By on May 14, 2019

Last night, as I drove to the spot where I run in the woods like a creepy person with something to hide, a silver Chevy Spark drove past. The owner of this sub-subcompact model, which has so far managed to avoid Mary Barra’s axe, had outfitted his pint-sized ride with fairly presentable aftermarket wheels. You know the ones: black spokes, chrome outer rim. Not obnoxiously oversized, either.

This driver was motoring with precision and purpose, making good use of his 98 horses. It got me thinking. Clearly, this was all the car the driver could afford (base Canadian MSRP: $9,995 before destination), but he wanted to make it special. Just a little bit better. He wanted to put a personal stamp on his econobox; make it something he could be proud of.

And you know what? That’s great. It made me a little nostalgic of my first car purchase, but it also got me me thinking about the car that didn’t make the cut.

Often, when buying your very first car, the slate of candidates dwindles down to just two entries, each teetering on either ends of the scale. Different pros and cons. Differing outputs, content, and perhaps purpose. With exceedingly sparse checking accounts bankrolling this purchase, only one candidate makes it home to the parents’ driveway.

In my case, I’ve sometimes wondered how my social life (and bank balance) would have fared had I gone with that other car. It wasn’t sexy, but it was cheap. And, unlike the half-rotten four-cylinder Mustangs prowling used car lots back in the day, it wasn’t penalized by overzealous insurers. The car wasn’t dissimilar from the choice I went with. Both were two-door hatchbacks, each with a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual. Both were anywhere but high on the automotive social ladder.

The car I passed over for a lemon in waiting was a Suzuki Swift GT from the glorious year of 1991, if memory serves me correctly. Boasting a second camshaft the Plymouth lacked and seven more horsepower, the 1.3-liter hatchback would probably have been a cheap, fuel-sipping, featherweight box that could have offered up a grin every now and then. Possibly. The thing is, Geo Metros were still a common sight at the time, and the Swift’s genetic connection to that piece of rolling abstinence earned it a second-place finish in this buyer’s race.

You’re probably well aware of the misery that awaited this writer in his gremlin-steeped Plymouth. At least it looked like it had a trunk.

Think back to your early years. What was your No. 2 choice when you parted with those first car-buying bucks? Do you regret not springing for it?

[Images: Ford, Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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73 Comments on “QOTD: The One You Passed Over?...”


  • avatar
    MartyToo

    For me it was a car my brother didn’t buy. In the early 80’s I was envious because he was shopping for a Camaro. But he thought the dealer didn’t give him a reasonable price and he never bought the car.

    I’ve owned fewer cars than he but never envied his rides. I wish I’d been able to that one time.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I had been given a perfectly good Chevy Impala 4-door by my parents as a first car, but who wants a lame 4-door? I wanted a convertible so bad that I traded that perfectly good Chevy Impala 4-door with it’s sweet 327 V8 engine on a Dodge Polara convertible. Biggest POS and one of my biggest automotive mistakes of my life. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about cars, Chryslers and being happy with the bird in the hand

  • avatar
    don1967

    In 1986 I passed over the new-for-Canada Hyundai Pony, in favour of a used 1980 Pontiac LeMans.

    The Pontiac turned out to be a parts-shedding money pit which repeatedly stranded me and once nearly killed me. As for whether or not I regret missing out on the Pony, it’s too close to call.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    My first car was paid for by my dad- he was sick of me putting miles on his Cordoba. So it came down to two cars: my choice was a ’68 Dart convertible with a 318, red with black interior, and in really nice shape being only 16 years old at the time. Instead, I got dad’s choice, a ’76 Mercury Bobcat.
    I love my late dad in a million ways, but this ain’t one of them. I still haven’t forgiven him.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Forgive him, I bought the Dodge convertible with the 318 V8 and regretted every minute of it (see my post above)

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      My dad bought me my first car, too, which could have been a 1984 Thunderbird Elan that (apart from harboring the dreadful Essex V6/AOD combo) was in pristine condition. Alas, Dad passed that one up as too expensive.

      Next up was a 1986 Chevy El Camino, which still carried some street cred in early-1990s Nebraska. Again, too expensive, plus my mother wasn’t keen on having my first car be equipped with a 307 V8 (anemic as it was.)

