Tuesday, May 12, 2015

That's A Nice Neighborhood...

World famous author and all-around good guy Marko asks (over on the book of Faces):
Question for the car nuts:

Say a man wants to get a used funmobile strictly for tooling around when he doesn't need all the space in the big box on wheels. Assume a man wants to maybe shell out something like ten to fifteen large for a not too old but not brand new small car with a high fun factor, ideally with stick shift and maybe AWD. What sort of car should a man look at?
There are DOZENS of cars that fit into this range. First off, there's little runabouts like the Mazda Miata/Honda S2000 (although, honestly, the S2000 you'll find for $10K is going to be a little beat around the edges...). Small, light, RWD so they'll handle great in the corners, plus they're ragtops for summer fun. The Mazda RX8 is also RWD with oomph, but no ragtop. Ditto the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ.

Secondly, there's the FWD autocross gang: Mitsubishi Lancer EVO, VW Golf GTI,Hyundai Veloster, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, etc. Problem with this group is you're going to run into cars that have been bought by teens/early 20-somethings, beaten into an unrecognizable pulp, and then sold before the illegally modified chip blows up. I had a used GTI. I got rid of it within 6 months because I was tired of fixing broken stuff.

Third, there's the Detroit trinity: Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, and Chevy Camaro. Not quite as much fun to throw through the curves, but hell-on-wheels in a straight line. $15K might push you back to 5-7 years old with the V8, but there's a better chance it will have been adult-owned and not thrashed to within an inch of its life. Another option in this class, although it's probably more pricey than he's looking to spend, is the Nissan 350Z. Might have to push out to 7 - 10 years old on that, but it's a Nissan...

Of course, the fourth option is where you can really go off the rails. Pick something old, put money into it, etc. Mid '90s C5 Corvette. Early 2000s Camaro/Trans Am with the 350 V8. Late 1990s Toyota Supra. Nissan 300ZX from the '90s with the T-roof. Porsche 944 Turbo. Heck, you might be able to snoop around and find a late '70s 911 for $15K. But it sounds like Marko's looking for something turnkey, and something that will be a daily driver, so these are more or less out.

Later in the thread, he alludes that AWD would be good to have, which really limits the search. Basically, for a sporty AWD car there's a very limited pool to begin with. Subaru WRX, some of the BMW 3- and 4- series, Audi RS, and the Lancer again. In a few years there will be more Golf R's hitting the used market to hit his price range.

How else can we help Marko spend his writin' money?

That is all.


21 comments:

Ted said...

As they say over on jalopnic. -----

The answer is always Miata. ....

And if you are interested in a 70's 911 you will need to add a zero to that 15K if you want one that runs. .... And then double it if you want an S .

Lupis42 said...

Love the S2000 - even at 10k, it should be reliable and a blast, and at 15, you've got your pick. When last I was shopping, I had my heart set on an S2000, but with a new baby, backseats just weren't optional.

I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of an older (2004) Audi S4 Cabrio. It was ~20K four years ago, so it should be edging down into the 10-15 range now.

If the cabrio option isn't attractive, the Audi S4 and the BMW M3 are blasts to drive, and the S4 is AWD. Both have higher running costs, and you can't skip maintenance, but they make up for it by being both a blast and a practical backup car. With proper tires, I was way more mobile through this winter (in MA) driving the Audi than half the pickups out there.

The Lancer EVO and WRX are both AWD and fun, although turbos are hogs for TLC, and there is some concern about previous owners.

If you want to go oldschool, I'd look around for a 3000GT, twin turbo if possible.

geeknotes said...

I've got a 2011 Mustang V6, clocking in at 305 HP. Most fun car that I've ever had!

abnormalist said...

Ted is right.

As a guy who has owned about half of what you listed, the one that I have right now is a 99 British racing green Miata.

Its got flynin miata springs on all 4 corners, KYB AGX adjustable shocks, upgraded sway bars, stress bars, k&n intake, racing beat exhaust, Hawk HPS brakes pads, and runs in Street Prep Class C for SCCA auto cross.

They are WONDERFUL cars. Mine has 135k on the clock on a 16 year old car that has NOT been gently driven. Its due a new clutch soon, but other wise a few batteries (had poor luck with trickle chargers over winter storage) and one alternator is its entire repair history (other than standard maintenance).

There's something truly awesome about a 2200lb toss around car that can be had for under 10k in NICE condition, where you can go through all five speed on the shifter, without moving your elbow (or if you are proving a point, your wrist)

Laura said...

gotta agree with Ted, here...provided the intended driver isn't over 6ft tall.

