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?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

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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Mike Gilheany
Mike Gilheany
11 months ago

I recently bought a 99 Isuzu Amigo 5spd, 4×4 and it has manual locking hubs. Hard top and soft top included. All for less than that Trooper. I checked the rear axle arm mount (the one frame issue spot) and it was good, some owner undercoated it and took great care of it. I just spent the evening wrenching with my 15y/o son replacing the OME Nitrocharger shocks out back. It came with a mild Aussie lift installed. It’s nearly perfect and we love it. For some reason the V6 sounds like a GTR between 3500-5500rpm. So fun. David you don’t need more vehicles. Give Mercedes a shot at poor life choice vehicle purchases and you can edit her articles or help her wrench on them.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
11 months ago

The Fuego is a great choice I wholeheartedly support (Fuegos deserve to be in the hands of people who can handle bi-weekly breakdowns). As for the Rodeo, I’m sure you can buy the cleanest Opel Frontera in Germany for a small fraction of that price.

LTDScott
LTDScott
11 months ago

Anyone notice the Sentra tail lights stuffed into the Celica?

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
11 months ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Holy smoke, Detective. Good eye!

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago

Of all these, my vote goes to the Fuego as it won’t bankrupt you with fuel costs if you try to use it regularly.

The Celica would be my first choice if it was a hatchback

Dave Horchak
Dave Horchak
11 months ago

When i looked at the picture of
The Celica i was like who buys a car with all the paint stripped off the hood? Then saw it is a reflection of the sky

Iwannadrive637
Iwannadrive637
11 months ago

Fuego. Electric conversion. Just spit balling here.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago

if you *don’t* buy that Renault Fuego, I’m cancelling my membership and disowning you forever

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
11 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Oh, shit, not departure threats already!

Don’t we have enough internet for those everywhere else???

Parsko
Parsko
11 months ago

I had a 90 Trooper, one of my few regrets (letting go) …

Parsko
Parsko
11 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

Oh, BTW, is the “Jalop” still an allowed standard here? The brown Celica ticks a few boxes, rigght? Or, is that a swear word in your “slack” channel?

Old Busted Hotness
Old Busted Hotness
11 months ago

You’re not fooling anyone, David. You’re going to buy them all anyway.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
11 months ago

Now that Dodge is a worthy starting point for an electrification project!

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
11 months ago
Reply to  OrigamiSensei

I was going to the same thing!

B3n
B3n
11 months ago

My money is on that old brown Celica. If I sign up now to fuel David’s addiction, then literally.
I drove a friend’s 1982 Celica coupe, with a measly 1.6 4-cylinder and a manual. It had a ton of miles yet it felt like a Swiss watch, everything was so smooth and precise. Oh and it was DIY-propane-converted and had an engine fire later on. Just normal Eastern Bloc things.
At that time, I drove an old Lada 2101 which was a very unrefined lousy thing to drive.
It is that Celica that started my love for Japanese cars.
That is not to say I don’t like other cars, but the 80s-90s Japanese cars have a special place in my heart.

Michael Tucker
Michael Tucker
11 months ago

I thought the Fuegos were really cool when the came out, so I’m going with that. Maybe you could transplant a modern 2-liter turbo. Next would be the Jeep, with a modern 2-liter turbo…

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
11 months ago

David, my problem was never with the postal Jeep, just the specific one you had. Seriously. That thing was a basket case death trap.

If you can get one good DJ5 with a straight and rust-free frame and intact floors out of the two, you have my blessing and my support. But only if you promise to do it right. And to least put a Holley TBI on the engine – none of us want 6 months of articles about trying to adjust the carb to get it past smog.

Tommy Helios
Tommy Helios
11 months ago

DT: ::snorts a line of powdered rust off the flat fender of a jeep:: hey, can I borrow $50?

Eric Gollihar
Eric Gollihar
11 months ago

You literally talked me out of joining with this post. I can’t support you buying a single car until you arrive in California with only one car and none in storage.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
11 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

No. No, you can’t. But that’s okay.

