Hi Sajeev and Steve,
I’m a longtime TTAC reader and I was hoping you guys could give me a bit of advice about an upcoming car purchase. I recently graduated college, and with no debt to pay off and a fairly good income I’m looking to get myself a second car. My current car is a 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis in incredible shape with around 130k miles on it, It currently has some minor powertrain and suspension mods as well. I have no plan on getting rid of this car, as it has quite a bit of useful life left in it and is extremely practical. I’d like to keep it as a winter car/possible project car, and the residual value of it (~3kish) is low enough that it doesn’t make sense to trade in. However, having wanted a sports car since I started driving, I’d like to go ahead and get one now that I’m in a position to do so.
My (possibly strange) requirements are as follows:
1. It must be fun and engaging to drive
2. It must be blue
3. It should be a convertible, preferably a 2 seater (I’m open to a fixed roof car as well, but would prefer a convertible)
4. Must be either a manual transmission or a dual clutch
5. I would prefer that it be a rear wheel drive vehicle
6. Fuel economy is a non-issue so long as it gets above 20 mpg highway
7. I don’t mind some maintainance, but I would like something thats fairly reliable and not TOO expensive to maintain (I don’t expect panther-like reliability but, for example, $1500 spark plug changes on a Boxster would be a bit much)
I can spend a max of $30-32k on it, but ideally I’d like to keep it ~$25k. I’ve looked at a new Miata, Mustang GT (Convertible is rather pricey), and the Genesis coupe (it’s not a convertible but I liked the looks and interior enough that I’d consider it). I’ve also given some thought to the following (newer, low mileage) used cars: Honda S2000 , Mazda Miata, Porsche boxster(mentioned above), BMW Z4, and a co-worker of mine also mentioned that I might consider a C5 corvette as well. I think they’re all great cars, and each has its own strong/weak points. The S2000 and the Miata are probably the most serious contenders, but I’m trying to keep my eyes open. I’m torn as to what I should get, and I’m also wondering if there’s any cars that I missed that are worth looking at.
Please let me know what you guys think, I’d love to hear back from you on this.
Sir, I take offense to the notion that your Mercury Grand Marquis isn’t able to satisfy your latent sports car needs. You, my good man, need a proper tongue-lashing for such blasphemy. Your disrespect of Panther Love, this website and the esteemed B&B will not go unpunished, that I promise you.
Of course I’m just kidding, but that’s really not the point.
There are only two cars that are ideal for your situation: a C5 Corvette droptop with non-stock tires (as run flat rubber is the work of the devil) or a Miata. One of these covers the high performance spectrum unbelievably well (LS1-FTW) and the other is the stuff of “momentum car” legend. The question you must ask yourself: do you treat the gas pedal like a conventional light switch or a twisty-knob rheostat? Because each car demands a unique outlook on life. You decide which one is right for you.
And finally, how dare you consider a droptop two seater when all you need is a $1000 Webasto moonroof retrofit on your MGM to solve this dilemma?
I am lucky enough to have driven every ‘newer’ car mentioned on your list. The personalities certainly run the gamut and to be blunt, you won’t know until you drive them. Hey, worse problems can be had in this world.
For less than $5000 you can get an exceptional sports car that can be customized and accessorized to utterly insane degrees. You name the sports car conversion you desire and chances are it’s already been done with a NA Miata.
Even in stock form these vehicles are absolute blasts to drive around town. I now enjoy a 95 model to such satisfying ends, that I haven’t even bothered putting an aftermarket stereo system in the thing. All it has is a gaping hole in the middle of the dash. But I don’t care. The tailpipe, pedals and steering wheel give me all the tuning I need.
So why blow $30k when a $5k does a better job of putting an ear to ear grin on your face?
Not only do the NA Miatas offer robustness, simplicity, and satisfy all of your remaining criteria. But they also have a lot of older owners who take good care of their vehicles and maintain them to a T.
Find a good one. Buy it. Keep it and drive the Panther when a road trip beckons. Good luck!