The Time Machine Dilemma works like this: your time machine lands on Auto Row in some past decade, and you have enough cash to buy a certain iconic car of that era. Do you buy the iconic car, or do you hoof it to some other dealership, perhaps saving enough money to buy (gold, Microsoft stock, first-edition Philip K Dick hardbacks)? We’ve done this exercise with miserable econoboxes of 1986, a broad spectrum of 1973 machinery, and today the time machine will be hurtling to an even earlier decade.
So, it’s 1966, you want something quick and sporty, the time machine is parked in the Porsche dealer’s lot, and you’ve got exactly enough authentic pre-’66 banknotes to buy one of those shiny new 911s you see in the showroom (we’re assuming a rose-colored past with no taxes or fees). That’s $6,490, which is equivalent to about 46 grand in 2012 bucks. The ’66 911 was quite a car… but take a look at that beautiful (and more powerful) ’66 Mercedes-Benz 230SL. Just $6,343 and it could be yours! And that’s just the beginning of your choices. Unfortunately, the Shelby Cobra 427 is out of your price range ($7,495), as are the Ferraris, Maseratis, Jensen Interceptors, and so on. But hey, look at what you can buy!
Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider: $4,886
Austin-Healey 3000: $3,565
BMW 2000CS: $4,985
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe: $5,249*
Jaguar XK-E Coupe: $5,580
Lotus Elite Coupe: $4,995
Mercedes-Benz 230SL Coupe: $6,343
Shelby Cobra 289: $5,995**
Sunbeam Tiger: $3,425
Or you could go crazy and buy two Datsun Fairlady Sports 1600s ($2,546 each), or two Chevy Corvair Corsas ($2,519 each). You could go really crazy and get two new MGB-GTs at $3,095 apiece. Or you could buy a stripper ’66 Chevelle for $2,271 and spend $4,219 on engine, brake, and suspension modifications; it would be less sporty-looking than the 911, but who cares? So, what’s it going to be?
*The base ’66 Corvette would probably get eaten up by the 911 at any non-dragstrip venue, so this price includes the 425-horsepower L72 engine, close-ratio 4-speed transmission, limited-slip differential, heavy-duty brakes and suspension, and “off-road” exhaust, with enough money left over for an eyeball-melting paint job.
**Based on this reference.