I have fully automatic cameras and I have manual cameras. While I could live without the autos, I'd find it hard to survive without the clunkers. If there is a sweet spot it may be the Canon AV-1, a model I remember ranting against when it first came out. Aperture priority only, but with a big doughnut override in half stop increments. No push buttons, no LCDs, just a crank handle, a twist focus lens and that can't-miss compensation dial.
On the subject of prices, I bought three (!) mint Minolta AF bodies from the 90s for £17 total. They're so light that if it weren't for the fact they produce pictures I'd swear the things were empty display models. That's an SLR camera for the price of a film. Absolutely crazy.