Jb996
Jb996
11 months ago
Reply to  Eric Gollihar

I bought membership, but can we make sure that Jason and Beau do not approve any “Project Car Funds” until David is in LA?!!

Rafael Ruivo
Rafael Ruivo
11 months ago

So we are doing this, eh? Using Ricardo Montalban as an avatar for the entire Autopian membership?
I say AWESOME, massive Escape from the planet of the apes here. And, oh, also saw him fighting Darth Vader or something, can’t really recall…

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Rafael Ruivo

Gleefully got sucked into the entire original series on Thanksgiving. Armando, we barely knew ye before you jumped out of a not-too-distant-futuristic window rather than give up Caesar.

Rafael Ruivo
Rafael Ruivo
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Wow, I’m happy to hear that! May I suggest Deep Space Nine next? Starts slow, but becomes epic! My wife struggled to get into it chronologically, but once she decided to start by watching The Way of the Warrior, there was no going back (except of going back to seasons 1-3 and actually watching it!)

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago
Reply to  Rafael Ruivo

I liked it back when it was on primetime in the ’90s, but I do definitely need to rewatch it in order now. I enjoyed the non-star-ship-based plot, and Avery Brooks is ALWAYS watchable.

Jim Warren
Jim Warren
11 months ago

Far be it for me to pooh, pooh anyone’s ideas of fun projects. I am afraid I spent way too many years wrenching on $50 Rabbits. It was a good time in my life. Alas, I have outgrown the desire to bark my knuckles, lay on the ground and go to bed with grease under my nails. Pick one and then tell your self you know better.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Warren

The door hinges weren’t as robust as certain other parts. When the pin holes started wallowing out, if the owner just kept slamming it harder as it sagged instead of installing the shimming kit, it just kept getting worse until you had to replace the hinges. They were welded, not bolted(at least on the door side for sure), so just replacing the door was the easiest solution. 8 or 10 years ago, there were many, many in my area with non-matching doors-I’d bet 1 in 10 of those on the road.

Or, maybe I just noticed them after I replaced my old gf’s door for this reason. Which led to two more: one shim kit and one replacement. Wasn’t confident enough in my welding skill to cut & replace the hinges on a vehicle I didn’t own.

Uninformed Fucknugget
Uninformed Fucknugget
11 months ago

I was going to wait until after the holidays to join up as a paying member because, instead of my usual holiday bonus my cheap ass company decided to give me a one year subscription to the jelly of the month club.
Knowing that my membership would help contribute directly towards David’s fleet of misfits has me reconsidering waiting.

Could we add a membership plan that allows us to “adopt” a project?
Cue the Sarah McLochlan sad song.
“For less then a cup of coffee per day at $10 a month you can adopt this poor abandoned rust heap and help save it from the crusher. With your contribution we will send you a photo of the neglected pile, along with David’s crazy road trip plans and absurd time line to accomplish the necessary repairs.”

Loudog
Loudog
11 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I would pay into that, provided the tippers get the first shot at buying the result.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
11 months ago

But it’s the gift that keeps on giving…

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
11 months ago

Really wanted the Wagoneer then I saw the Celica, and I want that more.

Also does that Trooper have Tacoma TRD Sport wheels?

JDE
JDE
11 months ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

I grew up in that exact Celica. I am not all that amazed the engine still runs, though that example looks to be either massively well cared for or more likely rebuilt in most ways. I would want it just for sentimental reasons. But I could never really see it as a Mustang competitor as it was often called.

Paul Brogger
Paul Brogger
11 months ago

Green ZJ with red door — Christmas edition?

Paul Brogger
Paul Brogger
11 months ago

You guys line up the benefits of membership, then offer a disincentive (enabling David’s irrational acquisitiveness)?

Chris Moore
Chris Moore
11 months ago

Out of this list, the Trooper is the only acceptable answer. They are all good choices but the Trooper is amazing. Might need a little TLC, but like DT’s little Tracker it’s bulltetproof.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
11 months ago

I like this idea, a sponsor David’s addiction. The Trooper and Jeep call out for a save.

