goofy and one reasonable answer. You all have both in you, and I don’t want to see any of you always stuck with the goofy one OR always having to play it straight.)

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