New Or Used?: Coming To America Edition

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used coming to america edition

Colin writes:

Sajeev and Steve: I’m a Brit currently on expat in the US. For several years now I’d loved the idea of buying a cool American only car and taking it back with me, have something fun to drive for a while and then selling it in the UK (or Europe) for more than its total cost. I have 18 months left before my return, however to avoid import duties and VAT I need to own the car for a minimum 12 months in the US and 6 months in the UK.

So here’s the scoop – I want a modern fun car which is not sold anywhere in the world in RHD, that would be a head turner back home all for a max of $25k purchase price. The car has got to be relatively easy to maintain back in Blighty. Fuel consumption needs to be considered [ >20 mpg(US)], and ideally with a manual transmission.

One of cars that spring to mind is the Pontiac Solstice GXP– A version of the engine is used in the Astra and it’s sister the Saturn sky was sold in mainland Europe as the Opel GT, however the lack of storage for anything other than a slim wallet and that folding roof put me off – both of these are solved by the coupe but I haven’t found a GXP for under $30K

The Chevy Camaro V6, Dodge Challenger RT or Ford Mustang are another option on my list. They all have the advantage of have a rear seat which would make it more practical – my concern here is that in 2 years the now hot Camaro / Challenger could be luke warm and new prices would have dropped causing the finances not to stack up. I’ve also seen C6 Corvettes getting into my price range for a 2005 model. In a complete different direction a Toyota FJ Cruiser has also crossed my mind but I’m unsure how easy this would be to sell in Britain.

So Sajeev & Steve, what is your recommendation? Is there a model that ticks my boxes that I haven’t considered?

Steve Answers:

I would take a Ford Mustang and customize the absolute h-e- double hockey sticks out of it. Racing stripes, custom grille, maybe even a blaring ‘train’ or Dixieland horn.

No really. I would get the most sporty, gregarious and outgoing Yank tank this side of the pond and make it my very own. You would be fine with the 300 hp, V6, 6-speed combination and with close to 30 highway mpg for the taxified petrol of the UK, it wouldn’t kill your operating costs.

But…. what if you went really nuts! A Ford Ranchero or Chevy El Camino with the proverbial silhouette of a scantily clad woman in the rear glass would be right up your alley then. You could give it a Confederate flag ‘Dukes of Hazard’ paint job and add to the rear glass and bumper such niceties as, “The South Shall Rise Again!” or my personal favorite, ‘Support Your Local Police…. Speed More!” Make sure you have plenty of smashed beer cans and a loudspeaker blaring out Merle Haggard and Toby Keith to alert everyone of your presence.

Sajeev Answers:

Stop concerning yourself with the finances in this deal. Be prepared to lose your shirt, consider yourself lucky if you make a few grand. Any late model Yank-Tank is a hit or miss, a safer bet is buying a mainstream classic (Chevelle, Barracuda, Mustang, and a few non-muscle cars) and praying that the Pound (or Euro) stays stronger than the dollar.

My choice? Twofold: get a pre-owned Challenger R/T in the most obnoxious color you can find. Or lower your initial cash outlay with a Ford SVT Lightning (the quintessential hot-rod truck) in bright red. You may never make a dime on the deal, but both entertaining vehicles will be one heckuva eye-catcher back in the old country. And I suspect either choice will make a profitable UK sale if you are patient.

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2 of 50 comments
  • Rob Hester Rob Hester on May 24, 2010

    Going in a different direction, and this may not be up your alley but what about a Honda Civic Si. Only available in the US, no RHD, great on gas, probably easy to maintain (although I wouldn't know for sure - maybe some Type R parts are interchangeable), probably would have great resale value as always, very fun to drive. My only concern is that it might not have enough pizazz. It will be a head turner but perhaps more in the "wtf is that" kinda way. There's also the very limited Mugen Si edition from 08 that retailed for $30k new...not sure what used prices on those are. If just a regular Si I would get the most gently used one I could find, save up to $5k on new. You're warranty's probably gonna be screwed anyway.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on May 27, 2010

    After recently spending a week at Bondurant, I'm going to have to recommend the C6 Vette!

  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.
  • Lorenzo In Massachusetts, they used to require an inspection every 6 months, checking your brake lights, turn signals, horn, and headlight alignment, for two bucks.Now I get an "inspection" every two years in California, and all they check is the smog. MAYBE they notice the tire tread, squeaky brakes, or steering when they drive it into the bay, but all they check is the smog equipment and tailpipe emissions.For all they would know, the headlights, horn, and turn signals might not work, and the car has a "speed wobble" at 45 mph. AFAIK, they don't even check EVs.
  • Not Tire shop mechanic tugging on my wheel after I complained of grinding noise didn’t catch that the ball joint was failing. Subsequently failed to prevent the catastrophic failure of the ball joint and separation of the steering knuckle from the car! I’ve never lived in a state that required annual inspection, but can’t say that having the requirement has any bearing on improving safety given my experience with mechanics…
  • Mike978 Wow 700 days even with the recent car shortages.
  • Lorenzo The other automakers are putting silly horsepower into the few RWD vehicles they have, just as Stellantis is about to kill off the most appropriate vehicles for that much horsepower. Somehow, I get the impression the OTHER Carlos, Tavares, not Ghosn, doesn't have a firm grasp of the American market.