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Car Corner
Narrowing the Classics

July 1, 2004
By Scott Lewis

This month I want to show you just how selective I have become when it comes to looking for a classic daily driver now that my wife has a Porsche 911 Cabriolet in the garage that I can drive. Of course you may want to look over my previous searches and see what I have picked in the past.

January 2000 - Looking For A Classic Car
September 2001 - Classic Car Search
March 2002 - Project Car Search
April 2004 - Classic Car Search Returns

Let's take a quick review of my requirements:

  • Air Conditioning
  • Rust Free
  • Manual Transmission
  • Power Steering and Power Disc Brakes
  • Performance Potential
  • Budget = $15,000 (includes working A/C, PS, PB and stereo)

I have not yet saved up $15,000, so this is still a little premature. However, I will be planning to spend about that much when the time comes. I would ideally like to buy a car that is close to what I want for under $10,000 and start making it my own with the rest of the budget. However, condition is an issue under 10 grand, so I may have to pay more for a car in good condition. We'll see.

For this article I will take a look back at all the cars I have ever put on this site from my previous 4 searches. I will be looking at each car again with my new requirements. I will allow up to $1,500 to be negotiated off the asking price. That being said, if a car is priced at $16,500 it will need to meet every one of my requirements. As it turned out only one car was priced over my budget.

For this article I decided to throw away all the old comments. I have included new comments on each car. This time I will try to detail what I would do to each car with the remaining money from my budget, assuming the car was below budget.

Price vs. Value

Here is the long lasting debate. I have said before that a lot of cars are listed overpriced. The asking price may not be the selling price. I have no way of knowing that. That is what price guides like CPI's are for. However, I have a problem here. I have cars listed here that were for sale over 4 years ago. You can't expect cars not to go up in value and asking price, so I decided to "mark up" the asking price of all the cars (to try and be fair) by the following criteria:

Prices from January 2000 will be increased 25%
Prices from September 2001 will be increased 15%
Prices from March 2002 will be increased 10%
Prices from April 2004 will be increase 0%

I don't really know how to compare the prices of older ads to current ones. The problem with this is that a lot of cars from the first search were picked based on a budget, and that budget would be blown to bits in light of a 25% increase... even if that increase is fair. So, expect a lot of the older picks to get the axe because of "inflation" alone. Also, as I was re-reading the older ads I thought a lot of cars were overpriced back in 2000 and 2002,  even by today's standards . That's pretty bad. I only wish I had a CPI Guide with me back in January 2000.

I would like to include CPI pricing information here. That presents its own problems. First, CPI only puts the excellent rating on their web site. Many cars here should not be compared to the excellent rating, but compared to the good rating. I could use my CPI guide to get fair, good and excellent prices, but my guide is two years old. I have decided to play some tricks here. Since the old cars are not for sale anymore it won't matter too much if I butcher the numbers. After all this is just an exercise.

I am going to show you the prices for the cars like this:

$9,950/$11,500 ($9,100-$11,850) +23.4%

What does all that mean? The first number will be the original asking price for the car, just so you know what it was. The second number (in blue ) will be the price adjusted for inflation, for lack of a better term. We will assume (incorrectly) that this is the current asking price of the car. In parenthesis I will have a calculated version of the good rating from CPI. I don't have a way to get the current good rating from CPI, but I do have my two year old CPI Guide. I will determine the percent difference from the excellent rating in my 2002 CPI guide with the current excellent value from their web site. I will apply this percentage to the good rating from my guide, and display this calculation. To remind you that this number is calculated I will display it in italics. For the excellent rating I will use the value from CPI's web site. I will also print the percentage the car has risen (or fell, yes some do) from my two year old guide to today's value so you can see how much the cars have changed in the last two years. One last thing to confuse you, I will bold the CPI number I think the car should be compared against, good or excellent. If I see any important details regarding the original asking prices and the amount of change in the CPI guide over the last two years I will make note of it in the comments.

The general idea is that you can look at each ad snippet and have some vague idea what the car should be selling for, and compare that to what it should be worth. Hopefully all this should get us close enough for this article, which is really here to see which cars hold up to deep scrutiny when the number of cars increases and the buyer (me) becomes much more picky about what he wants.

If anyone has a better idea on how to do this feel free to let me know, or better yet do it yourself. I would love to see someone else do this besides me.

Manual vs. Automatic

This is my ever lasting struggle. I can't help it if I really like a Camaro or Chevelle or Buick GS that happens to have a slushbox. But I will try my best to make sure that a manual transmission can be swapped into the car and still remain in budget. I have read a couple of articles on swapping 5 speeds into older cars. One article listed the cost at about $4,400. This included all new parts and a nice 5 speed. I may have to compromise on that, so I will assume for the sake of this argument that I will hunt for some decent used parts were I can. I am going to assume it will take at least $2,500 for a common car, and $3,000 for a car that is harder to find parts for. This may not be realistic, but I would probably try do it this way to save money. Regardless, the car will have to be awfully nice to get me to keep driving around with one hand and one foot.

Now onto the best of the best. The cars that got away. The cream of the crop. The... well you get the idea. Here they are in the order I want them... assuming that what I see in the pictures and the information in the ads is accurate. In other words, this is the order I would call about them. Enjoy!

1969 Camaro
Price: $9,500/$9,500 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

2-door hard top, very nice original car, great inside and out, always garaged, 4 spd, 6 cylinders, no rust or dings.

Comments: This car is just different enough with its 6 cylinder engine and 4 speed transmission that I am listing it as the first car I would really like for a project daily driver. I love it, and really do regret not trying to buy it. I have written in the past about wanting to try out the Vortec 4200 DOHC 6 cylinder engine from the Chevy TrailBlazer in a 69 Camaro. This car would be perfect for that swap. Since that swap would be a bit expensive and time consuming I would try playing around with the original 250 ci. 6 for a while. Since the car is under 10 grand I would have 5 grand left in the budget to put in A/C and any other items it needs to be a good daily driver. I assume I would probably need power steering and brakes. These would be fun projects. I could rebuild the suspension for good handling and just enjoy being different. I would expect to spend my entire budget of $15,000 on this car with the original engine. Then later in life I would try for the Vortec 4200 swap or maybe Chevrolet's 350 Ram Jet fuel injected crate engine.

1969 Camaro
Price: $4,300/$4,730 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

Power steering, Powerglide transmission, rear spoiler, 2 sets of tires, low miles.

Comments: Clearly this car is in here because of price. Notice that this car has risen in value 12.8% over the last two years. My inflation estimate is set at 10%. Not bad. Now, how can I pass up a 69 Camaro for under 5 grand... even with inflation. This is truly one of those cars that got away. This picture is too low a resolution to make out any details. The biggest concern would be rust. But even at this price we could work in a few thousand dollars to cover rust repairs and possibly a new paint job. I have not priced those items, but at this asking price I should have been researching professional body work costs to see if this car was worth it. I have seen rolling wrecks sell for much more than this. This car can't possibly be that bad if it looks presentable in the picture. It couldn't possibly have hurt to call and get more pictures for a bargain like this. One of my true regrets was not calling about this car.

1969 Camaro
Price: $12,900/$12,900 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

The rare and desirable frost green exterior. This Camaro coupe is very stock and comes with the original window sticker, history, and lots of receipts. It has a 350 and Turbo 350 automatic. It has factory A/C & PS. The interior is dark green and in outstanding condition. Bucket seats and console. It has Rally type wheels with the deep rings and the standard Chevy centers. It has been kept in very good condition. Runs and drives excellent.