You can then, hear me out, sell it when complete (enough?). The proceeds can go to charity or purchase a bit more expensive item. Eventually build the holy grail Autopian fleet.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
11 months ago

The Fuego: NO! NO! (whacks David on the nose with a newspaper) NO!

The Dodge; Bad Engine? That thing got a Hemi? Well it should….

The Wagoneer: Very meh on that one. I would take the Golden Eagle over that any day.

The Celica: Definitely crack pipe.

The Isuzu: The rust and the dent on the left rear bothers me, but these are very good vehicles.

The BMW. Yes on the cooling system refresh. You will also need to do all of the window regulators. Also, most BMWs are shite.

The Postal Jeeps: (shakes head) David, David, David….(shakes head again). Try something different instead. Just not that Fuego.

Chris Rice
Chris Rice
11 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I don’t get the French vehicle hate, they’re no less reliable than any other vehicle of the period. I got a free Peugeot 205 from a coworker who said it had a bad transmission, turned out a motor mount had broken and the transmission linkage couldn’t move. My buddy welded it up the night we got it home and I drove it for two solid years after that. It got zero maintenance and I abused the life out of that car. It even passed that Irish equivalent of the TUV test. Of all the shitboxes I’ve owned I think that was the best. Besides Fuego is a great name for a car, it’s worth buying for that alone.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris Rice

Having had some experience of Renaults of that vintage, can I just say: DO NOT BUY A FUEGO. Tho the funky transmission is an interesting thing. Seen it flipped 180 degrees and used in some weird mid engine kit cars. Buy the Dodge. If the engine’s b0rked, just finagle some kind of functioning motor into it and have a classy ride that isn’t French and broken.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris Rice

Fuck knows why the comment box pasted my reply to DT to you as well (probably my fault). But! The Peugeot 205 is a legendary little hatchback. The Fuego looks amazing, but breaks. A lot.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris Rice

“I don’t get the French vehicle hate, they’re no less reliable than any other vehicle of the period. ”

Only if you’re comparing it to the crap being made in the Soviet Union.

The difference was night and day when comparing it to the contemporary Honda, Toyota or Nissan/Datsun. Cars like the Fuego even made a lot of the crap GM was selling (outside of the early FWD X-bodies and early 4 cyl Fieros) look good.

Chris Rice
Chris Rice
11 months ago

I know this is a few days late and may never be seen, how do you see your old posts any more? Oh well.
I guess I’ve a Eurocentric perspective having grown up there. We didn’t get the saturation of reliable and economical Japanese machinery the same way the US did, growing up they were always a little on the expensive side and parts were expensive too, maybe it was an exchange rate thing. European models were cheap and had easily available parts, just like the domestic market vehicles here in the US. If you compare the French product to the European Ford/GM (Opel, Vauxhall) efforts, or god help the British efforts, then the French models were not any less reliable. The paragon of reliability in Europe was not the Japanese manufacturers, it was MB and the likes of the W123.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

yes
YES
FUEGO TIME.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
11 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Having had some experience of Renaults of that vintage, can I just say: DO NOT BUY A FUEGO. Tho the funky transmission is an interesting thing. Seen it flipped 180 degrees and used in some weird mid engine kit cars. Buy the Dodge. If the engine’s b0rked, just finagle some kind of functioning motor into it and have a classy ride that isn’t French and broken.

05LGT
05LGT
11 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Growing up I called that the Renault en Fuego. Legendarily broken. NO!

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
11 months ago

If I was going to buy any of these, it would likely be the Dodge – even if the engine is “munted”, it’s not too hard to find another flathead six. I also really don’t like to spend more than $5K on a car. That you mentioned the Fuego cracks me up – I saw it a couple of days ago on an evening Craigslist browse and thought “I wonder how long it will be before this shows up on The Autopian?”.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
11 months ago

^^^Awesome funny comment!

Marathag
Marathag
11 months ago

Dodge with a bad flathead Six?
Time for a Red Ram Hemi

Yeah, it’s a few years early, but is a good home

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