By on May 16, 2012

The Time Machine Dilemma works like this: your time machine lands on Auto Row in some past decade, and you have enough cash to buy a certain iconic car of that era. Do you buy the iconic car, or do you hoof it to some other dealership, perhaps saving enough money to buy (gold, Microsoft stock, first-edition Philip K Dick hardbacks)? We’ve done this exercise with miserable econoboxes of 1986, a broad spectrum of 1973 machinery, and today the time machine will be hurtling to an even earlier decade.
So, it’s 1966, you want something quick and sporty, the time machine is parked in the Porsche dealer’s lot, and you’ve got exactly enough authentic pre-’66 banknotes to buy one of those shiny new 911s you see in the showroom (we’re assuming a rose-colored past with no taxes or fees). That’s $6,490, which is equivalent to about 46 grand in 2012 bucks. The ’66 911 was quite a car… but take a look at that beautiful (and more powerful) ’66 Mercedes-Benz 230SL. Just $6,343 and it could be yours! And that’s just the beginning of your choices. Unfortunately, the Shelby Cobra 427 is out of your price range ($7,495), as are the Ferraris, Maseratis, Jensen Interceptors, and so on. But hey, look at what you can buy!

Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider: $4,886
Austin-Healey 3000: $3,565
BMW 2000CS: $4,985
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe: $5,249*
Jaguar XK-E Coupe: $5,580
Lotus Elite Coupe: $4,995
Mercedes-Benz 230SL Coupe: $6,343
Shelby Cobra 289: $5,995**
Sunbeam Tiger: $3,425

Or you could go crazy and buy two Datsun Fairlady Sports 1600s ($2,546 each), or two Chevy Corvair Corsas ($2,519 each). You could go really crazy and get two new MGB-GTs at $3,095 apiece. Or you could buy a stripper ’66 Chevelle for $2,271 and spend $4,219 on engine, brake, and suspension modifications; it would be less sporty-looking than the 911, but who cares? So, what’s it going to be?

*The base ’66 Corvette would probably get eaten up by the 911 at any non-dragstrip venue, so this price includes the 425-horsepower L72 engine, close-ratio 4-speed transmission, limited-slip differential, heavy-duty brakes and suspension, and “off-road” exhaust, with enough money left over for an eyeball-melting paint job.

**Based on this reference.

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86 Comments on “Time Machine Dilemma: It’s 1966 and You Have Enough Cash For a Porsche 911. What Do You Buy?...”

  • avatar

    My personality defects will show clearly when I opt for the XKE. A friend’s Dentist Dad had one that we gently pushed down the driveway before starting and heading out on our various adventures. The sound of that car at speed is something I will never forget. Oh, and did the girls like it,too. Looks, speed, handling and benefits. Quadruple threat. For a while. It broke. But that is a comment for a different article,yes?

    • 0 avatar

      First choice would be Berkshire Hathaway stock — trading @ $18/share in 1966 would get 360 shares. Sold today @ $120,000/share would yield $4.3M and put a few nice cars in my garage, and the house attached to the garage.

      OK, back to cars — a Series 1 Jaguar E-Type for me (especially considering my first car was a 1967 911 S).

      • 0 avatar


        I was thinking along the same lines as you, but I would have chosen a Ford Mustang and put the rest in McDonalds stock. I couldn’t find info from 1966, but I found this from 1965.

        Stock Split
        Since going public in 1965, McDonald’s has executed twelve stock splits. In fact, an investment of $2,250 in 100 shares at that time has grown to 74,360 shares worth over $7.3 million as of market close on March 30, 2012.

        (woulda – shoulda – coulda) I couldn’t. I was only 5 years old.

      • 0 avatar

        A used Ferrari of the correct pedigree would give a MUCH better return on the investment…. And you can have fun with it too – See Nick Mason and his GTO.

        I’d also go for the E-type. Early 911s are fun, but they DID have that distinct tendancy of exiting the road backwards.

      • 0 avatar

        Conslaw- My dad, who was a pretty smart guy, turned down being a franchise owner of McDonalds, AND Burger King, AND Wendy’s. His logic: “How many damn hamburgers can they sell?”. I was old enough when Wendy’s came along, I had eaten at the first one, and really liked it, and said to him, “You’re making another mistake!”. He said, “I can’t be wrong this time!”. But he was. We would have been loaded if he just did it once. Just once.