Comments: This is the "like new" car you hope to find. It looks like it has been perfectly preserved. It's like a time machine. The price is top dollar compared to CPI's rating for an excellent car. If the condition matches its price this would make a great collectible driver. This is the classic "blank canvas." I would drive it as is and very slowly upgrade it to my liking. Since it doesn't have a manual transmission that would need to be in the project plans. However, at this price I would have to put off a manual conversion for a few years. I can see doing that in a 69 Camaro this nice. Since my budget doesn't allow for the manual conversion up front I would want this car to be perfect. Almost anything wrong would be a show stopper. Because of the cost of the transmission swap I would probably start by getting a cowl induction hood and have it painted to match. I would continue with minor performance upgrades to the suspension, engine and even the looks without spending lots of money. Eventually I would try to get a 5 speed to replace the automatic. Since a good 5 speed installed will cost at least 4 grand, I would do it slowly over time.

1972 Malibu Convertible
Price: $12,900/$12,900 ($11,175-$18,400) +13.2%

Beautiful midnight Bronze with white stripes. 350 cubic inch V-8 with Turbo 350 automatic transmission. White interior and white power top. PDB & PS. Very stock. BF Goodrich TA Radials on Rally Wheels. Nice chrome. Runs and drives great.

Comments: Wow! Look at this car. Now this inspires me. And check out the specs. It has all the power accessories I require, including the mandatory power top. The white interior should make this a pleasure to drive even in the hot Texas sun. I love the look. Too bad it has an automatic. However, I see this car and can picture myself cruising in style, even with an automatic. It is even in my budget. All I really want to do to this car is add factory buckets and a console. Other than that... just cruise until the tires fall off. Make sure those windows roll up and down nicely and the weather stripping is in good condition. After all, I can't drive with the top down all the time... or can I Chip?. Man, where are cars like this when I have the cash in hand to buy. Notice that this car is very high on my list, above many Camaros, and other less expensive project cars. I like it that much.

1969 Nova
Price: $13,900/$13,900 ($4,500-$7,325) +1.0

350 V-8 (Match #), 4 speed, PS, PB, radio, vinyl roof. Beautiful Nova coupe with original engine, Protect-o-Plate, and finished in blue with a black vinyl roof and black interior.

Comments: Here is a perfect example of the pricing of Novas. This car is priced at twice what it is worth. However, this car is perfect. I love the color. It is a numbers matching car complete with protect-o-plate. It has a V-8, 4 speed and all the power accessories I want. The pictures even showed an aftermarket A/C system. This is what the green Nova below aspires to be. But this car is ready to drive as is. In fact, I am very tempted to call right now. The price is way high. I would use CPI's guide to try and talk them down. But with a $15K budget we could still buy this car. Doing so will be a major issue with resale, so be careful. If we can get the price down I would put the money saved into improving the handling and putting in period correct bucket seats and a console with factory style gauges. That would be cool. Like I said... this car is perfect. Where is the money so I can buy it!

1969 Camaro
Price: $11,888/$11,888 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

Ermine white on blue, front & rear spoilers, small block, auto, factory buckets, rare column shift, chrome Vette rallys on T/A's, very clean, nice driving Camaro!

Comments: O.K. Here we have a very good looking 69 Camaro. It is just about ready to start driving. It does not have air conditioning, so that would be the first order of business. We also don't have a manual transmission, but we do not have enough money left in the budget to put one in. So, do I like this car enough to give up on a manual transmission for a couple of years, maybe more? That is the big debate. If the condition is really nice, then I could see this as a car I could drive regularly even though it has a slushbox. 69 Camaros do get preference in my book. However, I would start saving for a 5 speed right after purchase, or try to do a cheap junk yard style manual swap.

1972 Buick GS 350
Price: $15,500/$15,500 ($6,900-$11,375) +1.8%

350, V8 auto, PS, PB, Factory A/C, split bench, factory tach & gauges, dual mirrors, factory sport wheels, vinyl roof, tinted glass, all standard GS options, blue/white, factory AM-FM radio, bumper guards. Beautiful Buick GS in a great color combination!! All original equipment as well as correct paint, top and interior color codes. This is one of the nicest unrestored Buick GS models in the country!

Comments: This is the car that breaks the mold. I want a performance oriented classic daily driver. This car looks like a show car. Its engine is a 350, and not the best 350 from the era. Also it is hampered by a two pedal setup (read: automatic). But I simply love the look. They are not kidding when they say it is "a great color combination!" I can easily see myself driving this car just the way it is to work every day. It is just over my budget, but includes everything I require except a manual transmission. Notice that this is also the only car in the top list that is over budget. This is a cruiser, and I really do think I can live without the third pedal with this car. What would I do to this car? Over time I would try to swap out the front bench seat for the appropriate bucket seats and console that should have been ordered with this car when it was new. Otherwise it is just what the doctor ordered. Maybe we can get them down in price when we show them the CPI guide. That would be even better. If I see a car like this after I save up the money I will be taking a serious look.

1969 Camaro
Price: $12,500/$11,600 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

A Grandma owned car, 350, 2 bl., AT, PS, defrost, Weld wheels, no rust, original & stock except wheels, 116K original miles, light green in/out, runs/drives like new.

Comments: If this is really a Grandma owned car then why the Weld wheels. Obviously the "grandson" got his hands on this car for at least a little while. This car is priced too high for a project car that is saddled with an automatic. So I would have to decide if having a 69 Camaro is worth giving up on a manual transmission. The picture is also too small. We need to see some high resolution pictures to even think seriously about this car. But I love the idea of a nice original car... especially a 69 Camaro. I just can't resist thinking about it. Notice the price. This car is from my April 2004 search. It was priced at $12,500 back then. I recently saw it still listed and the price dropped. That must mean he is starting to get a little desperate. Maybe a little green in the face will get him down to around 10 grand, opening up the door for a manual transmission in the budget. It also looks like it needs air conditioning, so we still have to think a bit on this one, but it is looking more and more promising.

1970 Dodge Dart
Price: $3,900/$4875 ($7,850-$9,975) +33.0%

340, 4 speed, red w/ black int. 8 cylinder 140,000mi. Factory 340, 4 speed, factory in dash tach, rally wheels, 3:55 posi rear end.

Comments: Why did I have to be so hung up on Camaros and Mustangs. This is definitely one of the ones that got away. This car was priced well below 5 grand back in 2000. I should have called about it then. This could have been a great project car. These Darts are light. With a 340 and 4 speed it would be a rocket. Hope for no rust with this car. If it was rust free it was a bargain. I would bet it had a bench seat, so the second order of business would be bucket seats and a console. Of course, the first thing would be air conditioning. Hardly a problem at this price point. This could have been a fast, fun driver & project car. Now, this car has risen 33% in value over the last two years, so it has gone up a more than my bogus inflation rate. And since the price was one of the lowest on this list, it had the least risk with just about the greatest gain as an investment. Now, even if we increase the price by 33% this car is still very affordable. The prices I mention are for a true Dart Swinger 340, so we should check the authenticity of this car. Even if it is not a true Swinger 340 it is still worth about what they are asking, and it is very affordable for a project car. Too bad I was too stupid to realize all that four years ago.

1967 Mustang
Price: $4,200/$5,250 ($5,900-$9,725) +4.9%

V8, 4-bbl., 4-Spd, original engine/trans.

Comments: Every comment about the Dart above applies to this car as well. If this car was rust free it would have been a perfect project car. In fact, I remember well wondering why I didn't call about it. Mustang coupes are the last affordable Mustangs. This is not one of the most desirable years, which helps keep the cost down. However, this car was still below its value in mint condition, so money and time could be spent restoring it to factory new condition and not lose money. That can be a big plus when trying to justify funds for a project car. As a project car we would start with A/C, then move onto power steering and power disc brakes. Once that was done we could add some aftermarket suspension components to get better handling. All the while we would be tinkering with the engine for more power, or planning a GT-40 crate engine swap.

