New or Used: Cefiro!

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

TTAC commentator bumpy ii writes:

It’s definitely going to be used in this case. Anyway, I’m looking to pick up a fun weekend car in another 3-4 years. I like to plan ahead. Here’s what I want:

* 4 doors


* manual transmission

* normally aspirated inline 6

* (the kicker) curb weight under 3,000 pounds

* preferably built after the Reagan administration (most everyone had their emissions stuff sorted out by then)

From what I can tell, this narrows the list down to 4 cars (in order of preference):

*Nissan R32 Skyline

*Nissan A31 Cefiro

*M-B 190E 2.6

*BMW E30 325i

Am I leaving anything off? Any particular reason to favor or discount one versus another? Budget: I dunno, up to $10k if necessary. I’m in Virginia, and I’m willing to wait until the Nissans hit the DOT import exemption.

Sajeev Answers:

Why narrow your focus to I-6 motors? They are a bit slow by modern standards and are pricey to make more palatable, unless they are fitted with factory turbos. Oh, and they tend to wiggle like a wiener dog when they overheat, eating head gaskets and warping (aluminum) heads in the process. While I understand the premise of your quandary, all of these vintage racers will get their asses handed to them by a Fox Mustang (or LTD, since you want four-doors) with a full Griggs suspension, late model brakes with ABS and a souped up Windsor motor. Hell you don’t even wanna pick a fight with a 265hp, 6-speed (auto) Camry SE with a few chassis mods. There’s no better bitch slap than Toyota’s best Q-ship, especially from a 70mph dig: the 6 to 3 downshift is just nuts in that car!

And to be a real jerk, let me also tell you what 10 grand will buy in a tastefully modified 4th-gen Camaro or Firebird. They are the most underrated piece of “cheap” iron out there, even with the awful interior and terrible reputation from their collective owners. Buy one, twist the key and be better than 90% of the vehicles on the planet, even box stock.

That said, I am importing a brown Ford Sierra Ghia from the UK, so perhaps I need to encourage you. With the Sierra in mind, the only one from my list would be the Cefiro. If you are gonna be spanked by a new Camry, why not do it with class and style?

Hot Rod Griggs Fox Body LTD, son. Think about it.

Steve answers:

Inline 6? My good God man! What on Earth makes you want to drive an engine from the middle ages? Do you have some type of unique fetish for old Celica Supras and E-Classes?

Actually, I think a late 80’s MB W124 four door would actually be quite close with the weight and engine specs… but why? I’m sorry but I just have no love for the inline 6’s other than their supposed ease of maintenance (which is not nearly the entire equation when it comes to these old engines).

I would think about it some more. Years, many years. Maybe to the point of near death. If an inline 6 is a must have then just get yourself a nice old Merc or BMW for about 2 to 3k and just play with it for a while. There is no good reason to blow $10k on a proverbial Reagan era spec sheet.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

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  • Tjh8402 Tjh8402 on Nov 11, 2011

    I totally get the straight six obsession. Anyone questioning, just listen to this clip. I don't care if I'll get beat by a new camry or not if my care sounds like that, and offers an e30 level of driver involvement. I agree its gotta be an e30 but good luck finding a good example. They are unfortunately becoming increasingly rare. The IS300 and M3 are good alternatives if you're willing to compromise on weight, the RX-8 on engine.

  • Bumpy ii Bumpy ii on Nov 12, 2011

    Thanks to everyone for their comments and suggestions (except that one). The Cherokee suggestion was particularly amusing. Some specific points: The RX-8 is an interesting option, though the high-strung nature of the rotary is not a good match for my laid-back driving style. A good inline six has the feel and sound that can't be found in most other engine configurations. I am firm on the weight limit, since I'm already compromising by letting it go as high as 3000 pounds. Whatever I do buy will most likely be the heaviest car I've had, and I want to keep it as low as I can without gutting the interior. If I wasn't such a hardass, the IS300 would be my open-and-shut choice, but the US-spec IS300 (and the E36 BMWs) are over 3200 pounds. I want four doors, partly for easier access to the package shelf behind the front seats, and partly because I find coupe doors to be longer and heavier than I like. I've already done the 2-seat convertible thing with the S2000, and it's a wonderful car limited by the vehicle format (I have no chance of ever passing the broomstick test in it). The folks who said I'm looking for an E30 are right. I initially tipped the list in the W201's favor since four-door E30s seem to be uncommon and I figured that most of them would be turned into autocross warriors or Spec E30 cars by the time I go looking. The rarity and clunkiness of the MB 5-speed tips things back in BMW's direction. I do want an E30, but I think what I really want is a Japanese E30, hence my interest in the Nissans. Under the sheet metal, they were both built straight out of the Nissan RWD parts bin, so mechanical bits aren't as unobtainium as one might think. The Skyline is a bit lighter and has a better front suspension, but the Cefiro was built in a LHD version.

    • Ophelia Ophelia on Nov 12, 2011

      Old, light cars are a lot of fun. There's a rawness to them that I find appealing, but they probably seem like noisy, rattly old hoopties to the general public. :) I can totally understand the weight limit.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.