Classic Cars: A Few More Swanky-Looking Bargains

Last week I offered advice about how to look rich in the Hamptons for a few bucks while driving relatively inexpensive used cars. Let me add a few more cars to that list.

The mid-to-late ‘90s Jaguar XK-8 coupe and convertible are tremendously good-looking buys in used sporting automobiles. They are not true sports cars in the die-hard Porsche/Ferrari sense, but certainly grand touring machines that perform and handle as well as many of the best-driving cars built for the road. Jaguar has always produced some of the handsomest cars in the world, and the XK-8 doesn’t disappoint. The one to have is the hot rod XKR version, but it is more expensive than a regular XK-8. Be alert to the fact that the V-8 in this model had a very costly-to-repair cam belt tensioner problem. Make sure it was already taken care of. As with any used car, especially the “big cats,” have it checked by a marque expert. Good low mileage XK-8s can be had for under $15,000, truly an eye-opening bargain. [expand]

Older collector sports cars have become very expensive over the last few years, but the British MGB strikes me as a bargain in today’s market. Prior to the Mazda Miata, the MGB was the biggest-selling sports car model in the world, so there are many good ones around. It first came out in the early 1960s, and the earlier cars are the most desirable. The later model MGBs, with what are considered ugly rubber bumpers, are thought to be the most undesirable, and can usually be had for a song. Being British, the car suffers from the rust worm and electrical gremlins, so what else is new about any early ‘50s or ‘60s British collector car? However, MGs have very strong and simple engines and running gear when compared to other collector cars. They are inexpensive to repair and maintain. The earlier MG “T” and MGA series cars have skyrocketed in price and the more commonplace MGBs are starting to climb. Buy one now before prices escalate, as they will. Woofers can be had for as little as $4,000 but the ones you want will cost you anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 for the very best of the best.

Here are some Hamptons long shots. ‘55-’57 Ford Thunderbirds have become rather expensive, $35,000-$50,000, but what about the later “Bird” convertibles, like the 1963s? These are all pretty cars, with a lot of bling, plus you get the bonus of four seats. Decent ones can be had for under $20,000 and they offer a lot of visual bang for the buck. Another T-bird that is currently soft on the used car market is the newer retro two-seat T-Bird convertible. For instance, there is a 2002 model being advertised: “Red with black convertible top, plus a hardtop, black leather, 4,000 miles, excellent condition, loaded, $21,000.” Wow, what a nice car. Keep it 20 years, and sell it for more than you paid for it, meanwhile look great going out for breakfast on Sunday morning.

Another sleeper for looking cool with little cash is a used Mini. The original is the coolest, but it’s even smaller than the current model. Those original babies (literally) are readily available and can be had for around $10,000 but your best bet is the newer one. A good used Mini can be had for anywhere from $8 to $14,000. Even a new one can be had for as little as $20,000. That’s the regular Mini, and not the Cooper S model. The Cooper S model is a totally different car. It basically looks the same, but it has almost twice the horsepower. The stock Mini wheezes, the supercharged Cooper S breathes fire. The best part of driving a Mini in the Hamptons is that everyone will think,  THAT can’t be your only car and your other car is probably a Bentley or a Jag. The Mini truly breaks through social barriers. The funky, spanking new Fiat 500 will probably broadcast the same message, but it sure doesn’t handle the road like the “I was there first” Mini.

Here’s one more thought about looking cool in the Hamptons. Any car should be the right color. British cars, like the MGB, happen to look best in the traditional British green. However, MGs, or for that matter, any convertible, look pretty good in red. By the way, that little Fiat 500 looks best in red also, and for what it’s worth, a Ferrari is actually worth more money on the used car market if it’s red. Strangely, American cars look good in almost any color, although silver and white are the most popular new car colors. The new Mini, however, has confused everybody with its two-tone paint job, which is actually a throwback to the 1950s, when American cars were painted with various rock-and-roll era two-tone paint jobs. Any of the cars mentioned will make everyone green with envy. [/expand]

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