By on April 1, 2014



Auto enthusiasts often dream of taking an exotic car through some of the nicest stretches of winding roads the world can offer.

Hairpin turns… beautiful smooth roads…. nice scenery… and all the power and finesse one can summon in a car made for the perfection of that very moment.

Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, the list of great cars serving this unique purpose of vehicular bliss is as long as the opportunity is unique. Even the most frugal of gearheads want to experience this thrill sometime between now and their eventual nirvana.

But then again, I may be completely wrong on all of this. Actions speak louder than words in the enthusiast community, and what I find inside a lot of gearhead garages looks a bit like…

This 1999 Solara  vs. a 2002 BMW 525i Wagon. Same price at a car lot and same mileage. Guess which one sells quicker?

This 1999 Solara vs. a 2002 BMW 525i Wagon. Same price at a car lot and same mileage. Guess which one sells quicker?


Let’s face it. How often do car people proclaim their automotive passions, and wind up buying an old boring car?

Does the performance car represent the best of what enthusiasts want these days? Or is there something else?

My wager, after 15 years of buying and selling cars at the auctions, is something else. In fact, my hunch is that many enthusiasts are more enamored with the deal of buying a good cheap car, rather than the performance potential of their daily ride.

This shift has little do with our actual tastes. In a world where there is far greater traffic enforcement, higher insurance rates, and fewer opportunities to enjoy a long and winding drive without getting tagged by the revenuing activities of various government entities, the opportunity to cloak our rides seems like the best option.

Also, we are now in that unique point of automotive history where even plain-jane Camrys and Chrysler minivans can offer as much power as the Acura NSX. It’s hard to get as excited about horsepower and performance when Mom’s Accord can now go 0 to 60 in 6 seconds.

We want the deal… and often times we consider real world performance to come standard. Even though our opportunities to use it are often hindered by the local environment.

The core of automotive enthusiasm these days seems to come from getting the unsellable car at a steal of a price, and transforming it into a sleeping beauty that will endure far beyond the exotics and their commercialized fantasies.

So with that in mind, let’s look at one of the cars coming up to bid this week. A car that even in the most extreme of situations, won’t ever find itself making that long trip from my car lot to your own driveway.


A 2002 Hyundai Accent: Is this a hermit’s heaven? Or is this a transformer stuck in partial ‘transform!’ mode?

Well, let’s say you want a cheap-to-own vehicle with low mileage, minimal depreciation costs, that will serve as a rolling theft deterrent system in your daily travels?
If that is you, then it looks like I’ve found your next ride. A 2002 Hyundai Accent L, 5-speed, with 25,769 miles. It may have looked like it got into a fight and lost– however, if you want to have reliable transportation that will allow you to avoid transporting family and friends, this may indeed be the ultimate beater ride.
a4This car embodies what I call the “1080” — a car that can be bought at 10% of the new price and still easily has about 80% of its life left.
In the case of this dead bone, basic and broke Accent, it’ll still probably sell for about $2000 plus the auction fee at the sale tomorrow. So maybe we’re looking at a 2085. Or a 1590.
Or maybe, this car will go for a far higher price than a lot of folks would assume.
The reason is unless these pictures deceive me, all those body panels can be replaced either at a junkyard or a catalog. Frame damage can be hard on panel gaps if a car is hit the wrong way.
This car looks like it needs two bumpers, a hatch, and some miscellaneous clips and brackets along with a $260 paint job and some minor body work. With about $1300 in reconditioning costs and extremely low mileage, this car could be financed for $500 down and $50 a week for as long as the customer can’t do the math.
36 months? 48 months? 60 months? The sad fact is that our society seems to relish and promote a long-term debtful existence.  If an Aston Martin can be financed by some poor soul for 144 months, then surely a cheap used Hyundai built with better quality control techniques can last at least 5 years.
Gas sippers are a very hard niche to buy on the cheap. Stickshifts do help lower the demand, but it’s often not enough to attain a true 1080. For that you need something in the lines of an unpopular trifecta… plus one.
An orphan brand. V8. Wrong wheel drive, and an association with owners who care as much about what’s popular these days as you or I do.
In a word, retirees.
On the other side of automotive apathy comes this Y2K MGM GS.
Why not say what it is in long form? Because when you drive one of these things, it doesn’t really matter now does it?
b5Colors are a blah, common as a cold, silver exterior, accompanied by an 80’s surplus, yawn-inducing, Metamucil inspired gray interior. This one can seat five adults and an ungrateful brat, and has 33,532 miles.
A “Shoneys Frequent Dining” sticker comes standard in the glovebox, along with empty blood pressure medicine bottles, and a “marching band music never gets old damn it!” cassette collection.
AAA decals along with AARP credentials must be shown in plain sight at all times. Only the 1st button on the radio is indexed to a talk radio station, while the cutting edge cassette to CD adapter will be sold separately.
It’ll probably sell tomorrow for $4000 and the auction fee. The Stevie Lang out the door price for non-state residents will be around $4500.
One other kicker. If you only drive a car sparingly and have a boat or jetskis you tow on the weekends, it’s not a bad deal.
Do you drive less than 7500 miles a year? The gas premium will likely be swallowed up by the insurance discount. Plus with the right aftermarket parts these cars are surprisingly fun to drive.
You may still have that plastic intake manifold  issue and those seats may require a leather upgrade. But once you’re over those humps, the only thing stopping this car from lasting another a decade is the potential redoubling of gas prices.
So… what about your world? Have you been able to merge these two divergent forces that are excitement and affordability into one great car? Or has the ultimate fun-to-drive, affordable car, been as rare for you as an Italian tractor.
Note: You can always reach Steve Lang directly at [email protected] or at his Facebook page
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71 Comments on “Auction Day : Pullin’ A 1080...”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Biggest problem with the Accent? No A/C. Some people would also complain about the manual steering, but that would be a good thing to me.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “that will serve as a rolling theft deterrent system in your daily travels?”