      Third time was the charm, such as it was. I ended up with a 1984 Plymouth Turismo.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        lol just as I was turning 16 years old my Dad was car shopping for the family. He was finally ready to move on from his 1982 Chevy Celebrity (which was over 10 years old and over 100,000 miles) and had located a fairly pristine 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham sedan at a body shop. Old lady had given up her keys after a scary but minor accident.

        He bought the Oldsmobile and tried to get the guy running the body shop to buy the Celebrity from him.

        “What will you give me for it?” Dad asked.

        “$600.” the man said.

        “I think I’ll just keep it then.” Dad said.

        After we had walked away Dad says to me: “Good for you he didn’t say $800 or you wouldn’t have had a car.”

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          My dad traded in a 1992 F-150 Custom (the trim, not “customized” unless you count the tweed seat cover or the crappy Jensen tape player) he bought new and was in fantastic shape for its ~150k, just after I got my license. The problem? Oh it had a rear main seal leak (that only left a noticeable spot if it wasnt moved for three days, and it barely needed oil added between changes), and the clutch was original at such a mileage was sure to need replacement at some point (the clutch was plenty strong, I drove the truck a lot during my permit days).

          It didnt even cover the taxes on the new 1998 Ranger he traded the F-150 in on.

          I would have been ecstatic just to buy it for what they gave him for it, but no, he might end up having to help me repair it one day (I guess? He never gave a reason, and only mentioned the 2 “issues” it had when I asked.

          So, instead I went through a string of absolute junk during high school, and putting many abusive* miles on my mom’s 1997 Mercury Sable when they were not drivable.

          *call it teen rebellion, or vengeance for not getting the F-150, but I put that Sable through hell. The first set of tires (granted, they were crappy Ameri* General factory tires) were bald in no time. Front and back, as I performed Jim Rockford-like moves by stabbing the parking brake and/or reverse-to-drive burnouts.

  • avatar
    TR4

    My choice was a 1960 SAAB, not running and 300 miles away for $50 vs. my folks’ 1966 Dodge Polara as a gift. I went with the SAAB, no regrets.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    This sort of reverses the question. In 2006 I had purchased a brand new Scion tC. I had to order it and wait a month to get the one I wanted (manual transmission in dark gray). It was a good econocoupe. 165HP 2AZ-FE motor, comfortable seats that didn’t hurt my back for long trips. Three months later, I made the mistake of taking a friend’s 2004 RX-8 for a joy ride.

    Fortunately, there was still a shortage of tC’s in the US and Scion’s no-haggle pricing meant that lightly used models were selling for more than MSRP in my area (very briefly). After 3 months and 1500 miles, I traded it in for my own new RX-8 and got what I paid for it (less title/registration/etc).

    The RX-8 has been trying to bankrupt me since. I wonder how much more money I’d have in my retirement account if I hadn’t done that…

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    In ’78 I was about to buy a ’71 MG Midget (3rd car purchase though, replacing a ’64 Olds that I could no long afford to feed, which I had traded a too-slow ’61 Scout for) when my parents offered me their 35,000 mile VW for not much more money. And some pressure not to go with the MG. At the time I caved to parental pressure and regreted not buying the Midget. In retrospect, the VW lasted until ’85 and was fairly reliable, and could carry 4 people plus instruments – neither of which the Midget would have done. But it would have been more fun…..

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      If that Midget was anything like the ’71 my sister bought new it would have given you plenty of room for 4 people plus instruments on a weekly basis…riding on the deck of the rollback sitting next to it on the way to the repair shop.

  • avatar

    I was quite focused when I bought my first car (as opposed to the car my dad had supplied my brother and myself-a 67 Plymouth Sport Fury). I was looking for a Charger from the early 70’s at that time. A friend had one which I had ridden in and liked. Another guy I knew had one that I liked the looks of – a 73 in metallic blue. A close friend had a 66 which I really liked, but I knew would be hard to find locally. I found a 72 in gold with white vinyl top. Didn’t much care for the top, but the car in total – and the cost used – drove my decision. I truthfully can’t think of another car I even considered. There’s an outside possibility that a 68/9 GTO might have entered the equation, but, honestly, Charger was the solitary top of mind.

