Bee-Stung: Datsun B-210

The Datsun B-210 was the right car at the right time. In mid-1973, the OPEC embargo had Americans lining up around the block for gas. The beastly muscle cars of the late 1960s were too thirsty, and the latest replacements from Detroit were strangled and listless.

As if on cue, Datsun kicked off the 1974 model year with an affordable small car that boasted up to 50 mpg. The B-210 was an instant hit. It seemed perfectly designed to compete Read More

Three Best Buys From Monterey

Usually, getting a good buy at one of the Monterey Car Week auctions is just as likely as having no traffic on California 68 between Monterey and Salinas on Friday morning.

Yet it does happen. The following three cars — at three different venues — represent good buys for the money spent. Unlike my usual Cheap Thrills tendencies, two of the three are in upper-middle-class money, proving that a good buy doesn’t always translate into debit-card money.

1936 Packard Series Read More

Ride a Pony

When it comes to bang for your buck — or purchasing your first classic car — the 1964½ through 1966 Ford Mustang should be on your radar.

No other car on the planet is so universally recognized — and not just in the United States. You’ll see Mustangs on the road in the U.K., France, Germany and all over South America.

They’re bought and sold like popcorn at the movie theater, and you could probably build one from scratch — Read More

What Could Possibly Go Right?

The year was 1990, and the venue was Laguna Seca raceway. I was there to get some open track time in an MGB. My run group that day included a deep crimson Maserati Biturbo, and I spent several hours studying every detail of the taillights and rear end.

That happened because passing wasn’t allowed in the corners and the damn slug had just barely enough power to outpull a stock MG on the straights.

That experience sums up the essence Read More

Plenty of Fun — But No Adoration

A few years ago, while sitting in my cubicle at General Motors world headquarters in Detroit, MI, I began my search for a classic car — an affordable one.

Despite my being in the Motor City, I determined I wanted something from Europe — preferably English or Italian — with a convertible soft top. With these criteria, I crafted a short list: Triumph TR6, Jensen-Healey and MGB convertible. And I was off to the races.

The TR6, I quickly discovered, carried Read More

The Rick Astley of Z-Cars

Everyone has a Z-car story. If you didn’t own one yourself, you knew someone who did. Datsun (later Nissan) built an affordable 2-seat fastback sports car with respectable power and handling — and enthusiasts bought them in large numbers.

However, the evolution of the Z-car is a cautionary tale for automakers because Nissan was too quick to listen to focus groups of sedan buyers.

By 1974, the single-year 260Z came with a 2+2 version that destroyed the roofline. By the Read More

The Overlooked Porsche — So Far

As a rule, it’s the overlooked cars that make the best Affordable Classics. That’s certainly the case with the Porsche 924. The more-developed 944 that came along later has completely overshadowed Porsche’s first water-cooled car.

It’s well past time to take another look and find the appeal and the value in one of the last affordable Porsches.

An inauspicious beginning

When the 924 arrived for the 1977 model year, it replaced the lackluster 914 2.0 and the 912E as Read More

Folle Petite Voiture!*

Ihad a friend who was cursed with the nickname “Swamp Gas.” Folks called him that because “swamp gas was the only explanation for something that weird.”

Which brings me to the Citroën 2CV.

Yup, that odd little French car that also answers to “deux chevaux.”

From the land of stinky cheese, the 2CV had a long, quirky life, being built in France from 1948 until 1988, with a couple of encore years of production in Portugal from 1988 to 1990.

Read More

Is It or Isn’t It?

Any car is a rolling exercise in compromise: horsepower vs. economy, stability vs. agility, interior space vs. exterior volume, bilge capacity vs. sinkability.

Whoa. What?

That last is only a problem with the most glaring example of compromise in automotive design ever — the Amphicar 770.

It has been called the “fastest car on the water and the fastest boat on the road” and “a vehicle that promised to revolutionize drowning.” It has also been doing quite well as a Read More

An Open Window to Fun

No window of opportunity stays open forever, but in the case of the Triumph TR6, it has been open a long time.

Long thought to be undervalued amaong those who expected it would follow the Big Healey’s valuation path upwards over the past decade and a half, TR6 prices haven’t moved nearly as much. The happy result for the non-investor is a terrific British sports car that’s still available in decent driver condition for summer-job money.

But our purpose here Read More