Home » Toyota Celica GT-Four, Lotus Elite, Ariel Red Hunter: Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness

Toyota Celica GT-Four, Lotus Elite, Ariel Red Hunter: Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness

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Welcome back to Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness! As you know, I love picking up dirt-cheap cars, motorcycles, and campers, 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 lists 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.

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For a third week, I’m continuing the theme of challenging myself to find cars within a completely arbitrary price range. This week, I’m allowing myself a little more breathing room and looking for rides no higher than about $20,000. That’s still a number achievable by many buyers out there and frighteningly, still far cheaper than the average new car.

Here’s what I’m looking at this week!

1951 Studebaker Champion – $14,500

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Facebook Seller

Here’s a classic that will stand out anywhere you park it. The Studebaker Champion isn’t just a striking piece of American iron, but one that helped Studebaker through tough times, from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History:

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While celebrating the machine age, the 1950 and 1951 Studebaker also marked a sharp break from 1930s streamlined or art deco styling and the beginning of flamboyant, futuristic styling of the 1950s. Studebaker led the way in this design and marketing change, and the Big Three auto manufacturers soon followed. Studebaker sales were fairly strong after World War II and reached a peak with the 1950 model.

The post-World War II market for new cars initially was a seller’s market. Supplies were limited, and waiting lists were long. New-car buyers settled for almost anything with four wheels and an engine, including slightly modified 1942 models and cars purchased sight unseen. But by the late 1940s supplies had increased, and auto manufacturers had to offer new features to attract comparison shoppers. Eye-catching styling was one way to sell cars. Studebaker was one of the first manufacturers to completely restyle its line, for the 1947 model year. The 1950 Studebaker featured even more radical revisions and styling changes. Robert E. Bourke, an automotive stylist who worked with the renowned industrial designer Raymond Loewy, was largely responsible for the 1950 Studebaker’s styling, now considered a classic of its era.

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Facebook Seller

This 1951 Studebaker Champion is not the flashy coupe, but it also doesn’t carry the price tag hike seemingly associated with having two fewer doors. The pictures provided show a car in what appears to be in pretty good condition. Power comes from a 170 cubic inch straight six making 85 HP. That reaches the rear wheels through a three-speed manual transmission.

It’s $14,500 from the seller in Harrison, Arkansas.

1965 Ford Ranchero – $8,900

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Facebook Seller

Car-based pickup trucks have a long and colorful history here in America. They might be gone now, but there was a time when you could get a stylish trucklette that drove like a car and had the low bedsides that so many of us beg for today.

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.

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Facebook Seller

Introduced in 1956, Ford marketed the Ranchero as “More than a Car, More than a Truck!” Hagerty notes that these first Rancheros rode on the same 116-inch wheelbase as the two-door Ranch Wagon and Courier Sedan Delivery, but they could carry more than a F-Series truck.

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This 1965 Ranchero comes from its second generation. Launched in 1960, the second generation Ranchero was downsized in response to a recession and a rise in compact cars. Power comes from a 289 cubic inch V8 making 200 horses, reaching the rear wheels through an automatic transmission. The seller says that the vehicle has seen a mild restoration and it’s rust free. However, the brakes could use some work as they are soft. It’s $8,900 from Elemental Motorsports in Scottsville, Kentucky with 91,392 miles.

1995 Toyota Crown Taxi – $7,500

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Here’s a car that lives up to the name of this series; it’s madness! Is this a car I’d expect you to buy? No, but I do want you to gaze at it with me.

The Crown originally launched in 1955 as the Toyopet Crown and over time, became to be known as an innovative high-end executive sedan. It left America in 1972 and came back in 2022. For decades, America could only watch as Japanese citizens got to enjoy the executive sedan. The new wave of Crowns included a little bit of everything from the sedan enthusiasts know to an SUV and a sort of weird crossover. America’s getting the Crown Crossover Type, so if you want a sedan, you have to look to the past.