    Like the motorist Steph mentioned, I did a few small things to make the car my own. Rainbow tape was a big thing in 75/6 and I liked the look of other cars I’d seen with a pinstripe of that stuff along the upper body curves excited by street lights at night. Then my model making “put just one more decal from the sheet on it” alter ego wimp decided to do a bit more. Got a large sheet of the stuff and made a modest stylized “flame” which surrounded the front amber side marker lights. I also drafted and cut out a Charger “block style” logo – a version of which Chrysler later used for the model – and placed it on the left hand side of the trunk lid. Enjoyed driving the car and kept it up until 285k+ miles at which time I was told I had no compression in one cylinder. Instead of an overhaul, I chose to purchase another Charger – an 84 this time which I also enjoyed driving.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Not directly on point, but my biggest “did not buy it” regret is not buying a BMW 1M when I had the chance, before the ridiculous jump in pricing, even if it was probably too small for me, in a practical sense, as a daily driver.

    I had the opportunity to buy one new for just a bit under the window sticker, as I stated, before the masses realized how good they were (there was a common misperception it could not be a great vehicle or great BMW because it was cobbled together of a random assortment of BMW last gen parts), and I passed.

    Now that most BMWs are ebbing ever closer to Buicks of yore, and that more still are Cars On Stilts AWD CUVs to appease the sheeple buying mindset of our time, it was a very painful pass in retrospect.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      I’m a bit younger but have the same memory vis-a-vis a new M Coupe back in about 2000, which I passed over due to the lack of a back seat. To this day I catch myself comparing my current ride to that beautiful ugly thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      So that explains it, you went with the shiny Coupe DeVille instead of the BMW. Big mistake ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Along those lines, DW, I know a retired trust officer who claims (perhaps immodestly but also truthfully) the only serious error he made in his 30-plus-year career was dissuading a beneficiary from dipping into the principal in order to buy a then-new Shelby GT 350. When I told him, “You’re assuming she would have taken good care of it and later sold it for a profit. She probably wouldn’t have,” he felt better.

      Spoiled trust fund kid or not, God bless a woman in 1965 who wanted to buy a Shelby GT 350.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll answer this as it relates to my first “new car” purchase.

    Back in 2009, around the time it was announced that Pontiac was dead, I went out to buy a G8 GT. They were getting thin on the ground at this point but the local dealer had one left. Got pre-approved, test drove it, really liked it, asked the sales guy to get a price but said I needed to sleep on it. Sales guy called me later that day with a number (decent discount but nothing amazing- things would have required some more negotiation). But, when I ran the numbers for myself, I just couldn’t justify such a big purchase. I was only making a little over $40K at the time, still had student loans to pay, and the entire financial world was melted down. So I passed on it and stuck with my trusty super low-priced 3800 things.

    In 2014 I actually did buy a new car (Charger R/T). A good condition G8 GT was only like $2K less than the new Dodge and a new SS Sedan was like $15K more (the SS had just come out) so I skipped GM again.

    Then in 2018 when I got the Stinger, the SS had been out of production and sold-off for 6 months. So in the end, I never bought a Zeta sedan.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I looked at a Corvair Corsa convertible (needed a new top), an early BMW 2002 (looked and drove great but was a priced higher than I wanted to spend), and a BMW Bavaria that was dirt cheap but needed some mechanical work, but would still be cheaper than the Corsa or 2002 even after repairs. I went with the Bavaria and was rewarded with a very reliable and fun car that served me well for 6 years. I saw the 2002 a year or two after I looked at it and it was bubbling all over from rust, which made me very happy that I hadn’t chosen it.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    It wasn’t my first or second car purchase that his story applies to.. it was my third. Where I was making enough money to even entertain the idea of having a choice.
    The car I passed on was a new 1989 Celica GT. The mid-line trim. I thought the payments would be a little to dear to me. So my final decision was a new 1989 Pontiac Grand Am. Cost a little less in the beginning…well, you can guess how the rest of the story goes.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Used car shopping in late 2001 early 2002 after my 1987 Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan V8 – eQudraJet was stolen in Southfield, MI and found stripped in an alley in Detroit.

