On Friday night, I was sitting in my parents’ house doing what I always do when I’m bored: surfing Craigslist. Only this time, it wasn’t actually Craigslist, but rather various German car sales websites, since my parents live in a small town between Nürnberg and Prague. The search results are... interesting. Check out some of these awesome machines.
I asked my friend Andreas—the same Nürnberg-area Jalop who drove with me to a wedding in Romania in a diesel, manual, all-wheel drive Mazda6, who showed me one of the greatest Mitsubishi collections on earth, and whose girlfriend let me drive her family’s Porsche tractor—to help me compile a list of the coolest sub-$5,000-ish cars within about 15 miles of this tiny town I’m staying in. It took Andreas all of three seconds to generate an enormous list of wacky (well, by my standards as someone who doesn’t live in Germany) machines. How he did that, I’m unsure, but it’s clear that the man is obsessed.
Yes, It’s Got A V5 Engine: $2,000
This Seat Toledo is is really just weird for one main reason: It’s got a V5 engine under the hood. You read that correctly, a V5, though many refer to it as a “VR5,” or a shortened version of the well-know VR6 engine, which—unlike the five-cylinder—was actually offered stateside.
A contributor to a website called Shifting Lanes, Chris Okula, wrote a little blog on VW’s not-particularly-popular, roughly 150 horsepower V5 engine on Drivetribe, embedding the video above and noting that “The V5 is mostly remembered for being extremely weird and producing some intoxicating sounds.” The blue Seat Toledo near my parents’ house is for sale for about two grand, and looks to be in decent shape.
I’d probably buy it just to drive to the auto parts store and, when asked which engine my car had, respond with: “Oh, the V5, of course.” Though I don’t think the conversation would get to that point, since there’s no way a VW Toledo is going to show up in a parts catalogue in the U.S. But that makes me want it even more.
A Chinese Car With Porsche And Mitsubishi Influence But Bad Crash Test Scores: $3,300
It turns out that here in Germany, there are quite a few obscure cars from the Asian market, like this Brilliance BS6, a Chinese sedan with apparently Mitsubishi-sourced engines, a design by engineering and styling consultancy Italdesign Giugiaro, and suspension “optimized by Porsche,” per German news website Heise Online.
This 2007 car costs nearly 3,300 bucks, and comes with an LPG-fed 2.0-liter four-banger, a five-speed manual, and a leather interior. It’s weird, and became a posterchild for cheap Chinese cars that don’t do well on crash tests, as seen above.
A Peugeot With A Factory Mini Cooper S Engine: $4,200
You might think this is just a regular old Peugeot hatchback, but then you’d be wrong, because what you’re looking at is actually the the Peugeot 207 RC, whose 175 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four is the same motor found in the Mini Cooper S. It launches the French hatchback from zero to 62 mph in only 7.1 seconds through a five-speed manual transmission that sends power to the front wheels.
I actually initially thought Andreas was joking when he sent me this car as an example of something “cool” for sale near me, but it turns out, it’s a total sleeper, though this 2008 model costs $4,200, so it’s not exactly cheap.
A Mitsubishi Colt With A Smart Badge: $1,600
Back for the 2004 model year, Smart launched the ForFour, which was basically meant to stretch the brand’s lineup from the tiny ForTwo city car to include a vehicle with a bit more practicality.
Daimler developed the ForFour with Mitsubishi, whose Colt compact car shares the Smart’s architecture and powertrains, as well as its assembly location in the Netherlands, where automobile manufacturing company Nedcar was in charge of assembling both machines.
The ForFour—whose front seats could be folded flat to offer a “lounge concept” that the Top Gear Hosts tested out by staying in the car for 24 hours straight—was only on sale for the 2004 to 2006 model years. Daimler claims it built 100,000 of the things, which seems surprisingly high for something this hideous. I’m probably not the only one who thinks that, as this 2006 model only costs $1,600.
A Hilariously Cheap French Hatchback With Flat-Folding Seats: $321
To my surprise, I found a 2004 Renault Twingo for sale for the Euro equivalent of only $321, which sounds like a great deal. Sure, there appears to be some rust on the bottoms of the doors and on the rocker panels, but at that price, I’d probably go for it, barring any major structural flaws. The first-gen Twingo is, after all, one of the quirkiest cars of our time, with my favorite features being its HVAC intakes in the hood and its flat-folding seats.
The Six-Seater Manual Diesel Pickup Truck Of Your Dreams: $5,500
Here’s a 1998 Volkswagen Type II Transporter T3 for about $5,500. Though that’s not exactly cheap and the utility vehicle’s 1.7-liter compression ignition engine makes under 60 horsepower , this is a six-seater, manual transmission diesel pickup. What more could anyone want in life?
Aluminum-Bodied MPG Champion, The Audi A2: $1,700
I’ve got an enormous list of automobiles that I must own before I die, and on that list is the Audi A2. Back when I first laid eyes on the car, I was about 10 years old, and I thought the thing was hideous.
But my taste in automobiles has changed tremendously over time, and I’ve grown to value quirkiness and clever engineering over pretty much everything else. The Audi A2's all-aluminum unibody; its wacky hood-opening mechanism; its ridiculous aerodynamic shape that, along with efficient engines, yields incredible up-to-78 MPG fuel economy—all of these things turn a vehicle that I once found ugly into a true masterpiece in my eyes. And at under $1,700, I’d love to own this one.
