By on March 21, 2013

Hard to believe someone like me would need a rich fantasy life, isn’t it?

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I love cars and like a lot of people I spend a lot of time thinking about the ones I might like to own. My daydreams live in an odd place, they don’t run towards the higher plane of pure fantasy where the Ferrari and Lamborghini live, and, despite the fact I expect to be buying a new minivan or SUV in the next couple of years, they don’t run to the purely practical, either. No, my fantasies live in that middle place. A place where the cars are interesting and, as unlikely as a purchase may be, still attainable.

I am forever perusing Craigslist and the other on-line classifieds for likely subjects and it has become something of a game with me. Naturally, I wondered if you might like to play along.

The rules of the game are simple. You have a total budget of $5000. You must purchase the car, get it to home and roadworthy for under that amount. Expenses include basic repairs and rebuilds, but just the essentials to get the car roadworthy no new paint jobs or total restorations necessary. If the car is further away than 250 miles (500 miles round trip) then the cost of an overnight motel stay and/or truck transport must be covered in your budget. Because they vary from state to state and would give some players an unfair advantage, don’t worry about fixed costs like tax, licensing or basic inspection fees unless the ad specifically states that the car will need special repairs in order to pass an inspection.

You can find your car from any public source, and links will be appreciated by everyone, I am sure. In the interest of fair play don’t tell us about cars that only you can buy. So if your grandma isn’t willing to make everyone a killer deal on her 1986 Grand National, then you can’t use it here. Also, just to keep things fresh and attainable, let’s not consider ads older than 30 days.

Finally, please also give us some insight into your thoughts. We would all like to understand your logic so we can better make fun of your odd predilections.

I’ll go first. Here are three that I have chosen to start the conversation. They appear in no special order.

1994 Subaru SVX Coupe – $2,850 OBO (Hamburg, NY)

AWD Coupe LSI model. Boxer 3.3 6 cyl 230 horsepower Approx 120,900miles

Automatic, Moon-roof, Dual exhaust, Power windows/locks/mirrors/power driver seat, Leather seats good condition. Also has new battery, breaks, power steering, timing belt, axel shafts, motor is phenomenal/very reliable vehicle all the way around! Some rust on doors as can be expected with its age. Starts right up.

This Subaru sits less than 30 miles from my house. It is well under my budget and it is a model I have been interested in since I saw one on the street in Japan back when they were new. They look cool and the performance numbers seem decent. The downside is that I don’t know much about them and I am not really all that excited about a sporty car with an automatic transmission.

I understand that Subarus have a tendency to be complex and fragile. This car is an odd ball and I am sure parts would be tough to get. Still, the price seems right and I have never been inside of one. I would, at least, go look at it.

1987 Dodge Daytona Shelby Z – $4500 (Pittsburgh, PA)

Clean Daytona Shelby Z. Turbo, 4 cyl, 5 speed, AC, 71k miles, perfect seats, good tires, fires right up, etc. NO rust! Just needs a battery and inspection.

It’s no secret that I am a sucker for Turbo Dodges, but the truth is that the Daytona rarely makes it onto my short list. To be honest, I have always thought they were a little overwrought and tried too hard to look like the Chevrolet Camaro of that era. This little car, however, jumped right out at me as a killer deal. If it is as clean as it looks in the pictures, I am confident that I could travel the 180 miles to Pittsburgh, drop in a battery and drive it right home.

Bonus points that this is a real live turbo Dodge with the manual transmission. There are more pics on the ad, including several interior shots, of which I have added just one, below. The inside looks just as pretty as the outside, don’t you think? I always wonder about cars like this, it’s 26 years old, why wasn’t it used? If it was here in town, I would be over there like a shot.

The only downside to this car that I can see is that it was right about 75K miles that the head gasket in my Turbo Shadow let loose. I would be worried that I could be stuck doing one on this car before too long as well. That said, I have a lot of experience working on these cars and I know that I could do the work by myself. Still, at $4500 this is close enough to my ceiling that I would be a little worried about my budget. Also, I would almost be ashamed to bring it up to Buffalo and expose it to the elements.

1981 DATSUN 280ZX 5 SPEED – $4300 (Ogden, NY)

1981 DATSUN 280ZX. 5 SPEED, 6 CYL, One Owner, 98,300 Original Miles, No Winters, Great Condition ~ $4300.00 ~ OFFERS WELCOME ~

Wow! No, seriously, Wow! This is a drop dead gorgeous little Datsun. It looks pretty nice in the photos and other than a cracked arm rest I don’t see a single problem here. Sure, it’s not a 240Z and it isn’t a turbo or a Special Anniversary Edition, but it is a head turner in a stunning color I haven’t seen in a long, long time. I love the fact it’s a stick.

This little girl sits less than 60 miles from me right now. If it was closer, I’d go over to take photos and maybe finagle a test drive. Man, my wife would be mad at me if that came home. It would be hard to tell the seller “no” though.

OK, you’ve seen my three choices. I could sit here a lot longer looking for obscure deals but if I did that I would never get to see what you come up with. Let’s have some fun!

