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Car Corner
Affordable Cool Cars

December 1, 2008
By Scott Lewis

A coworker and I were talking the other day. He has been putting off working on a Miata he used to race. It was sitting for about two years. Apparently I had enough influence on him that he finally started putting it back together. I mentioned to him that he could get a Porsche 911 for a reasonable price if he was will to get an older model. The key, I told him, was to find a car being sold by its owner... no dealers. You ideally find a car being sold by the original owner that was well maintained and now he is too old to want it.

I found a really nice 1996 911 for $26,000 and sent the link to my friend. He told me his wife is not going to allow him to talk to me anymore. He He.

This got me to thinking. What if you were on a tight budget and looking for a cool, used car to drive. How tight a budget? Let's say $15,000. Since my co-worker and I started talking about Porsches and the 911/Boxster/Cayman, I wanted see if there were any decent models out there for as little as $15K.

So this article was born. Now, I have a brother-in-law that did just this... waiting until he found the "just right" car. In his case it was a 1990 Porsche 911 S4 Cabriolet for $23,000.

The hunt was on.

What cars to look for? Of course we need to look at Porsche. And as soon as I thought about that all the Porsches came to mind. The 911 and Boxster are easy, but what about the 928 & 944. I then started looking at BMW, Mercedes and even Jaguar. I decided to allow a little mainstream cars into this mix with some Japanese coupes.

I did all my research on AutoTrader. Since I was not expecting a warranty on any car I saw, I looked only at private seller vehicles. No dealers! I also tried to stay in Texas. I wanted this to be a real search. But when I had trouble finding cars I did go further than the Lone Star State. Let's see what we turned up.

Porsche 911

We'll start with the car that inspired this article. I found two 911s worth mentioning. The first was local (as in Texas). This one was to prove I could find a nice 911 for $15K. The second one is an older high mileage 911. I love the look of this older "classic" one. It also is exactly what you want to find, a one owner well maintained car. For $10K that would leave plenty of money left over if maintenance became an issue. This 1983 911 is one of my two favorite cars n this entire list.

1990 Porsche 911 Carrera, 55K miles
$15,000

Runs & drives great, Non-smoker. Must see very clean interior and well maintained. Houston area.
1983 Porsche 911 SC, 207K miles
$10,000

One owner, all scheduled maintenance and well maintained, always garaged.

Porsche 928

I used to really love these cars when they were new. I particularly loved the smooth taillight look of the 1987+ cars. As it turns out there are quite a few 928s out there, but not many under $15K that are worth looking at. But some due diligence turned up some nice cars. The 87 model saves us $3K as long as the body work was well done. At this price we are looking for a "cool" daily driver so I don't mind the bodywork. I am pulled hard toward the 89 model with only 65K miles. We see what looks like a Lexus SC400 in behind it, so this guy probably takes care of his high priced toys.

1987 Porsche 928 S4, 115K miles, $12,000
Car is in very good condition. A/C works. The car was involved in an accident early last year (front left fender was hit), but was professionally repaired.
1991 Porsche 928 S4, 128K miles, $14,900
Exterior paint in good condition! Interior is all leather including headliner! Car cover and bra included. AC cranks out COLD air!
1989 Porsche 928 S4, 65K miles, $15,000
This car has been garage kept for years and ran on occasion. I have put a lot of time and money into this car and kept it up perfectly.

Porsche 944

I remember reading an article in the late 1980's from Car and Driver. They did a massive three part comparison. Part one determined the best handling import, the second covered the best handling domestic, and the third in the series pit the two previous winners to crown the best handle car... bar none. Yep, the Porsche 944 won the title. These cars are very well balanced. In turbo form they are relatively fast, but I would not try to take a Mustang GT at a light. The point is these car are affordable. However, with the 944 you have to look even harder. You will see a lot of cars. Most of them have been modified at this point. You are rarely going to find a one owner original. I was lucky to find a 944 Turbo S. This was special, and if stock is the 944 you want to get.

1988 Porsche 944 Turbo S, 140K miles
$13,000

RARE 944 Turbo S Porsche!!! There were only 318 of these cars built between 1988-1989. This is a MUST have! All the bells and whistles 5-speed, CD/MP3 player, alarm, sunroof, Yokohama tires etc.. Super fast car!
1986 Porsche 944 Turbo, 178K miles
$6,995

1986 944 turbo. Guards red with tan interior. 5 speed, new tires, new belts, no accidents, clean car fax, garage kept, non- smoker, documented history & service records, daily driver. Runs great!

Porsche Boxster

Compared to many of the cars here the Boxster is almost a common car. But finding nice ones under $15 is a bit of a challenge. I really like the blue one below... for its color. The black one has some nice wheels to set it off from the crowd.