    Did lots of looking around for used cars after I got the insurance check. I ended up with a very low mileage (21,000) 1997 Escort wagon, fairly loaded (power windows, power seats, up-level stereo but minus cruise control) for $7K but I passed on a late 90s Bonneville SSE in green with mouse fur grey interior and about 60,000 miles that was about $8K before the negotiation started.

    I wonder about the Bonneville.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Wait, your Cutlass was the *sedan* bodystyle? And someone still bothered to steal it?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        So I had lived in the Detroit Metro Area about 2 years at that point but if we rewind to my first few weeks there I was starting as a teacher at my new charter school job.

        I drive up the first day of contract and park my car. Standing there is our security officer, a retired Detroit motorcycle cop (crooked as the day is long but that’s another story.)

        Retired officer takes one look at my car: “V8?”

        “Yeah.”

        “Posi-trac?”

        “Yeah.”

        “That’s a drug-running car right there.”

        Between that day and the theft I got pulled over in Detroit proper a few times in that car, usually when wearing a baseball hat pulled down low. I swear every time the officers was disappointed to find a nerdy white guy behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    One of my older friends had Swift GT, it was his first car out of college. Made cool turbo sounds, and had functional ram air hood. Pretty cool.

    I was fortunate in that , after only a few months I was glad I didn’t get the 1st car I wanted. It was an 87 (iirc) Grand AM GT , monochromatic white with white alloys over grey velour. Auto trans. , in a shady used car lot surrounded by body shops.I’m sure it was a salavage title when Carfax was just idea in a brain somewhre in Norcal at the time.
    It was too pricy, so I happened on a 2 owner 84 GTI . The manual transmission hand crank sunroof and OEM center console gauge and low profile 14 inch wheel tire combo made it irresistable. What a great car.

    The one that really got away was the mint OEM 91 MR2 turbo that I passed on for the 92 Mustang LX I’ve written about before. It just wasn’t the car I wanted when I was 17.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Well, my first new car purchase was in 1985, and it was a Honda Civic 1500S – one of the best compacts of the entire decade (heck, it could be one of the best small cars ever made). The other “contenders” were a Corolla, a Sentra, a Mitsubishi Colt, a Golf, and an Escort.

    Definitely no regrets.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Wait, what ? .

    Buy a _new_ car ? .

    I thought that was for rich people only .

    Instead I bought a house and kept driving my jalopy .

    The only car pops ever gave me was 1968 Saab two door with a siezed two stroke engine, it needed about $800 worth of parts and only _after_ I’d gone and towed it home d1id he drop the bomb that I’d have to _SHARE_IT_ with my then unreliable alcoholic older sister ~ I abandoned it in his garage until he left the state and she got married then I junked it .

    I envy those who’s parents gave them cars or trucks .

    I gave my son a Motocycle when he was in the 9th grade, a teaching tool that served him very well .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I had the choice of a little car or a big GT car. I wished I would have taken the little car as is was a mid-70s BMW 2002. In 1987 I had no idea what it was.

  • avatar
    volvo

    1969 First new car with my own money.

    I shopped very carefully.

    I wanted something that was fun in the twisties and narrowed my choices down to Lotus elan, BMW 2002, Saab Sonett or Datsun 2000. The Elan cost ($5K) about twice as much as the others.

    I went with the BMW sedan but still look wistfully when I see an Elan.

  • avatar
    Mnemic

    93 Talon turbo AWD POS (in 2002) that always had something breaking or broken on it. I should have dumped that thing 2 weeks after I got it and went with something more reliable, would have saved me a ton of money, grief and stress over the years I daily drove that piece of trash.

  • avatar
    Oreguy

    I passed on a 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel in my early high school years. Full disclosure: I lost my summer job the same day I was supposed to sign the loan paperwork, so naturally I got cold feet. I don’t think I regret that decision.

    I recovered employment-wise and opted to buy a 1981 Dodge Omni 024 (the forgettable long-nosed sportier version). I drove that Dodge hard for about 5-6 years. The only thing it demanded in return was a new clutch.

    Every year.