1965 Mustang
Price: $10,759/$10,759 ($6,725-$11,100) +5.2%

Fully restored, new vintage burgundy paint (original factory color), factory air conditioning, 4 speed, "A" code engine with 4 barrel, new interior, new tires, no rust at all, Rally Pac tachometer/clock, console, Cragar mag wheels, runs great and is fun to drive and dependable.

Comments: I actually tried to find this car again. This seemed to be a great Mustang at just the right price. Assuming this was a "fully restored" car it was priced right on the money with its value (a rarity) and it is still in my budget. In fact, it has almost every one of my criteria. V-8, 4 speed, A/C, there was a power steering pump in the engine bay. The only unknown from the ad is power disc brakes. That would be an easy addition at the asking price. I would even have money left over to consider some performance upgrades. The pictures were very high resolution and I didn't see anything wrong. However, there weren't any interior pictures with the ad. I should have definitely called about this one. If memory serves me it was located in Texas, making it easy to see in a single day trip. At the price I could have invested in a Shelby style hood and stripes, GT fog lights, Trumpet exhaust, etc. This would have been a really fun driver/project car. What was I thinking? Idiot!

1970 Dodge Challenger Hardtop
Price: $9,950/$11,500 ($9,100-$11,850) +23.4%

One owner, original car from California, 383 CID V-8, automatic, power steering, air conditioning, green vinyl bucket seat interior, console, AM radio, light package, Driver’s chrome remote mirror, Rally wheels, Firestone radials, green vinyl roof, dark green metallic finish.

Comments: Four years ago I thought this was a reasonably priced big block Challenger. Using 20/20 hindsight I see that I was right. It was only slightly overpriced if it was in excellent condition. This car has gone up in value faster then my inflation rate, one of the few cars to trounce my bogus inflation numbers. CPI doesn't list a Challenger 383. They list a Challenger R/T 383. If this car is an R/T it is worth over $23,000 in restored condition today, though the R/T version has only gone up about 13% making the regular Challenger the better investment for the time being. Back to the 383, I must question the engine. Is it original? If it really is a one owner car you would hope so. Let's assume for a moment that this car was a 383 non-R/T Challenger. It was priced right about what it was worth in mint condition, so putting money into it would not yield any returns. But it has almost everything I want in a daily driver classic Muscle car. It could use a stereo, which can be done on the cheap easily enough. Priced fairly we could even look into a 4 or 5 speed swap. Prior to the manual transmission we could just enjoy this big block gentleman's Pony/Muscle car. This is another case of not looking closely enough at a car because it was not a Camaro or a Mustang. Dummy!

1970 Chevelle Malibu
Price: $8,500/$8,500 ($6,800-$11,175) +9.3%

New 350 with Turbo 350 trans, PS, A/C (not blowing cold), true dual Flowmaster, new tires, Hooker headers, HEI ignition, cowl induction hood, car sounds and runs great.

Comments: Oh what a project car. Clearly this car will need some A/C work. That could be as much as $1500. Next would have to come the manual swap. The price allows me to look straight at a 5 speed. I love the color combination on this car. The look is just right for me. Since he doesn't mention brakes I assume a disc brake swap is in order. But these are all reasonable projects for a project car. And this car is priced right for a project car. Long term I would think about a stroker small block, or a crate fuel injected small block, or even a big block for a car like this. I really think this car is good looking enough to be a great driving project car.

1969 Chevelle SS 396 Clone
Price: $8,900/$8,900 ($6,275-$10,400) +3.0%

Blue with white stripes, big block 396 cid, turbo 350 auto, Flowmaster's, black interior, new headliner, new carpet, new seat covers, buckets, factory tach, disc brakes, chrome wheels, Griffin aluminum radiator, headers, 750 Holley.

Comments: Wow, a clone that is not priced like the real thing. I am surprised. This looked like a perfect example of finishing someone else's project car. I don't mind that if the work it needs to be reliable is reasonable. I would love to put a manual behind that big block. I would try to go straight to a 5 speed because we have about 6 grand left in the budget. Of course A/C would have to come first to enjoy any driving time while I get ready to swap trannies. I can image this car would need steering and brake upgrades in the short or long run. At below 10 grand this would have been a perfect project car that already looks good. Too bad I didn't have the cash when I found this car.

1969 Camaro
Price: $8,500/$8,500 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

SS, 350 small block, 4-speed, 12 bolt rear, 3 exhaust, silver/black interior.

Comments: Let's see... V-8. 4 speed. 69 Camaro. Need I say more. The price is right for a project car, especially one that already has a manual transmission. He doesn't say much about the car, and it only looks so-so in the picture. But at this price it is worth asking if it is rust free and getting more pictures. I would buy this car expecting to add air conditioning, a brake upgrade, power steering upgrade & rebuild the suspension. Then just see were it goes from there.

1968 Nova
Price: $4,300/$4,730 ($4,500-$7,325) +1.0%

New paint, new tires, car has 96000 miles, 350 motor, Powerglide trans, call for details.

Comments: Now this was a project car. A clean, hopefully rust free, car with a V-8 for under 5 grand. With a car like this there is more than enough money left in the budget for air conditioning, 5 speed transmission, PS, PDB, wheels, tires, etc. Remember, 68-74 Novas have the same chassis as 67-69 Camaros, so there is plenty of parts interchangeability between the two. For a car like this we would need to address the interior. I didn't have a picture of it, but Novas are notorious for bench seats and column shifters. Buckets, a nice console and a good 5 speed will all be in the cards along with a Vintage Air air conditioning system. Now that I am a little more flexible in the particular car I would be willing to buy (meaning I would seriously consider something other than a Camaro or Mustang) I could see getting a car like this. At this price I really could afford to buy it and work on it over time... a long time. Notice that this car has barely budged in value of the last few years. Yet it is amazing how many Novas I see priced way north of 10 grand. I am starting to believe that this is the last late 60s to early 70s car that is truly affordable. That is if you can get one for what CPI says you should be able to get one for.

1972 Chevelle
Price: $13,500/$13,500 ($7,000-$11,500) +13.3%

This is the perfect car to go cruising in. It is a 1972 Chevelle made to look like an SS car. The great part is, it has the 454 and A/C, but it does not have the SS price tag!!! Probably the bargain of the year, just $13,500!! This car has it all; 454, PS, PB, SS hood, SS stripes and A/C!!!

Comments: Let me start off by saying... nothing like a 454 big block to get me to forget about a manual transmission. This car could get me to give up on the three pedal shuffle. Other than the lack of a manual this car is ready to go. It fits in my budget and has all of my requirements. If this car runs as good as it looks it should be plenty fast. And we even have a little left over to add some more performance. However, for a car like this I would look into beefing up the suspension for better handling. I would eventually consider putting in a 700-R4 overdrive transmission to help out with gas mileage on my 85 mile per day round trips to work. In fact, I think I need to take it upon myself to see how much gas mileage can be had from a big block. That would be an interesting way to target a project. Let's see... could we get 20 mpg, maybe 25, on the highway at least. Who knows if we never try.

1969 Plymouth Roadrunner
Price: $13,800/$13,800 ($13,350-$20,150) +4.4%

Matching #383 big block, auto, power steering, A/C, "A Real Roadrunner with vin #RM21H9G," Kenwood CD, Crager wheels, buckets, exceptionally clean and straight.

Comments: I love the exterior of the early Road Runners (68-70). This car looks great. I prefer the later (71-74) interiors. One thing I have noticed over the years is that early Road Runners don't have A/C much. This one does. It is also a numbers matching car and hopefully rust free. There is plenty of money left in the value of this car to do a mild restoration. I don't know if it needs a brake upgrade, but we should expect that. A lot of these cars were equipped with manual drum brakes. I know it has an automatic, and I would use that to try and talk the price down. Overall, I love the look of this car, and would add some serious horsepower to the 383 as the budget allowed. After all, what's the point of having an automatic if you aren't going to have mountains of power running through it to light up the tires.