    Very true. And in certain parts of the world will even prevent you from being kidnapped.

  • avatar

    The 1st gen xB with the “Shut up and order me one from Japan if that’s what it takes” 5-speed is the answer to everything.

    How well do stripper model Lancers sell to these “enthusiasts” on your lot?

    It would cost me maybe $300 to fix that accent. I would save on the paint by just being patient on Row52, waiting for a red one. There are always at least five of those things at any given time.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I don’t buy too many Lancers. If we’re talking the discount compact segment, Proteges tend to move a lot faster.

    • 0 avatar

      A first gen toaster with stick is a wonderful car . . . . . as long as you’re not planning on driving distance at a speed over 60mph. At that point, it becomes a droning, tiring box that desperately needs a 6th gear (second overdrive) in the transmission and cruise control.

      Yeah, I have one. Within it’s limits, it’s a wonderful car. However, any time I need to drive between Richmond and Charlottesville, I’d much rather take US250 than I-64. Because, on a 70mph limit interstate, the car would really rather be doing 55.

      • 0 avatar

        I added the dealer/aftermarket cruise to mine. Best $200 I ever spent.

        You’re right, it’s still a droning box on the highway, and the MPG drops off significantly if you drive over 65. It’s the only car I’ve ever owned that gets worse MPG on the highway than in town.

        Still, I was coming off a 1984 Volvo 245Diesel. So I’m used to going 62mph.

  • avatar

    I think you’re right, when going most of us would select a car for the roads we’d like to drive, rather than the ones we actually do drive, but would then have a hard time pulling the trigger on an expensive performance car and wind up getting something more plebian. I had that experience a few times and always wound up chickening out and getting the less expensive but more practical. But I’m not driving a 2002 Hyundai either.

    There do seem to be a number of commenters here who subscribe to the “buy it cheap and work on it yourself” philosophy. Having just sold a 12 year old car, I say never again, the money saved isn’t worth the effort, for a number of reasons:

    First, cars are becoming increasingly hard to work on, they’re packaged so tightly, and much of the work needs to be done from underneath. I have no way to get the car very high off the ground and I’m not all that fond of lying on my back on a garage floor with a car six inches above my nose.

    Seccnd, the aftermarket parts situation in the country has gone to crap. Yes, there are plenty of online parts to be had, but if they’re not a name brand you can trust, they’re crap. On that previous car, I had to replace the motor mounts and the valve cover gasket twice because the aftermarket parts all failed in less than a year. If it’s a name brand I can still trust, like Moog or Bosch, I’ll use it, otherwise I’m only using factory parts.

