Buy & Sell: Today’s 5 Hottest Deals

Story By Andy Reid

As the RM Sotheby’s Art of the Automobile sale in New York has shown, the classic car market is very healthy indeed. Prices are higher than we have ever seen, and good cars are selling for record prices monthly.

This is both good and bad.

It’s good because our collections are increasing in value, outpacing the cost of upkeep. It’s now even more affordable to maintain them in the long term, and many examples can be owned and used essentially for free. In the best cases, you can actually get paid for owning your car. Not a bad situation.

On the negative side, these increasing values are making it that much harder to buy our dream cars. Not surprisingly, the emails I get most come from people who are unhappy with the fact that they can no longer begin to afford that Series 1 Jaguar E-Type or Ferrari Daytona they’ve always wanted. This is a bit of a disappointment, but there is a solution: Look for alternatives to those cars.

While a great many models have increased in value quite a bit, there are still some out there that are just starting to become valuable. To help you in your search for these alternatives, I’m going to give you my top five car-buying opportunities in today’s market. They may not be your first choice, but they do offer a fun and rewarding way to be involved in the car hobby for less money than a blue-chip classic.

Datsun 240Z: This is the machine that brought the little British sports car to its knees. It also got the people who were buying Porsches and Ferraris to notice Japan. The 240Z is a great car, with features that were found on its much higher-priced contemporaries. It also has great aftermarket parts support and a strong club following. The best part: While they’re moving up in price, you can still get a good example for less than $15,000. This makes it one of the best values currently available in the market, but don’t wait too long.

Triumph TR3: If you’ve always wanted a Big Healey but can no longer afford to buy one, the TR3 makes a great substitute. These are terrific vintage sports cars, offering a lot of what a Healey 3000 or 100 does for a fraction of the price. The Triumph is also a much simpler car to own, and parts are significantly less expensive.

You can still buy a fine driver-level TR3 for as little as $15,000 to $20,000, making it a lot of car for the money. As with the 240Z, though, you should buy yours soon: Prices are definitely on the uptake.

Citroën SM: So that Maserati Bora is out of your price range. Well, how about a French alternative, one with Maserati power and futuristic styling?

The SM was the most advanced car of its time, mixing a self-leveling suspension system with a Maserati V6 engine. Combine that with an interior to rival an Aston Martin’s, and you have a great car for vintage rallies and shows. You aren’t likely to see another at any show outside of the Carlisle Import Nationals, so it makes a big statement that always draws a crowd.

You can still get a driver-level SM for as little as $15,000, with the best ones nearing the $25,000 mark. These have also started to gather interest in the hobby, so get one soon.

Porsche 911SC: We’ve all seen the staggering prices that early 911s have been earning, with some models reaching well above the $100,000 mark. The 1978-’83 Porsche 911SC, however, is thought by many to be the best 911 that was ever built—and it’s still affordable. The SC offers performance that rivals a 911S and reliability that the earlier cars could never deliver.

No, it’s not a long-hood car, but it still possesses the iconic 911 shape, especially if you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. The best part is that you can still snag an SC for as little as $13,000. Get one now before these cars start to mirror the rest of the 911 market.

Mercedes-Benz 450 SL: The pagoda-roofed, W113- chassis roadsters are now expensive. Good drivers often cost more than $40,000, and the best examples rake in more than $100,000. All is not lost, though, as its replacement, the R107-chassis 450 SL, is still a great buy.

The 450 SL was less of a sports car and more of a touring car, but these are still some of the finest machines Mercedes has ever built. Also, remember that the 450 SL was the icon of its generation, being synonymous with success.

These cars are still easy to find and easy to own. We would recommend an early, small-bumper 450 SL—even more than a later 560 SL. You can still find a small—bumper model for as little as $10,000. Buy it now as these cars, like the others, are finally gathering interest.

While prices for classic sports cars are definitely on the rise, I hope that the list above has given you some ideas for alternatives. By no means is this a complete list, as there are still more cars out there for good prices. No matter what the headlines scream, somewhere there’s a classic for your budget.

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