By on August 12, 2020

This Question of the Day took form as your author drove into the hills, away from the city, in a fruitless search for awe-inspiring meteors. What a bust. And something sauntered past in the dark, too, so that wasn’t great for the ol’ nerves.

On the trip up to that spooky secluded roadway overlooking a fog-cloaked valley, yours truly got to thinking about the Toyobaru Twins and their low sales numbers, and the fact that a successor is nearly upon us. Who’ll buy such a vehicle in today’s hostile buying climate for small, sporty coupes? A few possibilities come to mind.

First, there’s the young, childless, unencumbered driver who puts fun before all else, and pegs the 86 or BRZ as their best bet for cheap-ish, non-Miata thrills.

Then there’s the established thirty-something that has a family and nearly everything he/she needs, but for whom the urge to cut loose a bit hasn’t died. Chances are available cash won’t be sufficient to fund a new buy, though. That leaves the buyer going through something of a midlife crisis. The kids have moved out (or are at least funding themselves somewhat), but a Corvette’s out of the question.

What type of driver will the marketing materials show? We wait.

But the trail of brain crumbs that brought us here is worth mining. Regardless of your current age or financial situation, put yourself in the shoes of that third driver. The comfortable, married, middle-aged middle-classer. The type courted by so many automakers. You’ve managed yourself well, there’s already a compact CUV and a full-size pickup in your driveway, and there’s still enough fiscal breathing room left over to add a non-extravagant amount of fun to your existence.

We’ll place a cap of $50,000 on this buying exercise. So no C8. Rather than risk it all on a steamy affair with someone half your age or a sudden foray into dangerous thrill-seeking, a car will be your chosen method of dousing that midlife crisis. What gets the buy? Keep in mind that the vehicle needn’t be new.

[Image: Ford]

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23 Comments on “QOTD: Cars to Calm a Crisis?...”

  • avatar

    I really enjoy spring, summer and fall drives in our Miata NB. They can be picked up in great condition for under 10 grand. Having no debt is always a nice feeling but with our country’s steady slide into socialism it becomes even more attractive.

  • avatar

    I think I would skip any hot street cars, with $50k I would get myself a SRF3 and a nice enclosed trailer. At just about any SCCA event I can expect several cars, and a battle with someone who is on my pace.

  • avatar

    The answer to everything automotive, Miata :)

  • avatar

    If it has to be one car, either a <10k mile GT350 or a 90s Viper GTS.

    If it has to be new, I'd try to find one of the last leftover C7s.

    In real life though, I'd probably spend $10k on the nicest classic car project convertible I could find and $40k on a Mustang or Camaro.

  • avatar

    Probably this.

    The ‘ZB’ Vipers and C6 Z06 have a special place in my heart. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to own one of them before they start to go too far up in price.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If not a restoration of a cool Italian car, or a 68-72 Ford, then maybe a used Model 3 Performance.

    I’m at a station in life where going up to the $50k limit might be possible, but not advisable. Spending that on an extra car would probably add to the anxiety this exercise is designed to calm.

  • avatar

    I don’t think I have enough free time to properly enjoy an older car (or should I say, properly maintain an older car). I would actually consider the BRZ / 86 twins. I’m not looking for something fast, just something comfortably engaging to drive. I’d also like something that offers a bit more room than the Miata. I do think I’m the target market for this car.

    If I had 50k in the budget I could get a BRZ and still have plenty of money leftover for multiple trips to the mountains with a car that would be fun on mountain roads.

    Of course I could just spend the full 50K on a Lotus Elise and learn to travel with less luggage. This one is listed with only 3,000 miles.

    So many decisions to make in a mid-life crisis…

  • avatar

    Three possibilities come to mind:

    1) First choice, if I could find one, would be a 1966 Malibu convertible – my first car. I did not have an SS model, so I would not be picky and require a 396 SS. Any Malibu would do.

    2) Second choice would be a VW Bug convertible. Yes, it’s not a Miata, but I’ve tried to comfortably get my 70 year old body into one, and it just doesn’t work anymore. The Bug is much more forgiving.

    3) If I eschew a convertible , a Jetta GLI would do me just fine. I’m still a four door sedan guy at heart, and would take that over a GTI.

    Still want the ’66 Malibu convertible, though.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW, this is it – same Aztec Bronze color, with white top. Minus the SS package.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Miata is probably the safest answer. However I would probably revert to the stereotype and get a Corvette. Corvettes used to be ‘cool’ (see Route 66 or The Right Stuff). Now they are in the conscious of most of the public associated with middle aged or older, Caucasian males. They are not driven by the trend setters. A used C5 or newer Corvette has therefore probably been a ‘garage queen’ for its entire life, treated to only the best fluids and waxes. Never seeing snow, salt or possibly even much rain.

    The more exciting choice would be to splurge on a 1950’s or 1960’s restored vehicle.

  • avatar

    If I had up to $50k to spend on a sports car in addition to my daily driver, I’d probably get a C6 Z06 (currently near the bottom of its depreciation curve at around $30k).

  • avatar

    If you want some money left over, any Miata is always the answer. If you want to spend to the edge, I’d consider a Mustang GT convertible.