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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78 Comments on “My Rich Fantasy Life Laid Bare: Can You Do Better?...”

  • avatar

    Either I’d get a Delorean DMC-12 with the time machine mods (less than $20,000) or a Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster (less than $100,000).

    Thing is, for just $50,000 I could have a 2012 Charger SRT8 or a new 300cSRT8 and be problem free (and modernized) for the next 8 years.

    And before anyone says anything about “chrysler reliability” – I haven’t had a SINGLE problem out of my 6.1 Supercharged with the exception of changing the water pump, timing belt and oxy sensors after 60,000 miles.

  • avatar

    You’ve described the risks of the Subaru, so skip that one. The Dodge and the Nissan are likely candidates.

    • 0 avatar

      In addition, the SVX eats through brake rotors & pads like crazy (they’re a bit small for the weight of the car, which was subaru’s heaviest at the time), and tended to have transmission issues for the same reason. Add to that the propensity for head gaskets, and you’ve got a cool novelty car that would be neat for an engine/trans swap

  • avatar

    Wow Tom, you and I could be the best of buds cause I do the same thing all the time. Look for cool cars to own, not necessarily the most popular choices, for around the $5,000 mark as well. I am always on Craigslist at night and find myself staying up way too late. The Datsun is totally my choice of your finds. I also look for old historical classics that are cheap as well. Not to restore or sink a ton of money in them, just to drive for a while and hopefully dump it when I get bored and break even. I looked at an 48 Dodge the other day, all original runs decent, lots of great patina, $3,500 bucks. I found my 75 Cordoba with 78k original miles, 1 owner, in great condition with corinthian leather and buckets, bought it for $3,500 (he was asking $5,000) drove it for a year and sold it for $2,000. It was a cool car and got alot of action at cruise night but soft market. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I had my eye on an early 70’s Ford LTD all original, low miles and dirt cheap… The wife would have killed me if I bought it… lol

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    I’m tempted to come up to NY and buy that Datsun. I’ve had a thing for 280Zs ever since I was a kid and my favorite Transformer turned into one.

    Here’s a quick scan of my local CL — looks like reality has set in on some folks’ winter project intentions.
    1999 BMW 323i for $3200. Looks clean, and I’ve always thought a convertible would be fun, but could never justify it as a primary driver. Most importantly, it’s a stick.
    1990 Buick Reatta for $3499. This one may be a little sketchy — the owner mentions the “rare blue leather interior”, but doesn’t put up any pics of it — but the drivetrain is the old reliable 3800 V6, so I’d expect it not to leave me stranded, or need any expensive repairs even if it did. Why not, for a little piece of GM Americana
    And …drumroll… a 1971 Honda AN600. “body straight, perfect candidate for a restoration project.” And a barn find! For $3750 I’d consider this just as a piece of sculpture to adorn my garage. Unfortunately there are already two motorcycles serving that alleged purpose, so the Boss would never hear of it.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m shocked that a BMW that nice is going for so little money.

      The other two cars are very interesting as well, but I concur with your assessment of the Buick. The ad has a lot of photos, the fact that they say the “body” is in good shape and fail to give us any interior shots is bad juju.

      • 0 avatar
        Dirk Stigler

        The combination of convertible and stick is probably what does the BMW in, at least in this area. New BMWs are mostly driven by the status-conscious, and old ones by either the Fast and Furious crowd or the poor-but-still-status-obsessed. All three consider convertibles chick cars, and chicks don’t drive old cars.

        Or there’s something wrong with it that’s not obvious in the pics…

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Well, the 323 had the 2.5 liter 6, which, IIRC, had the single VANOS variable valve timing at that time. That engine was good for, IIRC, about 170 hp. So this car is not a stormer, but would be a nice ride if in good condition.
          Convertible tops are expensive — around $4000 not counting the install — and this car is old enough that the top might need replacing. Also, these engines had the various known BMW cooling system weaknesses (plastic water pump impeller, plastic expansion tank, plastic radiator tank) that are subject to catastrophic failure with virtually instant loss of coolant. Figure $1000 to replace everything (including hoses) plus $1000 labor or a good long afternoon’s work in the backyard.

          Add in a possible $700 for brake discs and pads (assuming you DIY).

          Also, depending upon miles and how it was driven, you could be looking at a clutch replacement.

          So, you could easily more than double your investment in this car, even if the body and interior are good.

          That said, here in Wash. DC, I am perfectly happy with my 01 Z3 roadster as a daily driver. With the top down on a warm spring day . . . all is right with the world!

          • 0 avatar


            E46 cooling system overhaul is about $400 in parts including hoses, super easy DIY, takes about 2-3 hours. Has quick-connects for the hoses and the radiator/fan slides out with two bolts removed providing all the space needed. Brakes $200-250 max, parts can be sourced from any auto parts store. E46’s are very DIY friendly.

