The late seventies was not a good time in the motoring world. Representative of the overlap of old-world technology with new world safety, economy, and environmental thinking, the late seventies were marked by 100-horsepower big block V8s strangled by emissions plumbing, and automotive designs marred by strange new crash safety standards. But, beneath the rubber bumpers and ridiculously complex engine plumbing, there were gems… like the Fiat X1/9. A mid-engined sports car actually designed to mimic the styling of contemporary power boats, the X1/9 earned numerous accolades for its sublime handling characteristics; a product of its well-balanced layout and roughly 2,000 pound curb weight. However, although plenty pretty in its earlier iterations (production began in ’72), the X1/9 fell victim to the same ills that befell every cool car in the late ’70s, and by 1979 found itself visually bound by ridiculous impact-absorbing bumpers and choked by charcoal canisters, air pumps, and EGR valves. That didn’t stop the carbureted 1.5 litre from producing an even 85 horsepower, which was good for a 0-60 time of just over 10 seconds and a top speed on 180 kph, making it as willing a sporty coupe as its dual trunks did a great commuter.
A car that’s always enjoyed a bit of a cult following, the X1/9 was one of the few Fiats produced specifically for inclusion in the U.S. market, meaning there are a surprising number of them still around. However, whilst its cult status ensures plenty of information sources, parts can be slightly more difficult to locate. Although many of the most commonly replaced pieces can be sourced from a few different online retailers, larger, less common parts are often available only through eBay, and one can end up waiting for the correct part to appear. Thankfully, they’re not known for being terribly temperamental, with their easily-remedied electrics being the most common complaint the running gear bears. It is a car made of 1979-era steel though, and rust is very common in the front area around the headlight motors (visible from the front trunk area), in the rear trunk area, and around the wheelarches and sills. On the plus side, it’s not a very large car, so checking for rust shouldn’t take too long, and 19 years of what appears to have been indoor storage may have saved this example from the worst of it! For under $2,000 it’s a great buy that’s sure to appreciate with time, although I don’t know if even I could be convinced to keep its paint scheme… Click on the blue text above to carry through to the advertisement, additional photos, and more contact info!
If you’re looking for a car with which you can enjoy the coming months, well, you may have just found it with this cheap MGB. The quintessential sports car by any and all measures, the MGB has provided the world with the very definition of the term for decades, having been in continual production for 22 years. Beginning in 1960, the classically proportioned and handsome MGB roadster saw three different iterations during its long production run, with the Mark II’s production beginning in 1967, and the Mark III in 1972. This being a ’73, it bears out the improvements that made a Mark III (improved dashboard and heater assembly), but manages to escape the ugliness that came along with 1974’s more stringent crash safety standard and the associated rubber bumper overriders.
Of course, as one of the world’s best-selling sports cars (the Miata only recently claimed that title from the MGB a few years ago), owning an MGB is ridiculously easy. Parts are both widely available as well as quite inexpensive, and the owners groups, clubs, and general proliferation of MGB info makes finding manuals and maintenance instructions as easy as locating a good recipe for bread. Furthermore, they’re uncommonly pleasant to drive, with responsive, lively handling and decent power from the 1.8 litre inline four. Granted, you won’t be setting a blistering pace around Laguna or Mugello with one, but they’ve got quite comfortable interiors, a pleasant ride that doesn’t punish, and return MPG figures in the mid 20’s. This particular example won’t be the prettiest MGB many will have laid eyes upon, but these cars are quite mechanically robust, which means it could be excellent candidate for weeknight restoration work between weekend runs up the Duffy Lake Road. Again, clicking the blue text above will take you through to the ad for contact info.
There’s been a lot of American cars on here over the months. Maybe it’s just their dominance in the overall market, or perhaps it’s the undesirable and neglected periods they go through, but for whatever reason old European cars seem to hold their value quite a bit better. Which makes stumbling across something an uncommon as an MGB GT like this such a great find. A Pininifarina designed shooting brake version of the popular MGB sports car, the MGB GT was pretty much identical to its unquestionably more popular drop-top brother, but benefits from beefed up suspension components, in order to deal with the coupe’s added weight. Only marginally slower than the convertible, the GT proved enviably practical; it’s two-door station wagon (also known in Europe as a shooting brake) layout giving legitimate, if cramped, 2+2 seating and a relative dirth of cargo space beneath the rakish rear hatch. After debuting in 1965, the MGB GT saw its demise in North America in 1974, although worldwide exports continued all the way into 1980.
