Car profiles

$70K to spend? Here are some choices from last month's auctions

by Andrew Newton
15 June 2023 3 min read

You’ve played this game, admit it. Maybe over beers with your car friends, maybe just in your head every once in a while. “If I had $______, what car would I buy?” It’s fun to set an imaginary, arbitrary budget and let your imagination go wild, right?

We do this kind of automotive daydreaming all the time at Insider, too, so we combed through our massive, ever-expanding transaction database to make things a little more interesting. Looking at all the vehicles sold at auction over the past month, we set a cap of $70K (which in scientific terms is definitely-not-cheap-but-also-not-crazy-expensive territory), had a look, and narrowed it down to four. Which would you put in your imaginary garage? Or your real one, if you have the space?

Mecum Auctions

2012 Cadillac CTS-V Station Wagon

Sold for $55,000 at Mecum Indy

The CTS-V blended Cadillac refinement and luxury with the thrust of one of GM’s most powerful engines. It’s more than just a straight line machine, too—the CTS-V got MagneRide suspension and Brembo brakes, and could put down some serious lap times in its day. Though it came in three flavors: sedan, coupe, and wagon, these days enthusiasts and the market prefer the long-roof Caddy. Especially with the available 6-speed manual.

This one isn’t a manual, sadly, but 6-speeds are beginning to fetch crazy money – sometimes over $100K. This one is in a good color and looks clean, but it also has enough mileage that you wouldn’t be afraid to use it. Honorable mention goes to the newer, bluer, just-barely-over-our-price-cap 2023 CT4-V Blackwing that sold for $73,941 on Bring a Trailer.

1938 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe

Sold for $68,200 at Mecum Indy

The Zephyr was notable for making 12-cylinder power a little more accessible with an engine loosely based on the humble flathead Ford V-8. With some 19,751 Zephyrs sold in 1938, it was a popular car for its segment when new, and this one would be great on drives and at events today.

This Zephyr’s traveled just 20,191 miles and boasts clean, original condition to match. The long and sleek Eugene “Bob” Gregorie-designed three-window coupe body and 267-cid, 110-hp flathead V-12 oozes style and sophistication. It’s lots of car for the money, and slides right in between the Condition #2 (Excellent) and #3 (Good) values in the Hagerty Price Guide.

Mecum Auctions

1977 Pontiac Can Am

Sold for $51,700 at Mecum Indy

A limited-edition version of the LeMans Sport, the Pontiac Can Am is mustache muscle at its best. The one-year-only model got a 400-cid, 200-hp V-8 under a shaker hood scoop, a prominent Pontiac beak, louvered quarter windows, and decals…bright, beautiful decals. After about 1400 were built, the tool for making the fiberglass rear spoiler broke, and rather than fix the tool, GM threw its hands up and canceled the whole project.

This one looks to be in excellent condition, and it better be, because it brought more than 13 grand over its Condition #1 (Concours) value.

1970 Fiat Michelotti Shellette

Sold for $63,000 on Bring a Trailer

Are you tempted by the open-air, wicker-chair charm of a Fiat Jolly but want something cheaper, rarer, and a little less cute? A collaboration between yacht designer Phillip Schell and Italian pen-for-hire Giovanni Michelotti, the Shellette follows the same basic concept of the Jolly but with a more streamlined fiberglass body. And with 47 hp on tap, it will smoke a 29-hp Jolly on the way back to the beach house. Just 80 were built, so this is a lot of exclusivity per dollar.

So, how do these choices look? Which jumps out at you, or would you have spent your theoretical $70K on something else this past month? Let us know in the comments.


  • Tom Giffen says:

    For $70k I’d find a nice 911SC or 3.2, or a decent driver quality E type FHC. Had one of each back in the day and still regret selling, especially the Jaguar.

    • Iso_Grifo says:

      Smart buys, all three. I have 3.2 Carrera I’ve had since 2007. Best investment I’ve ever made. I also had a 911sc years ago. Remember it well.

    • Jim Rosenthal says:

      I’m with Tom- the Porsche, which would put you in a 964 or an earlier 911SC- your money wouldn’t go as far in an E-type as it would in a 911. Also, you could get quite a decent 280SL Mercedes for 70K if you shopped carefully, AND you could get a very good 6.3 or 280SE 4.5 and still have money left over towards the next automotive folly.

  • Iso_Grifo says:

    I sure hope that beautiful Zephyr stays just the way it is.

  • Glenn Hargrove says:

    I think a fool bought the Can Am. No way that is a $50,000 car. You can buy a really nice Corvette for $50,000.

  • Dan O’Brien says:

    You I

  • Courtney H. says:

    A driver-quality Mid-Year Corvette, or early Viper GTS Coupe, can be had in this price range.

  • Greg B says:

    There is no choice here. Only one car to buy – the Zephyr

    • TheRealJake says:

      Funny you say that because it’s the only one that I would have zero interest in owning. Different strokes.

  • paul s murray says:

    Cadillac CTS V wagon – Jaguar XJ 40 estate. Pontiac Can-Am – Starsky and Hutch Gran Torino (460). Fiat Shellette – Auto Union 1000 SP roadster. Lincoln Zephyr – Same. So the Zephyr.

  • Bruce Ehrmann says:

    For the price of the buck-toothed Can-Am or the amusing Shellete I woukd buy one of the most beautiful and advanced GTs of the 1970s: a Citroën SM. In fact, I just did.

  • Darrell McKinnon says:

    Nothing in the options given interest me. I would pass on all these choices opting for a nice Corvette, a driver quality Viper, a SS Camaro, Z-28 Camaro, or even two 06 Shelby Mustang GT-H, that surely will appreciate for the $70k. Or possibly a nice pair of classic pickups.

  • King45 says:

    77 GM over bumpered and under powered.

  • Ken Albers says:

    The Caddy without a doubt. Right car, right color, but wrong transmission.

  • Marc Darby says:

    Not a hard decision for me – definitely the Lincoln Zephyr coupe. Love the looks and would love to have it to keep original. Would look great in my garage with my 41 Ford coupe street rod.

  • Christopher says:

    Half of the comments are about other cars than the four we are supposed to comment on, typical.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    If I had to pick from this lot it would be the 2012 CTS-V Wagon. But I took my money and bought something a bit newer instead this February.

  • wdb says:

    None of the above. Cadillac comes closest but their prices are overinflated IMESHO. I’d take Mercedes AMG wagon before the Caddy — or just keep my E350 kombi. The Zephyr is truly lovely but not my thing. The Can Am will always be an over-designed and under-engineered plastic fantastic special. And I do not live in a part of the world where it would make sense to shell out for the Shellette. 😉

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