  • avatar
    dwford

    In 1994 it was time for me to buy my first “real” new car. I had bought a new 1989 Plymouth Colt stripper base model (vinyl interior, 4 speed stick, no radio) for college, but now I had a real job and wanted a real car. I test drove the Mazda MX-3 GS and the Ford Probe GT, but in the end I bought an Acura Integra GS-R. It was definitely the right choice.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Passed over a new 93 SE-R in the name of a used Altima. Idiot

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My first car was handed down to me after my older sister trashed it, and I traded it in to my mechanic who had a used car lot. He talked me into a 1963 Buick LeSabre that got 9 mpg with a 2-speed auto and 401 V8.

    He had a cheaper car, a 1962 2-door Rambler American club sedan, a square little brick with a 125 HP straight six and 3-speed “Flash-O-Matic” (Borg Warner) transmission. It was ugly, but lightweight and nimble in traffic.

    I nearly went broke filling the tank on the Buick, when I could have gotten 25 mpg in the Rambler and had money in my pocket. The Buick was fast, but the Rambler was more appropriate for a starving college student. Plus the seats could be made into a bed.

  • avatar
    285exp

    My dad generously offered to pay half for my first car, up to $3500 total. One of his best friends was a Mopar dealer, so I could have anything as long as it was a Dodge/Plymouth/Chrysler. The first thing he brought home for me to check out was a mold green 72 Dodge Dart with a 318, slushbox, and mold green interior. There was no possible way I was going back to college driving that thing. The Plymouth Arrow had just come out, so the base model with a 1600cc engine, 4 speed transmission, and no ac was just within the budget. Never regretted passing on the Dart.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    On the first car purchase where I had any input, I decided I wanted a Ford MN12 car. I got the idea from a maroon ’94 Cougar XR7 V8 that was in my hometown’s Ford dealer’s used lot, but we passed on that one and went with a red ’96 Thunderbird LX V8 from the next town over with only 6,000 miles; it’d been a demonstrator driven by the dealership owner’s wife and never sold, so the 3/36 warranty’s time duration started the day we bought it, making it the better choice.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My first car was the Land Ark, but that wasn’t the first car I bought. That honor went to the 1986 Nissan Sentra I bought as my first second-car. But before I bought that in 1994 my mom and I approached a car-guy friend and asked what I should get. He said he had the perfect candidate. And keep in mind this was basically a car I planned to only drive on rainy days and through the winter so I didn’t have to worry about my restored 1967 Impala getting messed up.
    His suggestion was to buy a freshly (though mildly) restored 1966 Chevelle. It was sharp. It had fake knockoff Corvette style wheels, it was freshly repainted butternut yellow with a new vinyl top and reupholstered interior. He wanted $4,000 which was about double what I wanted to spend on something. But I loved it instantly and took it for an extended test drive and brought it home to completely look it over. And why was it so cheap? No one wanted to buy it because the guy who restored it left the 6 in it instead of dropping in a V8. That was perfectly fine by me, and still would be to this day.
    Ultimately I passed on it because 1. it had no power steering which was certainly not a deal breaker in itself 2. the all new exhaust scraped when pulling into the driveway at home and the biggest factor was 3. it did not put me in a better position than I was already in. It was too nice to drive in winter so I wouldn’t have. I’d have had 2 cars out of commission all winter and I’d wind up needing a third car.

    It was 100% the right decision to get the Sentra instead which I am still proud of myself for making, but boy looking back, I certainly wish I had that Chevelle today.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Not too long ago, there was a mint E34 5 Series, manual transmission, 2.5-liter I6, and a whole book of maintenance records. It was only a few hours away, in Dallas. The seller’s asking price was something like $1,500.

    I wish I had taken a look.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      E34 – peak 5 series in my book. Wish BMW would build them exactly the same today except with the substitution of the current turbo 4 or 6 and 8 speed automatic. Amazing that today’s turbo 4 has almost the same HP and more torque than the old E34 540i, which was considered a rocketship at the time.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    My first car was a 93 Accord. It was between that and a G20t and the G20t lost. In retrospect I was thankful- I learned how to wrench on that Accord and made a lot of friends through its huge community. I also got to avoid another awful Nissan manual transmission and bask in the glory of Honda shifters.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    I almost had an affair behind Ma Mopar’s back. I came across a 1-owner ‘06 Mustang back in ‘07. I was smitten with that generation’s retro look and at the time the Challenger hadn’t been greenlit for production. This stang was IMMACULATE…had less than 10K, was EXACTLY as I would have ordered it new (GT, manual, Bullit wheels, Vista Blue/black leather) and the private owner had it priced $3K cheaper than anything else comparable. He was interested in my Wrangler, we struck some agreeable numbers…just had to make sure State Farm wouldn’t kebab me on my premiums. Once I confirmed that it wasn’t financial suicide, I called the guy up…SOLD! Ah well…not long afterwards the Challenger was announced so I had my eye on a new prize…