1970 Dodge Super Bee
Price: $8,800/$11,000 ($14,800-$19,775) +15.6%

383 magnum, factory pistol grip 4 speed, tick-toc tack, good daily driver, needs body work.

Comments: What the heck was I thinking when I didn't call about this car four years ago. How much body work could it have needed. The picture looked great. Clearly I needed more pictures to make any kind of decision. In light of its value in restored condition I must have been nuts. I can only guess what it was worth four years ago, but that guess would put this car at a value of about $11,000 in good condition and almost $15,000 in excellent condition. Let's just say this car needed a grand in bodywork, and another 4 grand for a great paint job. Let's see buy the car for just under nine thousand, and add five thousand more for an investment of approximately $14K. If that is enough to bring it up to excellent condition then it would have been worth it. And that was all in 2000 dollars. This car has probably risen close to the 30% my guess is showing. This is one that definitely got away. There was plenty left in the budget and the value to cover bodywork and a paint job. Plus I love Plum Crazy Mopars. From a driving stand point this car needs to have A/C put in, and may need steering and brake upgrades. Considering its value I should have called way back when. Look for a numbers matching engine.

1970 Chevelle Malibu
Price: $13,995/$13,995 ($6,800-$11,175) +9.3%

350 4bbl V-8, 4 speed, PDB, factory A/C, buckets/console, tilt, factory tach, AM/FM/CD, Flowmaster exhaust, 10 bolt posi w/3.31 gears, Arizona car.

Comments: Let's look at this car from a requirements stand point. 1st, it has a V-8. 2nd, it has a 4 speed. 3rd, it has air conditioning. 4th, is has power disc brakes. 5th, it is from Arizona which means is should be completely rust free. 6th, it even has a few extras such as tilt wheel, bucket seats and a console. The only thing not mentioned is power steering, but it might have it even though it is not mentioned. So, what's not to like? For one thing it is about 2 grand over priced. It is also very plain looking. Too much so. It needs some pizzazz. Even though it is overpriced it is still within my budget. I should jump at this car, but I just can't get inspired. Why? Maybe I just need to see more pictures of this car. This is a caller.

1969 Camaro
Price: $5,975/$6,575 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

327 Powerglide, no's match, 96000 original miles, blue over black buckets, solid Wyoming car, mint redone interior, drives awesome!

Comments: Here was an older Plain Jane that slipped through my fingers. If this car was rust free it was a perfect project car. Even accounting for inflation this car would be very affordable and leaves plenty in the budget for a 5 speed conversion, air conditioning, wheels and tires, and some performance modifications. I must have been some kind of fool for not calling about this car. Where are you now?

1967 Camaro
Price: $6,800/$7,820 ($8,000-$13,200) +11.9%

250CI I6, 3sp manual transmission w/factory floor shifter. Power steering, manual brakes. The car's numbers have been checked with the CRG (Camaro Research Group). Numbers match. Daily driver. Drop in a big block and save the six for a rainy day.

Comments : This is another of the cars that got away. I distinctly remember trying to find this car when I got the green light to buy a classic car. I couldn't find the dealer's web site anymore. It probably would have been sold, but I did try. I really like this car. I don't know what it is. Even after owning a 67 Camaro Convertible that had manual drum brakes and no air conditioning. I didn't think I would compromise from a 69 Camaro. In fact, this is only non-69 1st generation Camaros still on the list. One reason is definitely the price. Even after we account for "inflation" this car would be priced great for a project car. I have said I would love a 69 Camaro with the 250 ci 6 cylinder engine with a 4 speed. This one has a 3 speed. But all the clutch and pedal pieces are there and working, so swapping to a 4 or 5 speed would be significantly cheaper than coming from an automatic. First things first, this car needs air conditioning ($1,500). Next would be a power disc brake upgrade ($1,000), and then I would go for a 5 speed, leaping right over a 4 speed since I wouldn't be coming from an automatic (figure $3,000, because it has a manual already). That comes to around $13K. That still leaves some money in the budget for other things like speed parts for the straight 6 and wheels and tires. This car just begs to be a project car. Long term this car would be great for a V-8 swap or maybe a Vortec 4200 DOHC 6 cylinder swap. Why didn't I try calling sooner?

1972 Camaro
Price: $6700/$7400 ($5,800-OE$9,600) +5.2%

RS Split Bumper w/ matching #'s. 350 w/ 4bbl 650 Edelbrock, K&N air, ceramic headers. Engine was prof rebuilt all new components. Crager SS rims, all new tires, new brakes, Pioneer stereo. Comes w/ all original engine parts, new chrome for entire car, new emblems, new leather seats, new door rubber, new locks, new windows fletching.

Comments: I remember this car well. The seller had a web site setup with lots of high resolution pictures. He had a few issues displayed in the pictures. All were well within reason for the price of the car. I also took that as a sign of honesty, showing the truth up front. This was a clean, split bumper Camaro. Of course, I didn't take the all important second step and call because I was hung up on 69 Camaros... and to a large degree I still am. Had I had any sense and bought this car I would immediately start looking into a manual trans swap. There is enough money in the budget for a manual and air conditioning. Everything else could be done over time. I think this style Camaro would look great with a Baldwin Motion style paint scheme. Anyone remember those. However, I would never call it a Baldwin Motion clone... just get the paint job and enjoy the looks the car would get.

1969 Mustang Mach 1
Price: $14,900/$14,900 ($12,000-$19,200) -4.7%

Sold new at Parnelli Jones Ford In California. Original window sticker included. Silver jade in color with black interior. Gold stripes. Black hood stripe. Original 351 W rebuilt with performance upgrades. 4 speed transmission. PS and Disc Brakes. Tach and gauges. Correct wheels. Raised white letter radials. Dual exhaust. Comes with lots of receipts. Runs, drives great.

Comments: This car is perfect... well, except for needing air conditioning. I usually prefer the 70 model over the 69 Mustang's quad headlights, but I really like the look of this car. We have a Mach 1, 4 speed, 351 V-8 Mustang. I love it. I could drive the wheels right off this car. This car is at the top of my budget, so I would need to get them down just enough so I can install a Vintage Air system. Then watch out as I start cruising to work in a cool, classic Mustang. Notice that his car breaks the record for the car that has gone down in value the most. Almost 5% down in two years. Was this listed on the stock market or what. Regardless, it is still priced well below its excellent value according to CPI, so unless the condition is far below that we still have a bargain of a driver if not an investment opportunity. If this car is available when I save up the money I will be calling.

Count 'em Up

Let's take a look at these for a moment. Remember, I am trying real hard to look at cars equipped with a 4 speed, or some other manual transmission. Of the cars above we had 7 1969 Camaros and only 2 had manual transmissions. This just goes to show you how much I like the 69 Camaro. It is one car that can get me to think about living a few more years with a slushbox.

We also have two Camaros of a vintage other than 69, a 67 with a 3 speed manual and a 72 with an automatic. The 72 was well below 10 grand and would easily fit a manual swap in the budget.

So what happens when we leave the Camaro fold. We have 15 cars left. Of those 7 have manual transmission. That's pretty bad. But let's take a quick look at the remaining 8 cars equipped with automatics. Four of them had big blocks and one was a convertible. That only leaves 3 automatics left. The Buick GS 350 is just a sweet classic cruiser. There is a 68 Nova listed at under 5 grand, with the first order of business to swap in a manual. Finally, a great looking 70 Chevelle priced under 10 grand with enough money left in a $15,000 budget to swap in a manual transmission.

See, I am getting better about the manual transmission issue, you just have to look hard to notice.

All of the cars above would get my serious attention today if I had the money saved already. But that will have to wait. I am saving and will hopefully start looking for real sometime soon.