The fact that many of the car’s components are identical to the MGB’s makes buying up a second hand MBG GT a very logical way to enter into classic car ownership: as one of the most popular sports cars ever produced, you could probably build an MGB from the ground up with the restoration components available from aftermarket suppliers. In fact, perhaps the largest difference between buying an MGB and an MGB GT is that you needn’t worry so much about the environment’s effects on the car’s interior with the hard top. After all, no one’s ever left the roof off an MGB GT overnight in the rain! But it’s not all roses; as with all old British cars, rust can be a real problem. Check the sills very thoroughly, as they are both rust prone and incredibly important to the car’s unibody construction, likewise with the floors, and trunk. Thankfully, being a car that’s just emerged from 9 years of indoor storage, hopefully it’s in good shape body-wise. Finally, don’t be scared off by the mechanical woes of this particular vehicle, as their simplicity is probably only matched by the cheapness of their parts! Click the blue text to follow through to the ad.
When it comes to awesome vehicles, the Land Rover 101″ Forward Control is right near the top of the list. A little known variant of the brand’s all-conquering Series IIA and Series III trucks, the forward control fulfilled the British military’s need for an air-transportable 1-tonne utility truck, and did so in much the same manner as did Volvo’s Laplander and Steyr-Puch’s Pinzgauer. Produced in a variety of formats for the military alone (there were no civilian forward controls manufactured), the forward control could be had in radio car, ambulance, and truck layouts, with varying body styles and widths befitting their specific roles; radio trucks typically possess an enclosed shell that is no wider than the front end, while ambulances bulge outward to allow additional room for stretchers and medical equipment. Trucks, such as the one pictured here, feature your standard issue, military-style folding bed sides and typically benefit from the fitment of a hoop set and canvas roof.
Although this blog may be called “Cars You Should Buy,” I fear this first entry after the holiday season breaks with tradition and brings you a car you most certainly should not, regardless of how cool it may appear. Having had the unfortunate fortune of undergoing an engine and transmission swap at some point, the truck has lost one of its best features; the ability to use a huge amount of standard Land Rover parts. Whilst Laplanders, Pinzgauers, and even Unimogs are specific vehicles with very little parts sharing with their stablemates, the 101 utilized much of the same running gear as the regular Land Rover Series IIA and III trucks, which means that any current owner can take advantage of a huge parts supply network. Of course, that pedestrian design also makes it a bit less capable than the similarly-sized, portal-axle-equipped forward control trucks from Steyr, Volvo, and Mercedes, and the prices typically reflect that. It also doesn’t help that due to their relatively awkward looks, punishing ride, and niche status, they simply don’t command much of a market. Readily available in the UK for around nine grand in restored condition, and typically carrying a $2,500 shipping cost, this truck’s $25,000 price tag is absolutely ridiculous. But, if nothing else, it does serve as a great excuse to search eBay Motors UK for a better one. As always, interested parties can click the blue text alongside the topmost picture to navigate to the seller’s Craigslist ad… but I wouldn’t recommend it.
It is odd how many great cars go almost wholly forgotten by the collective memory of the automotive enthusiast community; truly wonderful cars like the Jaguar Mark X/420G, the Volvo P1800, and the BMW 3.0 CS and Bavaria. Incredibly desirable and possessing plenty of cachet, each of these cars represent an epiphany in their respective manufacturer’s histories. For the 3.0 CS, that epiphany was accompanied by a period of motorsports dominance and critical acclaim that BMW really hadn’t known until then. One of the best looking BMWs arguably ever produced, the E9 (BMW’s internal name for the two door coupe platform) was also largely responsible for rendering the German brand into its modern, driver-oriented image. Offering between 180 and 200 horsepower (180 being the power rating for the carburetor-equipped, 9:1 compression ratio CS, 200 for the fuel injected and 9.5:1 squeezing CSi), and being considered one of the best suspended cars of the time, it was a true pleasure to drive. I can personally vouch for this, having had the pleasure of operating one of these fine vehicles on a few occasions. Sounding glorious, the 3.0L inline six is a real gem of an engine, but for the modern driver, it will be the effortlessly graceful manner in which the car conducts its business combined with the ridiculously excellent visibility afforded by the spidery pillars and huge windows that will really impress.
Of course, that’s only when they’re working… not that they’re terribly unreliable. In fact, if you ever have a chance to delve into the mechanics of one, they’re thoroughly impressive. Again, personal experience tells me that the drivetrains are amazingly robust (I’ve seen one come back to life and move down the road in 10 minutes after sitting untouched for two decades), but the running gear and electrics can be a little finicky as the suspension, steering, and brakes are as complicated as they needed to be to set a new standard for the world. However, that isn’t the bad news: here in BC, these things have a nasty habit of turning to dust. Partly the contemporary steel and partly the stupidly solid way in which they were made facilitates thirty years’ worth of moisture working its way into every nook and cranny without the possibility of drainage. The sills and quarters are particularly targeted by the process of oxidation. Also, any potential buyer should also take a quick gander at the interior, as trim pieces can be somewhat hard to locate. With just two pictures available of this particular silver example, it’s impossible to truly tell its condition, but it looks pretty decent and is just one 267 CS’ to roll off the line in ’74, making it an excellent (and classy) way to jump into the Bimmer club.
