Popular Mechanics Compiles List of 1980s and 1990s Dreams Cars Priced under $6,000
Popular Mechanics has put together a list of 1980s and 1990s cars, which it claims, back then could be considered by many as "dream cars", but today can be found on eBay for under US $6,000. We can't say we fully agree with the term "dream cars" for some of PM's choices as they're not exactly the hottest vehicles ever made, but, hey, they represent some weird decades.
Just be sure that you can mend a thing or two under the hood, otherwise you should be wary or better yet, increase your budget. Hit the jump to read about the cars that made it into Popular Mechanic's list and why not, tell us what your choices would be from the era with a budget up to $6,000.
1984-1986 Chevrolet Corvette
When it was launched in 1983, the C4 was the first all-new Corvette since 1963. No wonder customers were eager to get their hands on it.
It had sleek lines, good handling and a modern interior, with an electronic dashboard, signaling that Chevrolet took a big step forward compared to the previous generation. However, the Cross Fire Injected 5.7-liter V8 and 4+3 overdrive manual transmission weren't so good, which explains why these days you can buy one for as low as US $3,000.
Starting with the '85 model year, GM offered the better L98 Tuned-Port Injected V8, capable of 235 hp (175 kW). A well kept one sells these days for a little over 5,000 dollars, which is money well spent if you factor in the sex appeal of a C4.
1982-1990 Porsche 944
Introduced in 1982, the 944 was basically, a wide-body 924. It was way better than the latter, mostly because it had a proper Porsche engine. The Germans took the 928's V8 and cut it in half, thus creating the 2.5-liter four-pot, rated at 150 hp (112 kW).
The zero to 60 mph (96 km/h) sprint took 8.3 seconds, a decent performance by '80s standards. Handling wasn't bad either, as the 944 had a rear-mounted transaxle setup.
The best part is that virtually all models can be had cheap nowadays. A 1986 variant, with up to 100,000 miles, sells for around $5,600 and even a fabulous 247 hp (184 kW) 944 Turbo can be bought for about $7,000. True, it's over the budget, but still a bargain and a true driver's car.
1985-1993 Ford Mustang 5.0
It arrived after the mediocre Pinto-based Mustang II and used the all-new Fox platform, designed by Jack Telnack. One of the most memorable variants, the GT, boasted the now-iconic 5.0-liter H.O. V8, initially with 157 hp (117 kW). The performance increased over the years, first to 175 hp (130 kW) in 1983, then to 210 hp (157 kW) in 1985.
The "arms race" continued in 1986 too, as the introduction of port fuel injection further upped the power, this time to 225 hp (168 kW). The Mustang 5.0 put all of these ponies to good use, as it was capable to accelerate from standstill to 60 mph (96 km/h) in just 6.5 seconds. That's a good performance even today.
There are tons of 5.0 Mustangs around, so finding a good one for under $6,000 is a piece of cake. Popular Mechanics saw a solid 1990 GT on eBay, with only 89,000 miles, for just $3,900.
1991-2000 Lexus SC400
Lexus hasn't been around for a long period of time, so, aside the LF-A supercar, not many of its models can be considered true collectibles. Still, Popular Mechanics thinks that the SC400 coupe has the best shot of becoming one. Featuring a forward-looking design, it was a strong competitor in its class, going head to head with the German rivals.
It used the very reliable 4.0-liter V8, good for 250 hp (186 kW), shared with the range-topping LS400. In 1998 it received variable valve timing, which bumped output to 290 hp (or 216 kW). This later version could reach 60 mph in 6 seconds and a top speed of 149 mph.
Being solid, well engineered cars, means that even older ones tend to be in good shape, so, for example, you can have a 1992 model for as low as $4,550.
1997-2001 Honda Prelude
Five generations of Honda Preludes have seen the light of day since 1978, the most interesting being the fifth and last one, launched in 1997. It was a good balance of styling, power and handling, featuring a 2.2-liter 195 hp (145 kW) four-cylinder engine, mated to five-speed manual or automatic transmission.
The highlight of the Prelude was the advanced Active Torque Transfer System of the Type-SH, capable of sending more power to the outside front wheel, thus reducing understeer.
You should go for the Type-SH (as in Super Handling), a good one, with 63,000 miles, costs around $5,150 on eBay.
1990-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS Turbo and GSX
The 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse had a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine delivering 195 hp (145 kW). Codenamed 4G63T, it was the same four-pot mill that since then has seen action in most Evos and, in GSX trim, sent its oomph to all four wheels.
For the second generation, launched in 1995, the Japanese maker also used the 4G63T, albeit with more power (210 hp or 157 kW). Exterior changes were made, making it a more modern presence, and it had a bigger interior, too.
As they could be easily tuned to 300 hp (224 kW), most surviving Eclipses are pretty beat up. High mileage, first generation cars are fetched for about half of the six thousand dollar budget, but solid cars, like a '97 GSX with 130,000 miles, sell for $5,998.
1989-1998 Nissan 240SX
With the 240SX, Nissan wanted to offer an affordable rear-wheel-drive sports car. Launched in 1989, it had a 2.4-liter engine under the bonnet, producing just 140 hp (104 kW). In 1991, this was increased to 155 hp (116 kW) by adopting a four-valve head. It's obvious that it wasn't immensely powerful, but, still, it was great to drive.
The second generation came in 1995 and it was larger and torsionally stiffer, which improved handling even more. Owners quickly adopted Japanese domestic market performance parts, including turbocharged engines, such as the Nissan SR20DET or the RB20DET, the latter sourced from the legendary Skyline.
Like the Eclipse, the 240SX was also widely used for track racing or drifting, so finding a well-kept example can be tricky. Popular Mechanics found a decent 1989 240SX (with automatic transmission and 62,491 miles on the odometer) up for sale for an even $5,000.
1997-2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ
Featuring a unibody construction, with solid axles, four-wheel-drive and two- or four-door body styles, the Jeep Cherokee was quite a capable off-roader. Furthermore, equipped with the optional tow package, it could even handle 5,000-pound trailers.
The 4.0-liter inline-six engine delivered 190 hp (142 kW), enough to help it reach 60 mph (96 km/h) in 8 seconds. A top-notch two-door XJ, with 106,000 miles and five-speed manual, sold on eBay for $4,200.
1970-1993 Alfa Romeo Spider
The Italian designers drew such beautiful lines for the Spider that Alfa Romeo was able to sell the small roadster virtually unchanged for 27 years. But good looks are deceiving, as even the more powerful variants of the 1980s had only 115 hp (86 kW) under the hood. However, they more than made up for this shortcoming by being fun to drive.
Some say that the Spider was, in many respects, like the Mazda Miata, minus one: the reliability.
In this case, older cars tend to be more expensive, as they're thought to be "more delicate and pure". Still, a 1986 Spider Veloce with 104,000 miles sold on eBay for just $4,251. That's an acceptable price for such an inspiring car, but buyers are advised to thoroughly check them out and only opt for regularly driven and maintained ones.
By Csaba Daradics