Runner Ups

In the mean time I wanted to show you the cars that I almost want. The cars below are all nice. I had a hard time stripping them from the list above. I call these cars Runner-Ups. In reality that is exactly what they are. In a world of used cars you can't always expect to find the exact car you want. You might have to settle for something that is close. I just couldn't leave these cars out of this article without some kind of credit. I liked these cars, but for one reason or another they just didn't make the cut. But... and this is a big but... I would consider them if it were not for the cars above. So, as the sayings go, "timing is everything" and "beggars can't be choosers." If any of the following cars were located close enough for me to check them out (meaning they were in Texas) I would do just that. If you look at everything, they are just a little short in some area of my criteria. Some are just too expensive, while others just need too many "upgrades" or just don't quite fit the mold.

I still wanted them listed here so you could see what I like about them. If I had a higher budget many of these would make it. Read their comments for details as to why they did not make the final cut. The following cars started out to be listed in the order I liked them, but that fell apart. Just read and enjoy.

1968 Shelby GT350 Fastback
Price: $21,950/$27,500 ($26,925-$40,500) +12.7%

Blue w/ Black int. 8 Cyl. Auto. SN 0364. Great opportunity to get into a fast appreciating collectible at a bargain price. Very nice Acapulco Blue paint with black interior. Auto trans and power brakes.

Comments: O.K. I know I am not supposed to look at expensive machinery. But I still remember reading about this car as if it were yesterday. It has always stuck in my mind. The pictures of this car showed an extremely clean true-to-life Shelby at a reasonable price. I know this is totally inaccurate, but according to my inflationary pricing this car would have been priced equivalent to $27.5K today. Notice that we are not really that far off. This car has increased 12.7% in the last two years, so taking that back two more years (when I saw the original ad) means we have an increase right around 25% over the last four years, which is the figure I used to adjust for inflation. Wow, that's cool. If we assume this car really has gone up in value 25% over the last four years, which is not totally unrealistic, then this car was worth between $21,200 and $31,875 when it was for sale at $22K. This car looked like it would at least qualify for CPI's good rating. So it seems it was priced fairly. Wow, I have not seen a fairly priced Shelby since this one. I still wish there was some way I could have considered buying this car 4 years ago. It would have made a great looking occasional driver, a part time show car and an good investment... all in one. Yes, with a 302 and automatic it was probably the slowest Shelby ever produced, but it was a Shelby. I wish I could have prevented this one from getting away. For a car like this I could live without air conditioning. Besides, it would be better to have the windows down anyway to wave at people as you drive by. If I ever see a deal like this again I will try hard to buy it. Keep in mind, that had I bought a car like this with a loan it would have went up in value higher than the interest rate on a loan. Meaning it would still make a profit even after interest. O.K. Back to reality!

1970 Impala
Price: $10,957/$10,957 ($3,900-$6,425) +0.4%

Georgia car bought new in Cartersville GA on 3-24-70, one owner car w/ Ga title dated 5-6-70, custom coupe, all paperwork including protect-o-plate and original owner's manual, original sales agreement when car sold for $5064.39, original window sticker, numbers matching per vin stamped on engine pad and protect-o-plate. 350/250 hp, TH350 automatic, PDB, PS, factory A/C blows ice COLD! Woodgrain interior accents, seat belts, American racing rims, original jack, spare, and trunk mat. Car is super clean and smooth driving, very unmolested car with recent paint, solid body and straight, this is a hard to find example of an original car.

Comments: Here is a car that is about 4 grand over its value. At least this car had a bunch of documentation and even showed a few trophies in one of the pictures. Even though this car is way overpriced, it still fits well within my budget. Be careful of the price. This car has only gone up in value less than one percent in the last two years, so an investment it is not. If I decide I don't care about resale value I could easily buy this car within my budget. I love the idea of driving my boys around in it. So, if I bought a car like this what would I do to it. Well, it looks great. I love the wheels. It has a nice stance. Too bad a car like this doesn't have power windows. This is a big ocean liner. I can see just cruising around in it. Maybe we don't have to do anything. Or maybe we can put that 350 aside for a while and drop in a 502 big block. That would be cool. Let's see if we can talk them down to 9 grand and go for the big block. Yea!

1966 Mustang Convertible
Price: $14,950/$17,000 ($12,200-$19,550) +1.6%

289 CID A code V-8 with 4 BC, hood scoop, trumpet dual exhaust, automatic transmission, power steering, air, blue & white pony interior, console, wood type wheel, AM radio, Cragar Wheels, Radial T/A tires, black top, diamond gloss Night Mist Blue metallic with white stripes.

Comments: My wife and I both really liked the look of this car two and a half years ago. We even checked out loan rates and payments when we saw this car. It is exactly what I would do to a Mustang. I love the stripes on the Shelby style hood. It's just too bad that I couldn't afford it back then. It was a little pricey when it was for sale, and if I use my bogus inflation number it is even more pricey. This car has only risen a couple of percent in value over the last couple of years. That means we should theoretically buy this car today for about $15.2K. It would have to have a power top or I could not buy this car. The look is good enough to get me to think about a slushbox for a few years. Notice that this car is worth close to twenty large in restored condition. It is not restored and not original. At about $15K today I think we could make a deal. But this car is long gone, so maybe next time.

1974 Dodge Challenger
Price: $14,995/$14,995 ($13,500-$18,150) +39.6%

Pistol Grip 4 speed. Matching numbers 360 with a Purple Shaft cam, Edelbrock intake, Edelbrock carburetor, headers and glasspacks, 8 3/4 rear... much more.

Comments: I love Pistol Grip Mopars. I really like Challengers. I like the Challenger more than Cuda of the period. The Challenger has a longer wheelbase that gives it a better ride. It was more upscale than the Cuda as well. The Challenger was to the Cuda what the Cougar was to the Mustang. A gentleman's Pony/Muscle car. With this car we are at the absolute top of our budget, but we get a 4 speed with a numbers matching engine. This is a budget buster. I would love to buy this car, but I wouldn't have a penny left to put into it. That was the problem I had with my 67 Camaro convertible. However, this car is priced a few thousand dollars below its mint condition value. That helps. More importantly, this car has gone up in value more than any other car on this list. We may have a real investment opportunity. If my budget was a little higher, I would think seriously about a car like this. However, for my needs we would at least need to account for air conditioning. So I am afraid this car just won't make it. Damn!

1973 Dodge Challenger
Price: $7,500/$8,625 ($7,425-$10,075) +38.0%

318-V8, P.S., P.B., slapstick automatic, new interior, has factory a/c. [but doesn't work], red with black vinyl top, good stereo, straight body, very clean inside and out, one-owner car, sharp-looking Mopar.

Comments: This car "looks" better than the green Challenger 383 in the top list. However, it only has a 318 and needs A/C work. But it is significantly lower in price. This car was worth between $5,300 and $7,300 two years ago when they were asking $7,500 with broken A/C. Clearly this car was overpriced when it was for sale. But this car has increased in value an astonishing 38% over the last two years. Wow! This car would have to have been in very, very good condition when it was up for sale, because the cost to repair the A/C would have put me in a position of waiting until the value caught up with the investment. I probably would have wrote this car off two and a half years ago if I had a CPI guide handy. Luck has it that it went up in value more than any make or model car on this list. If fact, the only other car on this list to go up a higher percentage is the 1974 Challenger with the 360 directly above. Still, its current value is still pretty low for a project car. That means it would be a money losing car we put much money into it. What money would we want to put into it in the first place? I would start with a 4 or 5 speed swap... right after we get that A/C working. Then we could look into a 340 or 360 swap. Or maybe we could throw in the new Hemi crate engine. That would be cool. Even with the low buy in price, because of the amount of upgrades we would be throwing at this car it would not be an investment. Forget resale value if modified from stock.

