December 6, 2022

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Every Gearhead Should Buy These 10 Affordable Classic American Performance Cars

The United States is home to some of the best performance cars on the planet. Many of the American performance cars that came into the scene in the 1960s and 1970s have gone on to attain iconic status. With enough power to tap and thanks to their super rarity, classic performance machines like the 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500R now command millions of dollars at auctions.


That said, there’s still hope for classic performance car enthusiasts and collectors on a tight budget. Whether you need a classic car for your next project, for nostalgic reasons, or you just want to show off your wheels in the streets, these are some of the most affordable ones in the States.

Related: 10 Boring American Classics That Came In Wild Performance Versions

10/10 1990 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT – $9,500

Gray 1990 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

The 1990 Mustang GT isn’t all that different from the 1989 Mustang, but that isn’t an issue because Ford did pretty well with the 1987 Mustang, which began the third generation. That said, the 1990 Mustang GT comes with a few performance upgrades including 10.84-inch front brakes, 15 x 7-inch wheels with P225/60VR-15 Goodyear tires, and a 1.3-inch front anti-sway bar.

Gray 1990 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

The 1990 Mustang GT pumps out 225 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque from a 5.0-liter V8 mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. On the outside, the 1990 Mustang GT was fitted with a lower air-dam front valance and small scoops were placed on the front of each wheel, giving the sports car an aggressive look.

9/10 1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z – $20,200

Red 1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

The Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z is an almost forgotten muscle car that dates back to the 1980s. IROC-Z stands for International Race of Champions and Z, which is kind of a racing all-star competition that draws drivers from the NASCAR world to Le Mans.

red 1989 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z on the driveway
Via Mecum Auctions

The IROC-Z is an upgraded version of the Z28 that received a few updates in 1989 including General Motors’ PASS-Key theft deterrent system and standard three-point rear seat belts. The 1989 IROC-Z gets its motivation from a 349.8 cu-in V8 with an output of 230 hp. Just about $20,000 can get you a good 1989 IROC-Z today.

8/10 1970 Mercury Marauder – $13,600

Black 1970 Mercury Marauder front third quarter view
Via: Bring a Trailer

Slotted just below the Mercury Marquis size-wise, the Marauder shares its fastback roofline with the Ford XL, as well as its interior trim and concealed headlights with the Marquis. The is the highest-performance model in the Mercury lineup, with a 389.6 cui V8.

Black 1970 Mercury Marauder 429 X-100 Coupe, parked
Via Mecum Auctions

The 1970 Marauder makes up to 266 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. If you need a personal luxury car that handles poor road conditions and bad weather with ease, the Marauder is one of your best bets. For just $13,600, you can get a 1970 Marauder hardtop coupe.

Related: Here’s Why The Mercury Marauder Is An Underrated Muscle Car

7/10 1989 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – $13,000

Blue 1989 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am on a paltform
Via vvncc.com

The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is one of the most criminally underrated muscle cars of the 1980s. 1989 was a special year for the iconic automaker, as it rolled out a couple of updates to mark the 20th year of the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

Black 1989 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Via Mecum Auctions

Pontiac introduced a new dual catalytic converter system to reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. With a 305 cid LB9 V8 engine at the heart of the 1989 Firebird Trans Am, the output was rated at 225 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

6/10 1969 Mercury Cyclone – $11,000

White 1969 Mercury Comet in a garage
Via GR Auto Gallery

The Mercury Cyclone is the performance version of the Comet that runs from 1964 to 1971. In terms of performance, the Cyclone was pretty good as Mustang and Torino, but it flew under the radar because it was no match for the Tri-Power GTOs and solid-lifter Chevrolets.

Brown 1969 Mercury Comet on the driveway
Via Pinterest

As the last year of production, the 1971 Cyclone came with few changes from 1970. Powering the last Cyclone is a 351 four-barrel with an output of 285 hp. Thanks to the Cyclone’s sleeper status, it remains within the reach of budget-conscious classic car buyers.

5/10 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 Deluxe – $14,000

Red 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 Deluxe on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

The 300 Deluxe coupe is one of the rarest packages of the Chevrolet Chevelle, with just over 5,000 units built. But somehow it’s still within the reach of buyers on a budget, with an asking price of $14,000 for one with an L65 350 cid V8.

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle 300 Deluxe on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

The L65 engine makes over 250hp. Chevrolet limited the interior colors for the 300 Deluxe lines to black, blue, and green. The Chevelle 300 Deluxe is available in the form of a two-door coupe, a four-door sedan, and a wagon.

4/10 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – $21,100

Black 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

Introducing the Monte Carlo in 1970, the two-door coupe became Chevrolet’s first personal luxury car and had a successful run, lasting six generations through the 2007 model year. Consider the Monte Carlo as a variant of the Pontiac Grand Prix, as they both rode the same “A-Special” platform.

Black 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

For 1971, the Monte Carlo came with minor cosmetic changes, with the headlamp bezels looking more like a squircle and the grille having rectangular-shaped openings. From 1971 to 1989, the Monte Carlo became Chevrolet’s standard-bearer for NASCAR. With its impressive performance and storied history, the 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo is a bargain for $21,100.

Related: Here’s How To Know If An Old Monte Carlo Is Right For You

3/10 1971 Buick Riviera GS – $21,300

Red 1971 Buick Riviera GS on the road
Via: YouTube

General Motors made a grand entry into the personal luxury car market segment with the Buick Riviera, about seven years before Chevrolet. Unlike its GM E platform stablemates, the Cadillac Eldorado and Toronado, it wasn’t until the 1979 model year before the Riviera switched to front-wheel drive.

silver 1971 Buick Riviera GS on the road
Via Mecum Auctions

Buick radically redesigned the 1971 Riviera, with its flowing and dramatic “boat-tail” styling, which was inspired by the 1963 Corvette Stingray coupe. So, if the Stingray is out of your budget, you might want to consider the 1971 Riviera GS, with a 330-hp 455 cid V8 engine.

2/10 1969 Ford Torino GT – $10,100

Red 1969 Ford Torino Talladega on the road
Via: Mecum Auctions

The Torino was initially an upscaled offering of the Ford Fairlane that targeted full-size Ford buyers. Think of the Torino as basically a twin to the Mercury Montego line. The 1969 Torino GT came with a 302 cid (4.9-liter) engine, with an output of 220 hp.

red 1969 Ford Torino on the road
Via: Mecum Auctions

While most Torino were conventional two-door hardtops and four-door sedans, Ford made some high-performance versions like the GT and Cobras, which are classified as muscle cars. You can get a 1969 Ford Torino GT for just $10,100 today.

1/10 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 – $16,700

Blue 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 by a building
Via Mecum Auctions

The full-size 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 was never a bestseller or the fastest car, but it successfully balanced performance, handling, and practicality. The 1973 4-4-2 has a base 350 cid V8 with an output of 180 hp.

Blue 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 on the lawn
Via Mecum Auctions

However, this particular 4-4-2, which goes for $16,700, is powered by a 455 cid V8 that cranks out 250 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque. The handling and appearance 4-4-2 package comes with a standard faux louvered hood, as well as an optional dual exhaust and super stock wheels.

Next: 10 Most Reliable American Performance Cars From The 1990s