    Third issue is that while houses are getting bigger, garages are getting smaller. I can’t open the doors of my car all the way while in the garage, and because there’s so little storage space my tools are stored in the basement, so the first thing I have to do is to cart them up to the garage. That adds at least a half hour to the task, by the time I bring them up and put them back.

    Fourth issue is that there’s lots and lots of plastic on cars these days, and it all gets brittle with age, so when you’re working on said car, you may very well wind up breaking something you weren’t planning on replacing. If you’re like me, you are typically working on your car when the dealers are closed, and I’ve had a surprisingly hard time finding parts for what is a very popular car from anywhere but the dealer.

    Fifth issue: THE NEW ONES ARE SO MUCH BETTER! Life’s too short to drive a beater. I understand that many of us have no choice, because of the poor condition of the US job market, but I’m not one of those and am not going to do so out of parsimony.

    My suggestion: Buy a modestly priced new car and keep it 8 – 12 years. If you feel the need maybe dress it up with some better wheels, tires, and struts. I know there are some that like working on old cars, but I ain’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree somewhat with FormerFF. The cars that Steve have identified are relatively young with few miles. But for the rest of it, I feel ya. My 2000 CR-V, which at 171K miles, served me well, had repair/maintenance cost of over $2000 over the last two years. The vehicle, sold private owner or traded in, was worth around $3500. If one uses the formula that you should never invest more thatn 50% of the total worth of the car at a shot you could argue I already had put some bad money in it. Figure in the coming years, with the propeller shaft, various Honda specific bushings, and another set of all weathers, and the car would have cost me it’s worth in repairs pretty quickly. That’s why I sold it. The guy that bought it doesnt do math like that, and that’s ok. I hope he enjoys it. God knows it runs good, but the unavoidable cost of owning a 14 year old car will be coming for sure.

    • 0 avatar

      totally agree on the used parts gone to crap. i got stranded once by a new aftermarket pump.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    I am one of those ‘enthusiast’ who just never seems to buy the car I lust for. Lately, I have been lusting for something less vanilla as my daily driver. For the record, my currently daily driver is a 2011 Prius, it is paid for, and only cost about $75 a month for insurance (full coverage) and $60 a month for gas. I bought it about 3 years ago new while I was living in California and commuting 120 miles per day. These days I live in Texas and my commute is only about 30 miles.

    I would love to get a stick shift BMW E46 to use on my commute, or even a sport wagon. I have a garage I can work on it in, and enough tools and skills that I can do about 80% of my own maintenance. Heck, I even have a beater pickup (a 1999 ford ranger with 225k miles on it) that I can drive on days when the car is down.

    So what is keeping me in the Prius? Money and time. The Prius is a driving appliance, designed to use as little gas as possible with the least amount of maintenance. Over the 70k or so miles I have driven it, all I have had to do is put gas in it, change the oil and filters every 10k miles, and buy one set of tires. I haven’t even had to replace the brake pads on it because the regenerative braking system minimizes the wear on them. I have never spent so little on a car in my life.

    For what I could sell the Prius for, I could get and end of the line 2005 E46 and still have some cash left over. Heck, I could even get a high mileage 2006 E90 for the money. But then the downsides start popping up in my mind: 20mpg on premium gas, my insurance going up to over $100 per month unless I decide to only carry liability, and the maintenance (time and cost) associated with a high mileage German luxury car.

    Plus, to make the deal work, I am going to have to get the front bumper fixed on my Prius (I scrapped it on a curb) and pull my nice Pioneer head unit out of the car. Then I will have to deal with the flaky crowd of car buyers who frequent craigslist and/or autotrader. I’ve been raked over the coals too many times at car dealerships to sell it to one of them (no offense Steve).

    At this point my common sense kicks in and I start to think “maybe this is not such a hot idea…” Then my Wife reminds me that I have to take my oldest boy to Boy Scouts tonight, and I am leaving her home with the other 4 kids, and I have visions of finding a month old sippy-cup under the back seat of my dream sports wagon. If I was still thirty and single, I would be driving that Bimmer, but life as made me ‘responsible’, and I have a Prius.


    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the car dealership nonsense. I recently went through the charade with some local dealers, only this time I was armed with a new tactic courtesy of Mr. Langs recent Car Max write up. Since we are cord cutters (no cable / sattelite = no ad’s) and don’t listen to commerical radio, I’ve remained in a state of blissful ignoranace from Carmax ad’s. My brother in law’s exortations and extremely over priced Miata’s from the depths of the recession were my only frame of reference.

