My name is Alex and I currently own a 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser 100 series.
It is my 3rd one (99, 2001 and this 03) as well as a 93 (80 series). I am a diehard Land Cruiser and Land Rover fanatic. I also have had my fair share of Range Rovers, which I have finally learned to appreciate from a distance as I cannot afford to continue to repair them on a weekly basis.
My 03 Land Cruiser has 158k miles, which is nothing for these cars and looks showroom new for the most part. I also refuse to give the truck up. Period. However with gas being where it is and trying to preserve the Land Cruiser as long as I can, I’m thinking about adding a vehicle to the stable for a daily commuter.
My only requirements are it being reliable, somewhat fuel efficient (well, anything better than the Land Crusher) and fun to drive. I’d rather go with a more vintage car that may be slightly more expensive to repair as it will be different and way more fun to drive than a boring econobox.
I like the Starion/Conquest, but there might be some reliability concerns, or maybe a 3 series (E36). I want to keep this under $5,000 and have factored that in with higher repair costs. I know I definitely do not want a Mustang or Camaro or generic. I’d like something that sticks out. Rust issues are of no concern in Southern California, so no worries on that. If you have any other odd ball suggestions, please help me out.
My first instinct when anyone mentions a cheap little vintage runabout as a daily driver is, “Do you fix your own cars?”
Let’s say you have limited knowledge. You know your fluids. Can perform your own oil changes, and can catch the small issues before they become big. If that sounds like you, I would look more towards a 1990′s vehicle that was widely produced instead of a 1980′s vintage that had a limited run. When the difficult issue comes to the fore you want it to be easy to fix.
Since you already have the ‘big’ vehicle, I would look more towards the compact side of the world… the ‘affordable’ compact side that doesn’t involve complex electronics or multiple trips to European specialty shops. There are a lot of good compacts from the Clinton era, and chances are that the vehicle’s condition will be a far better indicator of your happiness than the type of model.
Assuming that all things are equal in the condition world, my number one pick would be an NA Miata. They are by far the best bang for the buck vehicles of that era if you’re looking for something that is sporty, vintage (but mechanically robust), and reasonable to keep. A lot of older folks also tend to hang on to these vehicles as Sunday drivers, and although they may ask for a premium, the quality of the product and the prior owner is often worth that investment.
What else would work? It all depends on the owner. As I go through the usual list of suspects… 300Z, RX-7, 3-Series, Eclipse/Talon, Integra, BMW E36 models, all I see for you is a near 20 year time period where anything can happen. A lot of kids rag these vehicles out and even older owners start skimping on the maintenance when they get bored of driving them.
Keeping all things relative, it’s best to buy an older vehicle that is garage kept and doesn’t come out of the homely cave twelve months of the year. So my vote is for a Miata. Shaken not stirred. Good luck!