      • 0 avatar

        The Bimmer price seems about right from what I’ve seen for E36 ‘verts. It looks nice, but is pushing 200k with no mention of maintenance. At that mileage I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole unless it has a comprehensive service history. (Plus, it’s the 323, with no sport interior…) Bear in mind that a good M3 convertible of the same vintage can be had with half the miles and full documentation for ~$7500.

  • avatar

    Been there done that! Last year, I searched and searched for one of the vehicles on my bucket list- a Jeep Wrangler. Funny you set the budget at $5,000 because that is the same number I had in my mind. Wranglers are expensive where I live, within 2 hours from mountains in one direction and beaches you can drive on in the other. So I narrowed the search to the “TJ” models, 97-02 and settled on the base model “SE” 2.5L AMC 4-cyl 5-speed manual variant. Finally I found one on Autotrader, 90 miles away, listed by the original family who owned it since new, with 90k miles for $6,999. Bone stock and unmolested, but with a bit of rust underneath and without A/C, ABS, console, back seat, etc etc… At first it was just one of many Wranglers I sent lowball offers on, but this growing family responded that they were willing to negotiate. It passed my inspection, and exactly $5,000 later it now sits in my driveway! After around a year of owning it, I can say I would do it all over again.

  • avatar

    Here is my current fanatasy… Many of you will think I’m crazy, but I had one just like this for years and it was a fantastic car. In fact I would say it is the one I wish I’d never let go of.

    After reading the article on here about the MX-6 turbo, I submit this 1998 Mazda 626 ES V6, 5-speed manual, 2 owner, 96k miles, in Laser Red and looking absolutely showroom mint, 70 miles away from me, for $4,690:

    I know, I know… It was the “even more boring” predecessor to one of the “boring” cars given as examples of what went wrong in the recent post about “When Japanese cars were cool.” It is wrong-wheel drive, and doesn’t have alot of power by today’s standards (170hp).

    However these are very light weight at around 2,800 pounds… Further, the little 2.5L V6 doesn’t redline until 7,000 rpm and I can attest that they willingly spin much higher than that. These are quite durable as well (with the manual trans). In 1998, 0-60 in 7.5 seconds was kind of a big deal. Today, it will get smoked by a minivan but my god, the sound when that dual stage intake switched over at around 4k rpm and it screamed to 7,300….

  • avatar

    The SVX is definitely an attainable luxury. I had the fortune to own one of those, in the exact same color as the one pictured, during my college years. Where else would you get alcantara-lined dashboard in that price range? Aside from rear wheel bearing that keep making noise (and replaced under warranty, every time!) and transmission issues (which was quite major), the car was one of the best I ever had. Never had any brake problems or engine issues. Very lovely, and perfect car for Midwest winter. Never got stuck in that car. Supremely comfortable too. I doubt all the other candidates can touch the SVX in terms of luxury. Get the Daytona if you want 80s econocar feeling. Chrysler 80’s econocars, no less! Which is about the worst possible in car experience imaginable, IMHO. Might as well get a Trabant or Zaporozhet. At least they’re unique looking.

  • avatar

    Judging purely from the picture above, has anyone ever told you that you resemble Matt Roloff from “Little People, Big World”?

  • avatar
    ’65 Corvair coupe – a little rough around the edges but would be a fun DD, manual, $2500, hasn’t been run in a while tho, so there might be some surprises waiting. Its comfortably under the price cap though, so that’s not a huge problem. If I were to buy a classic car, I definitely wouldn’t want something typical or mundane – the adventurous (for GM) layout, beautiful styling & performance potential of the corvair really speaks to me, although I prefer the 65+ sedans to the coupes slightly. One of the pre-65 wagons would also be cool though

  • avatar

    cool life stories and now a cool car game???!!! thomas you are more than a one trick pony. thanks.

    personally i dont have any 5k wonders at the tip of my fingers but i’m off to look!

  • avatar

    I cheated as I live in the last of almost rust free old cars , there’s so many the prices are easy to achieve under $5K for the weird vehicles i like .

    Good topic Thomas .


  • avatar

    I don’t think I like you anymore Tom. I was having a nice morning until you made me start browsing CL. I am now having a crisis over:

    Hits all my sucker boxes, classic 80s design, sun roof, and only a little rust. I WANT!

    Someone, please feel free to talk me out of it.

  • avatar

    I’m so glad to see there are more of us out there that do this! Sure, anybody can fantasize about a Lambo or Ferrari. But the REAL fun is finding a car that pushes your buttons for $5k! While I love me some BMW 2002, I think finding a nicely maintained 320i would be doable for that kind of scratch. Something about the old, boxier BMWs just make me flutter (maybe has to do with how and where I grew up!). Or maybe a decent Fiat X 1/9 just to tool around in on sunny weekends. Heck, I’ve even scanned for various early 80s Regals (love that two-door coupe body). My wife, of course, thinks I’m nuts for even doing this. I’ll spend hours between CL and eBay looking at all manner of “different” 80s vehicles!

