This also popped up recently, probably a terrible idea?
92 BMW 325IC with 170k for 2700. Car makes decent power and has decent reviews. Looks like it was pretty well taken care of. Could have it looked over as well.
Fair enough, if I were to do it, I'd research the snot out of it first and do a compression test and all that good stuff and do pretty much the mildest thing I could.
Honestly, the point of this is to learn to drive stick on a fun-ish car. ...
I'm finding NA MR2's for like 3500-4500 in reasonable condition. Any cheaper and they're rattle canned or some other crap.
This is the only one I found that looks like a reasonable cost and it's a barn find with an exhaust leak.
This one looks decent, but is 4500; https://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/cto/5573918510.html
For 3k, 85 300zx: https://southcoast.craigslist.org/cto/5610651660.html
Funny to see your list of cars are basically the cars that were the somewhat reasonably priced performance/fun cars when i was a teenager. Some of the kids in my high school had cars such as the 300ZX on your list, the 1st gen MR2, 2nd generation RX7, an 87 Toyota Supra or occasionally were using their parents 3 series BMWs.
I have a soft spot for cars of the 80's and 90's, so I always think its great when people keep them going and enjoy them. A few of my friends and I have at least one older car and they are still fun to use and people always stop us at car events to chat about them or tell us stories about when they or their parents had car X.
I would say, there are definitely things that you would need to look into on cars of this age such as when/if the fuel and brake lines were replaced, and if you don't know find out what the cost would be to do that. Also, on some of the cars you mention, I personally wouldn't put a lot of money into modding them, as you might only get a fraction of what you put into the mods back when you sell or trade it, but as long as you are aware of that going in then have fun!
My neighbor has a 1st gen Miata that is totally stock, and he loves driving it. Its really a great car to learn to drive stick on, and maintenance isn't bad on those. The old 3 series BMW is an interesting option, and it has decent power, but parts will probably run you a heck of a lot more than the Miata.
Yes, there are some great back roads to enjoy in MA once you have mastered driving stick. We did a nice drive through the back roads of southern, MA last year with 15 other fun cars and had a blast! Wishing you luck and lots of fun mastering a manual shift car.