1964 Studebaker Lark Daytona
Okay, the Studebaker Lark is far from famous compared to other pony cars from the era, but it’s a cool little gem that you can buy for significantly less than $20,000. Introduced in 1964, the third-gen Lark gained a massive redesign and grew bigger. Studebaker also moved production from South Bend, Indiana to Ontario, Canada. Studebaker worked very hard to establish a high-performance image for the 1964 lineup, sending a number cars, including Larks, to the Bonneville Salt Flats to set new production-car speed records. However, the car wasn’t exactly impressive under the hood, where two of the three available engines were inline-sixes.
But the Lark Daytona did get a 4.6-liter V-8 that delivered a solid 195 horsepower. Granted, it was nowhere near as powerful as other V-8 cars from the late 1960s, but for 1964, the Lark Daytona was no slouch. Sure, it doesn’t have a Ford or Chevy badge, but it’s a good choice if you’re looking for something different. There aren’t too many of these around, as production lasted for only three years before Studebaker went bankrupt in 1967. The good news is that you can score a mint-condition Lark Daytona with a V-8 for as low as $11,000.
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
As you may already know, the muscle car segment entered a rather dark era starting 1972. That was when new emission regulations almost put an end to big-displacement engines, and the V-8s lost the oomph that made them famous. However, most nameplates survived, and some even spawned iconic versions that are considered classics and continue to gain value. One such car is the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
Updated in 1977 with a slant-nose design and square headlamps, the Firebird also gained a Trans Am special edition with a t-top roof and a custom decal on the engine hood. This version became famous after it was driven by Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit.” Although its massive 6.6-liter V-8 delivers only 200 horsepower, the Trans Am is a proper muscle car given the era it comes from and it’s a full-blown collectors item. Well-maintained examples are valued at around $20,000 nowadays, so it might be a bit of a stretch for the budget. But given that the value has been steadily growing in recent years, a $20K sticker might be a smart investment.