This eigth-generation 1995 Crown was one of those forbidden fruit sedans. Normally, I’d feature A Crown Majesta or a wagon, but I just cannot stop staring at this one. The seller says that this car used to be a taxi and it looks the part. It has a raised roof and driver-activated portions of the roof pop up to allow taller people to get into the vehicle. This car appears to have started life ferrying very different kinds of passengers. A web search shows Crowns in this configuration in use transporting people for weddings. So, this may be a wedding car-turned taxi-turned private car.

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This car is pretty far out from its green paint to this interior, check it out:

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It looks like the car’s carpet was removed and replaced with rubberized flooring that matches the exterior paint job. That all would be weird enough, but there’s more! Under the hood is a 3Y-PU 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that runs on propane. That’s making about 79 horses and sends them to the rear wheels through a four-speed column shift manual transmission.

This car has two problems. The seller says the clutch slips when you’re hard on the throttle. The fill port for the propane is also different than you’d find here in America. A clutch kit, throwout bearing, and flywheel come in the sale, but you’ll have to figure out the propane thing on your own. It’s $7,500 from the seller in Blue Ridge, Georgia with 430,675 miles. Oh yeah, I forgot, this thing has been places!

1956 Ariel NH 350 Red Hunter – $5,533

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We Sell Classic Bikes

Say the name Ariel and most enthusiasts will probably think of those track cars that look like scaffolding with wheels. However, long before the name was slapped onto those cars, Ariel was a famed name in motorcycles. Today, if you read a retrospective on Ariel, one fabled motorcycle will show up a lot: The Red Hunter. I’ll hand the mic to the National Motorcycle Museum:

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The Ariel Cycle Company was formed in 1897 by the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company, originally of Dublin, Ireland, to make bicycles. Charles Sangster of Cycle Components in Selly Oak, near Birmingham, England, bought Ariel shortly thereafter and first used the name on a tricycle. Motorcycles soon became part of the product mix. Ariel wisely hired a number of British motorcycle visionary engineers and designers – Val Page, Vic Mole, Bert Hopwood and Edward Turner to name a few.

It was 1932 when for the first time the name Red Hunter was used to describe Ariel’s most sporting overhead valve 250 OH, 350 NG and 500 VH 4-stroke singles. This Val Page design, with the magneto behind the cylinder, had lustrous red gas and oil tanks and decoratively striped chrome plated rims. Little changed in the engine for 30 years although telescopic forks were added to the chassis in 1946 and an alloy cylinder head was added in the 1950’s.

The Red Hunter range is perhaps now less celebrated than the iconic Ariel Square 4 range but is arguably the better, more durable machine. The Red Hunter offered sporting performance, rock solid reliability, and was sharp looking in its day. Trials competition champion Sammy Miller had great success with a 500 Red Hunter beginning in 1955 and soon purpose-built trails machines were designed.

This Red Hunter is believed to be an older restoration and is said to start on the first kick. Power comes from a 346cc single making 19.4 HP. It’s $5,533 from We Sell Classic Bikes in the UK.

2016 Smart Fortwo Passion Manual – $10,950

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Chicago Fine Motors

One of the biggest complaints about the first and second generations of the Smart Fortwo go against their transmissions. Like some other cars of the era (BMW SMG, Ferrari’s F1 gearbox), they came with a single-clutch automated manual that shifted gears like someone fresh to manuals.

Smart finally fixed the transmission in the 2015 release of the third-generation Fortwo in America. Third-generation cars enjoy a number of improvements. It’s four inches wider with a softer suspension for a more comfortable cabin. The 899cc three in the rear has a turbo, helping it achieve an output of 89 HP. You could get a zippy dual-clutch automatic, or an honest three-pedal five-speed manual. Yep, a real manual in a Smart!

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Chicago Fine Motors

Just 9,282 third-generation Fortwos were sold in America before Smart went all-electric. Of those, just a fraction have this transmission. I don’t find these often and when I do, they’re usually stupid expensive. This one is a Passion, which means you get nice alloy wheels and a better interior than the base Pure model. The car’s history report says it was a fleet vehicle in its past life. It was probably given a livery, which would explain the weird miscolored taillight surrounds.

