I know it's out of your target years but I recently bought an '88 AT Telstar Ghia Hatch and it's a great little car. 2.2 Litre 4 cylinder, 5 speed. $3000. Electric everything, AC and cruise. Best thing about it is that now my XR8 won't be slowly destroyed by the Wife and kids!
Oh yeah, gutless as all hell, but I don't mind.
Ive got a 1993 manual v6 tx5 - lovely, comfortable distance car. Only problems I have had is with CV Joint Boots and front cv joint bushes, plus waterpump failure- that required the timing belt to be removed - $%#^. Ended up getting a new timing belt - $1000 for both the pump and belt later! No other engine problems so far.
The thing loves to rev, and provided that you haven't got someone actually trying at the lights, you'll clearly get ahead of them. Its been to the drags against a 3.8L commie, rx7 series 2 and won.
3 Of my mates have these. A 4th had one off its head but decided to go round a round a bout at 140 and straight into a parked XF. The auto's suck, they are only fun for handbrakes. The manual 6 cyl realy boot, they dont have many problems and look pretty good when lowerd/wheels and kept clean. But they are front wheel drive, this is the only downside i can see about them.
I have draged all my mates, Tx5 manual 6cyl, Tx5 manual 4cyl, Tx4 6cyl auto, and a Tx3 hatch manual. Every car above rips my EA on takeoff, the tx3 is proberly the quickest. Once over 60/70 My car slowly pulls back then after 100 my EA flys past them all exepct for the tx5 manual 6, which i eventualy catch at like 130. I see alot of this cars around, they are very popluar for a get around car, and P's. The parts are far from cheap though and second hand parts for the tx5's are hard to find.
My sisters got a 5 speed manual tx3, got genie extractors, exhaust, ported heads..etc
that thing flies for what it is, beats v6 commies no worries. its beaten a 4wd tx3 turbo before too beaten a vl turbo once..etc
If your on a tight budget,be wary of the GE, rounded shape, 626/Telstar. The V6 requires careful and regular servicing to avoid BIG repair bills. I've also noticed that the trim can suffer from abuse. Also due to the design, if the bumpers cop a tap they can actually dent the panels. The earlier GD 626/Telstar with the 2.2 seems to have a reputation to be near bullet proof. One thing to be very wary of with any DOHC Mazda engine is the sparkplug tubes filling up with water!
Sorry I was half asleep when I wrote that. They fill up with water if you wash the engine or fit a bonnet with large vents. The only problems I've heard about, and seen, is the dizzy which can fail, and the rocker cover gaskets which can seep oil. They really aren't that bad if you look after them. As for mod-able, NFI as I only worked on them when new.