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Cars After S-Day Part 2 - Secondary Transportation

October 1, 2009
By Scott Lewis

Note: This is part two to last month's article. Remember, this was written last year when i thought I would be separating. That sis not happen until this year. However, I did not want this set of articles to go to waste. So this month looks at cars i would have liked to look at purchasing if I had gotten the Acura SUV, a car that was paid off, in the separation.

In my last article I listed cars I would look at after separating from my wife. Those cars would have to perform as primary transportation and be able to carry myself and my sons where ever we needed to go.

This month we get to have some real fun. This month's article was written with the hope of getting our Acura MDX in the separation, a vehicle that was paid off. With a budget of $300 per month (a purchase price about $15,000) I would have much more latitude in a car purchase since The Acura would be a reliable backup car should any other car I get become unreliable for daily transportation. Also, if I want to get a car that cannot hold three people (myself and my 2 sons) then I still have the MDX to rely on for people moving chores.

Basically this opens the door to sports cars and older cars that could prove to be unreliable or expensive to repair (meaning they could get parked for long periods of time). Lets see what I would look for. This time I will list some specific examples I came across on Autotrader.

1999 - 2009 Mazda Miata

I am not specifically looking for a convertible. However, if the opportunity presents itself that I can look for a convertible sports car this is tops on the list. I like the exposed headlight look that came out in 99. Miatas are plentiful. I have seen MAZDASPEED versions, with the 178 hp turbocharged engine, selling for less than $15K. Miatas tend to be very reliable and they get pretty good gas mileage. I could enjoy driving one of these as daily transportation when alone or with only one passenger. I would most likely limit my search to 2001-2005. Just new enough to be easy to finance yet old enough to be inexpensive. The redesigned 2006 might make a better driver, but those cup holders in the doors could be a deal breaker if they are uncomfortable on my left knee. I would need some seat time to know if I could live with the 06+ models.

2004 - 2008 Chrysler Crossfire

I really like the styling of these cars. I always have. I would NOT even consider this car in convertible form. The coupe is closest to the concept car that grabbed my attention all those years ago. My oldest son really likes this car too, so I would get a Crossfire with the intent of passing it on to him when he reaches driving age. Well, depending on how much it will cost to insure him in such a car.

1983 - 1989 BMW 6 Series

In its day the 6 Series was very cool. I remember reading about these and wishing someday to be able to own one. Well, that day could be now. With the Acura for reliable transportation I could buy one of these as a second car. If it won't get me to work I would have a fall back. In fact... I found one that I like a lot. See for yourself...

1989 BMW 635CSi Automatic, 137,601 mi., $6,450

Description: This vehicle is Rust Free and Damage free! 1989 was the last year BMW ever offered the 6-Series and the 635CSi in particular is the most desirable 6-Series model! The BMW 635CSi combines classic styling, luxury, performance, technology and unmatched build quality. Many have considered the 635CSi Model to be the ultimate full-size luxury sport coupe ever produced. This BMW model offers a spacious cabin, leather trimmed interior, an abundance of comfort and convenience options and a responsive 3.5 Liter Inline 6-Cylinder engine for a great value. The exterior is finished in a smooth and glossy Red Clearcoat complemented with a super clean and fresh Grey Leather Interior. The exterior is in excellent condition with very light signs of age and the interior is also in excellent condition; super clean and fresh with very light signs of age.

Comments: This car is gorgeous. The only real issue here is the mileage. If this car breaks down it will be an expensive repair. That would sideline the car while I saved up for the repair. So I could only get something like this with a reliable backup car. This would make a perfect starter car for a classic BMW collection.

Last year when I was close to moving out I was tracking this car. I saw the price drop from $8,950 to $6,450 gradually over about an 8 - 10 week period of time.

1989 - 1999 BMW 8 Series

The 8 Series did not exactly replace the 83-89 6 Series. The 8 Series was moving a couple of rungs upscale on the automotive ladder. These cars were quite large, and a luxury cruiser was the target. These cars are almost never seen on the road today, and when they are they still grab attention. I would prefer a 12 cylinder 850i, or better yet an 850CSi, but that is more for impressing people when you lift the hood. How cool is it to lift the hood and show a 12 cylinder engine. But I could easily live with the 8 cylinder 840i. After all, this is a luxury cruiser so it doesn't have to be too fast. Here is one I came across last year at the original time of writing this article.

1997 BMW 840Ci, 105,808 mi., $13,950

Description: This beautiful BMW 840Ci is a Non-Smoker local vehicle that was just traded-in at our dealership here in Dallas, Texas. This BMW model offers a spacious cabin, leather trimmed interior, an abundance of comfort and convenience options and a super responsive 4.4 Liter V-8 engine for a great value. The exterior is finished in a smooth and glossy Cosmos Black Metallic complemented with a super clean and fresh Grey Leather Interior that is accented with Polished Birds Eye Maple Wood Trim. The exterior is in excellent condition and the interior is also in excellent condition; super clean and fresh.