I spot a missing tow bolt cover on the front, which isn’t a big deal. Those plastic covers fall off so easily that mine is taped in place. What is a bigger deal is the dent on the bottom of the safety cell outer skin, but it looks repairable. The car is $10,950 Chicago Fine Motors in Mc Cook, Illinois with 67,686 miles.

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1974 Lotus Elite – $12,500

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Craigslist Seller

That header is not a typo, this is really a Lotus! And it’s a Lotus that’s bound to be the star of any car show you go to. I’ll let our friends at the Lane Motor Museum explain:

The Elite was Lotus’ first attempt at a mainstream four-seat road car, succeeding the Elan Plus 2, but using much of that car’s underpinnings. Even though it was a large car by Lotus standards, almost a foot longer and wider than anything offered before, it was still only the size and weight of a Chevy Vega! Lotus touted the controversial design to be “The Shape of Things to Come.” A fastback version, the Eclat, shared the Elite’s architecture, perhaps a bit more successfully.

Announced in May 1974, the fiberglass-bodied Elite was, at the time of introduction, the world’s most expensive four-cylinder car at £6496. The styling was polarizing – one loved it or hated it – and it was underpowered – original designs called for a 4-liter V8 – but the handling and roadholding was every bit Lotus. The planned V8, essentially two Lotus Type 907 four-cylinder engines on a common crank, would have transformed the Elite into what it really wanted to be – a supercar. Said Motorcar, Mar. 1975: “…one of the finest handling production cars in the world, better than a Porsche…What a tragedy Lotus did not give it more power to exploit those magnificent virtues.”

Penned in-house by Oliver Winterbottom, with an interior by Giugiaro at ItalDesign, the Elite was built in upper and lower halves, joined by a functional rubstrip all the way ‘round. While some joked that it looked like a Gremlin, it did, in fact, use AMC Gremlin exterior door handles! The sturdy-looking B-pillar not only aided in ventilation, but it also concealed the “Ring of Steel” rollover-protection hoop. Paired with some of the first door-intrusion beams ever seen, the Elite was twice as strong as US collision requirements of the time, and was a World Car – compliant with all potential markets.

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Craigslist Seller

This 1974 Elite is described as a running, driving, and stopping car. However, it is an unrestored survivor. I think that makes it even cooler than a car that has been meticulously restored. The seller says that while it’s unrestored, it has been improved a little. The interior upholstery has been refreshed, the vacuum-operated headlights now pop open with electric motors, and the engine keeps cool with a modern radiator. Original parts include the 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that makes 155 HP, its dashboard, and its manual transmission.

It’s $12,500 in Malibu, California with 18,617 miles.

1994 Toyota Celica GT-Four – $20,000

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Facebook Seller

Here’s a rally homologation special that maybe some ’90s kids in the audience will remember driving in their favorite racing games. Or, am I the only one who fondly remembers racing these in Gran Turismo 4? Anyway, these have been old enough to import into America, waiting for you to live out your rally dreams. This one is in Canada and it sports that famous Castrol livery.

Here’s a brief, roughly translated from Toyota:

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Toyota’s specialty car, Celica. Born in 1986, the “GT-FOUR” is a model that has demonstrated its capabilities in the WRC, the pinnacle of the rally series. As a special limited car, Group A homologation base car “WRC specification car” will also be lined up. The exterior features powerful styling such as a dedicated aluminum engine hood, bumpers with enhanced cooling effect, and 3-spoke 16-inch aluminum wheels. It generates a maximum of 255 horsepower / 31.0 kgm, and is driven by full-time 4WD combined with a center differential + viscous coupling type LSD. 5 speed manual only.

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Facebook Seller

This Celica GT-Four, which comes from the ST205 generation of this car, sports a 3S-GTE 2.0-liter intercooled turbo four making 252 HP and 224 lb-ft torque. That slams power to all four wheels through a manual transmission. It’s said that just 2,500 of these were made to meet rally regulations. This one is said to be stock, save for the cosmetic changes to replicate the Castrol livery. If I understand the listing correctly, the body has 152,857 miles on it but the engine has about 62,000 miles on it. The discrepancy isn’t explained.

