We asked for it, and man, did we ever get it. In the June '98 issue we ran a story on how we scored a '71 Chevy Kingswood wagon for the near-free price of $300. After throwing less than a grand at it in tune-ups, tires, and other doodads, we had ourselves a totally legit daily driver that was also cool in a way that only big ol' honkin' stawags can be.
In that same story, we asked you to send us examples of the same types of cars. The only stipulations? The car had to be mega mud cheap-anything over $1,000 was put into the "borderline pricey" category. Of course, free was the best deal of all, and many of these cars were scored for the big goose egg. They also had to have the potential to be a cool ride. Most of them didn't need any potential-they're already pegging the cool meter in as-is condition. Check it out and see for yourself.
Full-On Screamin' Deals: Free-$500
400 Thou and Still Goin' Strong
Who: Mike Fanning
Where: San Jose, CA
What: '63 Chevy Wagon
The Owner Says: "I had to write about my '63 Biscayne, six-cylinder, three-speed wagon. My parents bought the car in 1966. In 1969, they gave it to my brother who used to race six-cylinder Ford Falcons with it. He then gave it to my younger brother who finished abusing the car in 1972 when I got ahold of it. The car has 400,000 miles on it. The engine has been rebuilt three times and the trans twice. In 26 years of driving the car, I've got about $2,000 invested in it, not counting normal maintenance costs."
Who: Mark and Albert Contos
Where: Toledo, OH
What: '66 Barracuda
Price: "The prior owner died of a heart attack. His father was in the process of selling the estate and needed some painting and wallpapering work done. My dad does this type of work. He quoted the job and was hired. While working one day, he saw the car sitting and inquired about it. A few days later, the man said my dad could have the car if it would cover the labor for wallpapering a bathroom. My dad said the labor would've been about $250."
Details: The 'Cuda has a slant six and an automatic, buckets, console, a floor shifter, and is a California car with very little rust. It has new tires and brakes. The carb needed to be rebuilt, and it had a loose torque converter. These things are fixed now and it runs good.
Who: Tim Rodgers
Where: N. Canton, OH
What: '67 Rambler
Price: A 30-year mortgage-but a free house was included.
The Owner Says: In November 1997, my wife and I bought a house. There was this old car in the garage. I asked what they were planning on doing with it and they said they were going to junk it to get it out of my way. I told them they could just leave it. They gave me the car and the title. After a carb rebuild, it ran. After replacing the brake lines and wheel cylinders, it stopped too. It has a straight six and a two-speed trans. The wheels are a $30 swap meet buy. Not bad so far for a total investment of about $200. Think of the possibilities."
Who: Matt McAllister
Where: Sullivan, MO
What: '71 Cutlass convertible
Price: Free-his dad gave it to him on the promise that he'd never sell it
Details: His dad bought the car new and drove it for 11 years, then it sat in the garage for another 11. The original 350 is going to get replaced with a 455. The car is shown here in 1994, but it's now apart again as it undergoes a complete "body-off, headache-inducing all-out buildup."
Who: Dunno-he didn't give us his name
Where: Kansas City, MO
What: '57 Chevy four-door
The Owner Says: "A co-worker heard about my obsession with old Chevys and asked me if I would remove an old car from her driveway. It turned out to be a '57 Bel Air sedan. The rear window was broken and it was filled with all sorts of junk. Before it was loaded up, I thought, This thing will never make it. It was a mistake to even agree to haul it off. Then it hit me. You fool! This is a free '57 Chevy! Get it out of here before she changes her mind! It didn't take very long to get it running. Thanks to my Car Craft subscription, I see some real potential in this clunker."
Heavy Metal Again!
Who: Hector Teneyuque
Where: San Marcos, TX
What: '66 Impala
Details: Handed down from his uncle and his dad, Hector has plans to build it sort of like project Heavy Metal-our sadly departed '65 Imp that got ripped off in 1994. Hector says that with the help of CC and his dad, he doesn't foresee any major problems (except for color choice) in building the car. Famous last words.
In a Free Galaxie, Far Far Away...
Who: Fred MacDonald
Where: Sun Prairie, WI
What: '71 Galaxie
Price: Free from a friend
Details: It has a 400M, a C6, and a 9-inch. Other goodies include power disc brakes and "enough chrome to build two Toyotas." All records since new are also included and it still has the original paint. New tires, some exhaust work, and an electronic ignition swap add up to about $500 worth of updates.