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I want a Dodge Diplomat police car with a 360 really badly. I know it would be a noisy rough gas guzzler, but I want anyway. Unfortunately, the only Dippy in the area has a slant and is way over my theoretical budget. And I live in New England, which is rust hell.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a hand-me-down 1979 Diplomat base model 2 door 225 w/auto. Malaise-era green inside and out. I had it painted gunmetal grey at Maaco and threw a sunroof and dog dish hubcaps on it. Cars in front of me would slow down, especially at night :)

  • avatar

    I love playing this game. Once you reach an age where you realize a Ferrari is probably not going to be in your future, the obtainable fantasy game is a lot more fun to play, even if the likelihood that you’ll end up owning it is no more than the Ferrari.

    I’ve got a soft spot for 2nd gen Falcons. Throw on (in my mind) some Mustang go-fast parts, and you’re in business. – too bad it’s an auto, but in fantasy land, I’ll just swap in a 3 or 4 speed toploader.

    • 0 avatar

      Had a gen 1 wagon… sky blue, perfect CA body, my very first car. The old man made me get rid of it…. didn’t want it seen in the driveway. Still mystified about that ’cause it was *clean*!

      Anything Ford ’64-’67 raises my pulse. Especially the Little Cars Time Forgot… like Falcons. Beautiful clean, simple and righteous designs with just a dash of that mid-60’s style and optimism.

  • avatar

    How about a Porsche 944? There are many local ones here near Detroit.

    • 0 avatar

      Very sweet. It looks in better cosmetic condition than my 924S, is only a grand more than I paid, and if its as solid as mine has been for the last three years you’re in for a lot of fun for very reasonable cost. And I’ve noticed that the prices on the front engine Porsches are starting to go up. Guess someone in the 911 crowd has finally, begrudgingly, started treating them as “real Porsches”.

      • 0 avatar

        My 924S was well under $5K, but it sure won’t be once all the needed remedial work is done on it. Sigh.

        On the other hand, my ’86 Alfa Spider was under $5K even with the going over I gave it after I bought it, and it has been 100% dead nuts reliable for the four years I have owned it. Starts every time, doesn’t leak anything, even the A/C works. Great car! Only issue is a dead heater fan, which I don’t care about because I don’t drive it in the winter and the A/C fan is separate.

  • avatar

    My dear wife, tiring of living with my ongoing “projects”, came up with this cap cost “game” ten years ago. Something about always having the next two already on the premises before the initial one got finished had her researching LinkedIn and looking at the attorney section. Even a dumb old man like me recognizes the value of a woman, especially one who knows the alchemy of Dexcool and Mobil One while being able to row the gears manually. We’re currently looking at the offerings of Infiniti Q45 as well as thinking of returning to an old favorite, the MarkVIII. I’m also tempted by all the SEC offerings of the late 80’s with the straight six. There is also a local with a ten year old Lincoln Town Car with 28k that tempts me, especially since the very next offering is the same year model with 379k miles that pictorially looks the equal of the low miler. Manual shift will always be our favourite, but limited availability makes it unfeasible to only target those models.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a weak spot for Mark VII and Mark VIII. I can’t go back and own all the cars I had before I was 24; I don’t have the driveway space, the cash or a spouse that forgiving (she’s very forgiving and no, she’s not standing over my shoulder).

      So my one dream is, if I could pick one to embody all I wanted them to be, I’d go with the Mark VII or VIII. First car was an 81 Regal V6 in full two tone oxidized light green/dark green with landau roof. Second was an 84 Eldorado with 4100 V8 power. Third was an Acura Legend I totaled after a month, so I bought a 95 Cougar XR-7 V8.

      The Buick never had the power I wanted(but certainly didn’t need at 16). The Eldo was more luxurious, but still a slug. The Cougar had everything but the DOHC motor from the Mark VIII and the air suspension.

      The Mark VII would give me the classic lines from the Regal, plus the simple power of the 302 and the luxury I wanted from that kind of car. The Mark VIII would bring things closer to the 21st century, plus that 280hp V8. The 1998 Mark VIII in LSC trim in black or a 92 Mark VII LSC in dark green or dark blue. Sigh.

  • avatar

    I recently found a car on craigslist I could not pass up. It was a 1991 Volvo 740 wagon with the B230F and 5speed M47 transmission. The owner had a service history and documents dating all the way back to when it was purchased new. I was fascinated when I looked through the history. The Volvo was first purchased at the Gothenburg factory by a navy couple stationed in Germany. They moved back to the states and shipped it back with them where they owned it throughout the 90’s and then sold it to a young Notre Dame student. (Such a Volvo cliché!) The student drove it throughout the 2000’s during his undergraduate and continued to pursue his graduate at St. Louis. As the decade ended the educated man got a job as a theology professor in St Louis. (I am not 100% sure of the exact university). He then sold it to his father where it mostly sat in his garage and was used as a third vehicle for the last two years until he finally decided it was time to sell it. The father had the Volvo for sale in the town where I grew up. Less than a 30 min drive from where I currently reside.