Comments: Like the 89 635CSi, I really lusted after these when they were new. This is just an example, whereas the 635CSi above I really want the car. In a pinch I could put a kid in the back seat, but this car should be thought about like a two seater. The biggest concern will be repairs. Almost any breakdown would likely relegate this car to the sideline while I saved for a repair. But with reliable backup transportation this could make for a stunning driver. I am sure a lot of people will say I am going through a mid-life, post marriage crisis with this car. Who care? I love the look and I could pretend to be a rich guy driving an expensive, and exclusive BMW.

2000-2006 BMW 3 Series Coupe

This was on last month's list, but everything about them still applies. There are examples out there under $15K in both coupe and convertible format. I like the styling. The 07 redesign is growing on me, but I think this version has a cleaner overall look. I would be less concerned with miles/age/price if this was a secondary vehicle than if it was a primary one.

1993-2002 Camaro

I know... a Camaro. What is he thinking? Well, I had to sell my 93 Camaro to help pay for Christmas presents for my kids. It was not running and money was tight. I was afraid of my skills as a mechanic to get it running without spending a lot of money. As it turned out the guy who bought it got it working with just a new starter, distributor cap and rotor. I had replaced the distributor cap & rotor after the car overheated and dumped coolant. This is a common problem on the 93-97 LT1 engines. When the car died after only 15 miles I wasn't sure if it was a bad cap and rotor or something more serious. My wife suggested I get the Mini Cooper I wanted (and a year later had me trade it in on a 335i). I jumped at the chance to get the Mini Cooper and thinking this was going to be my car to travel to and from work for the next 10 years or so I got the top of the line Mini Cooper S Convertible with Premium and Sport packages. In hindsight I should have gotten something else, but that is in the past. I bought a new car because my Camaro was no longer reliable daily transportation and I did not know if my mechanical skills would be enough to keep it running.

If I have a backup car (the Acura) and no wife to tell me what to do, I have no trouble owning an unreliable car. When I bought that 93 Camaro and held on to it for over 10 year (14 years to be exact), I thought I was going to keep it forever. I recently saw a similar year Camaro parked outside a Pizza Hut. It was the same color as my 93, bright red. It looked very nice. It was very well kept. The paint was very glossy and it didn't look like a repaint. Anyway, it made me lust after my 93.

Problem. I know the LT1 engine and its Dura-spark timing system is crap and a pain to repair. But I actually like the look of the 93-97 Camaro better than the 1998-2002 Camaro. So what to buy. At this point it is just a daydream. I would have to see a really clean car (like the one at Pizza Hut) to get me to open my wallet. But if such an opportunity arose I would likely take it. I would then pretend I never sold my 93 and I kept it all the time.

2001-2004 Porsche Boxster

I have seen some nice Boxsters for under $15,000 on Autotrader. I would not go all the way back to 1997 (the first year). I would probably stick to the last few years before the redesign in 2005. I might also consider a 2005 or newer Boxster, but I don't know if the price will be attractive enough. By sticking to 2001-2004 I should be able to get a Boxster S with more horsepower and a 6 speed manual. If I look at the Porsche it is because I am a glutton for maintenance punishment. The engine in the Boxster is under the car. If you open the rear "trunk" there is no engine to be seen. You must go under the car. This car is probably beyond my mechanical skills... and equipment. That's why I would only consider this if I had a reliable backup vehicle.

2001 Porsche Boxster, 57,057 mi., $13,999

Description: This is the Boxster that you've been looking for. One Owner, Nicely loaded with all power options, Power Top, Leather, In dash Cd-Player, Alloy wheels, Good tires.

Comments: Ahh, a Blue Boxster under $15K. What's not to like. A one owner car is usually the best. The original owner almost always takes the best care of a car. Especially when the miles are this low for a car 9 years old.

Corvette

Notice that I did not list a year for the Corvette. That's because there are too many years to choose from. With reliable backup transportation I could get almost any year Corvette. I don't know if I could find a nice example of a 68-72 "Mako Shark" style Vette for under $15,000. But it is possible I could find something for just a little more money. If I do get the Acura in the separation I will start looking and saving. Even if I can't afford a 68-72 I could still look at the plastic bumper cars of the mid-seventies. I could also look at some C5 Corvettes (1997-2004) at reasonable prices. Then again I could just start the saving/waiting process for a 2008 Corvette with full leather interior. It will take a couple of years for something like this to get close to affordable (by my wallet's definition of affordable) that I could use that time to save my money.

I have seen some 68-72 Corvettes below $15,000 on Auto Trader Classics, but they would require very close inspections before declaring them worth it. Most likely I would need to travel far and wide to find something. A quick search of Auto Trader Classics shows me I should be able to find a really nice driver quality 68-72 Corvette in the $20,000 - $25,000 range. In that price range I should be able to find a matching numbers car with power windows & locks, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, A/C and a choice of manual or automatic transmission. I would have to save for quite a while before being able to spend that much coin on a car.