      • 0 avatar


        weird.. my father had the chance to own the first McDonalds franchise in Canada. He was just finishing his accounting degree, and a few people he knew came to him with a proposal. His reply was “I’ve eaten at the restaurant in Detroit, it’s terrible and will never fly in Canada.”

        … needless to say …

  • avatar

    Probably a Mustang Convertible, with whatever packages it took to get disc brakes and the “pony” interior. With the thousand or two leftover, put it in IBM stock.

  • avatar

    Iso Grifo. Done. But I don’t know what it cost new, so assuming it would be way over budget, I’d go with the Cobra 289…

    • 0 avatar

      Cobra would be hands down my choice too, but… I’d love to know the price of an Astin Martin DB6 back then, and how it might budget in.

      • 0 avatar

        The DB6 was sold for around 5000 pounds new in the late 60’s. The exchange rate at the time was roughly $2.75 per pound. So you’d be looking at $13750 in 1966 money, or about double the 911’s price.

  • avatar

    The Corvette is the only one on the list that is likely to be reliable. Don’t even think about the Lotus. The best investment would be the Cobra. I have always thought the 230/250/280 series cars are very elegant. However, if it were my money, I would pick the Jaguar and save up for the inevitable repair costs.

  • avatar

    A couple of used Ferraris, preferably battered old ex-works racers.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The 911 would have to be driven with extreme respect and balls (as in, “don’t even think of lifting, much less braking, in a corner that you feel like you’ve entered a little too fast.”). That said, in the hands of a skilled and fearless pilot, it will outdrive them all on a two lane in the hills.

    The Healy 3000 is the apotheosis of the classic British sportscar and is a very good drive.

    The E-Type is a crumpet collector, very fast, drives well and sounds even better doing it . . . but is an ergonomic disaster; plan on rides of no more than a couple of hours duration unless you have truly iron pants.

    If “rude and crude” is your thing, then by all means the Corvette (watch out for the IRS, however!) or the Cobra.

    The rest are sedans, cult cars (Alfa, Sunbeam Tiger) curiosities (Corvair)and boulevardiers (Mercedes).

  • avatar

    Let’s see if I understand this correctly. I can travel back in time, buy one of these cars and take it back to the future?

    I’d buy the Shelby Mustang, and a use the balance of the money to buy a Rolex. Think what a pristine, barely used Shelby and Rolex would be worth at auction today.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    The Corvette!

  • avatar

    I’m not sure that you would need to go all the way to the 427 engine in the Corvette to take on a Porsche 911 in ’66. While I agree that the base 327 CI-300 HP engine might be a bit tepid, the L79 327 CI-350 HP should do the trick nicely.

    Additionally, you avoid the significant under-steer problem caused by the 700 lb. rat motor and still have extra money in your pocket.

  • avatar
    kid cassady

    I would probably have to have a talk with my importer to see if I could get one of the last Gordon-Keebles before they closed up shop. (2798 GBP – it could be done)

  • avatar

    XK-E hands down… Stop looking at me like that!

  • avatar

    If this was a 1-way trip and I would be living in 1966: Chrysler 300 2-door hardtop, 440 TNT engine

    If I was bringing this car back to the present time: Dodge Charger, 426 Hemi

    EDIT: On second thought, if I was bringing a car back to the present, I would probably look for something much more unique, as in a well-known one-off custom car. For example, one probably could’ve convinced Ed Roth to part with one of his showcars for that much money. The Uncertain-T was also offered for sale at about that time.

  • avatar

    How about a first-year Olds Toronado? Yeah, it’s big and thirsty but that wasn’t a huge issue in 1966. It also handles very well for such a big boat and can exceed 135 mph. $6,000 would get you a nicely loaded example of this stunning-looking luxo-cruiser.

    • 0 avatar

      Front wheel drive, slushbox, terrible brakes…and it looks friggin’ terrific. I love it.

    • 0 avatar

      Excellent choice!!!

    • 0 avatar

      To SolRacer:
      The smoke coming from the wheel wells after one panic stop of a 2 ton and change Toronado with drums was a clue, that and my 250 bpm pulse rate. The vinyl seats cleaned up nice, though.