    I was able to purchase the Volvo for $1400. It has 225K miles and I am addressing some busted interior parts, a bad speedometer and sensors at the moment. But for such high miles it’s extremely clean with zero rust and minimal dents and blemishes. The engine runs quieter than my parent’s new fusion and on the highway it drives as stable as a semi. My goal is to own this car until 2023 as to keep tradition with the previous owners because they each owned the car for roughly over a decade.

    You never know what you will find in the List of Craig.

  • avatar

    Land Rover Discovery. Yes, I’ve done my homework, know what they are all about but still want one. I peruse CL looking for the “come and get it out of my driveway” ad and/or waiting until they bottom out at about $2500. Then the camp truck project begins…..

  • avatar

    1990 Infiniti M30 $1900
    I’ve been looking at this one for awhile.
    -Manual trans and clutch pedal from a junked Z31 $100
    -Full subframe assembly from S13 240sx parted out by drift kids $100
    -Custom driveshaft $200
    -Light flywheel and performance clutch @$300
    -GT3071R turbo, Rx7 injectors, fuel pump, intercooler, Nistune, piping would be the remaining $2400

    Result would be a 5 speed, 400hp+ rare M30 hardtop with a fantastic multilink rear suspension. I’m a whiz with these cars, and can probably even do it for less.

    2002 Lincoln LS 5speed $2100
    I’ve been on the lookout for this one as well for several years.
    -Figure about $300 in fuel to drive it back to Chicago in 4th gear.
    -Trans issue is probably a minor linkage problem in the box. @$200
    -Stance coilovers $1100
    -Blow rest of the cash on wheels and tires.

    1996 Oldsmobile Silhouette $2000
    I don’t know why, but I want it!
    -Junkyard 3800 supercharged swap $325
    -XXR 521 wheels $500
    -Tires $600
    -Air suspension $the rest

  • avatar

    Another turbo daytona. Not my preference, but to each their own. Now if I can find a 60’s buick convertible for under 5k…

  • avatar

    2011 Toyota Rav4 Sport, built to BMW standards, on a rwd chassis, with BMW NA I6 engine and 6M tranny. Sound insulation needed. All else simple and reliable, as currently provided by Toyota.

    Oh crap, wrong fantasy game. Sorry!

  • avatar

    Ohhh, I’ve been playing the $5k game for a couple of years now and finally have the garage to do something about it- it’s down to 2 options:

    1- The realistic, sensible option: 1st gen Miata, possibly 2nd gen.
    2- The ambitious option: E30 BMW 325i M-Sport Wagon, imported from Germany. E30s are obscenely overpriced here in the states, and scouring the (German Autotrader) listings shows a lot of good options that net out cheaper even after shipping. As a bonus, you can get the E30 in wagon form, with an M-Sport package to make all the fanbois drool.
    E30. Wagon. Stick. M. What else do you need?

    • 0 avatar

      #2 would be awesome. The more E30s I see, the more I want one. I saw an episode of Wheeler Dealers a few weeks ago and they bought an E30 325i Touring at auction for 800 GBP. It was even in pretty good shape. Simple to work on, reasonably reliable, and a blast to drive. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

      • 0 avatar

        And thank goodness they don’t! Having owned multiple e30s, e28s and now an e91, the new cars are simply better in every possible way. Faster, more efficient, cheaper adjusted for inflation, roomier, quieter, better equipped, and they need MUCH less maintenance and are FAR more reliable. The “good old days” weren’t actually all that good once you take the rose tinted glasses off.

        That having been said, I would buy the right ’91 318is in a heartbeat.

        • 0 avatar

          My last E30:

          I’ve owned, driven, raced, modded, built & rebuilt a number of BMWs over the years, and this one was my last, best shot. Now I wait and watch for the final model E90s to come down in price. I miss owning a Bimmer, but don’t actually need to go back to an E30 anymore. What a fun and worthwhile journey it was, though – would recommend it to anyone here!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Of these 3, my choice would be the Z, notwithstanding the bordello red interior.

  • avatar

    This is a fantastic game. 100% win

    I usually don’t comment much, but I GOTTA participate in this game

    Here’s my find:

    I know, I know it’s $6100 but if i get rid of a couple cars sitting in my driveway that don’t run then I have a budget of $7000.
    Cars in driveway: (1996 Lincoln Continental, 1994 Mazda 626 V6 )+ 3 good ones: ( 2000 Honda Accord, 2012 Chevy cruze, 1997 Lincoln town car). pretty spacious driveway eh?

    I have been looking for this car since time immemorial, I even attempted to replace my Honda accord with one until Sajeev straightened me out.

    1990 Mazda RX-7 convertible. I LOVE the way this car looks and everything about it… i just wish mazda made a piston variant out of it maybe a turbo 4, but I just wish I had a fully equipped garage so that I can fix the damned apex seals when they go. oh and $2/gal gas would help. someday maybe someday…….

  • avatar

    1988 Land Crusher, perhaps?

    Along with a turbo Dodge and a Z (spooky),I’ve always wanted one of these for some reason. I’d love an FJ60 with a manual, but this one looks like fun.

