1980 Fiat 124 Spider – $3200

“Fuel injected classic convertible sports car. Designed by Pininfarina (of Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, etc. fame) Red/black 5-speed. Excellent mechanical condition., recent paint on a sound body (ie no rust), good exhaust, near new radials on five Fiat factory mags. Air cared and licensed for reliable daily driving. Money needed for tuition. Serious inquiries only. 604-522-6588”

Well, summer appears to have finally descended on the waterlogged streets of Vancouver, and with it so too have the convertibles. Sliding out from beneath tightly wrapped car covers and dug out from mounds of garage-borne hockey gear, skis, and snowshoes, the Miatas, Alfas, and MGs are out in force these days, giving their owners at least one thing to enjoy about commuting in North America’s second-most congested city. And if you’ve found yourself sitting on Highway 99 northbound and looked over at one such slightly-happier-but-probably-still-miserable fellow commuter in just such a car with even the slightest envy, then Cars You Should Buy has found the car for you: a 1980 Fiat Spider. A car produced under no less than three names for a whopping 19 years (it was known as a Fiat 124 Sport Spider form ’66 to ’79, then as a Fiat 2000 Spider from ’79 to ’82, then as a Pininfarina Spider from ’83 to ’85), it provided the auto-buying public with an Italian counterpoint to the ubiquitous MGB that wasn’t an Alfa Romeo, and by the ’80s had earned a reputation for being a pretty standard-issue, old-school sports car. Granted, its 2.0L inline four cylinder did benefit from Bosch fuel injection, and it was capable of producing 105 horsepower for the North American market (European models made 120 horsepower), but it’s combination of a leaf sprung solid rear axle and a pretty pedestrian powerplant left it largely outclassed and outgunned by the then-new rotary powered RX7, Nissan’s lusty inline sixes, and front-engined Porsches.

But 30-odd years later, in Vancouver’s glowing sunshine, it’s the Fiat’s shapely body that really sets it apart from its contemporary (and largely forgotten) competitors. Looking eminently more “Italian” than the British cars of the same era, the Fiat’s at once restrained, and stylish. Sadly it’s also a Fiat, which means it’s a damn good thing that it looks good sitting still, because it might do that a lot. Not renowned for their reliability, the Spiders are notorious for egregious rust issues; not a good thing on a spritely monocoque such as this. Areas to check include the front shock towers, all four wheelarches, around the trunk, the entirety of the floor, inside the sills, the firewall, and at the suspension mounting points. The engine, although relatively robust internally, is typically only slightly better sealed than a sieve, with oil leaks being a frequent occurrence. Check the low-slung oil pan for dings, as it’s gasket surface is a pretty common culprit for leaks, especially after it’s been bounced off a speed bump or two. Also, the timing belt absolutely must be checked on any Fiat Spider you’re thinking of buying, as engine damage that’s best described as “catastrophic” awaits the buyer that doesn’t ensure his engine timing is spot-on: although fuel injected, the engine retains the lobe that drove the carbureted engine’s mechanical fuel pump on its oil pump drive shaft, and should the timing belt break, the nonexistent fuel pump’s drive lobe will interfere with the crank and can crack the block. Similar thought appears to have been put into the Fiat’s electrical system as well, with crappy grounds and corroded connections oftentimes earning their fair share of swear words and anger whilst trying to diagnose an erratic electrical issue. Thankfully, this particular car claims to be rust-free (although I’d be checking that… bring a magnet along!) and although it certainly won’t be utterly reliable forever, it’s a prime example of a great car for someone looking to dip a toe into car maintenance. Simple, well-supported by a network of enthusiasts, and benefitting from 19 years of car (and parts!) production, it’s a simple vehicle that will reward anyone with a halfway decent set of tools, a workshop manual, and a modicum of patience. And if that sounds like you, contact the seller by clicking the hyperlinked advertisement above! And then take that damned back bumper off…

1979 Fiat X1/9 – $1950

The car’s body is a little rough but is very good for NOT having rust. The car in now air-cared and insured. The car will need some work it been stored for the last 19 years and it’s old… this car is not for everyone. but it is a great project for someone that is mechanically inclined. The car drives like a go-cart and will make you want to take the long way home. I can be reached me at (778) 223-0154. Open to offers in person only. Don’t waste our time, and thanks for looking.

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!

1973 MG MGB – $3350

Please help – this great little runner sits in my carport and begs for someone to take it for a spin on a regular basis! Unfortunately, I do not have the time to do so… It runs great – quite some work done to the motor (new carb, new headgasket, sparks etc.), new tires, new carpets and more… Just put in a new fan-belt! Great “project” car for someone who has time & love & wants to drive a classic convertible! All it really needs is a paint-job if you wanted it to look splendid! Still insured, so come by & take it for a spin! Put some love & TLC in it & it will be a fantastic MGB! Asking $3350 OBO – make me an offer! Will consider trade for 1985 – 1992 BMW 318i or 325i convertible, manual transmission in proper running condition 🙂 

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.

1973 Land Rover Forward Control – $25000

“1973 Land Rover 101 Forward Control, 1.5L 3B diesel with AXT turbocharger; 5 speed gearbox. ARB diff lockers front and rear; electric 10,000 lb. winch; custom free-wheeling hubs. Six Michelin tires. Very low mileage for its age. Comes with brand new canvas (not shown). For appointment to view, contact Jay 604-760-5350. Currently in storage.”

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.

