Ten Cars That You Need To Drive Before You Die, For Less Than $15,000

As car enthusiasts, we’re always looking for a bucket list drive that is experienced by a few but strikes a chord with everyone. That’s why last week, I asked you die-hard car nuts to give me a list of cars that everyone needs to drive before they die, for under a $15,000 budget.

10. 1974 BMW 2002


The BMW 2002 could be seen as the genesis for the styling direction of the German automaker for the next 30 years and driving one, despite its ancient underpinnings, remains a remarkably modern experience.

It handles extraordinarily well for a car with relatively skinny tires on all four corners, it looks like a true classic without being some seriously obscure museum piece, and parts are available enough that you wouldn’t cringe at the thought of leaving it in a mall parking lot. Drive one. Now.

(Suggested by Charlie B. Sharenative)

9. 1972 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow


If you think old-world luxury, you think Rolls Royce. Specifically, this Silver Shadow, which was the go-to car for leaders of middle-eastern oil-rich state leaders and oligarchs alike. It has all of the amenities that you’d absolutely need and none that would be superfluous to the upper crust experience. You wouldn’t need bluetooth or radar guided cruise control because you’ll have a driver and your clients can damn well wait if they know what’s good for them. Buy this car and be somebody instantly.

(Suggested by FoxTrotNixon)

8. 1976 Porsche 912


The Porsche 912 is the iconic 911’s baby brother, missing two cylinders and a few ponies, despite looking nearly identical other than the “2” on the badge on the hood - or is it trunk?

Not only will you get the same driving feel of the 911 at speed, you can buy a decent example that’s in need of a little work for less than the max budget. I mean, you could put in a 911 engine from a late model car and blow the doors off everything on the road, including your own. And I think that’s sort of the point with these cars.


(Suggested by damnthisburnershitsux)

7. 1936 Cadillac La Salle


This Cadillac is the closest you’ll ever get to living the high life before the last great war. I’ll let curbwatching explain:

A pre-war Cadillac, from the era when just seeing one of these on the road was an event. I don’t just want to drive it before I die, I want to ride in the back seat, I want to ride standing on the running boards, hell, I want to run along side it and just look at the damn thing while it rolls down the street. $14,990 buy it now, and god help me I’m checking my bank balance as I write this.


(Suggested by curbwatching)

6. 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo


I need you to sit down, because what I’m about to tell you is a harsh truth McNugget that some may find hard to swallow: Toyota will likely never make another turbocharged mid-engined sports car for the masses, and that’s why this MR2 Turbo is so important.

It was the pinnacle of ‘90s design, reliability, and platform exclusivity. I mean, what other automaker had a mid-engined car that was affordable by damn near everyone? Don’t you dare say Pontiac or we’re not friends anymore.


(Suggested by brokenfury8585)

5. Porsche 944 Turbo


This Porsche 944 Turbo will make you love the art of driving. I’ll let Pibbs says once you go Swede explain:

Porsche 944. Base, S2, whatever you can find. Simply because they are all great. For my entry, I’ve found a reasonably priced 944 Turbo. I had a base, early 1985 model, and despite my particular example being an absolute dog, when I had it running, it was an absolute blast. It’s a car that absolutely gives you everything you’d expect out of a Porsche, at a much lower entry cost. That, and it keeps you out of trouble with it’s 150hp starting point in a base model, but a Turbo will absolutely wreck you (in a good way).


(Suggested by Pibbs says once you go Swede)

4. 2002 Jeep Wrangler


This Jeep Wrangler isn’t a particularly refined car, nor is it a fast one. It’s not very well built, and to be honest, its looks are as dated as five cent moon pies at the general store. But what it does offer is freedom. The freedom not to have doors or a top, and the ability to drive anywhere and everywhere your heart desires.

It’s infinitely customizable and can last for many years if any frame rust is stopped in its tracks. Drive one and you’ll get it.


(Suggested by jjhats)

3. 2004 Ford Mustang Mach 1


While the Mustang should be on any gearhead’s bucket list, this one in particular ticks all the right boxes. I’ll let CobraJoe explain:

You can find them all day for under $15k, even extremely nice or modified ones.

But why the Mach 1? Why not a Terminator or a Bullitt?

1. That engine. Sure, a modern 3.7L V6 makes the same numbers, but that DOHC 4.6 is not a tame animal. It doesn’t idle completely smoothly, it doesn’t like to trundle along at low RPM, ALL of the power comes right away in the midrange, and it sounds beautiful.

2. Azure Blue and Competition Orange. Only available on the Mach.

3. Shaker scoop. It’s so mesmerizing to see it wobble prominantly in your field of view.

4. It’ll make you wish the new Mustang wasn’t so refined.

I really think the Mach 1 was the last of the “Beast” mustangs. It gave up nice interiors, comfy ride, ease of operation, fancy toys, nearly every creature comfort just to have a big engine, big brakes, and a stiff suspension. It forces you to learn how to control it, and once you learn, you feel like a beast master who can take on the world.

If not anything else, drive it and find out how different power delivery can make a car feel wildly different.


(Suggested by CobraJoe)

2. 1972 Datsun 240z


With Z cars gaining in popularity again, examples like this Datsun 240z are quickly becoming sought-after classics that will be relegated to garage duty for the remainder of their now-pampered lives. However, you can break the cycle by getting this one and driving it until the wheels fall off because that’s what it would’ve wanted. It was built to drive and drive hard. It’s not the most well-appointed car in the world, but you wouldn’t fault a good steak just because it wasn’t wrapped in bacon, now would you?

(Suggested by rcasi)

1. 2006 Mercedes-Benz S600


Everyone should drive a Mercedes-Benz S600 as soon as possible, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s Land_Yacht_225 with an explainer:

Somebody at some point in time said, “Everybody should drive a V12 at least once in their life.” Most often that is attributed to Jay Leno, but I believe his contribution to the sentiment was an addendum to make it “once a week,” but who can really be sure anymore anyways? Point being that it is absolutely true. For me, pride swells within me to say that I do drive a V12 at least once a week. And when I’m not at school, it’s at least twice a day, to and from work. And let me tell you, you cannot possibly imagine what it is actually like. If you go into ownership knowing you’re gonna get kicked in the sensitive areas on upkeep, this is the hero that you want to meet.

The way this car drives has nothing to do with it’s power figures or 0-60 time, or 0-100 time, or 100-155 time. Although those numbers will blow your socks off, it’s all about how it’s delivered. You want 600 lb-ft of torque, a diesel truck will give you that. But it won’t deliver it silently, and without a single vibration. You have your pick of the litter these days when you want 500 horses under the hood, the top of the range hot Alfa Romeo Gulia has 505 out of a Twin Turbo V6, but it’s a frantic, high-revving, turbo whooshing, visceral experience.

You must try it before you shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s intoxicating.

(Suggested by Land_Yacht_225)

Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes and makes videos about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He won’t mind.


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