I will confess, I’ve never been a big fan of Mercedes Benz’ automobiles. With the exception of a few of their classic roadsters, I’ve always found their vehicles, both new and old, to be a bit too Germanic for my British-tuned tastes; when you’ve whetted your appetite on lithe Jaguars, there’s little room for a brand that put out a car who’s styling earned it the moniker “Pagoda,” officially. But, regardless, I must admit that they do have an undeniable presence on the road, especially the late sixties/early seventies sedans. This ’72 280SE is exemplary of the most common Mercedes’ of this era; large, luxurious, and stalwart. Among the first Mercedes Benz vehicles to really be manufactured in any great number, they were available in almost innumerable configurations ranging from spry short wheelbase coupes and convertibles to long wheelbase 6.3L V8 powered monsters destined for the garages of third world despots and dictators. This one, being a sedan endowed with the uber-common 2.8L inline six, is somewhere in the middle of the pack, trading the entry level 280S’ dual downdraft carburetors for fuel injection. This raised the horsepower level to 160 and allowed automatic transmission-equipped cars such as this to hit a surprising 185 kilometres per hour (manual gearboxes pushed that figure to an even 190), with 100 kph being surpassed in just over ten seconds.
Now, whether or not this particular example is capable of that performance is another matter entirely. Being both German, and one of the earlier examples of fuel injection extant means that this is one complicated car. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate into this being an unreliable car. Typically extremely well designed and beautifully executed, older Mercedes Benz’ like this offer a unique challenge for the tinkerer as they often don’t require the same degree of constant maintenance that many other classic cars do… but can prove difficult when things do go south as parts can require some diligence to find. Look for rust around the doors, both on the body and the complex joins that form the rear doors’ shape around the latch (as well as all the usual places around the trunk, floors, sills and fenders), but if the ad is telling the truth, corrosion won’t be a problem. Finally, considering most people that bought these cars were established older folks looking for a good, reliable car, check for issues stemming from disuse rather than abuse. These aren’t Mustangs and Camaros; many lived in covered garages, were cleaned regularly, and kept maintained, but a lack of exercise has led many of these cars requiring some mechanical exorcisms.
If the Ford Fairlane was the darling poster child of the American sedan before 1970, the Dodge Dart has to be numbered among the same in the post-fuel crisis era of the early ’70s. Currying much favour with American car buyers thanks to its relatively small stature and thrifty, reliable, and famous slant six engines, the ’73 Dart was the perfect car for an America starving for fuel and buried under excessive insurance costs. As if that wasn’t enough hardship for the contemporary car buying public, an increased level of safety awareness led the American government to require all passenger vehicle be fitted with bumpers the size of small boats, and the result was the complete and utter ruination of the entire American auto industry’s various styling departments. A step that would even ugly up the indomitably attractive Jaguar E-type, the poor Dodge Dart never stood a chance. But, even with an overture to safety hanging off the front end, it wasn’t a bad car. Revised disc brakes, electronic ignition, a better starter motor, and a new engine subframe meant the cars were easier to maintain, while a different rear end kept costs down. Under the hood, the 225 cubic inch slant six made an advertised 105 horsepower and 185 foot pounds of torque; figures that were artificially deflated due to the then-new requirement that engines be tested with all ancillary accessories attached. Just two years prior, before the passage of that particular law, the same engine had been producing 145 horsepower and 215 foot-pounds of torque.
Undoubtedly, however, the passage of a few years’ time will have let a few ponies out from this particular Dart’s stable. Looking like one of the lower-spec trim levels (clicking through to the ad will undoubtedly surprise many new car owners who didn’t know seats could look so spartan!), potential buyers shouldn’t be dissuaded by the cars age, these things run forever. The ad doesn’t specify which transmission is behind that little slant six, but the smart money’s on an automatic, which will make for one easily maintained ride. Additionally, as long as rust hasn’t taken a hold in the trunk, floors, or quarter panels, most of these old Dodge’s come with a pretty thick coat of paint that, although typically heavily oxidized, will come up to a pretty good sheen with a little polish and wax. And although it’s once-handsome visage might have been pillaged by the safety police, a cleaned up ’73 Dart sedan would still be a pretty slick looking ride… especially when it’s just $900!