Found: 5 Beautifully Restored and Refurbished Cars for Under $20,000

They may not be Concours-winning examples, but a good restoration can bring a car back from the brink of certain abandonment.


Editor’s Note: We love scouring the internet for reasons to spend money we don’t have on cars we daydream about owning, and these are our picks this week. All prices listed are bid amounts at the time of publishing.

Diving into the vintage car market, you’ll find a spectrum that ranges from junker project cars described as “in need of care” or “ran when parked” to shining examples of preserved automotive history that look as if they just rolled off the factory floor. At both of those ends of the market, you should expect to be spending the most money, either on the parts, labor and time needed to fix and finish the project, or on the rarity of a car in such great condition. Somewhere in the middle, you can find pretty good deals on restored or refurbished cars. They may not be Concours-winning examples, but a good restoration or refurbishment can bring a car back from the brink of certain abandonment. Plus, it means someone else has done all the work for you, so all you have to do is enjoy the car.

1974 Alfa Romeo GTV

What we like: This Alfa definitely lands on the more meticulously-wrenched-show-car end of the spectrum. It’s near brand new but isn’t exactly factory-spec, which would turn away some collectors — but that only works in your favor in keeping the price down.
From the seller: Cosmetic work included new paint in original Amaranth Red, fresh interior pieces, and Alfaholics GTA wheels. Mechanical freshening included a rebuild of the 2.0L twin-cam four and refurbishment of the SPICA injection system as well as other drivetrain, suspension, electrical, brake and fueling work.

Mileage: 38,000 (TMU)
Location: Malvern, Pennsylvania

Bid Now: $13,000

1968 BMW 1600

What we like: This little Bimmer is another example of a lovingly restored car, but still has signs of wear and tear. A few modern additions like tires, seat belts and a modified transmission make it easier to live with day to day, but, again, can also work to keep the price down if you’re not interested in a numbers-matching example.
From the seller: The interior retains the original Golden Brown vinyl with Chocolate carpets, and front seat belts have been added. The 1600cc M10 inline-four was rebuilt some time ago and is paired to a four-speed manual transmission.

Mileage: 58,000 (TMU
Location: Sunnyvale, California

Bid Now: $1,600

1972 Mercedes-Benz 280SE 4.5

What we like: The extensive mechanical refurbishment should bring new life to this old Mercedes and the new front seats should help you enjoy the ride that much more. You won’t be winning any show trophies with this one, but having it as a regular driver — that would be rewarding enough.
From the seller: The previous owner purchased the car out of long term storage in West Covina, California, and moved it to Massachusetts, where another previous owner rebuilt the cylinder heads and spent $2,000 on service to the fuel injection and ignition systems. During this time, the three-speed automatic transmission was also rebuilt and a new heater core was installed under the dash.

Mileage: 38,000 (TMU)
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Bid Now: $3,500

1952 MG TD

What we like: This is one of the original-spec restoration projects that give you a realistic look at what 1950s British motoring was all about. Don’t expect the bidding to stay at $2,000 for long.
From the seller: This 1952 MG TD was restored to original specifications over a 22-year period by the seller and is powered by its original 1250cc XPAG inline-four. An earlier restoration effort stalled when the prior owner passed away, and the car was garage-stored and untouched from 1982 until the seller acquired it in 1994 and restarted the project.

Mileage: 7,567 (TMU)
Location: Summerfield, Florida

Bid Now: $2,000

1978 Land Rover Santana 88 Series III Diesel

What we like: This is a bare-bones overlander and is still largely stock, but it’s a Series III and it’s a diesel — it’s meant to be driven and to get dirty.
From the seller: Powered by a 2.25-liter diesel inline-four paired with a four-speed manual transmission, it recently received a cosmetic refurbishment and is said to be largely stock aside from changes to seating.

Mileage: 61,000
Location: McLean, Virginia

Bid Now: $6,250

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