10 Interesting Cars Under $10,000

Let me say this quite plainly – Despite the revelations of Traumatic Bonding, I’m going to restore my Lancia Fulvia.

It’s dawning on me, though, that it’s going to take more time than I first thought if I’m going to a lot of the work myself in order to reduce the cost. We’re planning on a new garage/workshop being built at home and I really need that building before I can do a lot of the things that I’d like to do.

Given that it’s going to take some time, that leaves me with just the Brumby to drive. As much as I love the Brumby, where’s the fun in that? As several people noted in comments to the Traumatic Bonding story, the thrill is often in the chase and there’s little I like more than a good car hunt.

It’d be totally impractical for me to buy another car until our garage is built, but I thought I’d have a look around last night, anyway. It’s my first bit of car hunting in a while and it was lots of fun.

The criteria are simple – a $10K budget with the desire for an interesting ownership/driving experience. The manner in which the experience is interesting doesn’t matter. It can be sport, luxury, touring, body style, history, whatever.

Here’s what I came up with. All of these cars are for sale in Australia right now.


2000 Audi TT Quattro

Some will call it underpowered, but it’s got similar power to a Saab 9-3 Viggen (less torque, though) and it’s a Quattro. The TT was, in many respects, the arrival of Audi as a serious premium player on the world stage. It was a concept car for the road.

I’m not interested in many Audis, but I like the TT. I’m not sure I’d like getting in and out of it every day, but it’s not a boring car by any means.

For sale for $9,200



1975 Mercedes Benz 350 SLC

I like these old Benzes and this V8 would fulfil anyone’s weekend cruiser needs just fine. Built like a tank, drives like a limo and has timeless class.

For sale for $7,900




1980 Volvo 262C Bertone

Yes, a brick! But a brick with a difference. The 262C styling by Bertone makes the brick look almost elegant. Plenty of kit for the era, too. This car had an engine rebuild and hasn’t been driven much since. It’s a Canberra car, which means rust is less likely to be an issue. The interior looks a little worn in the seats, but otherwise, it’s all pretty good.

Not an overly likely contender for me, but still an interesting option.

For sale for $8,000




1985 BMW 323i JPS

Anyone of a cognisant age during the 1980’s will likely have fond memories of JPS cars. They were almost like the Red Bull of their day. Even if they weren’t winning, you noticed them. The black and gold livery vastly outweighed what was soon to become quite a distasteful sponsorship product. And on that note, isn’t it amazing to think in 2014 that back in the 80’s a car company could sell a special edition product based on tobacco, sell it at a premium and have it still be desirable today?

This JPS BMW looks like the real deal. It’s condition looks great, too. The interior’s usually the best place to notice wear and tear but this one looks as clean as a whistle.

For sale for $8,500


1987 Toyota MR2

This has been a favourite in our house for a while now. Geoff’s little Fiat X1/9 was an authentic mid-engine bargain option mainly because MR2 prices have been going up in recent years.

This MR2 is a local Tasmanian car and benefits from an engine upgrate to the ‘black-top’ 20-valve engine. The extra oomph combined with the MR2’s nimble mid-engined handling is sure to please. The only downside for me is the interior. This one is in superb condition, but the blocky MR2 interior design has never won me over.

For sale for $8,500


2001 Alfa Romeo GTV Twin Spark

This has long been a personal favourite but I never seem to get around to buying one. I normally opt for the six cylinder but given the trade-off between price, generation and balanced handling, I think the twin-spark four-banger might be the better buy.

For sale for $7,500


1994 Mazda MX-5

I’ve had one before but I never got the best out of it. I never really gave it a proper chance. Part of that was frustration with the hardtop roof. It’s a two-person job to remove it so you tend to leave it on much of the time. That defeats the purpose of the MX-5, doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t mind having another crack at an MX-5 but this time, I’d get a roof-mounted pulley system to remove and store the hard top.

This car is the very desirable 1994 model. It’s the last of the NA series but with the slightly bigger 1.8 litre engine. It looks to be in great condition with minor but tasteful modifications. It has a full service history right from the day it was first sold. And it comes with the hardtop. The after-market tail lamps are the only downside, but the originals come with the car.

It could just be the best value NA on the market. For sale for $8,000


2006 RenaultSport Megane 225

Yes, it’s still on my list. It’s got both the derrière and the handling to shake it. I love the blood orange colour, too.

This one might not be ideal. It has a changed engine, which might be a cause for concern given the number of modifications. It might have been beaten up a little. BUT, there are others out there and they’re only getting to be better value as time goes on. Don’t rule out an RS Clio at this price, either.

For sale for $9,500


1985 Saab 900 Aero

Yes, a Saab!

Not just any Saab, though. It’s my favourite 1985 model Saab 900 Turbo. The first of the 16-valve cars with the flat nose. And it’s in black. Mmmmm.

With 300,000kms on the clock, you’d have to check out the condition but the seller says it’s been serviced regularly by Swedish Prestige, in Melbourne. They’re good operators, so it’d hopefully be ready to go. No rust. The sunroof seems to be stuffed but it’s got a rebuilt gearbox, clutch, turbo and distributor.

For sale for $8,500, which is one of the higher prices I’ve seen for a classic 900 recently.


1981 Alfa Romeo GTV TurboDelta

This would be a real contender. It’s not without needs, but it’s got superb rarity factor.

The TurboDelta was a limited run based on AutoDelta’s Alfetta of the same name. The Australian one was put together as a dealership special by John French and this is #1 of the French TurboDelta’s sold.

It looks quite clean on the outside but the interior needs a good going over. It also needs a head gasket (possibly) and the seller’s offering a replacement turbo for an extra $1000. Ominous, but do-able.