Who: Chuck Mols
Where: Hangin' with Elvis in Tupelo, MS
What: '67 Tempest four-door
The Former Owner Says: "After passing by this car in the junkyard for two years, my friend and I finally decided to stop and check it out. The body was straight, and the only rust was around the front and rear windows. A brief discussion with the boneyard owner yielded a price of $250-including towing to my shop. The engine was all there but partially disassembled, so I decided on a rebuild. The block was freshened up and I traded a little manual labor for the head work. New rings and an RV cam combined with a carb from an Olds to help make the engine run. A new exhaust system was also added. The paint shined up enough to not be a total loss and the Powerglide trans worked fine. For a total bill of $1,300 we were cruising in a '67 Tempest. After driving the car for about eight months, I sold it and it has since been sold again."
Cruisin' in the Ranch
Who: Jason Webster
Where: Lake Havasu City, AZ
What: '79 Ranchero GT
Price: $500 from a little old lady
Details: 16-year-old Jason snagged the 'Chero with only 78,000 miles, and it came with a 351M. He wants to build a 460, get it painted, and make this "big boat really scream."
In My Merry (and Cheap) Oldsmobile
Who: Dean Robinson
Where: Clearwater, KS
What: '69 Cutlass convertible
Details: We're wondering about this one. It almost sounds (and looks) too good to be true. Dean found this Olds A-body ragtop and was able to scam it for 500 smacks? Wow! While he said it needed a lot of work, he claims to have it in the shown condition for a total of $2,500. He also said the all original interior came out pretty good after lots of scrubbing. If it's all true, then it's one of most screamin' deals we've ever seen.
Who: Mark Eaton
Where: Centralia, WA
What: '65 Comet Caliente four-door
Price: Free-Grandma gave it to him for his 16th birthday
The Owner Says: "My '65 Comet has only 57,000 miles on it, and I've driven it to high school the last two years. The only expenses have been new tires and a new master cylinder. The 289 engine runs like a dream and it really gets the looks with the Rangoon Red paint and GT wheels."
Who: Tyrone Martin
Where: Indianapolis, IN
What: '73 Torino Wagon (a.k.a. Goldfinger)
Price: $100 cash, two gas cans of premium, a new battery, and some motor oil in each cylinder. He fired it up and drove it home.
Details: Ty scored it with 62,437 miles on the clock. It's got a two-barrel-fed 400M, a C6, and a 9-inch.
Who: James Freeman
Where: Estill, SC
What: A Buick LeSabre-he didn't say what year (a '73 or '74 maybe?)
The Owner Says: "I've always liked whale-body musclecars. I bought the car from a little old lady in Kentucky in 1986 and haven't really spent any money on it since. I drive 50 miles a day to work and get 17 mpg cruising at 55 mph. The 455 has a Q-jet carb and the trans is a TH400."
Falcon Flyin' High
Who: Mark Hoffman
Where: St. Clair, MO
What: '65 Falcon Futura
Price: "I purchased this car 22 years ago at age 14 for $200. It was my high school transportation and autobody class project. I did a complete restoration in 1993."
Details: Now totally fixed up as bitchin' restified street machine, Mark's classic Ford has a 302 with a Crane cam, a Weiand intake, a Carter 600, an ACCEL distributor, and Hi-Po K-code manifolds. The motor provides its Wheaties to a T-10 four-speed trans and a 9-inch with 3.89:1 gears. PST suspension bits, gas shocks, Michelin skins, and Cragar wheels round out this flyin' Ford bird.
A Valiant Effort
How Can You Lose?: $501-$1,000
Who: Jeff Chong
Where: Hacienda Heights, CA
What: '64 Valiant Convertible
The Owner Says: "An old classic convertible, all original, sitting under a tree for 20 years. All for $500. Sounds too good to be true. I found this car on the Internet as a member of the Mopar Mailing List, and it had a 273 V-8 and a push-button automatic. Over the next few years, I would occasionally e-mail the seller to see if the car was still there. It was about 400 miles away in San Francisco, so I made the trip to see the car. It looked typical of something that had been sitting for 20 years, with flat tires, weather-beaten paint, and an interior filled with leaves and acorns. A few months later, I loaded up my van with tools, Valiant parts, new tires, and a battery. After a little work it fired up and I drove it home. So far, I have detailed the engine, had the body straightened out, and installed disc brakes from a '71 Dart. After paint and cosmetics, future plans call for a Commando 273 Carter AFB carb and a hotter cam. I'm also going to replace the 2.93:1-geared 7 1/4 rearend with an 8 3/4 and 3.23:1 gears. Hopefully, my Valiant will be looking better soon, but in the meantime, it's a blast to drive and great fun to have a ragtop that's truly uncommon."
