Car profiles

For the money: Which classic would you pick for under $50k?

by Eddy Eckart
25 July 2023 4 min read
Bring a Trailer / JGW7

Welcome to the latest edition of “For the money,” where we examine auction sales from the prior month and see which rides you’d pick with a stack of theoretical cash. Last month, we set an arbitrary threshold of $70k and offered an eclectic swath to choose from. Of the vehicles listed, the 1938 Lincoln Zephyr took home the win with the readers, though the Cadillac CTS-V wagon wasn’t far behind.

This month, we set the bar at $50,000—not too far from June’s average new car price of $48,808. It’s not bargain hunting by any stretch, but you can still get a lot of classic—and certainly more personality than most new cars—at this level. Which one of these would you add to your garage if you were in the market?

1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Bring a Trailer / JGW7

Sold for $44,625 on Bring a Trailer, including buyer’s premium

In 1984, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer kicked off the domestic luxury SUV market (Land Rover’s Range Rover was in production but didn’t arrive in the U.S. till 1987). The Grand Wagoneer’s leather and carpeting nearly everywhere on the inside along with posh woodgrain exterior styling took a utilitarian vehicle and made it country club-worthy. Its standout character has helped it soar in popularity even among the burgeoning classic SUV segment—#2 condition value has more than doubled over the past five years. Someone even paid a whopping $154,000 for a Grand Wagoneer during January 2022’s pandemic-driven market.

At 72,000 miles and wearing a clean five-year-old exterior repaint and vinyl woodgrain update, this one, which sold for $44,625 on Bring a Trailer, is much more down to earth. That price slots it in between #2 (Excellent) and #3 (Good) conditions. The interior shows slight signs of wear, as does the weather stripping, and there’s one area of rust noted, but overall this Grand Wagoneer looks like a collector SUV the whole family can enjoy.

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa

Bring a Trailer / pcarphile

Sold for $42,525 on Bring a Trailer, including buyer’s premium

An air-cooled 911 for under 50 grand isn’t something we see much of anymore. This example is a RoW (rest of world) car with light but livable mods, mild wear and tear, and 88,000 miles on the odometer. It sold for around its #4+ Hagerty Price Guide value but appears to be a significantly better car than that.

In certain cases, Porsche included, coupes fetch more money than convertibles or Targas. If you’re shopping for an ’80s 911, you’re probably not looking for outright performance anyway, so why not consider the discount and wind in your hair that a Targa adds to the mix?

1973 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Barrett Jackson

Sold for $42,900 at Barrett Jackson Las Vegas, including buyer’s premium

Early second-gen Camaros live in a middle ground between their vaunted first-gen siblings and the king of second-generation F-bodies, the Bandit Trans Am. That’s not to say there weren’t some hits for the Camaro in the early 1970s, including a potent 350-cubic inch Z/28 and available big blocks. That was short-lived, though, and while the attractive, sporty styling remained, horsepower was on the wane for 1973 as evidenced by this example’s 245-horse 350.

With one owner from new and a file full of maintenance records, this 76,808-mile Z/28 shows as an original-condition car with many of its accessories still in place. Its sale price is a hair above the #2 (excellent) condition Hagerty Price Guide value, which, based on the photos, may be a little generous. That said, the more potent 360-hp 1970 Z/28 in #3 condition will run 15 grand more than this one. It appears to be a solid driver you won’t be afraid to take anywhere.

1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2 Convertible

Bring a Trailer / JoeyGMart

Sold for $40,425 on Bring a Trailer, including buyer’s premium

Coke-bottle-designed cars from the late 1960s get a lot love, but there’s something to be said for the clean lines of the early muscle car era. By 1965, fins were out of the picture and Detroit had figured out that chrome could be the accent rather than the main event. Oldsmobile’s Cutlass 4-4-2, a direct response to Pontiac’s GTO from the year before, embodied well this moment of understated design and blossoming horsepower between midsize fenders.

This turquoise-over-white 4-4-2 received a frame-off restoration in 2018 and now sports a number of modernizations, including a Tremec five-speed transmission, QA1 coilover dampers, and a host of brake system upgrades. There’s some surface rust underneath—odd for a comparatively young restoration—but it’s an overall attractive package that has been updated to become a more modern-friendly driver. Only 25,000 4-4-2s were made in 1965, under 3500 of which were convertibles, assuring the new owner that this Olds likely will be the only one of its kind at the summer car show.

1960 MGA


Sold for $42,000 on PCarMarket, including buyer’s premium

Like the Oldsmobile above, this MGA received some massaging during its restoration. It, too, received a five-speed manual conversion, and a supercharger helps the little British roadster get up to speed in a less leisurely fashion. Completed in 2006 but reportedly only having put 300 miles on the odometer since then, the car shows very well inside and out in photos and video.

Its sale nestles this MGA at about a #2+ condition Hagerty Price Guide value, which is a bit high but takes into account the upgrades that make it more livable and fun to drive. The market for British classics has been steady for nearly a decade, moving much more slowly than other segments. Lately, though, a few in this little bunch of roadsters have ticked up, the MGA among them. As of the latest update to the Hagerty Price Guide, prices for MGAs are up between 19 percent for a concours car and 12.4 percent for a driver-quality model.


  • Merle Balke says:


  • paul s murray says:

    Not a SUV guy so the Wagoneer places last. I’m afraid if I bought one I’d take up fly fishing , start buying all my clothes from L L Bean and come up with some bs excuses for why I bought a Chesapeake Bay retriever instead of going to the local pound. – I don’t mind the squarish lines of some of the earlier muscle cars and sometimes prefer them. Just not this Olds. It looks like it came with the optional 442 AARP package. – The early second generation Camaros are better looking than the first and if Duntov had his way they’d have stayed with developing small blocks instead of going to big block power. So the Z-28 goes runs midpack. God hope it’s a manual. – The 996 just never did it for me. This Carrera Targa with that nice big ‘ it might help a little with the wicked oversteer tail happy handling’ whale tail checks the box. – Its a Morris Garage so not the most reliable to begin with, then add boost . This car almost screams bad sense. Yep, SOLD!

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    I like 911’s and Camaro’s but these are not quite what I would want to drive.

  • Kevin Riley says:

    The 1960 MGA is right up my alley. Classic looks, lots of chrome, just enough room for a picnic basket and my home town version of Grace Kelly.

  • Ken Sousa says:

    A Grand Wagoneer? Come on guys!

  • Wood says:

    All I’m gonna say is there are plenty of options to these options at $50k. 😉

  • roger h says:

    Good comments above and l’m thinking the same things.
    Grand Wagoneer – too much $. But interesting to go to a show in.
    Camaro and Porsche – l don’t want anything that sells in the dozens of units at pretty well any major
    auction. Almost “belly button” cars. If you grew up wanting one, fine.
    MGA – cool, but seem overly expensive. Years ago they were as thick as flies in my home town. Had a deafening (!) drive in a Twin Cam 40 tears ago. No thanks! Had a drive in one containing 4 persons (one to steering work the pedals, one to shift gears, one in the passenger seat and another on his lap).
    442 – l’d prefer another year.

  • paul s murray says:

    K. Riley _ If you’re going that way what you really want is the Aston Martin DB 2/4 that Tippi Hedren drove in ‘ The Birds ‘ and Suzanne Pleshette is the “hometown girl” version of Grace Kelly you’re looking for. Good luck with that. If I’m going with Hitchcock’s preference for blondes, Kim Novak has got the passenger seat, and she doesn’t need to bringing a “pic-i-nic basket ” Yogi.

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