What's the most car you can buy for 5k?
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Thursday Five: Limited funds, limited rational thoughts
Following on from last week's Thursday Five where we attempted to locate the five best cars you could buy for $5,000, subsequently serving up a yawn-worthy smorgasbord of boredom (save for the MX-5), we thought we'd explore the other end of the scale.
What's the most one can get for the same price?
It's a very different world here. This is no longer the realm of the 17-year-old looking for a first car or the young family searching for stability. Here we instead find the entry level gangster trying to find some cheap European wheels with a fancy brand name in an attempt to consolidate their meager street cred. We also find those blinded by the bright lights of the likes of Top Gear, willing to flash their cash for something prestigious and 'sporty' without considering boring stuff like the cost of parts and servicing.
While it's a riskier world, it's certainly a more interesting one than that of last week.
1995 Volvo 850 T5-R / 1996 Volvo 850 R
Photo / Volvo
People love to harp about how all Volvos that were designed with a set square go on and on forever.
For a brief moment several years ago I considered the theory, and investigated the purchase of one of these turbocharged sleeper machines. Looking back, I'm both glad I didn't take the risk, as well as curious about what could've been.
It's certainly a lot of car for not much money in terms of both sheer real estate and substance. They're large and imposing, laden with features that enhance both performance and luxury.
You'd also be buying into Volvo's motorsport history. Latching onto the illustrious Tom Walkinshaw Racing outfit in the early ’90s, the Swedes campaigned the 850 in the Super Touring formula between 1994 and 1996. That doesn't sound like very long, and they only came on strong in terms of pace towards the end of the period, but the lack of material results was balanced out by the estate variant of the 850 becoming one of the most popular and hallowed cars in the history of the sport.
Considering that, the 850 T5-R, or the newer R, could well have another ace up its sleeve — it could be a future classic.
1997-2005 Mercedes-Benz M Class
Photo / Mercedes-Benz
The first M Class came during a time when the German manufacturer's care towards build quality had reached an all-time low. As a result, despite their well-aged styling and layers of tech, you can find find a first-generation W163 M Class for less than five large very easily.
Tech and luxury; the M has in both in buckets. It featured a trick four-wheel drive system, side-impact airbags, and was the first of its kind to have electronic stability control.
While over time Mercedes-Benz did what they could to address the issues with early M Classes, they're all tarred with the same brush these days. Most are available for less than $10,000 with a variety of engine options, which is cheap enough, but the earliest ones are closer to six. We found one example from 1999 listed for $3,500.
2006-2013 Mitsubishi i-Car
Photo / Mitsubishi
This is a weird one.
Looking at its peanut-like proportions and futuristic swagger, it's easy to forget that Mitsubishi's 'I' platform was offered as both a petrol and as an EV (I know it's easy, because I forgot).
While the EV version, called the i-Miev, occupies a more satisfying rung on the second-hand market, the wee 659cc petrol version is floundering, and can be found with no particular difficulty bang on budget.
Which is interesting for something so futuristic and recent. Just think, this was a car Mitsubishi still made up to three years ago.
This wasn't even really a failure for the brand. Sales were good, and reception was good. Critics in particular were quick to compliment the incredible amount of interior space.
Why are these so cheap? There must be a reason ...
1997-2002 Nissan Elgrand
Photo / Nissan
It looks, and probably handles,like an unsightly block of apartments. It's the same size too, with the ability to seat eight in it's own version of luxury.
In all fairness, this is a huge amount of raw materials for this amount of money. And really, if you want to shift a huge group of people from A to B, your options on a budget are limited to vans like these or converted commercial vans. And in that battle, these will win every time.
One of the many available old Jags
Photo / sourced
These are an ideal first look into the tweed-lined world of classic cars and restoration for many. For very good reason — they're cheap as hell.
Like the M Class, your money buys you plenty of luxury. But unlike the M Class, this isn't luxury tinged with the distinct whiff of rotting hopes and dreams. Buying a second-hand M Class in 2016 is like coming home from South East Asia dripping in fake Rolex's, Ray Bans, and Louise Vuitton — and pretending to all your mates that it's the real deal.
But nobody will criticise your taste in buying an old Jag. Apart from maybe your financial advisor.
'Old' Jaguars (apart from the X Type, which is just a Mondeo wearing a fascinator) tell people that you're a human of taste, of sophistication, of wealth. Even if they're damn cheap.
For a five, you can get the hideous but loved S Type or an old quintessential XJ with ease — but no guarantees on whether it'll be a starter ...