Car Corner
Cars To Look At in 2018

January 1, 2018
By Scott Lewis

It is tightening up time. I need to be much more picky about the cars I look at. I spent the bulk of 2017 looking at cars waiting for 2018 to arrive. Well, 2018 has arrived and I need to take myself much more seriously. I need to stop thinking about cars that "could" work and start looking at cars that "do" work.

Let's break this down into two parts. First, modern cars that will be daily (or near daily) drivers. I fully plan to keep my Ford Focus (I will likely pay it off in February). Second, we will look at classic cars.

I am still on the fence with getting one car or two. Obviously if I get two cars one of them will be a classic and the other one will be modern. I am limiting myself to $400/month in payments. With two cars that will be tough, but for one it is easy.

For a modern car, one that will be easy to get a loan for (my credit union does not make loans for cars over 10 years old), I have a strict budget of $32,000. I would really like to stay below $30,000. So the car has to be very special to get me over $30K.

In a classic, with a longer than usual loan term (ten years likely) I can likely buy something up to about $38,000. But that is super scary to spend that much. Again, here I would prefer to stay at or below $30.

Both of those scenarios mean putting all of my eggs (dollars) in one basket. If I want two cars I have to split that budget up. Approximately $20K would go toward a classic and about $15K would go toward a modern car. This is very fluid. Some if it will depend on how much down payments I can swing for two cars, and the loans possible. For instance... how easy or hard will it be to get a loan for a 2002 Thunderbird? My credit union won't touch it. Will classic car financing cover something that new? It could be tricky.

Modern Cars

As for the modern cars there are only 2 cars (OK, maybe 3) that will get me to go over $30K. Chevrolet Corvette (2008+) or Mercedes SL 550 (2008+, but really prefer 2009+). Obviously these cars are rarely, if ever, cross shopped. I might also consider a 997 Porsche 911 (2005+). Prices for the 911 are a bit tight to find one at my price point. Corvettes can be found all day long, so that is just a matter of making up my mind and pulling the trigger. However, I would really like a C6 Z06 Corvette, and like the 911 they are tough to find in my price range. That leaves the Mercedes. I am concerned that the SL will be too expensive to own. If I put all my eggs in that basket and something breaks it will be expensive to repair. Good thing I will have the Focus as a backup.

Other that those three... I still have a fondness for a modern convertible. A BMW 3-Series convertible would be nice. It's just a matter of finding one that ticks all the right boxes for me. I also like the idea of daily driving a Porsche with a Cayman or Boxster. These "affordable" Porsches are in reach, but I want an S, and they are less in reach when shopping for 2008+ years (for the easy loan).

Finally, there are two modern "classics" I will consider. The previously mentioned 2002 Ford Thunderbird in Turquoise (the only year for that color) or a 1993-1996 Camaro Z-28 in red (similar to the one I used to own). There are Thunderbirds available for $15-20K all the time, so clearly I will select this based on also getting a classic. The same can be said for the Z-28. Just find the right one, and pull the trigger.

Classic Cars

That leads us into the classics. Here is where I have the most difficulty tightening up my wish list. I love classic cars so much I can see the potential in almost any of them. In fact, as I write this sentence I have 72 cars saved in my wish list. Yikes!!!!

As I see it, there will never be a car that is perfect, so everything can be tweaked. But I want to make sure that the tweaking I do is to increase performance (braking, handling, acceleration) not in planning to replace a bench seat with buckets, and sorting a car that needs work just to drive.

Air conditioning is going to be a priority so I can enjoy the car in San Antonio's hot summers. That is the only tweak I don't mind making immediately, but it will have to be accounted for in the budget.

Mostly I need to stop looking at oddball cars, unless they are really cool (at least to me). For instance, I have a bronze on bronze 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado for $17K on my wish list right now. I really like the car, and if it is still for sale in April I will call about it. It also leads perfectly into getting a 93 Z-28 or 2002 Thunderbird to park next to it in my garage.

I also need to stop looking at cars that are not nice enough. I look at a lot of Mustangs, and will give them a pass if the interior is in need of some work, or it has bad wheels, ugly color, etc. I do this because if the price is right I can always work on the car as a project. But it has to be presentable. I need to raise my standards.

As for the makes and models... That's the big dilemma. What will I be willing buy? I wrestle with this constantly. The 66 Toronado is a perfect example. I have been told to pick a car that is easy (read: less expensive) to restore. An Olds Toronado is not an easy car to get parts for. I would not search for them because there are not that cool. But the bronze one (and a previous blue one I followed) grabbed my attention enough that I really want it.

Mustangs & Camaros! I have never wavered on this. I really like the original Pony Car. Same can be said for the Camaro. I find many more Mustangs in nice condition than I do Camaros (in my price range). That is a good thing for my first classic (first in Life 2.0). Since there are so many, I should hopefully not have to compromise much. Also, if I have to sell it for some reason I should be able to do so reasonably. Trying to sell a 66 Toronado could take a long time (as noticed by the 3 months I have followed the bronze car I am looking at).

Monte Carlo is also something I have maintained a strong interest in. However, I do make too many excuses for them. If I see one in a weird color I try to accept it. If it has a bench instead of buckets I try to embrace that. I am going to have to look at these with a keener eye on what I am really willing to compromise on.

GM A-Bodies. I prefer the 70-72 Intermediate GM offerings. However I really don't like the looks of the Pontiac Le Mans (GTO, Tempest) in these years. When done right, the Buick GS looks the best to me. The Cutlass and Chevelles come after that.

Smokey and the Bandit Trans Ams. This is a tough one. Oh yes, I really like them. But they are getting more expensive to find nice ones, and they basically suck. They were poor performers at a time when build quality was declining. Do I want to compromise performance for looks? And drive a car that rattles all the time? I don't know. I suppose I need to test drive one.

Miscellaneous Mopars. Mopars (Dodge & Plymouth mostly) tend to be more expensive to buy and restore than Ford or GM products. That makes them a tougher sell to me. It is harder to find ones I like in my price range. And they are not inexpensive to restore.

Finally... Corvettes. I really like the 69-72 "Chrome Bumper" Corvettes. 73 is half chrome bumpered. Late 70's and early 80's C3 Corvettes look good to me, but suffer from the same issue as a Smokey TA... lack of performance. Do I really want to get a cruiser 82 Collector Edition. Would I enjoy it if it were not quick enough to at least do a decent burnout? Again, this would have to be answered by driving one.


There you have it. I am all over the place. I need to narrow that list of 72 cars down to something really worth calling about. Plus I have to decide which is more important... a modern car (reliable) or a classic. Do I have to decide between the two? If I want both, that dictates smaller budgets and cars with more compromises.

Damn... this is what we call a 1st World Problem. I am glad to have this problem. Since I can't buy anything until I return from two trips I am taking in April, expect to see a lot more on this topic in both columns (Car Corner & Classic Car Watch) as Spring approaches.