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Car Corner
My Next Car, or in other words... My Classic Car Wish List

June 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

There have been a number of changes to the automotive scene since the last time I discussed what car I want to get. Recall that I described the possible new cars I wanted back in November 1999. I listed the Camaro Z-28 SS, Mustang Cobra, Audi TT, BMW 3-Series, and the Corvette. All convertibles, of course. In case I didn't end up with a convertible I also mentioned the Ford Lightning and Chevrolet Silverado SS pickups.

I followed this up in September 2000 changing the list to a more practical list of cars that were soon to be released. That short list included the 2002 Camaro Z-28, the Chrysler 300 Hemi C, and the Chevrolet SSR. The Hemi C and SSR were concept cars that were given the green light to go into production. The SSR is a pickup with a retractable hard top, while the Hemi C is a convertible. In that article I introduced the idea of getting a classic car instead of a new car. I picked a 69 Camaro or 68-72 Corvette to carry the classic car banner, both convertibles of course.

That brings us to today. I have learned a few more tidbits about the upcoming cars, and did a little soul searching to see what other possibilities exist. Let's see what we have. I will start this month's tales with the new cars then move onto what I am going to call my Classic Car Wish List.

Chrysler 300 Hemi C Convertible

Chrysler cancelled the 300 Hemi C. This is my biggest disappointment. I really thought this would be the perfect car. A four passenger, V-8, rear wheel drive, luxury oriented convertible. Even at a steep (for me) $40K price it seemed like I should start saving my money.

Unfortunately the Daimler people are determined to destroy Chrysler. They have been reluctant to expand production on the PT Cruiser, the hottest selling car right now, and they have cancelled all the variations except possibly the GT Cruiser with a turbo charged 200 hp version of its Neon 4 cylinder engine. There was a convertible version at the New York Auto Show in April, so maybe they are getting the hint... the PT Cruiser is hot, and they need to exploit it.

But why would Daimler need to cut the Hemi C and its four door counterpart, the Dodge Charger. Daimler (Mercedes that is) and BMW don't have any front wheel drive cars. Clearly they know something. But Daimler put the brakes on Chrysler's chance to re-enter the rear wheel drive car market with two exciting cars. The Hemi C was probably too good, and Daimler was worried it would take away sales from its own convertibles. A wrong assumption indeed.  With the cancellation of the Hemi C I have to look toward the new Lexus SC430 (Car and Driver nicknamed this Sexy Lexy... and I am sticking to that description myself). It is a four passenger V-8 car with a retractable hard top. Too bad it costs around $60,000. I definitely cannot afford that.

2002 Camaro

The latest rumor on the Camaro is that it will definitely see its final year of production in 2002. The previous rumors of a 2003 or 2004 model seemed to have been squashed. Also, sales in the first three months of 2001 for the Camaro were a dismal 8,000. For comparison, the Mustang sold 40,000 units in the same time period. Would you invest millions in a car with such poor sales?

I have heard a rumor that the 2002 Corvette will have its horsepower increased to 405 based on the LS6 engine. Apparently the 385 horsepower was a stepping stone to get to 405. This reaffirms my previously stated rumor that the 2002 Camaro will get a 385 horsepower LS6. They have never let the Camaro have the same power as the Vette.

Lately I have been wondering if I should get the final Camaro. It makes a lot of sense. I could trade in my 93 Camaro for a 02 convertible model. I put only 4-5K miles a year on a car, and it would be garage kept. I could have a daily driver collector car. At 385 hp, it would be 110 hp more than I have now. That would be cool.

But at what price. I would guess that a Z-28 Convertible would cost at least $30,000, even more for a SS model. Who knows what they would charge for a special edition with an LS6. I could easily match that horsepower by bolting on a Vortech or Paxton supercharger to my 93 Camaro for a few thousand dollars. Do I really want to spend over $30,000 for the same car I already have (and only paid $20,000 for)?

For $30,000 I should be able to buy a mint 1969 Camaro SS 396 that will only go up in value. But I would probably be afraid to drive something that pristine and classic on a regular basis for fear something might happen to it.

As a final note, in the May edition of Car and Driver they road tested 4-passenger convertibles under $30,000. They were: Toyota Solara, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Chrysler Sebring, Mustang GT and Camaro Z-28. Much to my surprise the Camaro won. Mostly because of its horsepower advantage. This does not help my decision. I was hoping to get something better than my Camaro. The Camaro was the oldest car design in the bunch, and I expected it to do poorly. By it doing well it has confused the decision making process, not helped it.

Chevrolet SSR

The last I heard on this retractable hardtop pickup is that it will be based on the new TrailBlazer chassis. It is still supposed to get a V-8, but I have not heard anything more about its engine. A very brief mention of it on Popular Hot Rodding Television (on a segment about drawing cars) mentioned it was going to go into production with a 6.0 liter engine, but I can't find anything that confirms that. The TrailBlazer uses GM's all new DOHC inline 6 making 270 horsepower.