A Toronado Tornado
Who: Steve Schumacher
Where: Santa Barbara, CA
What: '70 Toronado
The Owner Says: "A couple of years ago I bought an unrestored '70 Toronado for $800, and it was loaded with old-man-engineer doodads. It has Oldsmobile's highest (advertised) horsepower engine-the W-34 455 with 400hp and 510 lb-ft of torque-and only the Toro 455s had forged cranks and six-quart oil capacity (things the similar W-30 didn't). In fact, a '68 Toro engine powered the first Olds Hurst cars for 1968. But what makes this car such a good project is its image. To me, there's more to a musclecar than sticking a big engine in grandma's grocery-getter and plastering it with Speed-Racer stripes and decals. The first front-wheel-drive Toros ('66-'70) were designed from inception to be real musclecars with Bill Mitchell's unique aggressive styling, state-of-the-art technology, and unmitigated luxury. These cars oozed dark, evil elegance, which is the essence of true power that no stripped-down special can ever possess. Toronado occupants can engorge themselves in politically incorrect lavishness while enjoying massive front-wheel-drive burnouts." Cool!
Another Wagon of Steal
Who: Neuman Harrison
Where: Miami, FL
What: '70 Plymouth Fury Suburban
Details: Little-old-lady-with-a-carport kept, this loaded stawag has but 52,700 ticks on the clock. It's got a 318, an auto trans, power brakes, power steering, and a power back window. It has a couple of minor scrapes (no reason to paint the car), and Neuman says it's by far the best deal he has ever gotten on the more than 50 cars he's owned.
Yet Another Wagon of Steal
Who: Mike Gordon
Where: Hendersonville, NC
What: '69 Chevy Kingswood Wagon
Details: Mike latched onto this gem with only 79,000 miles. It's a low-option anomaly with no A/C or luggage rack. The base 327 and TH350 are stone stock and Mike has added 15x8 Corvette rallys, new carpet, a dashpad from a '70 Caprice, and a few other nicknacks. Total outlay for this mint machine? Less than $1,500!
Tempted-and He Took It
Who: Reed Philips
Where: Hayward, CA
What: '69 Tempest Custom SS
The Owner Says: I thought I should tell you about my find while looking for a car for my son, Mickey, who's 14. We decided to look for a muscle-era fixer-upper for us to work on. In the paper I saw a '69 Tempest Custom SS for $1,000. I almost didn't call. Turns out it was an original car with a Pontiac 350 and a TH350 trans in great shape. The interior is mint and I haven't found anything that doesn't work. I even had the nerve to offer the guy $850 and he took $900! I got the American mags at a swap meet for $140 and mounted the P235/60R15 Dunlop tires on them. I've also tinted the windows and put on a dual-exhaust system. Bodywork will be minimal and it'll be painted the original green. I tuned it up, changed the oil, and have been driving it daily. Total investment as it sits is $1,400.
Ultra-Low-Buck Shelby Clone
Borderline Pricey: $1,000-Up
Who: Keith Kaucher
Where: Santa Monica, CA
What: '66 Mustang fastback
Price: "Parked in front of a pawn shop, I found this beat-up Mustang that had a running 289 with a Holley carb, an Edelbrock intake, and headers for $850. There was no title though, and my friend and I talked him into letting me take the car for $500 and when the paperwork came through I would give him the balance. The shop owner failed to produce the title. However, the police were able to help me locate the last registered owner. I mailed him all the forms and he signed the car over to me. In the end, I got the car for $500. I immediately spent another $500 for a Top Loader four-speed and the parts to convert the car to a manual trans. So, for a grand total of a $1,000, I had a Shelby clone with a strong motor and a four-speed.
Details: It had been converted into a Shelby clone and was already equipped with a one-inch sway bar, an Export brace, a Monte Carlo bar, Koni shocks, and disc brakes. Inside was a rear-seat delete shelf and a Shelby tach and oil-pressure gauge housing.
Fire Sale on a Firebird
Who: Robert Whitlock
Where: Mt. Holly, NC
What: '67 Firebird Convertible
Details: After eight months of looking at $4,000-$5,000 Camaro, Ford, and Mopar ragtops, Robert heard of this super-cheap-for-a-convert '67. It has a 350 Chevy, a TH400 trans, and a 10-bolt. The picture shows the car as purchased. He later found a 400 Pontiac hood with a hood-mounted tach in a boneyard. Expecting to pay around $400 for it, he instead was able to score it for 75 bucks.
Way Mint Land Yacht
Who: Carl Kamin
Where: Santa Barbara, CA
What: '67 Bonneville four-door
Details: Sounds like a lot? Not when the car has perfect chrome, glass, trim, interior, drivetrain, rubber, and ice-cold A/C. It's powered by a 400 Pontiac with a four-barrel and TH400. Carl went from Los Angeles to Vegas on last year's Hot Rod Power Tour and returned to Santa Barbara on one tank of gas, a total of 393 miles. He says, "those factory 26-gallon gas tanks are great."