    Cut to a few years and a few cars later and I’m seriously considering finally scratching that Challenger itch. I come across a low mileage solid white R/T manual with a pretty reasonable price at a dealership. It looks great, drives great…previous owner even had custom “KOWALSKI” plates…hell yeah! After a test drive Im loving the car, we lightly banter some numbers that start making sense…wait, what’s up with that rear fender? It’s got the slightest kink that also has the rear bumper sitting just BARELY askew. Whoa. Better get that fixed or I don’t want to know anything. He gives some mealy mouthed excuses about manufacturing defects but I’ve already checked out. Ah well…and I was already deadset on calling my new ride Super Soul…

    I had the last laugh though, as Im coming up on 3 years with my ‘09 R/T which is pretty much the equivalent of that Mustang, being a Deep Water Blue 6spd with black leather interior and coke bottle mags…

  • avatar
    Kerfuffle

    For commuting to college, my parents recommended that I buy a brand new 1974 Toyota Corolla with the money I had earned from working in a grocery store. I regret not taking their advice. I bought a series of used cars instead, to save money. The new Corolla would have cost me a fraction of what I spent on those used cars and their (numerous) repairs.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I had a limited budget as a 17 year old working at Walmart. My first choice was anything other than what I got, a 1993 Aerostar. It was my first car sho it’ll always hold a special spot in my automotive history. Got it on the cheap, $700, from a friend’s dad who was a hobbyist and fixed up old cars to flip them. Most of the time people unloaded them because they thought something was catastrophically wrong, but he was better at diagnosing issues. This one needed a small thing done, but I can’t recall what.

    My preference was always a 91-97 Crown Victoria, the first of the rounded ones. Never did find one I could get with my funds.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Yes- last week.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Sorry, I’ll elaborate.

      The Taurus has finally gotten to the point to where I can no longer defer all the maintenance it’s been needing. Mostly stuff like coolant hoses, a water pump failure, the timing cover gasket leak getting a little worse. I could still drive it, but I’m going to be commuting 70 miles each way for the next month or so. And I start Thursday.

      So I had to have the water pump replaced at a shop, while there, I ordered all the hoses and pipes and so on online. I already have a new brake master cylinder and booster, pads/rotors, and some other things.

      This was the end of last week. I was told I gotta be there the 16th, and the Taurus wont be ready by then. I called about a 2003 Element 5spd AWD within budget. The owner gave me the run-down and it seemed ideal. Then he got an offer and asked me should he take it. Since it was going to be two or three days before I got there, he decided to take it.

      Now I cant find much of anything worth a crap within budget. The GMC wont be ready any time soon, and I’m thinking if I buy a cheap car now, I can sell the GMC, combine that with my savings, and buy me a 2004+ F-150 XL SuperCab or crew with reasonable miles for strictly a work truck then, and so the cheap car is to drive in the mean time. I’d like a 2010+, which may be possible. I’m thinking like 140k miles. Cosmetically unimportant, only mechanical condition really matters.

      So, I dearly regret not asking the seller of the Element to hold it for me. I’m sure he would have, and it would have been ideal for the job of a work vehicle. It was decent but not too nice, had maintenance receipts and an honest owner who had it for a long time, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Too bad you missed out on it. I’m not sure of your budget, but I can think of a few cars that might work for you, especially if you drive manual, but even if not.

        – Nissan Versa 2007-2012 hatchback
        – Toyota Yaris hatchback
        – Mazda2 hatchback
        – Ford Fiesta

        Pretty good mileage on all these, all decent to drive if well kept up, and some decent ones should be available below $5000.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          I appreciate that, and yes the thought of a cheap car occurred to me. There are two reason why there are only a couple of cars on my list.