      I armed myslef with Carmax buy offers which helped me discount two dealers right off the bat. It was obvious that working a deal with them would involve more effort than I was prepared to invest in making a deal that was a flight of fancy, not a necessity.

      When a target ourchase came up at a regional carmax, I made another pass at a third dealer. Armed with the buy offers for my trades, they came up with fair numbers pretty quickly.

      Bottom line: turned out to be a great way to strengthen my negotiating position and cut through the typical BS.

    • 0 avatar

      Me too, C. Alan. I’m a bit north of you in the great desert of OK, and wound up finding a used CRV a few years ago with no miles on it. Its always been an outdoor dog, and the windows are tinted and the (of course) light silver paint is really ugly. Steel wheels. But the interior is perfect and it runs like a champ, and the single previous owner installed remote-start. It’s tires don’t match, and the factory cassette “sound system” is in place, along with the factory picnic table. It gets 26 mpg at a moderate speed (I can’t believe that 70 feels that sketchy in a vehicle made after 2000 that isn’t a Wrangler). But it will not break, it’s cheap as can be to insure, and anything I do to upgrade it will lose money. When a Safe Auto client ran a red light and claimed innocence due to lack of witnesses at the scene, I gave in and paid to fix it out of loyalty.

      I go to the Leake auction every year just to torture myself, and last year the prices were ridiculously low on really good drivers. Gas Monkey Garage featured this on their show and confirmed my non-expert gut feeling that this would have been the year to buy a toy.

      As soon as the wife’s people-carrier is paid for, and the gutters and windows are replaced, and and and…but isn’t that always the case?

  • avatar

    In my book these are perfect enthusiasts cars, because they can be used every day and the cash they free up can be spent on something interesting. I’ve always driven 5-15 year old “normal” cars, but I’ve never been without a motorcycle and a 1960’s project car.

    That works well for me, although I have been told this makes me “not a real car guy” because I don’t walk the walk every day. The enthusiasts I see on my commute don’t seem any happier than me stuck in traffic with their enthusiast cars, but if that works well for them why not.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an ’04 Accent, along with an older motorcycle, and although the basic idea is sound, the Accent is just far too hateful to consider unless you just don’t care about cars at all, or have a ridiculously short commute. It’s uncomfortable, slow, loud, not that good on gas (I admittedly hammer on it to overcome the slowness), and loaded with cheap depressing plastic. Its only virtues are generally low running costs, and it’s reasonably practical with the hatch.

      Granted, I also spend 3-4 hours a day driving because of my job, and sort of resent it because I feel like, rationally, I’m stuck with it until it dies (which will take far too long), but my wife notices that I tend to come home in a much better mood on days I can take the bike (which, with how long this winter has been, I can’t start taking it again soon enough).

      So yeah, getting something that more reflects your daily use makes sense, but if you’re going to hang onto it for a decade, at least get something you’ll be okay with owning for a decade. I’m breaking after 2 years.

    • 0 avatar

      Motorcycle? 60’s project car? You’re a real car (bike) guy, don’t let anyone tell you different. There’s nothing wrong with a dead boring, pathetic, squeeze-the-nickle-until-the-buffalo-screams daily driver, as long as there is something else in the garage that speaks to the soul.

      Now the guys who will just read about neat cars, but never reach into their wallets and actually PAY for one? I believe that’s the crowd that deserves the disdain.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know that there’s any group that deserves disdain. There are a lot of folks who are interested in cars whose situation requires something practical, like most men with children living at home.

        • 0 avatar

          Practical covers a wide range of cars that are not boring. You might have to buy used to afford them though.

          I would rather walk than drive some beat up old hooptie Hyundai (assuming I can afford better) or Dog-forbid a Panther. I don’t CARE how cheap they are to run, life is too short.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got a boring daily driver (2011 Focus SE) in addition to some fun cars (modified 88 Thunderbird LX, Lincoln Mark VII) at home. Are the other cars more fun to drive? Yes. The lovely fact about owning a boring, new, reliable daily driver is that it doesn’t pressure me to constantly fix the fun cars. The Focus gets me where I need to go for a low cost. That saves money for the fun cars. Plus my Focus is just as fun as an “enthusiasts” car creeping along at 5 mph in rush hour traffic.