    • 0 avatar

      My doctor had one. He drove it for 20 years. He said nothing else could punch through a snow drift like it, and that it was bone reliable. The last time I saw it (before I moved to the big city for work), it was pretty much the worse for wear, but it was still his daily driver in from the sticks.

    • 0 avatar

      Solracer- My dad bought probably the first Toranado in the area, and believe me, it’s brakes just plain sucked. I think they were drums all around. Whatever they were, they were bad. It was one of the reasons he got rid of it in 1968.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Corvette is the obvious choice. :)

  • avatar

    An Intermeccanica Griffith/Torino/Italia or whatever the hell they were calling it that year, plus a decent attorney.

  • avatar

    This is a tough one. The mid 60s were something of a golden age for GTs, so you really can’t go wrong with most of them. It was also before the FMVSS rules went into effect, so there was still no real problem privately importing a foreign car that wasn’t officially sold here.

    I’m torn between four options:

    Gilbern Genie: $2,700*
    Reliant Scimitar GT: $2,000*
    Jensen Interceptor: $3,250*
    Avanti II: $6,600

    *prices are as close as I could figure, based on historical exchange rates, and I know the Avanti is slightly out of range, but close.

    Had I been alive then, it probably would have come down to which company could guarantee delivery the fastest.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    A time machine you say? I’d go in for the 289 Cobra, especially in light of ol’ Shelby’spassing away if I was limited to just purchasing a car. If not, I’d buy a beater for a coupla hundered bucks and buy 5,000 dollars worth of Berkshire Hathaway as twotone suggested.

    That’d be about 28 million after taxes so I’d probably buy one of the continuation Cobras and kit it out just the way I want.

  • avatar

    I would buy a 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 two-door hardtop with a 426 Hemi, a 4-speed, front disc brakes, and rallye gauges. It would be similar to this car: but with the more attractive 440 trim level. Mine would be maroon.

  • avatar

    About that time, my dad and I wandered into a Mercedes dealership, and while looking at a 230sl (what the heck, Saturday amusement), the salesman pointed to a dust covered car in the back of the garage and suggested it instead. A ’55 Gullwing with an asking price of $5500. I begged my dad to buy it, but somehow his $7k annual earnings wouldn’t quite stretch to that. Yeah, we bought another of our unending series of $450 specials sometime later that week…..

  • avatar

    Hmmm…1966…I started driving in 1967.

    I’d have to buy a new 1967 Camaro that fall of 1966 if I were of age and actually had money!

    250 6 cyl automatic. Red w/saddle tan interior. If I were visionary at all, I’d add A/C and an AM/FM radio.

    That 250 powerglide moved dad’s 1966 Impala very well.

    I’d choose the six because as much as I cruised back then, 25¢ per gallon gas still added up. I buy more for style and pride of ownership, moving my carcass from point A to point B and anywhere I choose in between, not for speed or performance. To me, if the car starts, moves and stops, that’s “performance” in my book…and I’m cheap! Why else would I have an Impala with the 3.4L?

    Playing “what if?” games are sometimes wonderful!

    • 0 avatar

      Zackman, we think alike. I’ll take my ’67 Camaro convertible equipped just like yours, because half the fun is getting there without going broke. Make mine silver blue, with matching upholstery and a dark blue top. Oh, and blackwall tires, please.

      • 0 avatar

        The B&B are probably laughing too hard at my comment to pile on, but I’ve always been for the long haul, and the chances of having a small, non-powerful engine in place of a V8 that would most likely get me wrapped around a tree are minimalized.

    • 0 avatar

      A friend of our family had one in that silver blue with the six and a powerglide. She hated how pokey it was, but kept it until it literally fell apart from rust. It made it until 86, almost 20 years. She went over the railroad crossing near her house one morning, and it pretty much broke in half. She bought an ’86 Iroc, and kept that for almost 20 years too.The 305 V8 and 4 sp auto was a much better drivetrain than the six and PG.

  • avatar

    1966 Lincoln Continental hardtop coupe, in black. MSRP was $5485. Cruisin’ in style (and a 462ci V8).

  • avatar

    True stories, honest.

    A local guy bought a Corvette, storing it immediately. He recently sold it to a collector for 250K.

    I recently heard of another local offered 100K for his Austin-Healey.

    Ahhh, dreams.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Gold. It was $35/0z then so you bought 185 oz then, and have almost $300,000 now.