    Regardless of choice, it’d make a beeline to the Hocking Hills (take a day off of work and make sure it’s a weekday when there is little traffic) and shred some tires and live a little.

  • avatar

    I’m more of a cruiser versus a canyon carver, so I’d buy the best 1977 Daimler Double Six Coupe (preferably in red with a black vinyl top) and love every minute of life.

  • avatar

    I already have a fun car as my only: ‘16 Challenger Scat Pack. I don’t need $50K to add something to my stable, but Id definitely get something capable of better handling the PNW winter rains, very occasional snow/ice and my outdoor adventures.

    The easiest answer is a truck Ive always wanted: a clean, well kept single cab, 4×4 2nd gen Ram 1500. For me it’s peak truck, with just a touch of modern tech and drivability but still timeless style and the all important live axles making it a good all around platform.

    I could go back to familiar territory and buy my 6th Jeep. Preferably a CJ-7 with a 304, or a clean TJ. Don’t want another YJ, and the newer JKs…meh.

    If the stars aligned perfectly, a Ramcharger/Trailduster with the removable roof. Absolute dream rig for me, having the best attributes of a Jeep and a fullsize truck.

    FWIW, Im 46 but also childless, unencumbered by kids or ex wives…only current and ex girlfriends. I scoff at midlife crisises…the most boring and sensible vehicle ive ever owned was still a bright red 2-door with a manual and biggest available motor.

  • avatar

    “Then there’s the established thirty-something that has a family and nearly everything he/she needs, but for whom the urge to cut loose a bit hasn’t died.”

    40 something actually and the kiddos are 2 and soon to be 6. But this vehicle would be my daily driver and my only requirement would be fun to drive and just enough of a vestigial backseat to pick up the kids from school. No rear facing car seats anymore thank god. You can handle lack of leg room for the 15 min it’s going to take to get from school to home.

    Supra and Miata are out due to the lack of back seat. Personally I have a list in my head and they’d all be less than $50K, I’d prefer they even be less than $40K before I start haggling.

    Mustang Ecoboost High Performance coupe with manual
    Challenger R/T with manual
    Reborn BRZ and GT86 if they add turbo to the redesign
    Veloster N with manual and the higher performance tune
    VW Jetta GLI manual Autobahn
    Camaro LT1 with manual
    2021 Mazda 3 2.5T AWD
    2021 Bronco 2-door with 2.3 and manual trans

    All I need in interior features is to make sure that there’s an adjustable lumbar and one of the better factory speaker setups.

  • avatar

    Trying to meet the criteria but most of my acquaintances did not have children until their mid to late 30s so with children supporting themselves we are looking at someone at least 60.

    And I guess we are looking at something of a performance car that doesn’t scream life crisis. Not necessarily a convertible.

    Anyway my first choice (like most) would be a clean used Miata if I want an affordable runabout.

    Pushing the $50K my choice would be the Kia Stinger GT1 with AWD. 365HP, 376 ft lb torque, 0-60 5 sec with decent handling and not bad looks. Certainly more car than I can handle.

  • avatar

    I thought about this very question when I turned 50 a few years ago. The end result was a 2016 BWW 228i xdrive – yes, it’s not a purist RWD version, but I live in MN and frankly I’ve coped with RWD in the snow (even with snow tires) and really didn’t want that burden. It’s fun, tight, fast (enough) and leaves just enough room for my spouse or an extra person or two. (The rear seat is a joke, but my dog fits back there, so…) No regrets – it’s my daily driver all year round and I grin every day I get in.

  • avatar

    Got two MR2s for a total of 20k. Most fun to drive cars out there besides the Miata.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I can’t get a used 911 out of my head .They drive so differently than any fun car i’ve owned or driven in the past, and they’re so well screwed together. While I’ve owned some fast crap wagons in the past, I really don’t want to anymore.
    I’d like a rumored 6mt Supra but I still prefer to take the kids to school. I probably won’t be serious for a couple of years when I actually am 50 , what a cliche’. By then the 86 replacement will be out. We’ll see.

  • avatar

    I’m leaning to an alternate universe car.

    So head north to Canada and pick up a full size Convertible Meteor or Monarch, the brands, not the models. Or maybe a Mercury Pickup.

    I’d also go for one of those US models who’s tooling was shipped south and they ran with it long after it had been discontinued in the US, but that they continued to update. So for example of of the Falcons that got the Aero headlights and wrap around tail lights along with the “Pinto” 2.3. The garden variety 2.3 of course would have to go in favor of one of the later US turbo versions.

    A ute from down under would also work, but I’d want one of the earlier ones that do share much of the design with the US version.

    Finally I’m not against something that is totally out of place in the US, a Cappuccino or maybe a Pajero Mini.

  • avatar

    Hmmm… 50k cap well that leaves the GT350 out of the running so I’ll go with an SS 1LE coupe. You get nearly the same performance (2019/2020 GT350s) just a less visceral experience.

  • avatar

    Well, I had two, but sold the longhood 911. Now I am stuck with the Cobra replica. If I had to buy another it would be a used Viper roadster as new as the $50k would get me. Or an airplane. Tri-pacers are inexpensive to operate and that money won’t get me the SUV of planes, a Cherokee 6/300.

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