Cheap Suzuki Off-Roaders: $1,000 and $1,100
Here’s a vehicle that I discovered on what I like to call “Germany’s Craigslist,” Mobile.de. It’s that Suzuki SJ 410 you see above, which is quite similar to the Suzuki Samurai we got in the U.S. It’s a tiny, capable little 4x4 whose 44 horsepower probably make it a hell of a difficult car to merge onto the Autobahn, but I don’t care. It’s 900 Euros, and dripping with soul. And the nicer one shown below—also a 1987 model like the first one—is only 100 Euro more.
These things are dirt cheap here, and don’t seem to be complete rustbuckets, either!
1940 DKW Built In The Same Plant As The Trabant: $5,500
Andreas also pointed out this front-wheel drive 1940 DKW F8 for sale for 5,000 Euros, which seems a bit steep, but hey, it’s a DKW built in the same plant as the Trabant and which—at least at some point in its production run appears to have used plastic in its body panels just like the Trabant did. The Trabi didn’t get its design from nowhere! DKW, forefather to modern Audi and VW, is never underrated as a company. As for this thing, it’s a fascinating machine, and I’ve never seen one for sale in the U.S., and I may never.
Speaking Of Trabant: $1,300
Speaking of Trabants, look at the P601 for sale on eBay for only about 1,300 bucks. The seller says the car is either to be crushed or to be rebuilt, with the former suggesting that this thing has some pretty serious issues. Still, it’s $1,300, and if it’s all there, this could become an awesome Trabant.
A 1990s Mexican Beetle: $2,750
On eBay, Andreas found a 1997 Mexico-built Volkswagen Beetle that needs some transmission work, and costs only about $2,750. It’s actually quite beautiful, and I’m surprised it’s so cheap, because I bet it’d be easy to fix this trans.
The Ford Streetka, A Compact Car Made Cool : $1,700
Speaking of quirky, one car I’ve always been fascinated with is the Ford Streetka, which was a convertible version of the Ford Ka compact car, and was built by Italian design house Pininfarina. There’s one for sale near me for only about $1,700. Someone should buy it. But is that someone me? Probably not, I don’t need to be maintaining fleets on both sides of the Atlantic.
A Diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee “WJ”: $2,200
The vehicle above may just look like a Jeep Grand Cherokee “WJ” (the one offered between the 1999 and 2004 model years), but this is Germany, so this thing was not built at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, but rather at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. And, like many European SUVs, it’s got the most coveted type of engine in the 4x4 community: a diesel.
Though the 2.7-liter CRD diesel in this Grand Cherokee isn’t the greatest compression engine out there, nor is it bolted to the greatest automatic transmission, a diesel solid-axle Jeep Grand Cherokee is forbidden fruit for the U.S., so this thing is just awesome, especially for only about $2,200.
A Manual, 227 Horsepower Audi S4 Wagon: $4,400
Okay, so this Audi looks terrible, with awful paint, an apparently cracked front bumper, some rust, and a worn leather interior. But it’s a 227 horsepower, six-speed manual “C4"-generation Audi S4 Avant, and that last word means it’s a wagon. It costs over $4,400, but the motor runs! Try to knock that price down a bit, and this thing would make for a great winter beater.
A Cool German Minivan: $3,300
Do you need a roughly 200 horsepower, VR6-powered manual multipurpose vehicle to haul your large family around? Yes, you do, because the U.S. hasn’t recently offered nearly enough manual transmission minivans, and this roughly $3,300 2002 Volkswagen Sharan, built on a shared Ford-VW platform, seems practical and fun.
A Dirt-Cheap Rear-Wheel Drive Manual Wagon: $540
It may look ugly, but what you see above is a front-engine, rear-wheel drive, manual transmission 1999 Opel Omega. With an Opel “Family II” four-cylinder engine, it’s not going to blow anyone’s doors off, but at under $540 for—and I’ll repeat: a rear-wheel drive, manual wagon!—this seems like a damn fine deal.
A Confusing Automobile From South Korea: $2,500
I don’t have much to say about it, other than that it’s absolutely hideous, but there’s a Ssangyong Rexton for sale near me. It’s a Korean SUV powered by a 2.2-liter diesel sending torque through a five-speed automatic. It’s got some exhaust issues and a problem with a sway bar link, but at just over $2,500, how can you resist? (Answer: Quite easily; this thing is, as I mentioned before, hideous).
An Opel Kadett E Convertible, If You’re Into That: $880
Behold, a five-speed 1993 Opel Kadett E convertible; I don’t have much exciting to say about it other than that you can buy it for $880, which isn’t much, even if this thing’s little 1.6-liter inline-four only makes about 75 horsepower.
No Power, Wrong Wheel Drive, Italian Flair: $2,750
Sure, it’s front-engine, front-wheel drive, and its 2.0-liter “Twin Spark” inline-four only cranks out about 150 horsepower, but the Alfa Romeo GTV is just a fascinating car, mostly because of its wacky styling. The quad lights up front, the strong diagonal line down the side, and that flat rear-end with the single full-width light—it’s all just so wacky, and I’m into it. Would I drop $2,750 on this one, with all the gaudy yellow trim on the interior? Probably not. But I definitely wouldn’t fault someone else for doing it.