  • avatar

    I’d save it till next year because I heard Mercury is coming out with their own classed up version of the Mustang for ’67.

    If that’s not an option then I might just take the 911, although the Jag is pretty tempting.

  • avatar

    Simple, 1966 Plymouth Satellite 2 door with the 383 Commando 4bbl, 4 speed, AC, Disc Brakes, PS, HD suspension, trailer towing package, 3.23 sure-grip rear, buckets and console, white with red interior. Take the rest and invest in GE, IBM and Con Edison stock. The car would be approx $3700 with the options and the install of a Hurst shifter, rims and undercoating.

    The IBM, GE and Con-Ed stock will take care of them selves.

  • avatar

    289 Cobra

  • avatar

    My answer to this depends largely on who ‘I’ am.

    ‘I’ as young, single, hormone-infested guy would be torn between the Jaguar, the Stingray, and a Volvo P1800 (and leaning heavily towards the Volvo, it it’s allowed).

    ‘I’ as a outdoors obsessed fishing, hunting and camping nut would probably go for a Land Rover.

    ‘I’ as a family man with kids would probably go for a Wagonaire or a Chevy Wagon (Caprice, Bel Air, or Impala).

  • avatar

    A Porsche 912, and save a little of the cash.

  • avatar

    True stories, honest.

    A local guy bought a Corvette, storing it immediately. He recently sold it to a collector for 250K.

    I recently heard of another local offered 100K for his Austin-Healey.

    Unless i have lotsa mulla, and bought multiple copies, why would i store a fun machine for 40 some yrs?

  • avatar

    If I’m in 1966 with the money for a new 1966 Porsche 911, that’s what I’m buying.

  • avatar

    I second whoever mentioned the tired old Ferrari race car. how much was a 250 GTO going for in 1966?

  • avatar

    A ’66 Cobra or Vette still turns heads, and unless I’m grossly mistaken, a ’66 big-block Vette would be worth FAR more today than that 911.

    • 0 avatar

      “unless I’m grossly mistaken, a ’66 big-block Vette would be worth FAR more today than that 911.”

      You’re right. I looked up the values on NADA classic cars and the 911 avg retail is $23,900 (high retail is 32k) and the vette avg retail is.. are you sitting down?.. $90,610 with 4 speed, air, original knockoff wheels, and telescopic steering. High retail is $119k. The original msrp without options is $4,295.

  • avatar

    1966 Stage III Yenko Stinger Corvair with Hands aluminum wheels.

  • avatar

    A four door 318-equipped 1966 Plymouth Belvedere 1 sedan. My father bought one in ’66 and it was the only brand new car he bought in his entire life. It was a big day for all of us.

  • avatar

    I’d buy a VW van, enough tools to keep it running, several cans of day-glow paint, and some camping gear.

    I would spend the rest of the cash cruising up and down the west coast, picking up hitchikers for gas money and getting in “adventures.” I would complete my 3 year odyssey with a trip to upstate NY in August of ’69.

    I suppose I’d have to get a haircut and a job after that, but it’d be totally worth it.

  • avatar

    1966? newbie Jensen FF but in price range – neh. Knowing me I’d likely underbid for an ADO16 MG variant with pathetic econobox sport pretence of extra handful of twin carb horses.

    This is where Nissan got the idea for my Sentra SER…

  • avatar

    A 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix. Fastback, 428 & all the goodies.

    Or a 1966 Mercury Monterey Breezeway, 428 & all the goodies…

    It’s 1966 and gasoline is what? $0.35/gallon or so? The more cubes the better!

  • avatar

    A 66 Canadian Pontiac Grand Parisienne ragtop with the Chevy 427 and “Four on the Floor”

  • avatar

    Not a doubt in my mind – 1966 Lancia Fulvia Coupe HF. Wrong wheel drive, and all the better for it. Engineering excellence, racing credibility, and when have three simple boxes ever looked so good?

  • avatar

    Always buy the Corvette.

  • avatar

    I believe the FJ-55 “Iron Pig” land cruiser went on sale in 66. Not sure of the price but I believe I could get that and a GTO hardtop and still have change to see Sandy Koufax pitch a game.

  • avatar

    A Fitch Sprint Corvair and a Honda S800.

