Due to my status among my friends as “the” car guy, I often get asked the same question over and over: “someone”, be it the person asking or the friend of a friend of the cousin, is looking at picking up something older, interesting and doesn’t want to dump a ton of money into it. More often than not, the budget is a bigger issue than any dream that this individual has, because otherwise I’d send them to the nearest classic car dealer and tell them to have fun. For years, the go-to answer is 1980s Mustangs, Camaros and Firebirds, because they are cheap, have great lines, can be made to scoot and can still be picked up for a song.
But every now and then I get the picky SOB, the one who doesn’t want to go for the easy answer. Part of me enjoys the challenge, but this usually ends in frustration because my suggestion doesn’t go over well, even when it meets every last ounce of criteria they gave me. Part of the whole idea of the Rough Start searches was to better understand what’s out there. Let’s say that the picky one wants V8 and rear-drive, doesn’t want a truck, doesn’t want a “muscle car” and wants it to be dead-nuts reliable, all for little to no work. Boom…1985 Ford LTD Crown Victoria. And surprise, I even found a minty coupe.
The decision is simple: you have a full-frame car that has a parts run that goes over thirty years nearly unchanged, powered by one of the most popular V8s in the country coupled to an overdrive automatic transmission. You have more room that most sport-utility vehicles regarding passenger comfort, you could sleep in the trunk if you were so inclined, and there is nothing really to mess with as far as appearances go. Did I mention it’s a two-door Panther platform? Not many of these moved off of the lots…there might be a thousand or two for every 100,000 sedans sold. There’s your unique note.
For four grand, you’re already golden for a solid driver. We wouldn’t mess with anything that didn’t need repairs, and would save our money up to beef up the AOD auto and prepare that 302 for the waking up of a lifetime. We still wouldn’t mess with the looks…it’s more fun that way. But tell that to Mr. Picky, who is probably on their way to the nearest buy-here-pay-here to get the cheapest Mustang on the lot.