          One is the rough conditions it has to be driven in. Yes, I did it with the Taurus, and regretted every minute of it. The idea behind buying the Sonoma was to replace the car as my work vehicle. Various reasons why that didnt turn out, but suffice it to say that it is not running and needs a lot of the stuff I’ve hired someone to do. It was supposed to be ready a while ago. (No, I haven’t paid him yet, haha, but still annoying.)

          Another is my back. I am lucky, blessed, whatever you call it to be able to do my job with my back issues. Driving a Nissan Versa (a particularly harsh offender), a single cab Ranger or similar is not possible, per previous experience, as there is no way I’d be able to make that commute and work 7 days a week/12 hours a day. A Versa killed my back after a short drive to town from her country home in Washington state. It was maybe 25 minutes.. of hell. I know to some people it isnt that bad, but with my particular issues, it just doesnt work.

          Even still, I looked at cars that I figured I could make work. One is a 2000 Grand Prix for 45% of max budget. Got 200k, not much info and the ad is fairly old, however I know it to be comfortable, decent to drive, etc. I just dont know about the miles, still it is cheap.

          I found a 2011 Fiesta, but dismissed it due to the PowerSh¡t trans, and again, the long-term comfort of a subcompact sedan. A manual and I would have looked at it at least, since I have no experience in the seats (the current Focus is tolerable). I found 0 Fits, Mazda2s, or Toyota Yaris’. There was, I think, a single Mirage. Perhaps the only car *more* uncomfortable than the Versa? I dont know. I dont want to know.

          Note: as you have surmised, I can drive a manual, and for a time I can do it without issue. But, before long, it’ll become a problem with my back. Its mostly open highway, as are a lot of these plants, so it would do until I got the Taurus back to health and felt comfortable with taking it. I could then switch between it and the manual car, as needed. I would rather find a *nice* manual car for enjoyable driving…but not to work. This could include a mint 90s Honda or something. But, none out there and none I want to subject to this job.

          That’s why the idea of a newer Super cab F-150 would be ideal. It’s big enough for plenty of seat adjustments (could even swap in some seats from a more expensive model for added comfort), its durable enough, and with anything-but-the-Essex-V-6 under the hood, its reliable enough and cheap enough to fix.

          I’m well aware of their common issues, but I see them still running and serving with 300k+ on them. A replacement engine or transmission is a not difficult to locate due to their popularity, and it isnt too bad on labor. A base XL with rubber floors, automatic, cruise and more than a single cab is all I need. And I could use it outside work for my hobbies.

          If I can continue to work like I am doing, I’m prepared to be in a position to finance a brand new vehicle in a few years. I had considered a new version of a base F-150, but now there is this Ranger, and soon, something called a Bronco (?) Lol

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Well, it didn’t get away for long. Just bought a 2005 Honda Element 4wd 5spd with 20k less miles

      • 0 avatar
        TotalNonStopCars

        Good buy. Dont forget to treat it to some Solution Finish. I’m sure those plastic panels are pretty grey by now.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Yes they are, and thanks! It’s not perfect, but for the price I paid for it, it’ll be a great work car.

          I was about 98% ready to talk to the bank about putting $3k down and see what they’d lend me on a new/newish F-150 XL. I would have loved it, but putting those payments towards savings or other goals in life feels pretty right, lol.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Just ordered Solution Finish, thanks for the suggestion.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Haha, nice! That worked itself out very quickly!

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Yes and not a moment too soon. Got called into work early, so I drove straight from the dealership to the plant, haha. I’ll be on nights supposedly for the next 25-30 days, 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, so no time to shop around and deal with refurbishing something. I guess I’ll really get to know the Honda driving it 70 miles (each way) to and from work every day, haha.

          Thanks again for your advice.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    In the mid 80’s the 70 Mustang coupe that had been driving since 78 was reaching the 200k mark and getting a bit worn.
    I was looking for a replacement and searched out a few vehicles. A neighbor had a Datsun 2000 roadster for $500. It had some rot but ran and had a hardtop plus a bunch of spares including carbs.
    I passed on it and went for a loaded 74 Cougar XR7 with the 351 and Magnum 500 wheels for $600 because of the comfort and room plus personal luxury was still very much in vogue. Still to this day I think hummm roadster.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Yes body rust was what took most of the Datsun 510s and 2000s off the road. Amazing affordable cars at the time. the 510 could certainly run with the 2002. I don’t know why Datsun dropped out of that segment. There was no major competition for the BMW 2 and 3 series after the early 70s.