1967 Impala SS
Price: $6,995/$6,995 ($6,575-$10,850) +6.4%

2-dr hardtop, 327-300 hp, 4 bbl, dual exhaust, A/T, PS, PB, A/C, buckets, console, no rust-California car, great lines, true SS car.

Comments: I love the fastback lines of the 67 and 68 Impalas. If this is a real SS (which he says it is) then it is worth a little over 10 grand in restored condition. That is not the original paint. Hopefully he didn't paint over rust and then say it is a no rust car. I have see that before, so check carefully. OK. So it has an automatic. It also has A/C, so I don't have to invest in getting cold air in the car. There is plenty left in the budget to swap in a manual transmission. Hold that thought for a moment. This is a big car, a very big car from a performance stand point. It reminds of the big boats my parents and grandparents used to drive in the "old" days, except this one looks cool. At this price I could see dropping in a crate 502 big block and forgoing the manual transmission. With a monster big block this car would be a blast. The interior was very clean and already has buckets and a console.

1969 Chevelle Malibu
Price: $14,900/$14,900 ($6,275-$10,400) +3.0%

Originally bought new by a family in Charleston, Ark. (30 miles from here). The lady owner gave the car to her nephew in 2001. This car had always been kept in a covered carport and had never had any collision damage. The paint and interior was faded due to age. The mechanical systems of the car were fine, as would be expected on a 58k mile car. The nephew sold the car to a gentleman here in the area who restored the car to like new condition. The miles, colors, etc are all correct on the car. The engine was bored 30 over when he rebuilt it, all the other mechanical systems were renewed as needed. This car drives like new, it is a very tight, quiet, good performing car. Have original owners manual, papers, and protect-o-plate. 307 V-8, auto.

Comments: Here is a classic example of spending too much to restore a car. They have this car priced 4 grand more than it is worth. But this car looked so good in the pictures you would think they were going to use them for a new car brochure. I am not kidding, this car looked that good. The question is... is it good enough to put up with an anemic 307 engine and what I would suspect is a cheesy 2 speed Powerglide slushbox transmission. I thought is was worth it back in April, but that price is gnawing at me. It is within budget... just barely. I wouldn't have any money left over to "personalize" it. I would love to add bucket seats and a console to this car. As for looks that would be it. That engine is screaming out for more power, or maybe we should just see what can be done with an older car to get good gas mileage. Nah. This car is just too expensive... even if it is in the best condition of any Chevelle I have seen in the last 4 or 5 years.

1969 Dart GTS
Price: $13,900/$13,900 ($10,550-$14,350) +27.9%

New 340 crate motor, automatic transmission, PS, PB, A/C, center console, bucket seats, very nice original car!

Comments: If this was a Camaro I would buy it. The car looked excellent in all the pictures. I like this car well enough that I think I could live without a manual tranny. If it didn't have the buckets and console already I would pass. This car has every other one of my criteria, including air conditioning. It is ready to drive right out of the box, no mods necessary. That rear bumble bee stripe is perfect. Of course, I would probably tinker with it a little over time. You can always get more performance and handling for a reasonable input in cash. Maybe we can talk them down a little because it is not the original motor. The only order of business before putting this car into service would be putting a nice stereo in it. Notice that this car is rising well in value. We might need to move fast on something like this if it comes across our path in the future.

1973 Cougar XR7 Convertible
Price: $8,995/$8,995 ($6,300-$10,325) +3.0%

351C V8, rebuilt automatic, PS, PDB, A/C, power windows, tilt wheel, power seat, AM-FM stereo, leather bucket seats with console, new white power top, Magnum wheels with Goodyears. Runs and drives as good as it looks. A/C complete and working but needs charge. Drive anywhere.

Comments: Check out the specs on this car. Air conditioning... check. Power steering... check. Power disc brakes... check. Power top... check. Power windows... Wow... check. I don't really like this body style, but it is everything a cruiser convertible should be. The white interior will stay cool to the touch in the south central Texas heat. Why shouldn't I get a car like this? At the price we would even have enough money left over to swap in a 5 speed. Notice that this car seems to be priced right. It is priced right between CPI's good and excellent ratings. Maybe I should give this one some serious thought.

1971 Cutlass Supreme Convertible
Price: $8,995/$8,995 ($9,700-$14,450) +1.2%

350 4bbl with automatic. 90,000 original miles, two owner Texas car, numbers match, power steering, power disc brakes, power top, A/C, buckets, console, clean and solid, correct Saturn Gold over original white interior, good top and boot, works excellent, trunk kit with spare, car runs and drives perfect, sounds awesome, very unmolested.

Comments: Here we have a nice convertible with a white interior, power top, air conditioning and the required power accessories. And it is below 10 grand. What's not to like. Restored this car is worth about 5 grand more than they are asking for it. In fact, it seems to be priced right about what a good condition car should be priced at. That leaves some money left to fix it up without worrying too much about losing money. We don't have a manual, but do we need one. I could add one with the money left in the budget, or I could start personalizing it. Let's see, we could add a Ram Air hood, and a nice paint job. That gold is pretty funky looking. If any money was left over after a paint job we would switch to buckets and a console. Then it would be time to add some more horsepower under the hood. All the while we would just cruise in convertible comfort.

1970 442
Price: $7,500/$9,375 ($10,400-$17,150) +1.2%

455 cid, A/T, console, all original. Immaculate.

Comments: The ad didn't mention much here, but we can assume a couple of things. First, a 442 with a 455 will flat out rock. This should have been a very fast car. Immaculate should also mean rust free. This car should at least match the good rating by CPI. Notice this car has not changed in value much over the years. Even still, this car was priced below CPI's good value rating when it was for sale. If it was at least in good condition it would have been a good car to buy. I barely remember it, but I think back and could kick myself for not realizing what I was looking at. As for today, if this car was for sale we could still buy it and have enough money to swap in a 5 speed. It doesn't mention air conditioning so if it needs A/C and a manual the A/C will have to come first. I could see myself driving this big block beast around with a slushbox for a while before doing the manual swap. Just plan to spend some extra dough on rear tires with that 455 torque monster under the hood.

1970-1/2 Camaro Z/28
Price: $9,950/$11,500 ($12,850-$19,925) +1.0%

This mid-year produced car is one of the rarest, with RS option which includes the split front bumper, original number matching 350/360 hp eng., first year for automatic trans. with Z-28 option and the only year to offer 12 bolt rear end, this car is shown here with the wrong seats, but the correct (one year only) low back seats go with the car along with the original carb. A good daily driver.

Comments: When I saw this car the first time I was surprised at the price for a true Z/28 RS. Although CPI does not show an increase in value for the RS option on the Z/28, it probably does influence the value. This car was, and still is with inflation, a bargain. If it was rust free we may have had a rare find. The price did not allow enough money for both A/C and a manual transmission swap. A/C always takes precedence. So we may have to live with the slushbox for a while. Since we shouldn't loose any money on this car we could lightly restored it and just enjoyed driving it. For once they are right, this could make a good daily driver.

1966 Mustang GT
Price: $12,500/$12,500 ($9,900-$14,975) +2.0%

289cu V-8 with 4 speed transmission. Black with black vinyl top, black vinyl buckets with center console.

Comments: This car needs air conditioning... bad. It is triple black and the seller and buyer (me) both live in Texas. I would try to negotiate the price down based on the lack of A/C and tell them I would need to put in a Vintage Air system... which I would. We need to find out about power steering and disc brakes. That might be a few too many upgrades to get this car in the condition I need for reliable driving. But it does have the fog lights and trumpet exhaust on a true GT. This car is barely holding its value, so make sure it is in very good condition. Overall this looks like it could make a very good driver classic, but that triple black scares me with the heat in south central Texas.