  • avatar

    Great post, Tom. In fact, I love all of your posts. I play the same game with the same budget. Different objectives and inclinations though. I’m always looking for a four-wheel drive or AWD that can (a) get great mileage (my commute to work takes me down the 405 you’ve written of), (b) haul crap to the transfer station, (c) haul my kids on the family camping trips, and (d) perform admirably in all my hoonery in the snow and dirt. Yeah, no such vehicle exists, but I enjoy the hunt.

    • 0 avatar

      I forgot to include my choices:

      1. 1998-2000 Chevy Astro AWD
      2. 2002 Dodge Dakota quad cab 4×4 (can’t be had for $5,000 without a heap of miles)
      3. 1995-2001 Ford Explorer (2nd Gen – great value because they were well engineered and are still ubiquitous)

      Ultimately, I can’t ever get to the point where I’m willing to part with my current steed – an extended-cab 95 Nissan XE pickup. It’s small, but it has the four-wheel drive and decent mileage. Alas, I’m too practical for my own good.

      • 0 avatar

        I really like the Nissan hardbodies. I think they are one of the best looking small trucks ever built. The 4X4 version would be on my short list if I needed a truck.

        Western Washington is a good place to play this game. I frequently browse the Seattle Craigslist on the assumption that if I found somthing I absolutley couldn’t live without, one of my brothers might be able to go check it out for me.

  • avatar

    Always have been a sucker for Alfa 164’s in this range…especially the S models. Alternatively, SAAB SPG and early 9000 Aero models as well. In some ways a spinal injury that keeps me from being able from working a clutch keeps me from such silliness.

  • avatar

    You have the same sick addiction to combing through the classifieds that I’ve got. It’s great, isn’t it?

    That Z is a keeper. A better proposition all around over that Dodge–even though the Daytona could be made mind-altering fast. Clean Z’s are hard to come by.

    I had a chance at a sub-100,000 mile 84 5-speed 300ZX. Booked at somewhere around $3900, give or take. Dealer was an idiot, and more interested in the Infinitis he was selling than the Z, which just happened to be MUCH more interesting than all the G-whatevers on the lot.

  • avatar

    Hey Thomas! Great game. BTW, I do it a lot. Sit and wade through many internet sites and dream of some of the cars. Like you, I don’t fantasize about Ferrari and such (though if I won the lottery) and I have no use for BMWs and the like, so I mostly check out cars that somehow interest me. That is how I found my little Ford Ka, though the price was a ways north of the limit.

    So, checking out the most comprehensive local site (, I just typed in the R$10,000 limit, AC and power steering. 45 pages with almost 18 optins on each one.

    Right off the bat: 1990 Ford Escort XR3! Have seen this one for a while. Would go out to see it, but probably wouldn’t take it home. 3 strikes against it: has been modified, has the VW AP engine, the guy doesn’t state the mileage. For it, looks pretty clean. And it’s na Escort XR3! Guy is asking R$6k which is about 3k USD. Would leave some room to change back the modifications. Strictly a weekend toy. There are better… Citroën! ZX 1.8 Furio! 1996. Low kms! A sports Citroën. Great engine, loks. Fast. Against, well it’s a sports Citroen. Doubt I could get insurance, it’s probably been beaten to death, it probably has the air suspension, maintenance nightmare. But would be sweet. R$8,500=$4,250. One of the ones I let get away. Twice I had the opportunity of buying one. Twice I let it go. !.6, multilink rear suspension, all the ammenities, globs of space. Against: Quite old (1994), insurance almost impossible. But I’d feel fine in it. 8000 reais or 4k dollars.

    Just for fun, a Chinese car. 2007. Only 15000 milesNewest car on the list. Must tell you something right? 4,500 dollars. Seller limits himself to say it’s been well kept. Not much else to say ’bout it, huh? LOL!

    All the 3 real cars mentioned would be fun. But for a variety of reasons, age, mileage, impossible to insurance, I stay away and buy something more practical (GolPalioUnoKaFiestaCeltaCorsa), but it’s fun to dream.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the look of the Escort the best. It looks a lot less frumpy than the Escorts sold here in the states. Of course it might be that I am a sucker for a bright red paint job…

      • 0 avatar

        I had one. One of my dreams would be to buy one and keep it forever. Served the Family well. First my Dad’s, then my brother’s, then mine. Stayed with us for 10 yrs. My ex-wife made me get rid of it. Though I have made my “Peace” with her, still “hate” her for “having” made me get rid of it. 1.6 CHT (Hemi!) French engine. Very fun to drive, but sort of like the Ka now, that wasn’t readily evidente. You had to know what you were doing.

        Made me sell it after a long road trip. Maybe I’ll write about it soon. Would be kind of like your stories. Anyways, thanks for stories and the memories you’ve been bringing up. I’m sure glad I voted for you!

      • 0 avatar

        Same vintage Escort GT here stateside, not terrible, but not what I’d call a fantasy ride. Unless you’re going to plumb a turbo up or something like that. But they were definitely solid little cars, and much better looking than the Mazda 3 based later versions.

