Ken, the first fixed blade knife I was ever given was a stainless Puuko fishing knife - my great aunt brought it back from Denmark after working there for a few years - it was awesome, especially for a 9 year old - wood handle with the bottom carved into a fish head, and a leather sheath shaped like a fish. One thing I like about a lot of Scandinavian knives (and I don't mean Scandinavian grind but Scandinavian-made), is that they're made to be users - tools to be used not sit in a drawer.
Keep in mind I don't collect, and I'm only interested in users - to me the beauty of one of our oldest tools comes from the functionality. However I do have a just-for-fun interest in bushcraft and will probably pick up 2-3 good 3.5-4 in. blade bushcrafters to find my favorite.
A few quick ideas for you:
-Finnish Marttiini knives tend to be very good value - their most popular model is called the Lynx Lumberjack and is available in stainless in 2 lengths of blades - good quality with a very nice leather sheath. I don't own one, but have handled a friend's. At $30-50 depending on which model, very good value. Here's one for $30: http://www.amazon.com/Marttiini-Knives-161013-Stainless-Stained/dp/B002QEHP7Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1407817612&sr=1-1&keywords=Marttiini+stainless+Lynx
-Enzo and Helle are also good manufacturers, and there are others. Keep in mind that the Helle Temegami, which was made together with or under the name of Survivorman Les Stroud, tends to cost more than other Helle knives so may not be as good a value compared with other Helles.
-You are pretty handy with your car and I'm sure with tools, so you might enjoy getting a quality stainless steel blank and shaping your own handle - here's an Enzo Trapper blank for $55: http://www.bensbackwoods.com/enzo-trapper-blank-12c27-stainless-steel/