By on April 26, 2010

T.W. writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Is it nuts to buy an original, low mileage ‘88 Mazda 323GTX that has not been rallied to death, even if I don’t need another car and have no place to park it?

As you probably know these cars are usually spoken about with a hushed reverence from the rally car crowd, they’re quite rare, and I’ve wanted one for years. It’s over 20 years old so it will need paint and other assorted repairs, and parts are getting scarce as well, but it may be worth it.

I thinking more of a long term investment while understanding it’ll never have a return like a 69 Super Bee, GTO, or what have you.

Sajeev Answers:

I grew up with cars of this era, so I absolutely love the 323 GTX on principle alone. But don’t talk about investments and cars in the same sentence, that’s a terrible idea unless you sport a fatter wallet and higher tastes: so slap yourself on the wrist for that. Damn near any car from the 1980s is a terrible investment for years to come, but you got far bigger problems here.

An investment-grade (so to speak) car needs a fully enclosed garage. Original tires (if equipped) are but one thing that builds up a car’s value if they are in good shape, and that’s not gonna happen sitting outside. More to the point, if you have “no place to park it” then you have no business looking at a clean 323 GTX.

It’s one thing to erode the value of a GTO, Talbot-Lago, etc with outside storage. Those rides always have a buyer ready to capitalize on your mistake.  But a Mazda 323 GTX?

Not so much.  Let the quality slip due to outdoor storage or a financial bind (or anything else personally unpleasant) puts the car at risk of being sold to someone with less-than-archival intentions.  And three owners from now, it might be in the scrapper. Or in a 24 Hours of LeMons race: I saw one particularly spectacular Taurus SHO meet that fate after its previous owner sold it to the LeMons racers for pennies on the dollar.  The (supposed) aftermarket differential alone was worth as much as the car’s asking price.

Take a page from my book; do the car a favor and admire from a distance.  Wannabe classics like the 323 GTX need a more entrenched collector to take advantage of Mazda’s future collectability potential.

(Send your queries to [email protected])

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24 Comments on “Piston Slap: I Love The 80’s. Or Not....”


  • avatar

    I pity people who sell cars like this. The ratio of serious buyers to phone calls must be horrendous.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    Buy it, have it professionally rust proofed then drive it daily. I bet it gets a solid 35+ mpg with combined driving

    • 0 avatar
      kablamo

      No no no! A good friend of mine had one of these (ridiculously fun to drive) but it is not good on gas! The gearing, the engine’s thirst and willingness to rev, the brick-inspired aerodynamics create a car that will struggle to get 25mpg – if you behave.
      At 70mph it revs at 4k in 5th.

      Great toy, gobs of fun, but it’s literally a tin can on wheels…

  • avatar
    undrgnd40

    i love cars from that era. i can’t say it would ever be a collector car, but most cars are depreciating assets anyway. that said, buy it and drive it every day.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    dswilly makes me think of a relevant question. Sajeev do you have some kind of “rule of thumb” when it comes to picking up an old ride as a “cool to me” daily driver? I’m not a car collector, I don’t see cars as anything but a depreciating asset, but let’s say you find a 1997 Town Car or a late 90s early 00s LeSabare/Park Ave or I don’t know I’m seeing a HUGE number of late 80s early 90s Vettes coming up for sale or something of the like in great shape for a good price. (You know grandpa’s car or a collector gone bust.) What are the things to look for, what are the hazards to know ahead of time? (Eyes wide open so to speak.)

    • 0 avatar

      That’s such a loaded question you need to email it to me as a future Piston Slap. Pretty please?

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Hope I didn’t make you spit coffee on your screen or anything. :P I don’t know should I wait on my old “New or Used” or email you and get a new question in a new line? Any limit on number of queries answered per customer per year? (I’m being facetious, but I know you understand the humor.)

      Edit: I know they’re independent which is why I said “NEW question in a NEW line” But thanks for clarifying, I know traffic is really up on this site over the last few months. Congrats to all of you who work here.