        They’re pretty hard to find, in any kind of serviceable condition.

        Would also like to find a 91 or 92 Sunbird SE with the 3.1 V6 and 5-speed. A lot more fun than most people would think. . .

  • avatar

    One thing that always baffles me about used car ads – why on Earth would you advertise a car that needs some trivial thing like a battery, and not just FIX THE PROBLEM?? You are going to turn off a goodly percentage of buyers, and even the interested are going to want AT LEAST the amount of the battery off the price anyway.

    When I sell a car, it is in as good a condition as I can make it for a reasonable sum. It is as clean as it is possible for it to be, and is ready to go. And I always get my price.

    • 0 avatar

      I wonder about that too. Laziness? When I want to sell a car, usually the first person to see it takes it, cause they look pretty good. I have a friend who had a used car shop. He sold me people buy cars with their eyes. A nice wash, a wax goes a long way.

      • 0 avatar

        Indeed. I was able to sell my now wife’s Elantra GT to the first buyer for asking price by having all of the major items (tires, brakes, belts) current, but more importantly by getting it detailed before posting an ad. Makes a huge difference.

  • avatar

    Id go with a 88-91 Civic Si hatchback (in that awesome teal color), a Wagovan or Toyota equivalent (AllTrac?), an Allante (The only way to travel is Cadillac Style- love that old jingle!), Chrysler TC (because Maserati), Geo Metro convertible, Suzuki Samurai, and for some Panther love? Early 90s Town Car.

  • avatar

    My dream car would be a new Lexus GS. I don’t buy used cars.

    But it’s not exactly a cheap car. I want to move-up with my house first. So it will have to be a 5-year plan for now.

  • avatar

    My fantasy life usually involves playing with about $10,000 and looking around Auto Trader and eBay. My problem is I’m one of those guys who wants a “tool for every job” and the garage space to keep them all.

    I want a big ole sedan for long distance travel and my fantasies run from 1970s American monsters with big block power to Panthers to W-platform to B-body to LX cars to nicely kept V6 FWD Japanese cars like the Maxima or Avalon to everything large and comfy in between.

    I already have a truck for hauling.

    I want a true sports car like a Corvette just for the sheer fun of it, I’d love a 1996 6-speed coupe cause the C4 is the body style I grew up remembering.

    I want a conversion van just for taking long driving vacations in.

    I could go on and on…

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    I love Old Mercedes so with the worlds economic situation looking a bit fragile ,lots of different ,once highly desirable cars pass through my hands every day.
    So my Fanatasy invloves me picking 7 winning numbers in a Lotto ,I win a cool 20 million in Australian dollars (which are worth more than the USD ) .First purchase, a couple of hundred acres of real estate in a tree’d and watered area. I’ll buy Kim Dot Coms estate in New Zealand (google that if you have never heard of him or seen his car collection) where I will take over his German designed workshop (tiled walls,drained and quarry tiled floor) powered with solar panels to get off the grid.
    I’ll have a mezzanine floor above with a nice kitchen,a double bed for me and my young italian Girl Friend and spa to relax and look out at the trees and into the garage to look at my 1928 SSK ,which is still ticking after my blast around the race track which circles the borders of my property.
    I dont want a gullwing ,I’ve worked on some and the mystique is lost on me. No.. I want the only replica ever built of the Uhlenhaut coupe , the most beautiful Mercedes ever built and the most radical.
    With 5 million or so left,I will have my own gas station built where I can import my own fuel from Singapore and cut out the middle man and keep the quality up .
    mmmmmm and then my bambini will have a nice legacy..
    But first,find an Italian girl friend,2nd buy a winning lotto ticket…..

  • avatar

    Anyone else think that Thomas looks like Gert Boyle from the Columbia Sportswear ads ?.

  • avatar

    My name is Icebreaker and I have an addiction. So we all do this. I’ve been following this really nice 1979 Fiat X-1/9 with 24K miles. It is listed here:

    Before you cry unfair… I know it is also listed on Manheim for a “buy it now price of $5,550”. I’ve been watching it for months. If I was in the position to buy it… I would!! Look at the shape! You could easily pull this home for under $5K and it wouldn’t get confused for bland compromises. This is a winner in my dream garage. Please don’t ping me and tell me you bought it. It hurts to post this gem.

  • avatar

    I love this game- Here are a couple recent entries for me

    78 F150 flatbed 4×4 with a 300 and a four-speed. A bunch of stuff has already been replaced (assuming records) and it leaves a little bit for a couple minor things. That drivetrain will run forever too.

    70 TR6. I want something in this mold bad as a summer cruiser. No pics kinda ruins the fun for me, and “needs finished” on top of that is a big red flag. Definately worth looking into!

  • avatar

    How about a nice clean ’91 Caprice Classic with the Bordello Red Velour interior, under 2 grand? They don’t make ’em like this anymore:

    This one’s eating at my soul: cherry red ’95 Audi 90 Quattro. Love the color. Love the interior. 5-speed! Sunroof! AWD! Please God don’t let me near this thing, for I am weak. My last $2500 Eurosedan was a Jaguar, guess how that turned out.