For sale for $7,000

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  1. 1. MR2… ( wear really dark glasses )
    2. Audi TT ( secretly think these will be collectible in years to come)
    3. Megane …. For fun
    4. Volvo. .. For a laugh
    5. Alfa GTV turbo. … For a cry
    6. Merc … Cool as
    7. JPS … Smoking
    8. MX5 … Should be higher but was doing this off the cuff …. But still .. Connection ? Needs some foibles to make it perfect
    9. SAAB
    10. Not a fan of these Alfa’s .. And the twin spark is supposed to be a dud to look after …. Ask most Alfa mechanics ..

    Nice selection …Now add

    Fiat 500 ( a few early ones pop up at the $10k mark) will not have much go, but newer and reliable fun

    Bmw Z3 .. 6cyl … If you can find one for $10k

    Ford fiesta 2.0lt sport .. 2007 model .. Supposedly very fun …

    Jaguar XJS .. Okay 10k won’t be a good one but worth the chase ..

    BMW Mini Cooper …. Easy 10k .. The S can be there .. But higher mileage

    Alfa GT .. The 2005 ish model based on the 147 .. V6 naturally

    Austin Healy or MG sprite … ( on second thought ) ..


    A rover or Leyland mini …

    Triumph TR7 … ( alway had a soft spot for these … But never bought one. .., prefer the. “Works” rally look .. But what the hey

  2. Great list. I have been looking for a daily under $10k again myself as I am about to sell my VW Kombi and the Jensen is a little too heavy on fuel. Back to looking at NA8 MX5s, and that one is a doozy.

      1. If the deal for my VW comes through and the wife green lights it, I will! There is a nice 1.6 for sale down near Cygnet, LE with tan leather (red car).
        Keep it for the summer till next year when Rach comes back to Australia at least. I think they are car everyone should own once.

        1. Yeah, I saw the one at Lymington. Tempting, too, but this one seems a bit tidier. The lack of shipping and rego expense is a tick in the Lymington car’s favour, though.

  3. To think…your Fulvia spent years hibernating with an identical JPS BMW and a bertone 262c. I like the Audi TT but lately i have had asoft spot for a really early 2 door range rover, must be original bumpers, wheels etc.

  4. Considering your wish to save funds for the garage and Fulvia I’d say go with the Mx5 or Renault (even if the later is ugly as duck and dont get me started on the Volvo.) My next desk collegue has a MB 450 SLC and its fuel bill would keep the Fulvia build permenantly grounded. (15-20l/100km, doing highway cruising) I’ve always had a soft spot for the JPS colour scheme as it was one of the possible way’s I’d paint the 914…

  5. There is a big cool factor (I think) with the old Mercedes Benz. And you can still get all the replacement parts if required.

  6. Despite the cool factor of the Merc, I would suggest a newer car in a mechanically good condition that you can start driving on a daily basis without any additional investments at all. Something you can service in a standard way at a dealership, instead of hunting for parts on the Internet or trying to find trained specialists mechanics. Something that don’t divert your time and energy away from the Fulvia project. Since you already have a mule in form of a Brumby, go for a smaller, less practical hot-hatch that can both take Mrs. and Mr. Swade to dinner parties in style and be fun on the weekend at the track.

  7. The SAAB seller needs to have a rethink on his asking price. I’d happily pay up for the JPS BMW [one of the sellers photos appears to be another car] or the Audi.

  8. No doubt turbo OG900s are getting thinner on the ground, but $8500 for a 300,000km 1985 Aero seems optimistic.

    In addition to the SLC Mercs I’d also suggest the 280CE 6-cylinder coupes. Classic lines, simple, unstressed engines, mechanics that just keep on going and a bit easier on the fuel than the V8s. Plus the first generation are increasing sharply in value now so the second generation will no doubt follow suit.

    Alternatively you could go the other direction and just get a 560SEC… they can be found for around $10K. Keeping one fuelled up and running probably won’t be cheap but I could think of worse ways to have fun 😉

  9. I’ve always liked the Volvo Bertone Coupes. It’s the little details like the real wool carpets that get me. Surprised to see US headlights on it, did they come that way in Australia?

    For my money, I would look for a later 780 Bertone, because the 240/260 cars are just painfully antique drives.

    Unorganized thoughts:
    The original TT isn’t that great a drive. The later TT-RS is, but it’s also way above $10k in any currency.
    It’s rare to see an MR2 that hasn’t been spun and crashed. They are supposedly almost impossible to catch once the rear goes.
    The BMW does nothing for me. Chrome and gold don’t mix well.
    The Saab may be overpriced, but I think that classic 900s are appreciating.

  10. Just about all 1985 Saab 900s have wiring harness that has rotting insulation on the individual wires. I had a 1985 and it was a constant battle with the insulation.

    That is the first thing I would check……hopefully it was only the USA cars.

  11. I too think that 900 Turbo models are now appreciating, but yrs, 8500 is a touch high for now. Gutted I didn’t end up getting that Aero I told you about. That sold for near 4k in the end w 220,000. Still a good buy at that, too.

    The TT does little for me. The design has aged badly, those front lights.. bleurgh. And nope, wouldn’t touch the JPS badged car unless I was going to de-badge it, and I suppose that wouldn’t go down well in some quarters.

    In this company, It’d be between the Merc and the red MX5, and I think the MX5 would win because I’d know what to expect from it.

    Speaking of your “take good photos” ethos.. there’s something that can’t be unseen in that MR2 cabin shot. The gear shifter and the handbrake line up in a most awkward fashion!