Here is an example of a C5 Corvette and a less popular C3 Corvette. I found while writing this article...

1998 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe, 87,674 mi., $14,950

Description: The previous Corvette was fast and agile. The new one is faster, and it has the reflexes and poise of a world-class athlete. And that's just the sports car side of the equation. Chevy's work on the comfort side of the ledger is even more impressive. The new car is far easier to get in and out of, with more room inside. Improvements in structural integrity and assembly have eliminated the stress squeaks that have plagued Corvettes ever since 1953, and ride quality has improved by a factor of four. Driving a Corvette is no longer a mixture of pleasure and pain. Although this new Vette arrives four years behind schedule, it's clear that the development team put the extra time to excellent use. For the first time, the Corvette can claim a place among the elite of the world's best sports cars.

Comments: I saw another Vette with less mileage and lower price on the day I saw this one, but the pictures were fuzzy and I couldn't have that on my site. I don't think I would have any trouble finding a good candidate for a C5 (5th Generation) Corvette. I might even save a little and spend a bit more. Of course, the mileage here and the lack of a third seat means this car requires me to have the Acura as a backup vehicle.


1974 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe, $10,900

Description: Auto, AC, Racing Green Metallic with Light Pinstriping, side pipes, front spoiler, chrome under hood, Indy 500 White letter tires, rally wheels, stored 14 years then reconditioned.

Comments: On a quick look one day I searched for 73-79 Corvettes between $5,000 and $15,000 and found this one. This seems like a reasonable first Corvette. A little detailing and it should be presentable at a local car show. Yet it could easily be driven every day. It is not a highly desirable year so modifying it for more performance shouldn't matter much. Just make sure the AC blows cold.

Porsche 928

I did not list years for the 928 because I don't know what years to look for... yet. I know I prefer the smoother taillights of the 1987 and newer cars. But that doesn't mean I would pass up a good example of an earlier model. The 928 was a GT in the truest sense... a Grant Touring car. It was not a hard edged sports car. It had quite a bit of luxury in its day. I loved the styling, maybe because these were new to me when I first go into cars in the early 80s and the 911 was already old.

Here are a couple of 928s I found one day with a quick search:

1984 Porsche 928, 95,966 mi., $6,995

Description: Here is your dream car, a true classic and in exceptionally good condition in every way, everything works; Must see! Fully optioned with power everything, alloy wheels, good tires and much more.

Comments: Under 7 grand with less than 100K miles. I would prefer the cleaner styling of the 87+ cars, but at this price I could live with it. I expect this car to require a lot of maintenance. Porsches are not cheap to own. But at this price I could easily save for those rainy days when repairs are needed.

1987 Porsche 928 S4, 110,000 mi., $14,500

Description: Documented maintenance history for past 12 years. All maintenance up to date. Regularly driven, always garaged. Genuine Recaro Orthopedic Seats in excellent condition. Very nice, supple leather. New AC compressor, evaporator, lines, condenser.. Blows cold.

Comments: The description was very long mentioning all that had been done over the last few years. Which says two things, 1) It let's you know the owner kept the car up, and 2) you will spend a fair amount keeping the car up. Porsches are not cheap cars to own. I don't know what the expected annual cost of maintenance is, but it might be worth researching before dropping all of my $15K budget on a car that could need a lot of money on a regular bases. But it looks good!

Porsche 944

Car and Driver declared the 944 as the best handling car in the world in the late 80s. Of course I would like to get a Turbo version, but at this point I am looking for a super clean, unmolested car. These cars became very popular for modifying them for racing, and showing off on the street. I would not want a car too modified. Ideally I would like to find one that has been well kept for a long time and would make a nice start to my collection of affordable older imports.

1983 Porsche 944, 63,900 mi., $5,500

Description: 1983 Porsche 944 with gray exterior on gray leather interior .Super low miles .This Porsche runs and drives great, please feel free to call us with any questions.

Comments: This is exactly what I want. A low mileage unmolested car. The low mileage is a huge bonus. It is not a Turbo, but if it is as good in person as it is in the pictures I think I can just enjoy driving the "best handling car in the world."

1986 Porsche 944 Turbo, 108,000 mi., $7,500

Description: Always garaged, second owner (21 years), well maintained, fast, looks and runs great. Interior and exterior in great condition. Looking for a home where it can be driven more frequently.

Comments: That's what I like to see... same owner for 21 years. This could be a perfect second car.

Conclusion

There really is no conclusion here. I like all these cars. Had I gotten the Acura in the separation I would have gotten something on this list... or something mighty close.

Remember, I wrote this article last year when I thought I was going to be moving out. I didn't move out until this year... and I ended up with the BMW 335i with its $700+ car payment. Of course that led to me to getting a 2004 Mini Cooper S, a car that was on last months list. So at least I am consistent, having written last month's article over a year ago.

Next month we will learn how long the internal combustion engine has left to live. Care to take a guess? E-mail me if you think you know.

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