      • 0 avatar

        I would argue that in it’s class, the Focus IS one of the enthusiasts choices. It is certainly a whole heap more entertaining than a Corolla or an Accent. Personally, I would go for a
        Golf but the Focus is a great choice too. Mazda3 is right up there as well.

        • 0 avatar

          The Mark I Focus and the current one are quite entertaining to drive. The 2011 Focus that thunderjet has is a North America only car and is nothing special.

          A 2012 – current Focus would make a good daily driver for an enthusiast. The early ones were subject to a lot of cost cutting to start with and have for the most part been ignored by their owners and will be requiring a bit of maintenance to keep going.

  • avatar

    If you’re gonna leather swap that GrandMa, you gotta go right for the Town Car seats. They’re worth any extra effort.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe the Town Car rear seats may be slightly wider, so they won’t fit directly. I know the TCs have more rear seat room/longer floor pan, and the transmissions have longer tail shafts to compensate for that, so transmissions aren’t a direct swap unless you snag the shorter driveshaft to go with it. At least in the older boxes it was this way.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Yep, there are some variations between the models. I also don’t believe that the Crown Vic Sport seats is an easy fit in the Grand Marquis for some reason.

        The best formula is usually to order a well kept front seat version online, and get the rear seats at a junkyard. I have never known anyone who has removed the rears out of a MGM so I can’t say how much of a PITA that would be.

        • 0 avatar

          They made a Grand Marquis version of the Crown Vic sport in the same available years, the LSE model had the buckets and center console floor shifter.

          My dad sold new cars at a Lincoln/Mercury dealer and everything used for a little over 33 years, so I got to hang out at the dealership a lot, and even go on dealer trades with him.

      • 0 avatar

        ” I believe the Town Car rear seats may be slightly wider, so they won’t fit directly. I know the TCs have more rear seat room/longer floor pan, and the transmissions have longer tail shafts to compensate for that, so transmissions aren’t a direct swap unless you snag the shorter driveshaft to go with it. At least in the older boxes it was this way.”

        I helped a friend swap TC seats from a late ’90s TC into an early 2000s MGM with no such trouble. Definitely worth it over the straight MGM leather swap, the TC seats are much nicer.

    • 0 avatar

      If you’re going to bother with putting in leather in the MGM, just get a TC, or a leather MGM. It’s not like they aren’t everywhere, at many price ranges.

  • avatar

    The ’98-’02 Grand Marquis is probably the most fuel-efficient of all panther models ever, if you have the highway gears and traction control and a digital dash. They took away the instant fuel economy reading on the digital dash in the 2003 refresh, I believe. Keep an eye on the instant economy readout and you’ll train yourself to stop those jackrabbit starts and hard braking, trust me, you end up next to the same arseholes at the next traffic light. But as long as you maintain the vehicle well, you can easily get 18-20 mpg city and up to what I observed 32.5 mpg highway. This was in a ’99 with over 220k before the intake manifold started leaking in earnest. Even then, it kept going and getting 28.5 highway. If you set the cruise at 60 and stay in the right lane, you’ll notice all those people who are so desperate to pass you in their SUVs & minivans have to keep REpassing you as they repeatedly stop for food/fuel/bathrooms while you keep on cruising.

    My brother is looking at used mini vans and has me browsing craigslist, and when I look up the abysmal gas mileage ratings for those things ’96+ I can’t believe how bad they are. 18 combined! 20 highway?!? Around 2006 or so the Caravans finally started to eke out 24 miles per gallon on the highway. I can see why he needs it with 3 kids and two of them are now teenagers.

