One of the easiest ways to tell if there is an enthusiast in your midst is if that person either collects cars or has a second car that they drive on the weekends and take to meets. While having a newer weekender is somewhat common, chances are, if someone owns a weekender car, it’s likely to be older. And why wouldn’t it be?
If you look to the past, you will find that there are tons of models from manufacturers across the globe that look great, drive superbly, have contributed much to automotive history, and have a thriving subculture surrounding them, thus providing a fun ownership experience overall. However, with ownership comes time and cost, most of it regarding maintenance. Therefore, budget and ease of ownership are paramount when deciding which classic car is right for you. Need help deciding? Here’s a list of 10 options that should give you some direction.
BMW 3 Series (E30)
During its time in production, the E30 3 Series sold more than 2 million units. This, coupled with its young age among other classics, makes affordable surviving examples fairly easy to come by. This also means that the parts network for it is just as readily available.
Most older BMWs have grown notorious for issues relating to onboard electronics, both before and after the advent of iDrive. However, the E30 hails from a simpler time, making it far easier to maintain than models that came after it.
When new, the 924 gained a reputation for being the lesser front-engined, water-cooled Porsche to the far more powerful 928. Despite this, it and the related 944 and 968 were produced for nearly 20 years. Nowadays, surviving examples can be found for affordable prices, with super-low-mileage ’87 924s selling for only $14,000.
With the 924 and its counterparts being more affordable than the 928 and 911, more of them were purchased, with a subsequently larger parts network to boot. Plus, despite what its German origins may have you think, Porsche is renowned for its reliability.
Put on your tweed blazer and flat cap. The MGB is considered by many to be the quintessential first classic car. Perhaps the rubber-bumper versions of the late 70s may look less attractive, but its compact build made it profoundly nimble.
It’s easy to work on, too, with its inline-4 being small and simply laid out enough not to be daunting to the amateur enthusiast. Best of all, it’s cheap. Pristine examples can cost over $20,000, but some can be found for sub-$10k.
The Mustang is a car so celebrated, it continues to be produced today, even surviving Ford nixing cars from their lineup. The first-gen and the Fox body are particularly popular classic options, with both iterations still having many lasting examples and strong owner communities.
Because finding a surviving older ‘Stang is so easy, aftermarket support is far and wide. That being said, parts can be easily found, and for affordable prices at that.
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class (R107)
Old-school Mercedes are known for their legendary reliability, with models like the W126 S-Class and the W123 often lasting longer than 300,000 miles. The R107 SL-Class is that, but in grand tourer form. Thus, you can expect not to have to worry too much about longevity.
Once revered by the rich and famous, now you can find them for relatively affordable prices, though near-perfect examples are beginning to cost a pretty penny.
Another good British roadster you can snag is the Triumph TR6. Like the MGB, the TR6’s feather-like weight and short wheelbase make it an incredibly agile drop-top. It’s also a simple enough car to where maintenance is a breeze, unsurprisingly, just like the MGB.
The cost of entry is another thing that makes the TR6 an affordable classic. Scour Craigslist, and $13,000 will get you a well-looked-after example.
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
What do you get when you combine the underpinnings and simplicity of the Type 1 Beetle and the avant-garde styling of Italian design house Ghia? You get the Karmann Ghia, Volkswagen’s sports car offering of the 1960s.
Given the worldwide sensation on which it is based, the Karmann Ghia is easy and affordable to maintain, even with an above-$20k price tag. Be careful when driving it, however; its monocoque body means it has no modular panels. If you crash the car, there won’t be much you can do to fix it.
Buick Riviera (First Generation)
An often-overlooked American sports car that predates the pony car era is the Buick Riviera, a grand tourer that took on the Ford Thunderbird. While the Riviera nameplate lived on for nearly half a century, the first generation is particularly special. Best of all, it isn’t much of a headache to maintain.
Its 6.6-liter Nailhead V8 has a setup that is easily navigable for those working on it. Plus, its drivetrain is said to be fairly reliable. All this makes the Riviera an underrated yet ideal introduction to classic cars.
Toyota MR-2 (AW11)
Searching for something mid-engined? Look no further than the first-generation Toyota MR-2. With a chassis engineered by Lotus, this targa-top is a joy to throw around.
You won’t have to worry about being too hard on it, though. The AW11 uses a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder borrowed from the Corolla, suggesting an easy ownership experience, as is with most Toyotas. And unlike the Supra, it should be easy to find a unit for under $10k.
Mazda MX-5 Miata (NA)
Yes, you’re reading that right. The Miata is a classic. After all, it dates back more than 30 years. Despite this, they remain modern enough to where they are easy to find, affordable enough to purchase, and have a wide enough community to make ownership a cinch.
Sub-$10k Miatas are easier to find than most other entries on this list. Pick one up, and you’ll be in for an easy time. It truly is an affordable classic.