    • 0 avatar

      I feel the love. :) Please send this question out, it goes into the Piston Slap line, which is independent of the NorU queue.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Agree with the sentiment that using the word “investment” when discussing a car like this is crazy. If you can afford to drive it and keep up with repairs, then consider it a hobby. Buy it for the joy of ownership and smile whenever you drive it. But to consider it as an (assumed) appreciating asset is pure folly.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    I think it will be worth $ some day….but in many, many days, and it won’t ever be worth Ferrari $.
    A better alternative would be to beat the snot out of it, until you blow the differentials up, then swap the engine into a festiva.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    I think Sajeev is pretty much on the money here.

    Even though it’s not as rare as the GT-R model, it is worth something. To the right buyer. Who will probably be looking for a vacuum-bag kinda car.

    I don’t recall them being officially imported into the US (unlike the contemporary Celica GTS) but that shouldn’t stop you.

    What probably should stop you is the fact that you don’t have anywhere to store it when not driving it. I’m also not sure about your desire to wrench this thing yourself.

    Not to be a complete richardcranium, but if you can’t afford to store it inside, likely rely on someone else to source parts and twist wrenches, do you really want to do this to yourself?

    Please, correct me if I’m wrong here. But that general set of circumstances has killed more cool but marginal cars than I can count. Walk away, if not for your own sanity, for the future of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      The 323GTX was available as a US model, I may even have circa 86 or 87 brochure buried somewhere to prove it. That said, if the car is that good, better it goes to a collector who can afford to cosset it. Of course buying cheap and flipping to a collector may be a viable strategy to finance a more mundane fun ride.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      @Slow_Joe_Crow,

      I trust you. I just didn’t recall them. Learn something new everyday…

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’d prefer the other red car in the driveway across the street.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    gslippy

    If you really want it, buy it, and get it out of your system. But don’t expect it to ever have any collector’s value.

  • avatar
    Power6

    This car is only collector material if it is no-mileage stored since new.

    If not, it is probably good to pick up for a nice driver as long as it is rust free and straight body. I see no problem storing it outside. It will only be good if you are willing to do some wrenching on it. I would bet within the first year you will be replacing brakes, radiator, wheel bearings, hoses etc. It might cost quite a bit if you need a mechanic each time. My Mom and Stepfather thought it would be great to buy a 944S cheap from a family member, but the fees at the local mechanic for every little thing did it in.

    I had great luck with an old ’88 MX6 GT Turbo a number of years ago. It was in decent shape when I bought it. I spent the first year replacing just about everything wearable, probably spent more than the $1800 I paid for it in new parts. Luckily I can do all the work myself. After that first year it was a great solid car for a few more years. I always wanted a cool 80s car since I was too young to buy any of them new. Still wish I hadn’t sold it!

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    You will have a hard time finding a transaxle if you ever need it. If you want to go turbo/AWD pick up a clean Eclipse/Talon/Laser. Much better value and parts availability.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal1

    Damn just get the thing. You have said you always wanted one, just do it. You will regret it if you don’t.

    Forget about it an investment, get it because it will be a blast to drive.

    Once you fix it and paint it a little, it will be fun to drive and cheap to own. You can park it outside and it will stay nice if you are diligent about waxing it.

    Availability of parts could be a problem though. I never even heard of this particular car.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty surprised many of the B&B don’t remember this car. I’ve never driven one, but I do remember seeing a few back in the day. And if you thumb through a C/D from the mid-1980s, odds are the silver background/black text advertisement is for this very Mazda.

  • avatar
    Energy

    If you dont get the thing let us know where it is.
    I personally would buy it if it’s in that good of condition. That car would be a blast to own, wrench on and drive.

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    If anyone is interseted, I know where there is a 1985 (I think) Mazda 626 LX 4dr Hatch. 5spd 4cyl. Needs a timing belt/tune-up/Batt. It has the original wheels and stereo! All for only a hundred bucks! I also know where there is an early 90’s Buick Roadmaster with the supercharged V8 for 800 bucks. The buick would be nice to own, but the Mazda would get better mileage, I’m sure.

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    I checked your Facebook page, and we are not close. I live in WA State and you in South Carolina. Just wanted to let ya know. Sorry!

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