Thinking About An Older, Sporty Car: What Do You Suggest?

Thomas Kreutzer
by Thomas Kreutzer
thinking about an older sporty car what do you suggest

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The decision is in, and my long awaited overseas assignment has been postponed for another year. I still have a move in my future, however, but it won’t be outside the border it will be the heartland – Leavenworth, KS. After looking at the alternatives, I’ve decided that this is the best opportunity I was presented with. It’s a chance to work with some folks I might not have otherwise worked with and, while I am there, maybe I’ll even learn a few things. The added bonus is that the move gets me out of the rust belt and back into a place where old cars are a lot more common.

Since the 300M went to a new home a little less than a year ago I’ve had an empty place in my heart to match the one in my driveway. The family mini-van and my Pontiac Torrent are both wonderful, competent daily drivers, but they aren’t really what I think of as “fun.” There’s never a hint of drama with either of them, they just do their jobs every day without complaint and, while I admire and rely upon their stolidity, I miss having something to play with. The time has come to rectify that.

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With an eye towards understanding the local used car market, I’ve already spent a little time perusing the Kansas City Craigslist and I’ve found some things that I have liked. Some of the usual suspects have flitted through my brain, if you’ve ever read anything I have written you know I have an unhealthy obsession with Turbo Dodges and the mid-80’s Nissans, but I’m open to all suggestions within reasons and I thought we might have some fun discussing the alternatives. My ground rules are thus:

Given the short-term nature of my assignment, I’m not willing to drop a whole lot of cash so I’m going to set a limit of $4K for the initial purchase and that’s already on the high side so my mantra is “cheaper is better.”

Projects are OK, but even though I’m not against solving a few mechanical gremlins, I won’t be swapping out entire engines, getting involved in a “frame-up” anything or ending up in a car that needs major body work.

I’d prefer something from the 80s or 90s, but would consider a smaller car, say some kind of Japanese or British classic from the 60s or 70s, but no old luxury barges. The point is that I want something small and sporty, not big and heavy.

I would like something with a manual transmission, I’ve really missed those over the past few years, but I have no real preference for which set of wheels get driven. Front and rear wheel drive cars are both on the table.

That’s it. I know there is a lot of experience on this site so I am interested in your suggestions and expect a healthy debate about the various merits of some fun old cars. Because I won’t move until summer, I’m not ready to purchase this minute and don’t need to be hooked up with a specific seller so please, for the love of God, don’t call anyone up and bother them. Besides, most of the time, thinking about what I could buy proves to be more fun than actually buying it. Let’s prolong that feeling as long as possible. What would you get if you were in my position?

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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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  • SilverCoupe SilverCoupe on Jan 25, 2014

    It sounds like you are interested in half the cars I have ever owned. A 1984 Chrysler Laser turbo with a 4-speed was the second car I purchased, and the only car I ever bought new. It was fine for its time, but I am not sure that 142 horsepower would keep you entertained now a days, and it was not ultra-reliable. I probably sold it for about $2500 in 1991 when I got my.... 1989 Toyota Supra [Mk III] turbo, with removable roof panel and manual trans. I loved this car, which felt quite fast, though perhaps not by current standards, and was ultra reliable. It was fun to take the roof panel off, and gaze at the stars at night [during the day, the sun just got in my eyes, so I had to wear a cap] I would recommend this car for you. I sold mine for about $4000 back in 2001 when I got my.... 2000 Audi TT Quattro with a five speed. Rock solid, and good in all weather, which the Supra was not. I sold that for about $6500 in 2011 when I got my current 2008 A5, so maybe you can get one close to your budget currently. After driving the TT for a few weeks, I drove the Supra one last time before I sold it, and it felt like a truck by comparison, so everything is relative. Good luck in your search.

  • Oifish Oifish on Jan 27, 2014

    I know Indianapolis is a long distance away but here is a decent looking, non-riced out, 98 Prelude for sale:

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  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
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  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.