It’s up for grabs for about $20,000 USD from the seller in Ste-Adèle, Québec. Hat tip to Scott Provost!

1978 Reliant Scimitar GTE – $15,750

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Facebook Seller

The original vehicle to populate this spot was a sweet 1968 Ford Cortina 1600 GT Crayford convertible. Sadly, it sold before this article was published. Thankfully, my list is long enough to accommodate situations like this. Going up in place of the Ford is this pretty Reliant shooting brake!

This is a car that our Jason Torchinsky is intimately familiar with. Without his Scimitar, perhaps you wouldn’t read about his fascination with automotive lighting today, from Jason:

The Scimitar is how I first got Jalopnik’s attention, too. I’d been a dedicated reader for a while, even to the point of reaching out to someone who was featured on the site to talk to them and drive their amazing little microcars, and I bartered my driving opportunity with a chance to drive my own bit of automotive unobtanium, the Scimitar.

With the realization that, yes, people were interested in this thing, I reached out to Jalopnik and they sent Jonny Liberman out to drive the Scimitar.

We made a day of it, hunting down interesting neighborhood cars and enjoying the pleasing weirdness of the Reliant, and it was from this initial contact that I got to know some of the Jalopnik staff, and kept in touch with them for years—racing against them at the 24 Hours of Lemons, sending in ideas, seeing them at car events, and so on—so that when they needed more writers back in late 2011, they reached out to me.

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Facebook Seller

Anyway, introduced in 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE was an upgrade over the Scimitar GT coupe. According to the Reliant Motor Club, the Scimitar GTE was born out of an idea to make the Scimitar a four-seater. Its body, made by Ogle Design Ltd, is fiberglass and it rides on a steel chassis. This car has a true front-mid configuration as its engine and transmission are behind the front axle.

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This particular Scimitar GTE was stripped down and repainted by the current owner, who also did the lovely interior as well. Power comes from Ford Essex 3.0-liter V6 making 133 HP and driving the rear wheels through a Ford C3 automatic. It’s $15,750 from the seller in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

2012 Mini Coupe John Cooper Works – $13,996

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Corwin Toyota

Here’s a car that arrived with a lot of fanfare, but quietly disappeared.

The Mini Coupe and its companion, the Mini Roadster, were released in 2011 as more sporty Minis with smaller greenhouses. They Mini pitched the Roadster as a return of the old-school British roadster. They were first shown as concepts in 2009 as part of the brand’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Sadly, worldwide sales were tepid and the cars didn’t survive past 2015. I think these are still worth a look.

This 2012 Mini Coupe is the performance John Cooper Works model, which nets it a 1.6-liter turbo four making 208 HP and 207 lb-ft torque, delivering fun to the front wheels through a manual transmission. Despite its looks, it actually isn’t any shorter than a regular Mini from the time. Acceleration to 60 mph takes about 6.2 seconds. That makes it a second faster than the fan favorite VW Golf GTI, but less practical.

It’s $13,996 from Corwin Toyota in Colorado Springs, Colorado with 91,187 miles.

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

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Myk El
Myk El
10 months ago

I find myself again glad I already bought the fun 2nd car because if I still had the money, I’d be turning myself inside-out trying to figure out how to acquire that Celica…

Joel Sinclair
Joel Sinclair
10 months ago

If I had the money that Celica would be the start of an amazing rally car collection.

I think the next list should be all Mercedes by Mercedes! It would be cool to see all the oddballs that you’d recommend. ????

Scott Sullivan
Scott Sullivan
10 months ago

In the early mid 90s I had a 323GTX and my buddy had a GT-4. We were in Montana which has lots of gravel roads. The HP of the two of them look low when compared to other rally based cars, for example the WRX which would leave is in the dust on asphalt. On a gravel road though this thing was tough to beat. It has the right amount of power for fun and you can plant your foot and stay in control. A WRX on loose stuff takes skill and practice to use what it has which is easy to claim you have and few do.

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