    But I can’t help thinking he’d be better served by a ’90 or a ’95 Lincoln Town Car. I have a ’90 and it gets 17/26.5 on winter gas. It has more rear seat leg room than the Grand Marquis. Parts and labour and tires and maintenance and insurance are all dirt cheap. And while not comparable to a mini van for cargo capacity, you can still fit many, many dead bodies in the trunk.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    That enthusiasts don’t follow their heart baffles me. Granted, I happen to be in a life situation that more easily allows it, so perhaps my viewpoint is skewed.
    I am always in the market for something, and the most recent “need” I have established is that when the weather is lousy but not snowy I need to have something to drive. This is under the guise of protecting the Subaru and keeping the miles down, the GTO doesn’t get driven in those circumstances, and the Land Ark… well that’s not even a consideration. Also, what happens if the Subaru is out of commission in those conditions? I’ll have nothing to drive. (Yes, I realize that is idiotic)
    I took a 2013 Civic on a test drive over the weekend. I had heard about a pretty killer deal on some at another lot and went to see about one in the color I wanted. I was thinking the Civic = reliable, excellent resale, and good on gas. Apparently 2 of those are true because the dash said the average MPG of the car I was driving was 18 – or identical to my GTO.
    What my point is, are people compromising with the car they buy and winding up not in a better situation anyway? Granted my example isn’t the best, I know test driving doesn’t equal real world driving, but it takes more than blindly showing up at the Toyota or Honda dealer to put yourself in a better position.

    • 0 avatar

      When you follow your heart, your wallet follows with you.

      With a 2nd Gen turbo RX-7 as my daily driver, I speak from experience.

      I’m getting the itch to buy a Prius.

  • avatar

    I can’t tell you how many older cars with higher miles I’d take over that HATEFUL, AWFUL ACCENT.

  • avatar

    I don’t know where I fall in the 1080 calculations, but I agree with the idea above about driving a beater while your fun is found elsewhere.

    I bought a 180k 2006 Accord 4cyl 5spd coupe out of a salvage yard for $2000 and spent less than a grand putting it back on the road (new windshield, headlights, and ECU…left all the body damage intact). 30 mpg and A/C, reliable as all hell, and reasonable to work on if need be. I rolled 200k last week, and the car does not care. Just enough insurance to cover the glass in a storm, and just enough maintenance to keep it running well. I’ve never bothered to even wash it.

    My car funds are tied up in race cars and motorcycles, I don’t need a daily driven race car that’ll just collect rock chips, door dings, and the attention of thieves.

    • 0 avatar

      If you have the space, having one car (or bike) just for fun, and another for practical things really is the way to go. Who needs to wear out expensive sticky tires and brake pads, and put up with all the comfort compromises of a performance car on your daily commute? Reliable, economical commuter pods can be bought relatively cheaply, as can be a car that’ll only see a few thousand miles a year of storming through curves, but buying a car which will competently do both is going to be pricy.

      • 0 avatar

        If you’re going to do that, might as well go all the way. For 10 years I used to drive a Ford Aerostar van, but on six weekends a year, I attached a trailer to it and used it to pull a Van Diemen Formula Ford to the racetrack.

  • avatar

    The fundamental problem for enthusiasts is the same for non- enthusiasts: lack of funds. I know car guys who ran through multiple sporty rides in their 20s, but when marriage, career, children, and mortgages became harsh realities in their 30s and 40s, the priorities changed and minivans and CUVs became the norm. As those enthusiasts aged into their 50s and 60s, you see an interesting split: Guys who try to recapture their youth (Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers); Guys who want to show off economic status (M3s, 911s, AMGs); Guys who want to drive stealthily but with an enthusiast bent (JCW Minis, GTIs, MX-5s); and finally those guys who just don’t care about cars anymore and continue on with their trucks and sensible sedans.

    The savvy enthusiast is the one with a comfortable daily driver and a fire-breathing dragon kept in the garage except for the occasional sunny afternoon drive through the countryside. What’s hard is being able to afford such a frivolity through the extra taxes, upkeep, and insurance required in having a second car (or even third, if your wife has one too) entails, particularly when the sporty ride is used so infrequently and provides diminished utility.

    • 0 avatar

      Lack of space, too.

    • 0 avatar

      Jolly good post, sir. There’s a decent magazine article or series in this idea.

      Personally, the cars of my youth sucked, and the drag strip has been conquered by liquid money and by geniuses (Google the guy who put a turbo F150 six into a Maverick and ran 11’s for pocket change, now that’s brilliance). I have no talent for welding or design, so Street Rods/Rat Rods, much as I love them, are out.

      So, I’m probably going to wind up in your category three. Some faithful little drop-top that I can teach myself to take corners in without having to scrape my knuckles off every weekend keeping it running.

