Most car enthusiasts enjoy classic cars – from the engineering and the style to the noise and the feel of the interior. Classic cars are brilliant in every way, even if they constantly break down and cause headaches.
Older classic cars were quite slow, but they had character. In the 1960s, the automotive world became obsessed with bigger and better, so many manufacturers – especially the U.S. ones – added more displacement and power, creating performance cars which still rival the likes of modern sports models. Europe on the other hand, went with smaller engines, but greater overall performance, resulting in grand tourers and back road blasters. Unfortunately, many of these exceptional vehicles were, and still are, quite expensive and are today considered as collector’s items and investments.
Luckily for us enthusiasts, there are still some great classic cars on the used market which are both quick off the line and relatively affordable, costing around the same price as a new Toyota Camry. Here are some blisteringly fast classic cars which are still surprisingly affordable.
8 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – $23,995 – 0-60 MPH 7.6 Sec
The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is one of the most instantly recognizable American muscle cars ever made. What sets it apart is the long hood, the T-top roof and the fact that it was the car of choice for Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit.
The Firebird TA is currently available on the used market for around an average of $24,000 and can still complete the 0-60 mph sprint in just 7.6 seconds – about as fast as a ‘warm’ hatchback. Fortunately for the Firebird, it makes a much better noise than most hatchbacks.
7 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 351 – $24,966 – 0-60 MPH 7.0 Sec
The early 1970s Ford Mustang received a massive design update before the model transitioned to the Mustang II in 1974. The top-spec version was the Mach 1 with the Cobra Jet and Super Cobra Jet engines, but the 351 was a bit more attainable – still applying today.
The 351 got to 60 mph in just 7 seconds, thanks to the 5.8-liter V8 under the hood, producing 285 hp. The power may be lower than the previous model years, but it was better than the 4-cylinder which arrived the following year.
6 1974 Chevrolet Corvette – $21,181 – 0-60 MPH 6.8 Sec
By the 1970s, the Corvette was feeling the pressure from the ongoing energy crisis and so Chevrolet scaled the power back to allow for better fuel economy. The big 454 was still available, but it only produced around 270 hp, leaving the rest of the V8s to fall in below.
The most impressive of the engines was the L48 5.7-liter which produced just 190 hp, but still managed a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds – nearly the same as the 300 hp model six years earlier. The Corvette with the L48 costs on average around the $21,000 mark.
5 1971 AMC Javelin SST 360 Go Package – $19,339 – 0-60 MPH 6.8 Sec
The AMC Javelin was a 2-door muscle car produced by the American Motors Corporation over two generations between 1968 and 1974. It featured various inline-6s and V8s, pushing horsepower to the giddy heights of 325 hp in the most powerful trim.
The Javelin SST 360 Go Package was a special model with an added performance upgrade added to the 5.9-liter V8, upping power from 245 hp to 285 hp. Thanks to the upgrade, the Javelin achieved the 0-60 mph run in 6.8 seconds.
4 1989 Jaguar XJS V12 – $17,372 – 0-60 MPH 6.7 Sec
The Jaguar XJS was the British brand’s go-to GT car for the 1970s, 1980s and some of the 1990s. It featured a great 5.3-liter V12 in its highest trim, rising to a 6.0-liter before being discontinued. The XJS V12 is still a great GT car today – if the repair costs are kept in mind.
The XJS was a good performer in the 1970s and early 1980s, completing the 0-60 mph run in 6.7 seconds, but fell behind as the model aged. Today, the XJS is a great way into the world of classic cars and is one of the cheapest ways of getting a V12-powered car.
3 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo – $24,719 – 0-60 MPH 6.5 Sec
The Porsche 944 was the upgrade to the 924 and the predecessor to the expensive 968. The 944 featured exclusively 4-cylinder engines as it was the German brand’s entry-level vehicle. The most powerful version was the 944 Turbo, sporting a 2.5-liter i4 with a turbocharger bolted to the side.
The 944 is a great first step into retro cars as it was brilliantly engineered and is relatively easy to work on, showcasing great handling and dynamics. The Turbo model may be a bit on the expensive side, but they are still available on the used market for around $24,000.
2 1985 BMW 635CSI – $19,140 – 0-60 MPH 6.1 Sec
Another European GT car includes the absolutely gorgeous BMW 635CSI. It is the perfect blend of old BMW styling and performance, featuring a 3.5-liter straight-6 producing as much power as a Mk5 VW Golf GTI – but with a better sound.
The 635CSI is quite affordable on the used market, coming in at an average of just over $19,000. This is excellent value for money as it does 0-60 mph in just over 6 seconds and has all the luxuries a BMW from the 1980s would have – including leather seats and BBS wheels.
1 1985 Mercury Capri ASC McLaren – $13,110 – 0-60 MPH Under 6 Sec
The Ford Capri was a model based in the Cortina aimed at the European market and an alternative to the Mustang. Ford imported the Capri into the US but rebadged it as the Mercury Capri. The second-generation Mercury Capri was instead based on the Fox-body Mustang, featuring most of the same engines.
One trim which stood out was the ASC McLaren model, which was specially produced by the American Sunroof Corporation (now American Specialty Cars). It featured the 5.0-liter V8, but with upgrades which bumped power to 210 hp. This resulted in a 0-60 mph time of under 6 seconds and an average used price of just $13,000 – weird, as only around 560 units were ever produced.