1969 Camaro RS Convertible
Price: $14,000/$16,100 ($14,450-$23,875) -2.0%

Fresh pro restoration, new comfort weave interior. 350 V-8, TH 350 transmission, dual exhaust, Goodyear Eagle tires. Way to many things to list. This car is clean and straight, call and make an offer before its gone!

Comments: O.K. This is getting expensive. Four years ago this car was a bit pricey, but looked so good I couldn't resist. He says, "Way to many things to list." He could have at least mentioned A/C, PS & PB. Oh well. If it didn't have any of those it would not be worth it to me at this price. But look what happened to its value. This is one of the few cars on this list that has gone down in value. Ouch. So, should this car be in here with an inflation adjusted figure of $16,100. Oh well, it doesn't much matter now. If I had a CPI guide when I first saw it I might have called. This car may not be going up in value at the present time, but we need to look at something. This car is supposed to be fresh from a professional restoration. If that's true this car should be worth CPI's excellent rating in the $23-24K range. Yet is was priced just under CPI's good rating. This may have been a bargain. Before buying this car we need to decide if we want to give up on a manual transmission. Next we need to see if it is a numbers matching car, and if it has a power top. I will not drive another manual top car, even if I can buy it for almost 10 grand blow its value. Heck, if the condition is really excellent we could buy this car just to resell it at a profit. I like this car a lot. If it has a power top and air conditioning I would be willing to live with a slushbox. Why didn't I know about CPI sooner and call about this car.

1969 Camaro RS
Price: $10,900/$10,900 ($12,150-$20,050) +1.3%

327ci V8, Powerglide automatic transmission, PB, PS, A/C, RS equipment, operating hide-away headlamps, glacier blue, dark blue vinyl trim, vinyl top, bucket seats, solid, 83,268 miles.

Comments: Plain Jane RS. Hmm. It has A/C, so we would be blowing the remainder of the budget on swapping in a manual transmission. That paint looks rough, but hopefully it is original. We have a good deal of value left in this car if we go the restoration route, but be careful because this car has only gone up in value a little more than 1 percent over the last two years. This car may not have that much investment potential for a while. Regular Camaro coupes have gone up over 12 percent in the same time frame. It's possible this car is topping out in value for the next few years. If we were to buy this car maybe we could color sand and buff that paint out to look good. It's certainly worth a try. I normally don't go for RS Camaros in the 69 vintage, but I might be willing to make an exception in this case.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
Price: $9,000/$11,250 ($12,800-$21,125) +8.5%

56,000mi. Auto, 350, white with orange stripes, black power top, power steering, power brakes, aluminum wheels. Runs great, looks great, mostly original!

Comments: This is one of the first ads I ever "copied." I had the weird feeling this car was not as nice as it looked. But at this price it wouldn't matter. If this car has risen in value steadily over the last four years CPI would have put it at about $10,800 in good condition back in 2000. He was below that, so we would hope it was a good buy. The picture does not show much, so we definitely would have needed a lot more pictures before running around the country after a car like this. If I saw an ad like this today I would call. Why not? Considering the value of a nice condition Camaro convertible a car like this could have a lot of potential.

1967 Chevelle
Price: $9,500/$9,500 ($7,575-$12,450) +3.8%

250 6 Cylinder, automatic, new paint, 90,000 actual miles, new tires, new rechromed bumpers, new gas tank, seat covers over original seats, since new original spare tire and jack, rust free body, well kept by one, original owner since new. It has the dream car ride!

Comments: This should be a great project car. I once saw a super stripped 64 or 65 Malibu with a 6 cylinder and three-on-the-tree at a car show. It looked like it just rolled off the assembly line. It had Rally wheels from the late 60s, and the rears were quite wide, but that was the only thing that deviated from stock. It made for a nice look on a bone stocker. This car could be the same way, except this car has an automatic. Damn! Personally I think this car would make a nice occasional driver and show car. There is not mush money left in the value to put money into restoring it... assuming it needs to be restored. The pictures looks very good. However, for me I would see this as a project car. With the lack of a V-8, lack of a manual and the lack of A/C it just won't fit my budget, I would be at more than 20 grand by the time this car had decent power and the creature comforts I require. If I decide to cruise around in a 6 cylinder I might think about this car, but the price needs to come down for a project car, especially a project car that needs so many upgrades.

1970 Chevrolet Camaro RS
Price $10,500/$13,125 ($6,000-$9,900) +4.2%

350, Automatic, Air Conditioning, PS, PB, Like new! Nicest '70 RS you'll ever find! 79000 miles.

Comments: Four years ago I thought this was a decent price for a real RS split bumper Camaro. I know a lot better now. If we take this car's 4.2 percent increase and stretch that back two more years this car had a value between $5,500 (good condition) and $9,100 (excellent condition). That means they wanted over a grand more than it was worth in mint condition. Was this in mint condition? We will never know. It was awfully plain, so we would need to perform a lot of upgrades. I love original, unmolested cars. This should be that. It makes for a great blank canvas for a project car. However, this car is priced a bit too high for a project. I still wouldn't mind checking it out. It has A/C and power accessories, so all we have to look into is a manual transmission. We also need to do something about the plain looks. A rear spoiler, removing that vinyl roof, and a Baldwin Motion paint job. Interesting car, if it was under 10 grand today.

1969 Camaro
Price: $13,900/$13,900 ($8,150-$13,450) +12.8%

Frame off started, totally rust free arrow straight and solid body, 1969 396 big block, auto, 12 bolt posi, power steering, power disc brakes, brand new rallys, Glacier Blue over black, white stripes, have tons of extras to finish, runs and drives super strong, the cleanest best bodied Camaro we've had in a long time, must see underneath to appreciate.

Comments: Wow, a big block, rust free 69 Camaro within my budget. What is this world coming to. I would be very worried here that we need to do too much to this car to "finish" it. Also, it seems to be lacking most of my requirements. No A/C, no PS, no PB. But I love big blocks and I love 69 Camaros. I think I am trying to hard to talk myself into this one. Let's move on before we end up with a money pit.

1966 Mustang
Price: $7,850/$7,850 ($6,575-$10,850) +4.8%

Coupe, V8, extra chrome, nice paint/int, 4spd, good radial tires, orig, runs/drives good, blue.

Comments: O.K. Here we have a great project car... and it's priced like one. We have the V-8 and 4 speed that are so important. We have enough money left in the budget to add air conditioning, power steering and power disc brakes. We can go even further and put on a Shelby hood and maybe paint the car to include Shelby stripes. I can see this as a work in progress. A driving project car. I would check very hard for rust, because rust repairs could eat up the budget pretty quickly. This car looks pretty plain, and a bit rough. It just doesn't inspire me, but it definitely should get a closer look if we were serious and ready with cash in hand.

1967 Cougar
Price: $12,750/$12,750 ($4,200-$6,925) +2.2%

Local car sold new here in Ft Smith, the last owner is a retired antique car club member, a real car nut who babies his collection. Car drives like new and needs absolutely nothing. A great find for a Cougar enthusiast who really appreciates a true original. You won't be disappointed in this car at all. Drive it anywhere. 289, Auto.

Comments: The ad doesn't say that this is an XR7. The base Cougar is only worth 7 grand. They want almost twice what it is worth. Can this be that good. We can afford it, but do we want to risk loosing money. Notice it has only gone up about 2% in the last 2 years. This car doesn't have a manual and doesn't have A/C. We can use the lack of A/C and my CPI guide to try and talk them down. Of course, we would be giving up on a manual transmission with this car. I would really need to see this car in person to make any kind of call. I think it is way overpriced, but it looks amazing in the pictures. I like 1st generation Cougars. They are Gentlemen's Mustangs... and take all the same performance modifications. I want to know more about this car. In fact, I really want to know what it eventually sells for (yes, it is still for sale).

