MY MATE GUS was bemoaning that he ‘couldn’t afford a classic car anymore,’ under a For Sale pic of a Valiant wagon. The Val’s price was $20k. That’s solid money for a 1970s family truckster and, yes, it’s more money than most of us can blow on a toy car.

I could see Gus’s point and feel his pain: there are several great Aussie cars that I could’ve/would’ve/ should’ve bought for next to nothing in the recent past but didn’t… and now I can’t afford them.

But that hasn’t stopped me having a stack of fun with non-collector, non-muscle, non-performance, non-wanker spec cars… And with each costing less than $6k!

First, my Beetles. I have… *ahem* a few of these. Values range between $400 and $40k but six gorillas gets a good driver that might have a few dents that could be tapped into shape by a DIY owner during a rolling restoration. One of the best things about Beetles is the parts availability: despite their rear-engined, air-cooled mechanical non-convention, popularity ensures they are one of the easiest classics to buy and maintain.

Regular readers might remember my scribblings a year ago about my beige 1982 Mitsubishi Sigma SE. Morley and I awoke it from a six-year shed slumber and I drove it home to NSW; with fresh tyres and shocks and a few other fixes, it owed me less than $6k.

I also have less than $6K in my brown 1979 VB Commodore wagon that I write of regularly in Our Cars. I’ve replaced the bent front crossmember and bumper, the worn-out dampers and tyres but the car’s crap paint will remain until I have the time and the dime to respray it.

That’s what I play with… but how about a1985-ish Ford Fairlane or LTD? Big injected six, the iconic oh-so1980s green-glow digital instruments and veloouurrr … lush! For many of us, those 80s features are as alluring as chrome bumpers and hounds-tooth trim to a retiree. And $6k gets you into one. A little less buys a tidy family-spec XD, XE or XF Falcon.

And $6k will get you into not one, but two awesome brick-spec Volvos!

How about an H-plate eligible Mazda MX-5? Rightio, it’s not a family cruiser and immaculate examples are closer to $10k but scruffier ones can still be bought for around $6k.

Maybe you enjoy a spirited drive but need more seats? How about a Corolla Twin Cam, a Nissan Pulsar SSS or Suzuki Swift GTI?

Recently, Morley and I spent some time in a rural wrecking yard that was stacked with 1970s Toyota Crowns. We jokingly decided that given a weekend and a tool-box – and some beer and pizza – we could have assembled a couple of cool cruisers from all the bits.How much fun could a wrecking-yard resto be?

On the subject of Japanese luxury, Nissan/Datsun and Mazda took a while to catch up to Toyota’s classy (!) Cressida/Crown-sized cars but by the late 1980s these brands had cars that – as do all these other suggestions – make great fun Coffee & Cars cruisers that you won’t be too scared to use for week-day duties.

Sure, a $20k price has made a nightmare of Gus’s dream Valiant wagon but there remains plenty of fun to be had with other cool cars!

Get in touch

SO WHAT DO YOU RECKON? What’s your best bargain - or unexpected - cruiser? LET US KNOW AT uniquecars@bauertrader.com.au