1974 Volkswagen Thing – $4000

“Don’t miss this one. A cool retro ride; this ’74 VW Thing is in great shape and a BC car to boot. Solid floorpan and a good runner. No rust, just fun in the sun. Rebuilt motor,new muffler, new balljoints and fiberglass fenders. Make this thing a great buy. Won’t find a better Thing at this price! BC car currently insured, it’s my daily driver. Thanks for looking, give a call for details: 250-871-2226 (work) or 250-941-2696 (home).”

There are few vehicles on earth with the cool factor of the Volkswagen Thing. Based on the old Kubelwagon military vehicle, the Thing was the byproduct of a few different Volkswagen assemblies. Borrowing the engine and transmission from the Type 1, the Thing’s unique sheetmetal started with the floorplan of a Karmann Ghia (due to the Ghia’s greater width) and the rear swing axle from the then-discontinued Type 1 Transporter van. However, being a 1974, this particular example should be riding on a double-jointed axles mounted to semi-trailing arms; a setup similar to that found in US-spec Beetles of the same era. A vehicle I’ve actually had the pleasure of driving, operating a Volkswagen Thing is remarkably fun. Like something located between a go-cart and a classic Land Rover, what they lack in power they make up for in exuberance.

This being the second Volkswagen in a row for the blog, it almost feels as if I’m repeating myself when I warn of rust, but the reality is that there’s no such thing as a classic VW that’s out of the rusty woods. And when it comes to the Thing, too much rot can be a very bad thing thanks to their relatively uncommon body panels. It doesn’t help that the once-cheap Thing has a long history of abuse, as previous owners tested the bizarre vehicles’ limits off road. And even if there isn’t much rot, any potential owner needs to be aware of the car’s caveats. Being based upon a military vehicle, even the best examples can be a little rough around the edges. The ride isn’t the smoothest, and things like keeping out the weather seems to have not been one of VW’s priorities with the flimsy windshield, doors, and roof… but, the flip side of that equation is an almost undying love to surviving. And as far as value goes, it’s one of the best values on the used car market, being one of those cars in which the cool factor is hugely disproportional to its price. And as they get older, one can expect the prices to only go up.

1967 Austin Healey Sprite – $2500

“1967 Austin Healey Mark IV Sprite
Classic English Sports Car
1275 CC Motor, 4 speed, Manual Transmission. Red Sporty, Fun Driving Vehicle. Runs Well – Many Spare Parts.

Call Niel: 604-525-1053″

When it comes to sports cars, it’s hard to come up with one that personifies the segment quite as well as this. Small, cheap, light, and nimble, the Austin Healey Sprite and its stablemate, the MG Midget both make for some of the most exciting driving you’ll ever enjoy. And they’re damn sensible too; with tiny little four cylinder engines that are amongst the most common on Earth, absolutely ridiculous fuel economy, and surprisingly large trunks, they can be driven daily to work, or for extended road trips… and will enthral in either role.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve had one in my garage for literally as long as I’ve been alive. Once a friend of my dads, and having seen been passed down, the tiny little British sports car has proven resilient, simple, and an absolute joy to own. Parts are amazingly easy to find, and rarely need replacing. Something about hauling around something in the neighbourhood of 1,500 pounds means most of the mechanical pieces are rarely strained, but, this be a British car, those are hardly the worrisome parts. Indeed, Lucas electrics may not have been the best in the best in the world, but the passage of almost five decades’ has seen a huge enthusiast following adapt modern fixes to age-old issues with stellar results. Check for rust (as always) in the usual places around the wheelwells, front fenders, and floors, and ensure that everything works as it should… and enjoy owning one of the most entertaining cars ever produced by mankind.

1965 Mercury Monterey Convertible – $3200

“1965 Mercury Monterey Convertible, Factory 4 speed toploader car, 390 v8, bench seat. A real rare and unique car to restore. I’ve talked with the Ford and Mercury Registries and they say its 1 of 17 cars built. The car runs but is in need of a restoration. Car came with 3.89:1 rear axle. Currently has Hurst shifter. 604-854-0244”

The Mercury Monterey is something of an enigma. Yet further proof that the American auto manufacturers’ product planners may have been the basis for the drunkards in Mad Men, it existed to fill a perceived niche not yet fulfilled by any of Ford’s sedans, nor it’s Lincoln products. That niche? The elusive full-size, mid-range, semi-luxury coupe market that was obviously floundering between Ford and Lincoln products. But perhaps we should be thanking those product planners, for it was their foresight (or constant inebriation) that led to what we now recognize as a downright ridiculous number of differing models and sub-models. And without that, we wouldn’t have ever seen the 1964 Mercury Monterey Convertible.

You see, the Monterey was initially designed to fill the semi-luxury coupe market, and it took a couple of years for FoMoCo to turn their quasi-Lincoln into a convertible. By the time this car was produced,the Monterey was already on its fourth generation, and had grown quite substantially. Subsequently, the Monterey was only available with a big block engine, making this 390 cube-powered behemoth actually one of the more entry level models. That said, the addition of the four speed manual gearbox will undoubtedly liven it up. Interestingly, whomever purchased the car initially must have had pretty potent sporting aspirations, between the four speed top loader and the 3.89:1 rear axle ratio (second only to the even rarer 4.11:1 in terms of performanc). Overall, it appears to be in decent shape, but as with any old convertible, car must be exercised to examine all the various hardware and pieces that go into making the top function, and there’s also the additional risk of rust due to some ill-fitting or torn tops.