    Really see them in the southwest and california now. Clean 510 is very desirable.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I’ve had the pleasure of driving an early 510 a buddy had. Even though it was “well used”, it was a blast to drive and even Ray Charles could see the potential it had.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Apparently when my mother-in-law and father-in-law got shacked up (late 70s) and started having kids (they didn’t get married until the early 80s) the “family car” was late build 510 wagon that he taught her to drive stick on.

        That carried them through the first 2 kids and then got a new Celebrity wagon when baby number 3 arrived.

        They still have no idea what they had owning a “510” – it was just a cheap used car.

  • avatar

    In 2001, I passed over several early Nineties Accords for the Audi 5000. All of them had wheel arch rust at the time, and while they would’ve been more reliable, the rust offended my visual sensibilities. And my dad told me not to buy a car that was already rusting.

    I couldn’t find what I wanted in budget, which was a 90-91 Camry LE V6.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Friends of my parents had a 510 wagon. This was during the era of buying the inexpensive fuel efficient Japanese car became vogue. I admired it but thought it doesn’t have the independent rear suspension like the sedans that would be prepped for Lime Rock.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I once looked at an (stock?) orange-yellowish 510 wagon, early 70s, 4 speed. Anyway, I never got a chance, it sold quickly. I’m not much of a wagon guy, but it looked right. I had no racing or rally intentions, just a neat old car to enjoy.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    In 2001, I bought my first new car. A 2001 Ford Focus, my #2 was a 2001 Ford ZX2. The Focus was the practical choice but the ZX2 was far more desirable in my eyes. I chose the Focus because I believed it would serve my needs better in the long run. I was wrong.

    18 years later I can honestly look back and know that I made the wrong choice. My conclusion is simple. When I first bought the Focus, I still looked longingly at the ZX2. That lasted the entire ownership of the Focus. The one that got away…

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    2nd gen Eclipse. Very close to getting it, and I’d probably be so frustrated with the reliability that I’d just drive a corolla for life afterward. So glad I didn’t get it.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    The photo at the start is appropriate; my choice can down to a 1995 Ford Contour LX or a Acura Integra LS sedan of the same year. I chose… badly. Mine was a Ford family and buying the Acura would be scandalous. I was sucked in by the Car rags of the day raving of the Ford’s Euro pedigree. It was a tan four door with a five speed manual. I skimped on the aluminum wheels and CD player. The car lasted 250,000 miles but to this day I feel the pains of regret when I see one of the Integras still on the road.

  • avatar
    loguesmith

    Mine was not so much the “one that got away”, but the “one I got”. I’ll let you judge how it all went down.

    The year was 1985. I was in my final semester of college, and I totaled my ’79 Pontiac Sunbird. I got $2000 from the insurance company.

    What to do?

    I found a new car that ticked all my boxes. Economical, practical, new car warranty. I negotiated a deal for the $2000 up front and $150/mo, with the first payment deferred 90 days so I would hopefully have a steady income after graduation.

    Ran the plan past my folks, and they shot it down, as I didn’t yet have a job lined up. They suggested I pick up something cheap with the insurance money, then if/when I got work, I could get a new or newer car at that point.

    I followed their advice, ended up moving back to my hometown with a new job, and bought a year old car with 17,000 miles on it.

    The “one that got away”? New Ford Escort Diesel
    The “one I got”? Year old Honda Accord LX

    I think I dodged a bullet with that one.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    First car was a Renault Clio (successor to LeCar) that my uncle found ridiculously cheap. Lasted 6 months before stalling and getting rear ended by a 5 series.

    Second car then had to happen. I looked at a Peugeot 405 diesel but was unused to the diesel characteristics and thought it idled rough. Passed it over for a Ford Orion that was a complete lemon that I ended up scrapping.
    I then replaced that horrible Ford with a Citroen that had the same engine as the Peugeot I should’ve bought, it was reliable and economical (50+mpg) and lasted me for years, from my student days through my 1st and 2nd full time jobs.


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