The lack of details on the SSR to date makes me wonder if Chevrolet can pull this off without a hitch. I was surprised that the SSR was not mentioned in either the Detroit Car Show in February or the New York Auto Show in April. If GM wants to sell cars they need to build excitement around them. The SSR should be at every auto show they can send it to. Regardless, the SSR will only seat 3, so it is a little restrictive. For that kind of limitation I might want to go straight to a 2 seat sports car.

Others Possibilities

I have actually thought about the Chrysler Sebring Convertible. With its recent redesign it has improved a lot. However, it is very underpowered for my tastes. I would have to buy it with plans to improve its performance. That might not go over well with my wife or the warrantee. I briefly mentioned the Toyota MR2 Spider before. After seeing it at a car show I don't think I could live with its impractical nature. It has absolutely no storage space. I have been trying to warm up to the Miata as a possible sports car. I had one on loan from a friend for a few weeks (back in the mid 90s). I can't help get over that it felt cheap. I sat in one at the car show and it seemed like a decent car. Car and Driver has put it on its top ten list for years, and claims it keeps getting better. Oh, to heck with it... if I am going to get a two seat sports car I might as well get a Porsche Boxster... Not! Finally, I have read nothing but rave reviews of the Ford F-150 Lightning. Now it has 380 horsepower in a 5.4 liter supercharged engine. Yow! At about $32,000 it is probably the most horsepower per dollar of any vehicle.

My Classic Car Wish List

With the new car prospects looking pretty bleak I am leaning toward getting a classic car. I have added one car to the classic car wish list. If you read my January 2000 column you know I love lots of different cars. I must have mentioned a few dozen different cars in that article. In trying to get realistic about the classic car list, I settled on two cars. This month I couldn't resist adding one more to the list. Regardless, if I look for a classic car it would have to be a convertible. I would have to be careful in the budget department. I would probably be looking to spend between $10,000 and $20,000 for one of these cars. If I do get a classic car I will keep my 93 Camaro as a "beater."

My only problem with getting a classic car is that my wife wants it to be an automatic, so she can drive it. I'm working on this.

1969 Camaro

Camaros are my favorite cars from the Muscle Car Era (64-71), and this is my favorite year for the first generation (67-69) Camaro. I know it is a bit cliché to like one of the most popular years for a car, but I can't help myself. A nice 4-speed, big block Camaro SS would be ideal. I would add air conditioning from Vintage Air (in case it didn't have it) to ensure the proper comfort level. This car would get a major hot rod treatment over the years. Supercharged big block with 600+ horsepower, 6-speed trans, handling package, etc. No matter what car I get next year, I will eventually get a 69 Camaro Convertible some day.

68-72 Corvette Stingray

I have always loved the look of the early Mako Shark Corvettes with those chrome bumpers and bulging fenders. Plus this is probably the best buy for my budget in a classic Corvette. I will probably make minor modifications for performance, but nothing that would detract from the pure Corvette image.

65-68 Mustang

This is the addition to the classic car wish list. Since my wife has seen Gone In 60 Seconds she really likes Eleanor. For those that have not seen the movie starring Nicolas Cage, Eleanor is a Shelby Mustang GT 500 he steals toward the end of the movie and takes though an elaborate car chase.

You might be thinking that I only like Eleanor because it was in the movie. Kind of like rooting for the Yankees now that they have won the World Series. Well, I rooted for the Mets, just as I did for years when living in New York. If you read my old article you will see that I found a Shelby Mustang GT 350 for sale for $22,000. It was gorgeous and would have passed for Eleanor. I wrote that column long before the movie came out. However, my wife seeing the movie makes it easier for me to get a car like that. I have always been a big Shelby fan (I have a 427SC Cobra on my mouse pad at work). I just never thought I would be able to afford one.

Affordability will probably rear its ugly head when I start looking. I doubt I will find a Shelby I can afford. However, a Shelby look-a-like would be good enough. I can not afford to be a purist.

I have always liked the look of the 65-66 in convertible form, yet prefer the look of the 67-68 in the fastback body style. Since I want a convertible I would probably concentrate on the 65-66 cars. I don't know if I would restrict my looking to any year. I could really get into a 70 Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet with a shaker hood. Finding a nice Mustang should be easier than finding a Camaro or Corvette. I base this purely on the fact that they made so many Mustangs in the sixties, and there should be plenty out there for sale. It's just a matter of setting a budget and looking.

Conclusion

Sorry if this article seems like a re-run to my regular readers. And I apologize in advance because I expect to revisit this topic more as my three car garage comes closer to reality. The foundation should be done by the time you read this.

The current crop of new cars has left me cold. Although I like the current Camaro, I really wanted a more civilized and advanced car at this point in my life. Since that seems unlikely in my price range, I expect to start looking for a 1969 Camaro SS 396 Convertible next year. Anyone know of one for sale?

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