  • avatar

    Exciting drive and affordable? I hate to be that guy, but this is another question that the Miata answers beautifully. As long as you’re talking about a work-commuter and not something to cart kids to little-league in or drive cross-country, it’s perfect: cheap to buy, cheap to run, and fun at pretty much all speeds. Like the Crown Vic/Grand Monkey, they tend to be owned by people who take care of them and don’t drive them much. There’s also an excellent parts aftermarket, both performance and otherwise, and ample information on how to repair them. They’re dead simple to work on, and as durable as about anything else built since the early 90s – 200k miles out of one isn’t an unreasonable expectation at all. Consumables are dirt-cheap, with the only expensive repair that you have to budget for being a replacement soft top after 10-15 years, and even that can be done for under $300.

    For people who care about appearances: non-car people can’t tell how old they are, and being a “sports car,” they assume it’s worth some decent coin.

    • 0 avatar

      A Miata may be in my future once the kids are out, but for now, my 2002 Protege5 5spd manual neatly fills the affordable/fun slot. They’re plentiful and mostly rust-free out here on the west coast, easy to work on, reliable, parts availability is excellent, and mine averages 28.5 MPG in mixed city/highway driving. Best of all, they handle spectacularly well for a little Japanese econobox and feel faster than they are, thanks to the pull that sets in at around 3,000 rpm.

      Sure, it’s noisy, a little harsh, and the gearing is short, but I have never once regretted buying mine for about $5,000 two years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      In a few years a used BRZ / FRS will be another excellent choice. And I’ll throw my Z in the same category if your wallet can handle it. A used Z that hasn’t been modded to death (rare) makes for a fun ride around the track or the town. I manage 24 MPG since my commute is 30/70% (city/highway). My second vehicle: a Dodge Dakota Quad Cab. Due to the Z being 10X more fun and getting better mileage its my daily driver. The combination of those two vehicles covers just about everything except long distance cruising. So that’s where the wife’s Volvo steps in.

      • 0 avatar

        > And I’ll throw my Z in the same category if your wallet can handle it.

        I’ve noticed FM’s in general tend to get rattley/crashy as they age, more so than their competitors. I’ve driven older G’s or FX’s and they start to feel like used domestics of a certain era instead of typical japanese near-lux (not even acura nevermind lexus).

        Not sure why that is or if the Z is immune but “solidity” that doesn’t age well makes me wonder about the rest of the car.

    • 0 avatar

      So I am looking at just that in a few years. Quick question, what is the years/ models to avoid and what years/models are considered better? If I could get a low millage, well treated Miata for under $10,000 that would be awesome.

      • 0 avatar

        There are no really *bad* years of Miatas. The early 90-93 have a smaller engine with less power and weaker rear end, but some people actually prefer its quick-revving nature. The ’99-’05 have stiffer bodies than the first generation with some nice upgrades, but there is a lot of parts commonality between the two generations. ’06 and up is the current generation and pretty much unrelated to the ’90-’05 cars, and probably can’t be had for your budget. $10k would buy a very nice ’99-’05 with less than 60k miles.

        Go to if you want to read up on what changed over the years (it’s an excellent resource), but in general they all have their positives and negatives, and there really aren’t any nightmare years to try to avoid.

  • avatar

    I love the ‘beater plus fun car’ idea and that’s where I want to go, unfortunately right now I have no spare parking space.

    Therefore it’s moderately priced, moderately enthusiast.

  • avatar

    My biggest regret was letting my ex talk me into buying a new 2000 Accord 4 cyl coupe (3 pedal) over a new 2000 Acura Integra. Not that it was a bad car or that I didn’t enjoy it plenty, but with hindsight, the extra $1k or so for the Integra would have netted far more pleasure.

    Now that we’ve consoldiate down to two cars and still have the deceased friends ’98 Integra GSR to deal with, the notion of keeping it as a beater fun ride pokes through my consciousness occasionally.

    • 0 avatar

      You would have enjoyed the Integra for about a week, after which it would have been stolen and stripped, and you would have been left with some car keys and an insufficient insurance payout.

  • avatar

    I am that enthusiast. I dream about a British racing green Lotus Elise, or a Dodge Challenger. My daily driver? A gray prius, with gray interior. Gray, gray gray… blah.

  • avatar

    Solara = grandma’s car. Smells like Charlie.

  • avatar

    > Does the performance car represent the best of what enthusiasts want these days? Or is there something else?

