In Diablo 2 (Expansion), what characters survive well in hell with minimum gear? Ideally, this character will be a basic MF character designed to build 'wealth' as I am returning to the game after many years.
I played HC Diablo2 for years and I would strongly suggest a Summoner-Necro as your first character. A sorceress is faster for MF, this is true, but without proper Gear your sorceress is very vulnerable. The Necromancer on the other hand can stay behind his skeletons and wear crappy gear as he very rarely gets attacked. Even a socketed Armor with topaz gems will do fine for first MF runs.
I used to have a wand with teleport charges on my second weapon-slot, so I could switch weapons using W Key and quickly get out of harms way. Get a Act 2 mercenary with Might-Aura as soon as you reach Nightmare difficulty.
IMHO the Summoner-Necro is the easiest class to get through the whole game with crappy gear. On your way you'll find good stuff to get another character going.
With gear you could easily find for cheap (rare items with a couple uniques thrown in), you're best bet is most likely the sorceress. It's been a few years since I've played, but I can still speak from experience as I had a few characters 90+. One of those was a sorceress, and it could easily solo hell areas without spending tons of money on gear. Focus all your skill points in either fire or ice, and you'll be able to do the standard MF runs (Mephisto, Andariel, Baal), with little trouble (Having teleport will be a huge bonus for these). The only problem you may run into following this track are the vast number of magic resistant enemies in act V, but it's a small price to pay for a cheap Magic Find character.
After building up that character, look to expand your actual MF. With the right gear, it's easy to get your magic find to 300% or higher, increasing your ability to get those good drops.
I got to thinking about this further, and if what you want is a character that has decent MF as well as someone who just won't die on you regardless, your safest bet may be a summon necromancer. This is how I got my start one time in Hardcore. I played only in passworded games with those I trusted and leveled myself to 80 with no problems. Some of the bosses got a little tricky with having to resummon 20 skeletons and 20 revives, but my character never came close to dieing. If this is what concerns you the most, this may be a better route until you can build a sorc or some kind of melee (FEAR THE BADDIES WITH IRON MAIDEN) character with enigma to do some better mfing without fear of dieing.
After all these years, Summoner quantity get nerfed that mean on 20th skills of rise skeletons you will have 8 skeletons(same on mage skeleton), but I found out this strategy is the strongest among hardcore characters I made( and lost them !!! )for starting character, currently I use 3 skeleton warriors+3 mage skeleton+1 Clay Golem, the point is find a magical wand that has Corpse explosion Or/And Attract or/and Iron Maiden, you can easily kill Large group of monster with attract, on elite or champion monsters you make them kill themselves by iron maiden casted on them, and on bosses Iron maiden Rock again, the key to killing bosses is to improve clay golem with spending skill or with items.