  • avatar

    I’d seriously consider the 911, but I could probably get a Lotus Elan and enough leftover for a nice used BMW R69S.

  • avatar

    Corvette or Cobra. I’m usually not a huge fan of American cars but the C2 and original Cobra are among my absolute favorites!

  • avatar

    Old race car, they where cheap as chips before batterd race cars became as expensive as a night out with Charlie Sheen. That’s if we’re talking cars. Something by Warhol might have been a decent investment, and then there’s probably a load of stocks that would have one swimming in cocaine, hookers and “compromising” pictures Jack Baruth by now.

  • avatar

    I think I’d get the Austin-Healey. Yeah, that’s just wrong.

  • avatar

    Clearly the Mercedes, since I’d still be driving it today. Think of all of the ways I could have used the money saved on future car purchases: traveling, stock, property, divorce lawyers, etc

  • avatar

    In 1966, my high school senior class lusted after the GTO, one of the all-time classic body styles. I preferred the same-body LeMans 4-door hardtop (for insurance purposes)with the optional 4-bbl 326 (for fun purposes). Alas, my part time job in the cookie factory ($1.40 per hour and all you could eat) didn’t allow for it.

    If I had the money and couldn’t have that, I’d hold the cash for two years and buy another ’68 Mercury Montego MX with a 351 Cleveland. I never should have sold the first one, which is driven today by the grandson of the guy I sold it to.

    • 0 avatar

      The 351 Cleveland V-8 did not come out until 1970. The 351 Windsor V-8 was available in 1969. The “Cleveland” style cylinder heads with the gigantic ports and canted valves did make an appearance on the 1969 Boss 302 though…

  • avatar

    Mustang 289. OR… Fairlane/Galaxie with big-block…then the rest?

    Oil stocks. Even with the losses of the 80’s, you would still come out WAY ahead. And, still have said Mustang/Galaxie sitting in the garage of your estate.

    Otherwise, a New Yorker.

    BTW gas in 1966/av (in 2012$) – – – 1966: $0.32 – 2012 $2.27! Just sayin’…

  • avatar

    1966 Thunderbird convertible $4879. Upgrade to a 428, $64. If the R3 opinion were still available I’d seriously consider a Studebaker Daytona.

  • avatar

    In 1966, I was hot for a Pontiac Catalina 2 door hardtop.
    like this—->
    I have no idea what it cost in 1966. It was above my pay grade.

  • avatar

    I’d head over to the Peterbilt dealer and get a 351 with the Big Cummins.

  • avatar

    I really like early 911 Porsches, but if I was back in 1966, my main interest would be the brand new Dodge Charger. The first gen Charger is definitely my favorite ’60s car. Why ? I simply find these gorgeous.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    66 Ford Fairlane GTA 390 4 speed or C6 Auto. A/C and most options. With some change left in the pocket.

  • avatar

    Assuming that the time machine is big enough for one car, and I can only make one trip… I’d pick up a new Amphicar for ~$3000, then stop off at a hobby shop and use the rest of the dough to clean out their inventory of slot cars.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    For me the 911 sounds pretty cool . But in the seventies I knew a guy who had the Sunbeam Tiger in immaculate condition and at the time I thought it was the coolest car I’d ever driven . Incidentally the old man got into the what would you buy instead of the 1966 911 , He was a CPA and his partners and him administered some trust funds . One time this girl who had inherited a trust fund wanted to buy a new 1966 Porsche for her 16th birthday . Daddy wouldn’t approve it and suggested a GTO or 442 convertible instead . She got the 442 and years later I was working for a party planner catering to the rich . At work I met up with the woman 40 years later , still wealthy , who still remembered and never had forgiven Daddy for not letting her buy that 911 . My wife’s stepfather bought the 1966 Porsche new but traded it in a year later for the 1967 Pagoda roof Mercedes 230 which he always said was the best car he ever had and he had owned numerous cool cars – everything from a new 1946 Town and Country convertible to numerous Porsches and a couple of 6-series BMWs.

  • avatar

    Tough choosing between the Corvette and the E, but I think that the E just edges it for me

  • avatar

    Assuming I’m buying a 1966 MY car, I’d pick up a Buick Riviera.

  • avatar

    Make mine a Pontiac 2+2, 421, tri-power, 4-speed, w/everything.

    Red with a white on black interior. Bring your shades.

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