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It's not that you can't afford a new car, it's just that you might not want one. Why dump a ton of money on a flashy new vehicle would you could spend less money on something that's significantly cooler? These second-hand cars are budget-conscious and, better yet, still hot. The following list was compiled by myself and a good friend who's been in the car game for years. We hope you enjoy, but encourage you to independently research the condition and reliability of any particular model before purchasing.
1. Land Rover Defender
I can remember a time when a Land Rover was the car to have. Kids these days may be badgering their parents for something else on their birthdays, but the British four-wheel-drive off-road utility vehicle is still hip as far as I'm concerned. Fun fact: in the 1980s the Australian Army ordered Defenders made to their own specifications, called Land Rover Perenties, some of which were 6×6 drive with turbocharged 3.9L Isuzu diesel engines. Find a Defender .
2. BMW E30 318iS
Also known as the “mini M3" or the “poor man's M3", this model was available for only one year. Along with the new model came a new engine, the most modern available in the E30 range, and excellent weight distribution that has led to frequent comparisons with the famous E30 M3. Rumour has it that the 318iS outperformed BMWs own 325i, prompting the company to restrict its power so that sales of the more expensive 325i weren't affected. A total of 41,234 models were made, ending in 1991. Find one .
3. Mercedes-Benz 300CE
A rarer two-door coupe version of the 300E sedan. Much of the car's engineering and many of its features were advanced automotive technology at the time of its introduction, and many of those innovations have since been adopted throughout the industry. Following its introduction in 1992, the 300CE was re-designated as the E320 in 1993 and complemented by the less powerful (but also less expensive) E220 in 1993. Find one .
4. Datsun 260Z
The latter part of the first generation of Z family of GT two-seat coupes, sold by Nissan Motors in the US for the 1974 model year only and until 1978 in the rest of the world. The car was designed by a team led by Yoshihiko Matsuo, the head of Nissan's Sports Car Styling Studio, which explains why it's still just as cool today as it was 30 years ago. The 260Z claimed a few updates over the 240Z, including an enlarged engine to 2.6 litres with a longer stroke, better climate controls, additional stiffness in the chassis, a rear sway bar and a redesigned dashboard. Find one .
5. Fiat 124
Won the 1967 European Car of the Year award, following its introduction in 1966 via a spectacular publicity stunt in which it was dropped by parachute from a plane. The popular mid-sized family car produced many variants including a station wagon, a four-seater coupé, and a two-seater "spider" convertible. Tally up the vehicle's original production run and its licensed variants manufactured worldwide, and the 124 becomes the fourth-biggest-selling single automobile platform of all time. Find one .
6. VW Karmann Ghia
An unexpected, but welcome, departure from Volkswagen's function-focused Beetle. Styling by Luigi Segre of the Carrozzeria Ghia (a famous Italian automobile design and coachbuilding firm) and bodywork by German coachbuilder Karmann came together to produce a surprisingly sporty car for VW. It was a success – more than 10,000 were sold in the first year and production was quickly doubled. The Karmann Ghia went on to gain fame on American television as the car driven by Maxwell Smart in the opening credits of the third and fourth seasons of Get Smart.
7. Porsche 928 S
You really can't go wrong with a Porsche. The 928 was originally intended to replace the iconic 911 and although that's not exactly how history worked out, the 928 is a special car on its own. Porsche has manufactured only six front-engined models since its inception in 1949, one of which is the 928. After the original iteration took the top honours at the 1978 European Car of the Year competition, the “S” model debuted with a few modifications and became, at least according to Porsche itself, “the fastest street legal production car sold in the US.”
8. Volkswagen Beetle 1200
There will never be a time when the Volkswagen Beetle is not a classic, universally beloved car. Although designed in the 1930s, the Beetle was only produced in significant numbers after 1945. It's now the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design platform, worldwide. The original was internally designated the Volkswagen Type 1, and marketed simply as the “Volkswagen,” but later models were designated VW 1200, 1300, and 1500 to indicate engine displacement. Find one .
9. Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV6
An executive saloon car and fastback coupé produced from 1972 to 1987. The GTV6, a version of the GTV with the SOHC V6 2.5-litre engine from the Alfa 6 luxury sedan, was released in 1981. Its most noticeable feature is a bulge in the hood, a necessary modification in order to clear the top of the intake. The GTV6 was a successful racing car, including winning the European Touring Car Championship for an unprecedented four years in a row, and it appears briefly in the James Bond movie Octopussy.
10. Leyland Moke Californian
If you want a car that's really going to stand out, this is it. The Mini Moke (also known as the Austin Mini Moke, Morris Mini Moke, and Leyland Moke) takes its name from “Mini,” the car with which it shares many parts, and “Moke,” an archaic term for donkey. For a brief period around 1972, Leyland Australia produced a variant of the Moke commonly called a “Californian”. The original Californian had a 1275cc engine and immediately recognisable trimmings in 'Op-pop verve' black and white tiger striped vinyl or 'Orange Bali' vinyl. Find one .
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