1968 Firebird
Price: $8,000/$8,000 ($5,625-$9,275) +1.4%

Don't miss out on this great deal! Nice & clean. Overhead cam 6 cylinder. Has fold down rear seat. This car is a classic! This deal won't last long.

Comments : This looks like a great daily driver. The car is priced reasonably. It is not worth a lot of money, so why not just drive it like the good looking classic car that it is. I love the Overhead Cam Sprint 6 engine. That makes this car interesting. The light weight (compared to a V-8) might make for good handling... at least once the suspension was rebuilt for handling. You could tinker with the engine and have a car that is different. They don't mention the transmission. If this car has a manual tranny I would jump at it. Even with an automatic we have enough money left over in the budget to add a manual, but that might not be a good idea considering this car's value. I would expect we also have to add A/C. I would only buy this car if I was content to live with the Sprint 6. A V-8 swap on top of some of the other things it needs would be too much to spend on a car worth less than 10 grand in mint condition. I seriously want to test drive this car and see how much power the Sprint 6 provides. Like I said at the beginning... drive it as is and have a nice, clean, classic.

1967 Mercury Cougar
Price: $12,900/$12,900 ($6,500-$9,800) +1.6%

390 CI, Edelbrock intake, C-6 transmission, A/C, nice interior, Alpine/JBL Stereo, New wheels.

Comments: We have a dilemma again. This car does not mention it is a GT. CPI lists the GT 390 as a trim level for the Cougar. Is this a real 390? Is it a GT? These are important questions that need to be answered before thinking about buying this car. If it is a GT 390 then it is worth about 10 grand. If it is just a Cougar it is worth less than 8 thousand. Either way it is overpriced. But if it is a GT 390 with the original numbers matching engine we could think about this car. From that standpoint this car should make for a fast big block Pony car. All the performance goodies for the Mustang will work on the Cougar. They don't mention power steering or brakes, but it does have air conditioning. As you have probably noticed, I can forgive the lack of a manual transmission in light of a big block. This car could be a cool big block car with just a little to make it "mine." We need to verify its authenticity, and decide if we really want to live without a manual transmission.

1967 Firebird Convertible
Price: $12,500/$12,500 ($12,350-$20,050) +4.4%

1967 is the first year of the Firebird and a limited number of convertibles were made. Good condition inside and out but not perfect. Powered by a healthy 400 motor with an automatic transmission and A/C. This car looks great and is ready for someone to add the finishing touches!

Comments: When I read this ad I wondered if it has the original engine. I don't know why. After all this is a nice condition big block powered Pony car convertible. The Firebird is just like a Camaro under the skin. This one is in a nice color and has a white interior to keep the summer cruising cool. If I am willing to give up on a manual then this car could get my attention. As for this car... it better have a power top or we are out of here.

1971 Mustang Mach I
Price: $6,500/$8,125 ($8,500-$14,025) +3.7%

351 4V, 4 speed, console, P/S, P/B, very straight, Runs and drives excellent.

Comments: Here we have the perfect chance to build a clone. We have a 351, 4 speed equipped 71 Mustang fastback. If that is a 351 Cleveland then we are just a few steps away from a clone of a Boss 351 Mustang. That would be cool. The car's value as a Mach 1 is enough to justify buying the car and keeping it stock. He had this priced pretty nicely 4 years ago. No matter what, we need to add A/C. We can see where things go from there.

1970 Chevelle SS
Price: $9,500/$11,875 ($16,350-$25,350) +3.0%

8 cylinder, 5 speed. Solid rust free frame and body, new paint, new int., new big block.

Comments: He mentions a big block. Can we can assume that he has at least the 396? I listed the prices for a true SS 396. That puts this car at a very high value, and a bargain if it is real. He already put a 5 speed in it, so all I need to do is add the finishing touches like A/C, PS, PDB, etc. This could be a perfect chance to pick up on someone else's project. I would verify that it is a real SS. The new big block assumes it is not a numbers matching car. I am getting a strange vibe here, so we need to be extra cautious.

1965 Mustang GT
Price: $12,500/$15,625 ($13,850-$21,450) +4.9%

289 4-bbl, 4-speed.

Comments : Four years ago I thought this was reasonably priced. If the increase has been steady, we can assume CPI gave this a value of $12,500 in good condition way back then, which is what he was asking. By my inflation number this car has slipped out of my price range. But its value is not going up anywhere near my inflation figure. So, maybe this car would still be reasonably priced today. If this car was still selling for the good value in CPI's guide, today being $13,850, I would consider this car. We would almost have enough to add A/C to it. Let's see... we have a V-8, 4 speed car in the preferred fastback body style. I like it. The picture is too small to decide anything. Maybe we should have called.

1972 Chevy Chevelle SS 454
Price: $14,900/$14,900 ($14,350-$22,350) +2.6%

Cortez silver with black stripes, new B/C paint, fresh 454, turbo 400 auto, dual exhaust, cowl hood, PS, PB, ice cold A/C! Complete new black interior with buckets, factory SS wheels, BF Goodrich Radial TA's, new bumpers, factory tach. Drive it anywhere.

Comments: Is this a real SS 454 Chevelle? Wow, it is priced at a point where I can just barely afford it. Of course it doesn't have a manual transmission. Big Surprise! But it has all my other requirements. And look at the value potential. If ever I decide to give up on shifting gears this car would be perfect. A factory big block Muscle car with all the power accessories and air conditioning. I don't need to do anything to this car except buy stock in BF Goodrich. I really like this car... a LOT! We need to check its authenticity carefully. Do I really want to bust the budget with no chances to personalize the car to my taste, or even leave a little money left over for repairs. Fortunately we don't have to decide that today.

Conclusions

If you add up all the picture ads from the previous four articles you will find 258 unique cars. I have stripped that down to 24 cars I would call about right now if I had the cash. I also would consider another 32 cars as runner-ups, after all beggars can't be choosers. That's pretty restrictive. Remember I would have called about almost all of those original 258 cars at the time I saw their ad, had I been in the market with cash to spend.

If you look at the price increases over the last two years you will see that our champ is the 1974 Challenger 360. This car went up in value almost 40% in just the past two years. Now that's an investment. A very close runner-up is the 1973 Challenger equipped with just a plain jane 318. It went up 38% in value. Next was the 1970 Dodge Dart at and increase of 33%. Finally, the 1973 Cougar XR7 Convertible rose up a little more than 31% in value during the term of our records.

The Dart would have been the easy choice if you knew it was going to happen, mainly because it had the lowest "buy in" price of the four cars. That means it had the least risk as an investment.

I was stunned to discover that the 1969 Mustang Mach 1 has gone down in value, and by almost 5%. I have not spent a lot of time studying trends, so I can't make any conclusions about this phenomenon. Maybe this means it is at or near the bottom of the trend and it might make for a good investment. The all new Mustang due out in 2005 has a lot of styling cues from the late 60s era, and that could revitalize the older car's value. However, I would be weary of buying a Mach 1 purely as an investment.

The sad thing for me is the 1968 Shelby GT 350 Fastback. While looking through my CPI guide I noticed that the 68 fastback in GT 350 trim is the least expensive Shelby. It has gone up between 12 and 13% in the last two years. That is a decent investment. More importantly is how it impacts me. I could not afford to buy this particular car 2-1/2 years ago. This year I received a 3% raise. This car is going up in value faster than my income. So the odds of me ever getting one are mighty slim indeed. Damn!

Well, that's it for traveling down memory lane. It's time to start looking toward the present and future. Toward that end I am starting a new column. I am calling it Classic Car Watch. I will put current ads in it each month, and pick my favorite classic each month. You can read the first month's right now. Just click on Classic Car Watch in the navigation in the left and enjoy what today has to show you.

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