Armed Texan said...

Yeah, Marko pretty much described a used WRX. He's in luck too. Castle Frostbite is smack dab in the middle of the Subie's natural habitat. I see whole herds of them on the freeways and byways here in Cow Hampshire. (They say their imported from Japan, but like Kudzu in the south, they seemed to have taken over in VT and NH.)

Gregg said...

Used Jeep Wrangler, a decently restored or nice original CJ fits in that price bracket. Any of the TJs in great condition fit there, even the early JK models.

(CJs are the old round headlight models, TJs are the new round headlight models from the late 90s until 2007, JKs are 2007- today)

I have owned and enjoyed a bunch of the sports cars, but the jeeps are just incredibly fun and they're a rag top 4wd with optional hardtop.

Anonymous said...

Toyota MR2 might be a good choice.

Al_in_Ottawa

Angus McThag said...

A nice thing for "settling" on a $15k Vette is that it's done depreciating.

Another nice thing is you can get just about every part ever made for it thanks to the rabid community of owners.

libertyman said...

Audi TT?

Convertible?

Dave H said...

Jeez, what kind of royalties is Marko getting? I just bought "Angles of Attack" a couple of weeks ago and now he's car shopping.

If it's of any interest, there's somebody selling an Opel GT out by where I live.

ShallNOTBeInfringed Original said...

Gotta love a used Porsche boxer. I'm 6'2" and I was very surprised to see I fit in it. However it is foreign and it's not a demographic that I want to be associated with.......

Old NFO said...

WRX or Miata... period... :-) They win the old car/reliability crown!

Wandering Neurons said...

I've had a WRX (not STi), enjoyed it. Had a BMW E39 540iA M-Sport II, loved it. But my daily driver is not the Zombie Truck, but a MINI Cooper S. And it's a blast. Mine is a 2008, Miata-quick, great handling, 32 MPG, turbo, 6-speed, and lots of room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3rpkHzwd1o&feature=youtu.be
(I fit a La-Z-Boy recliner in the back)
FWD will get you lots of places if you have good tires. AWD only gets you to the crash scene quicker, you can't stop any better.

Lupis42 said...

Wandering Neurons,

Not sure if you live in the northeast, but I will say this about AWD vs FWD (or RWD). With snow tires on, FWD and RWD vehicles can't get up my driveway if it's even slightly icy. My Audi, with good all seasons (WRG2s) goes right up into the garage with no fuss.

AWD doesn't let you stop any faster, but it does let you hold the car through irregular traction corners better, and it lets you put power down where that would otherwise be impractical.

FrankC said...

Lupus, your driveway seems to match Marko's. Steep, muddy or icy.

AuricTech said...

A dark-horse contender in the "stick shift with AWD" category is the Suzuki SX4 hatchback. It carries the Jonny Lieberman Seal of Approval (in the linked review, he stated that "(r)unning in i-AWD I tackled my favorite corners as fast as I could in my (gulp) Subaru WRX").

Meanwhile, over at TrueDelta.com, the reliability ratings for the SX4 are quite satisfactory (full disclosure: my SX4 is one of the ones included in TrueDelta's reliablity survey).

Sarthurk said...

I've got a Mercedes C230 Kompressor I paid 10 for, and it got me 120 miles to and from radiation treatments 5 days a week, for the last two months. I'm really surprized the cops didn't catch me. There's a few real short passing lanes on the way, and slingshot passing at the right moment was real fun. 40 to 80 in about 4 seconds. Those kids in their brand new Beemers can't drive worth shit! Oh, the cancer's going away too! :)

Lupis42 said...

It's steep - up 10 feet in 2 car lengths, or about 1 in 3.

Wandering Neurons said...

Lupis42,
I live in the DC area, so we don't have the snow or hills that you do farther north. And yes, AWD can be a savior, I've had a Audi Quattro long time ago, and the Subaru recently. I wasn't aware of the killer driveway, that can make a difference.
Other than that, I still love my MINI. Though if I had the money, I'd have another BMW E39-generation 540i or M5. A real gentleman's car. Four doors, 4.4L V8 motor, tons of handling, and not bad in snow either.

Will said...

First or second gen Eagle Talon/Mitsubishi Eclipse AWD. 2L turbo. Change the timing belt every 40k mi.
Stock about 200hp. They would run with the 5L Mustangs.

I've got magazine articles on everyday drivers with 400-800+hp at the wheels. To do that: An add-on computer system, bigger turbo, intake manifold and exhaust system, and bigger fuel pump and injectors. Cheap horsepower, and reliable.