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Looking to buy a classic car, but can’t shell out too much cash? Here’s some affordable muscle car options you can find for under $20,000!

Classic Muscle Cars That Don’t Cost an Arm and a Leg

1970 Dodge Challenger - netcarshow.com
1970 Dodge Challenger - netcarshow.com

The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were full of power-hungry muscle cars everywhere you looked. It’s easy to romanticize that pony car era, and prices for some of those cars reflect that. Pristine ‘69 Mustang GT500s running up into the six-figure range. Early COPO Camaros going for well over $100,000. ‘70 Dodge Challengers are listed for the same price as a brand-new Tesla Model S Performance. Classic car prices are insane. However, there are some great classic muscle cars out there for sale that come in under $20,000 still. These vehicles may not be as desirable to some, but they’re still great history pieces that are ready to drive to your local cars and coffee.

Ford Mustang

1968 Ford Mustang - carsforsale.com
1968 Ford Mustang - carsforsale.com

You’re probably thinking “There’s no way you can get a classic Ford Mustang for under $20,000 that’s running.” While that’s true for a Mustang with a V8 under the hood, the earliest models could be found with a less powerful striaght-6 that really drives the price down to an approachable level. Driving an iconic muscle car with one of the smallest engines available may not seem like an ideal classic car purchase, but you can’t really be disappointed by the price tag.

Dodge Dart

1973 Dodge Dart - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
1973 Dodge Dart - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

Dodge’s Challenger and Charger are some of the most well-known and sought-after muscle cars around, but the Dodge Dart is a worthy option from the same family. The fourth generation Dart was a compact muscle car option that carried engines ranging from a lowly slant-6 all the way up to a big-block Hemi V8. That Hemi option may be a stretch for our $20,000 shopping limit, but there’s plenty of other engine choices that fit the bill. Make sure to read more about the Dodge Dart in our Retro Review!

AMC Javelin

1973 AMC Javelin - carsforsale.com
1973 AMC Javelin - carsforsale.com

The AMC Javelin was a classic muscle car that tried its best to compete with the likes of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, but never found as much sales success as either of those competitors. It has some great body lines and AMC vehicles haven’t really skyrocketed in price unless they’re of some significance or limited rarity, so finding one of these classic AMC Javelins for under $20,000 isn’t unheard of.

Plymouth Duster

1973 Plymouth Duster - carsforsale.com
1973 Plymouth Duster - carsforsale.com

Plymouth was known for their Road Runner and Barracuda muscle cars, but the Plymouth Duster was a fun little option too. It may have just been a rebadged Dodge Dart underneath the skin and didn’t have all the options either, but that helps with some of the pricing on the classic car market. There won’t be any Hemi found in the Duster sadly, but you could still get lucky and find the 340 CID V8 that was found in the Cuda and Challenger of the same time. Otherwise, all those savings up front will allow for some wiggle room to swap in a larger powerplant no problem.

Ford Maverick

1974 Ford Maverick - Maple Motors Muscle Cars on youtube.com
1974 Ford Maverick - Maple Motors Muscle Cars on youtube.com

No, I am not talking about the compact pickup truck for sale on today’s market. The original Ford Maverick was actually a compact muscle car made to compete against models like the Dodge Dart and imports like the Datsun 240Z. This little muscle car is more than likely going to feature one of the various available straight-6 engines for under $20,000, but the 302 CID Windsor V8 in the Maverick. You know, the domestic version of the same engine found in the Ford GT40 that helped it win back-to-back 24 hours of Le Mans titles in 1968 and 1969? But I mean, almost every ‘70s Ford featured that thing, I guess.

Mercury Comet

1971 Mercury Comet - carsforsale.com
1971 Mercury Comet - carsforsale.com

Speaking of the Maverick, Mercury had a version of it called the Comet that ran from 1971 to 1977. This model can also be found for under $20,000 in great condition and provides an alternate exterior look in comparison to the Maverick it was based on. The body was almost identical between both models with the exception of the front-end design and badging. Engine options were also the same between both models too, aside from the 250 CID straigh-6 available in the Maverick. The biggest thing you’re getting here over the Maverick is some great outer space related naming.

Chevrolet Nova

1978 Chevrolet Nova - carsforsale.com
1978 Chevrolet Nova - carsforsale.com

Nobody seems to value these compact muscle car options very much it seems, as the Chevrolet Nova also makes this affordable classic muscle cars list. For under $20,000, you get essentially a squished Chevelle with less bells and whistles. Nearly all the same engines from the Chevelle were available in the Nova, plus there was even a Super Sport model too. That Nova SS probably won’t fall to our affordable price range, but you can still find a V8 model for a decent price.

Buick Skylark

1965 Buick Skylark - carsforsale.com
1965 Buick Skylark - carsforsale.com

For being sold as a luxurious alternative to the Chevelle and GTO, the Buick Skylark actually can be found for a cheaper price today. The classic Skylark versions to truly be on the lookout for are the Gran Sport models. The Skylark GS featured the essential muscle car items like a loud dual exhaust, powerful engine options, and even some cool decal packages.

Oldsmobile Cutlass

1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass - carsforsale.com
1967 Oldsmobile Cutlass - carsforsale.com

Another affordable muscle car option can be found with the Oldsmobile Cutlass. This was another instance of GM utilizing that A-body platform across all its brands to pander to niche audiences. The Cutlass slotted in as a “pseudo luxury” muscle car option and lacked some engine options found in other GM models. However, if you’re feeling like you can throw out a little more cash, the 442 that we wrote about here may be a more enticing muscle car option from the Oldsmobile brand.

Ford Torino

1970 Ford Torino - carsforsale.com
1970 Ford Torino - carsforsale.com

Looking for a sharp looking Ford classic car that isn’t a Mustang? The Ford Torino may just be what you’re looking for. It was a long muscle car that could be found with two different Cobra-Jet V8s under its hood. Those engines helped propel the Torino into a NASCAR champion back in the day. While a second-generation Torino with a Cobra-Jet may not quite be running or in the best shape at $20,000, a nicer Gran Torino may make for an even better deal, just with less power. Plus, you can dress it up like Starsky & Hutch.

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Jesse McGraw

Jesse McGraw brings his life-long car obsession into his writing. A fun childhood that involved growing up around race tracks, working on a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, and collecting Hot Wheels developed into a strong appreciation for automotive history. If there is an old, obscure, or rare car, he wants to know about it. With a bachelor's degree in Web Development & Design from Dakota State University, Jesse can talk shop about car or computer specs, focusing on classic cars, imports, and car culture.

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