1998 Porsche Boxster, 55,000 miles, $14,200
1998 Porsche Boxster, 55,000 low miles, 2nd Owner, minor dings, scratches, and normal wear for a 10 year old car.
2000 Porsche Boxster, 52,500 miles, $13,995
Very low mileage, great condition, extremely well taken care of with all maintenance on schedule (records on hand). Full tune-up at 45,000 miles.
1999 Porsche Boxster, 71,000 miles, $14,900
This is by far the cleanest Boxster on the road. This car has always been well taken care of. Serviced at Stuttgart (Porsche specialist mechanic shop). Always garaged. Rare 2001 two-piece BBS sport classic 18-inch wheels.

BMW

When I decided to do this I was only thinking Porsche. Then it dawned on me that I should do a quick search on other brands and see what popped up. I am glad I did, bacause I found a couple of very interesting BMWs. I was stunned to see an 850i show up in this price range. This car is really cool. It is my other favorite with the Maroon 911 above. I also really like the "old" M3. This was the first generation M3 with the bulging fender flares. I remember really liking this body style with it was new. These are hard to find, but I did find one. The 325is is very low in price and it was heavily modified. This might be a mistake, but at the price I would be interested in a test drive and inspection of this little car. As for the 540i, well it looks like Darth Vader's sedan. I like this body style better than the new 5 Series.

1992 BMW 850i, 48,567 miles, $9,800
All scheduled maintenance, Always garaged, Fully loaded, Ice cold A/C, Looks & runs great, no accidents. Runs & drives great, very clean interior.
1987 BMW 325is, 144,750 miles, $3,800
This 325is has extensive upgrades and modifications that would cost an immense amount to replicate. Runs very solid and strong... great condition.
2000 BMW 540i, 64,000 miles, $13,500
2000 BMW 540i Sport package, black/tan, 6 speed automatic, xenon, looks & runs great. Never seen snow, always garaged, well maintained.
1989 BMW M3 Coupe, 199,200, $15,000
Original E30 M3, one of the 25 greatest cars of all time. Owner since 1997. The car is in very good condition and always serviced at Bavarian Tuning.

Mercedes

We start with some unusual, big coupes from MB. One an 8 and one a 12 cylinder car. Next up was a pair of SL convertibles. These cars get very expensive to repair, so you should consider that if you are in the market. I like that the mileage on all these cars is reasonable if you want a cool daily driver.

1994 Mercedes-Benz S500 Coupe, 61,958, $10,600
Fully loaded, well maintained, garage kept, non-smoker. Handles and rides like a new full size S Class MB.
1995 Mercedes-Benz S600, 72,000 miles, $10,000
Great Condition. Clean Title. One Owner. All Scheduled Maintenance. Always garaged. All accessories working.
1995 Mercedes-Benz SL500 Roadster Convertible, 54,000 miles, $13,500
V-8 5.0 liter, 315 HP, Brabus era correct wheels, always garaged, looks & runs great, low mileage, a must see.
1992 Mercedes-Benz 500SL Roadster Convertible, 73,000 miles, $10,500
Great condition, has back Seat option, new tires, non-smoker.

Miscellaneous

While I was looking I thought I would just give some of the "lesser" luxury brands a shot at making the list. I was surprised to see a Jaguar convertible in the mix at this price range. I also thought the Japanese deserve some attention. The Lexus claimed the wheels don't come with the car, but I would argue against that. He, if he doesn't want to part with the wheels I saw a silver SC400 for $11,000. I didn't include it here because it was too plain looking. So he gives us the wheels, takes off enough from the price to buy cool wheels, or we find another car. As for the other cars, I just thought it was appropriate. I test drove an Acura 3.2CL Type-S Coupe when we bought our MDX. I liked it a lot. How could I now include a G35 coupe if I could find one priced right.

1997 Jaguar XK8 Convertible, 52,220 miles, $14,950
Magnificent condition,52,220 mi. no repairs required, all tires less than 1 yr old, Jaguar serviced always.
1999 Lexus SC300 Coupe, 52,000, $13,250
Must see, low mileage, ice cold A/C, no accidents, 2nd owner with original paint, very clean interior. Looks & runs great.
2002 Acura 3.2CL Type-S Coupe, 79,677, $12,900
I am the only owner. All scheduled maintenance have been performed. Always garaged and maintained meticulously.
2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe, 81,600, $14,750
Fully loaded, Looks & runs great, Power everything, must see. Very clean interior. Bose sound system. This car is fast and will turn heads.

Conclusion

I went through this list and realized I left out two important vehicles. This whole thing started with a conversation on a Miata. And how could I come up with a list of cool cars without mentioning the Corvette. Well, the Miata is in a totally different class from the cars here. In fact I should lower the price range for an inexpensive "toy" Miata.

As for the Corvette, well at the $15K range that mostly means 4th or 5th generation Vettes. I really like the 6th generation cars from 2005 and up, but these won't be found for $15,000 for a while. The C5 versions bother me because of the parts bin interiors. Heck, the stereo in a C5 is the same stereo from the 99 Suburban I used to have.

Next month I think I will try to make this topic work for the Mazda and Chevrolet sports cars. I wonder if I am missing some cars in this group. Let me know and I will work it into next month's article.

Until then enjoy a taste of what $15,000 will buy from the list above.

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