  • avatar

    I originally found TTAC through another car blog,

    They are currently running a fantasy garage, you get 100k, then you fill it with as many or as few cars as you want. Lots of interesting choices over there.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s interesting, I haven’t visited that site in a year or two. The first time I ever wrote anything about a car for a website was for their readers’ rides contest a couple of years ago. I’ll have to check it out.

  • avatar

    I’ve always liked the ’87-’91 Ford F-Series trucks myself. Wouldn’t mind a single cab (I hate the window design on the extended cab) F-350 XLT Lariat in the 2 tone blue and white with a 460 V8 and either a 5 speed stick or auto and with 4WD, a true gas pig to be sure, but I just liked those since I was a kid. Too lazy to peruse eBay or Craig’s List, but it falls into this game.

    Thomas mentioned the S130 280ZX and that one is pretty sweet, but I’d go for a well used S30 240Z and eventually build it into the Wangan Midnight ‘Akuma No Zeto”, although more realistically you could go with a Z31 Turbo 300ZX, I’ve always liked these myself.

    This one doesn’t fall under this game BUT it is something I want to do when I pay off my debts is get a ‘Ken and Mary’ (Thomas will know about this one!) coupe and build into a GT-R clone…. they only built 197 true GT-R’s of this version and they used the uber rare Nissan S20 2.0L DOHC inline 6, I’d instead go with a RB26DETT that is considerably easier to find and would be a legal way to own one here in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish I could find it, but there was what looked to be a real JDM Ken and Mary for sale on Whidbey Island, WA – about 20 miles and a short ferry ride from where I grew up – just a few months ago. It looked like the real deal and the ad said that the owner had brought it over. You are right, though, it totally blew the budget of this game.

      • 0 avatar

        I think I remember seeing that one on eBay as well…. it was a Ken and Mary coupe- a white GT-X that was clean as a whistle. It had a L20 6 cylinder, I can’t remember the transmission, I think it might have been an automatic, like the one in the real JDM commercials (boy Mary was sure attractive!)but I do remember it being in Washington. I think they wanted 16k for it?

        Recently too on eBay, there was a Skyline GT-EX Turbo from Montana, it was an 1980. Black on black with a 5 speed and a turbo L20ET, it was a very nice “Japan” model. While nice, he wanted an absurd 30k for it and what bothered me about that one was that he was trying to pass it off as a barnfind (uh no?)and the seller kept trying to tag it as a GT-R, while a Skyline “Japan” is a nice car, it’s more of a mellow GT, very much like comparing a 240Z to a non-turbo 280ZX and at best the L20ET made 145 hp, even with a turbo, albiet non-intercooled and without a blow off valve. I like the “Japan”, but there would be problems with smogging it in California.

  • avatar

    I am always looking to see what I can find but it needs to be a stick. – for Michael Kardsh – Protege5 that looks in great shape. – does anybody remember these things Mitsu 3000GT – a Midget – I did not even know these were still around and this dealer had 2. – its got a VR6 – for the BMW fans
    Which would interest you?

  • avatar

    Hi, (Seeking car suggestions)
    I own a 2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan Journey w/ no packages, and a 2010 Honda Civic Si Coupe.
    The G37 is paid off but the Si isn’t, but I don’t owe more than its’ worth.
    I love driving and living in Southern California, I have access to some of the greatest driving roads. I do spirited, safe, driving on these roads occasionally..
    however, Iv’e realized those roads probably only compose 5% of my total driving time.
    In owning two cars, I wanted to go for very different cars, and I have somewhat accomplished that: the G37 is RWD, 3700 lbs, 4 doors, entry-lux, V6, automatic; the Si being FWD, 2900lbs, 2 doors, compact segment, four-cylinder, manual. The only similarities, while being good, between the 2 is that they are sporty and high-revving (7.5k for G37, 8k for Si) normally aspirated engines. The bad similarities are they are both somewhat compact inside and get bad (for these days’ cars) mileage requiring premium gas on top.
    The G37 only has minor mods like tint, 18” wheels on 245 summer rubber, eibach springs. The Si is completely stock other than a tint.
    Both are hovering right under the 50,000 mileage mark.

    Being a car guy, I love both of these cars but want a change in pace; neither car has up-to-date tech or alot of features, gas consumption issue, and compact interior issue. Also, neither are truly comfy highway cruisers, where I spend most of my time.
    I also want to venture into off-roading, at least at the beginner level.
    Thus, I want to unload one of these. Considering that the G37 is paid off and selling/trading it in really won’t yield me any car that I consider to be worth its value, I want to trade the Si.

    Now where do I go? I want to stay below 15k, and getting a car that either has alot of features/tech and great mileage, or a good off-road SUV/truck that is reliable. Good riding suspension would also be another thing to look for.
    I don’t even know where to start, any suggestions?

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