    The two main issues here are

    1. Not all enthusiasts are created the same. Some like loud fast cars, some like fixing them up, etc. It’s been so since the start.

    2. Desire ≠ means, and desire varies. 30-40k for an Evo is evidently a lot of money to many, or least more than a hobby is worth.

    3. People aren’t honest. They say they want the Evo to seem manly even if only to themselves, but they buy the car with cushy seats and soft-touch plastics.

    and by two I mean three

    • 0 avatar

      I personally never considered anything as hard edged (and expensive) as an Evo as a street car. It was more like, “do I get the 16 valve GTI or the 8 valve one” (a long time ago), and I got the 8 valve one. The 16 valve version made more power, but mostly above 4000 rpm.

      I had a friend who had a WRX STI, and I think I’d get tired something that was that firm after a while. I wouldn’t care to keep it in gasoline or tires either.

  • avatar

    We’ve gotten rather off topic here. Have we heard from anyone whose automotive enthusiasm manifests itself in the desire to buy cars cheaply and keep them running cheaply?

    I have a friend who does this, but in his case it’s derived from cheapness, not enthusiasm.

    • 0 avatar

      For that raggedy a$$ Hyundai Steve posted? No? For other cars that set your heart a flutter? Definitely. Being able to turn a wrench gives you more leeway in your purchase decisions. So if you want an FD RX7 you can but the one that needs a bit of TLC. Got your eye on a S2000 or RX8, same rules apply.

      But auto enthusiasm takes all forms. It wouldn’t surprise me if som people do geek out on acquiring cheap, running it cheap and hard, and putting it away wet.

  • avatar

    My strategy is keep one “cool” car around: 1967 Ford Mustang Convertible (289 V8) and then you can drive whatever fits your lifestyle and not feel so soul crushing inside. 4cyl Sonata? Sure I’ve always got the cool car to fall back on. Altima with CVT? Sure when the weather is nice and I don’t give a f&*% I’ve got the cool car to drive. Soul crushing CUV because your wife likes it? Sure… etc.

  • avatar

    That Accent is still junk, even with low miles. All the gaskets are dried out from sitting a lot for 12 years.

    Send it to ‘Pick n Pull’.

  • avatar

    damn that mgm is sweet. i think i can sell my 240 for that money.

  • avatar

    “How often do car people proclaim their automotive passions, and wind up buying an old boring car?”

    What? People talk smack on the internet? Say it isn’t so!

    But seriously, for those not talking smack it’s usually a question of space, resources, and the approval or lack thereof from some significant other. Yet for those stuck in the soul-crushing mid-sized sedan there is yet hope. For most of those cars upgrading the wheels, tires, struts, springs, sway bars, and the installation of a strut brace or two can go a long way towards turning such an automotive appliance into a good corner carver.

  • avatar

    I have always viewed the strident opinions of enthusiasts concerning others needs/wants with varying degrees of amusement and disgust. I wound up buying a Toyota 4runner because it would do the job I needed and I liked it. I wanted to buy an SUV because of a need for indoor storage space and work capability (towing). I also considered certain other vehicles because they fit some those needs. Overriding was a need for a second seat (dogs and grandchildren) and the capability to tow over a ton (whether it was rated for that or not). I also wanted the capability to pass at least a few gas stations. The CVT in our Nissan cube meant that our primary car just couldn’t cut it on a hobby farm. It’s fun to drive and most of the people who badmouth them probably haven’t driven them.

    I was looking for certain SUVs or four door pickups but there were three cars that my research said would do the job. They were the panther, a camry V6, or a prius. I would have sprung for any of them if the opportunity had presented first. The V6 camry appears to have the same or more towing capability compared to the panther. I couldn’t find a capacity for the prius but know the power train is very rugged. Had I bought the camry or prius I probably couldn’t have told about it on TTAC without facing ridicule. I probably wouldn’t have cared. I put a blower on a 66 beetle when I was much younger and had a batch of fun surprising enthusiasts in their V8s. Something tells me that the Panther or the Camry could have been just as much fun. It probably would never have happened though because of the bike sitting on my porch.

    I probably wouldn’t spring for this Hyundai either for purely pragmatic reasons. If I lived in town I think the 2080 advice is excellent. If you don’t have a garage get an indy mechanic and you are good to go.


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