This post on Sailer’s site the other day struck a chord with me. I’m beginning the process of buying a car so I have been thinking a lot about cars of late. I truly hate the car buying experience for a number of reasons. The biggest one is that it feels like a waste of time. The dealership model is a carryover from a bygone era when a man would spend a lot of time on purchases. Most of us buy on-line now so walking car lots looking for the right car just feels like a time suck to me.

That last bit reveals a bit of reality with regards to how societies work. The car selling business has been immune to change and it has a lot to do with the political power of car dealers. Tesla found that out when they wanted to sell cars in New Jersey. The state had a law requiring car makers to have a dealership in the state in order to sell cars. Tesla finally got the state to yield, but they had to bribe half of Trenton to do it. Car dealers are a powerful lobby in every state and they use their influence to make life tough on anyone with new ideas.

That Sailer post reminded me of something I have noticed among my friends and acquaintances, as I have got into car shopping. It is a very emotional subject. For instance, I’ve asked people for their recommendations and to a man they have refused. I always get something like “You need to test drive them and pick the one you like.” The alternative to this is to just change the subject entirely. It’s as if there is a taboo against giving anyone advice on cars.

I think the reason for the reluctance is two-fold. One is people still view their car as an extension of themselves. If they recommend a car and you reject it, it is as if you told them they have bad taste. On the other side of it, thinking it is an emotional experience, people don’t want to talk you into something you may come to hate. Alternatively, the people I know may not give a damn about my new interest in cars or they simply don’t like me very much. You can never be sure about these things.

The other thing I see, something that turns up in the comments of car posts like the Sailer one, is the car scold. Whenever someone starts showing enthusiasm for buying or owning a car, car scold comes along to tell them he thinks owning a car is a great burden that he suffers through for the good of mankind. This guy has a lot in common with TV scold and music scold. It’s as if enjoying life is such a great sin that the righteous must always be letting everyone know they are in constant pain.

There are, needless to say, a lot of these vinegar drinkers on the right. It is an affectation and a silly one in my opinion. You have but a short time on this earth. Making the most of it, including the fun bits, strikes me as the heart of conservatism. It is the ultimate acknowledgement of reality. Every man has his tastes, but if owning a snappy car brings you pleasure, best of luck with it. I may not share your passion, but I do share your desire to make the most of our time on earth. What’s wrong with that?

The root of this, I suspect, is the dominance of the Left in American culture. The neo-Puritan hags have been screeching at us about how form must always follow function for so long we have lost our sense of style. You see that in cars where the goal of designers is to make them more aerodynamic and pack them with useful functions. The result is a fleet of well-built cars that look like they came from East German film noir during the Cold War. Our cars are ugly because inside, we have become an ugly people.

If you doubt this, look at pics of parking lots from 40-50 years ago. They were a carnival of colors, shapes and sizes. A person’s taste in cars said something about him, a form of advertisement. A people embracing life and its potential were out buying all sorts of cars in all sorts of colors. We are now a people marching to the inevitable end of our miserable existences so we buy cars that are suited for the task. The top three car colors in America are black, grey and white, with dark gray the top interior choice.

Now, one aspect of this self-loathing has been a focus on the engineering of cars and that has resulted in some fantastic options. The cars of my youth were better looking, but they were in no way better built or better engineered. I test drove a Camaro SS the other day and it was like flying a jet. It was fast as hell and so packed with technology it is not accurate to call it a car. It is a transportation platform. Last year I rented a Cadillac on a trip and I needed ten minutes to figure out how to operate it. It is an amazing age.

Even so, we have become a cautious and frightened people, like herd animals waiting to be processed. The sports car buyer in 1965 was looking for risk. He wanted to rocket down the road in something that was probably not entirely safe, but that was part of the thrill. Today, sports cars are packed with safety features intended to let the buyer know he can have the kind of fun that is permitted today. It is part of the overall feminization of the West. Engineers today care about you like a mother.

I saw the other day that a company now sells an add-on for cars that allows parents to spy on their kids and even take control of the car, from their smart phone. The ad is not all that clear on the particulars, but it appears to be a GPS system that also provides some ability to disable the car, sound the horn and flash the lights. That way, if your son is out enjoying himself, you can put an end to it from your couch. Nothing says freedom like having mom watch you as you make out with your girl in the backseat.

The ultimate expression of this is the self-driving car. The quest to take all the fun out of life, and all the risk, leads inevitably to the nanny-state providing a ride service so that you not only get to your destination safely, you get to the correct destination. People naturally think the surveillance state will be Orwellian. No, it will be run by Google and Apple, sold as a market solution to public safety. After all, when it comes to your safety, we can’t let things like freedom, pleasure and privacy get in the way. You’re too important to us!

In the end, that’s why I will be buying some sort of hot rod in the coming weeks. I look around and see that the fun cars are only for the Cloud People, while the rest of us will be stuck with the dreary conveyance units. There are not many mid-priced sports cars on the market. Toyota does not even have a fun car on offer. Neither does Honda. I figure I better get a sports car before I’m too old and the before the state decides, for my own good of course, that they are no longer safe for Dirt People.



146 thoughts on “Cars

  1. Your comments about buying a car and the power of auto dealers made me laugh.

    I once sold a house privately. When showing it to a prospective buyer, the young woman brought her mother along. Guess what she was?
    A realtor.
    I’m sure that whatever she scrapes off her shoe gets a more approving countenance than I did at that point. When it was discovered that I wasn’t using a realtor, I was pummeled with questions about all sorts of disclosure forms for different aspects of the property and hefty documentation. Needless to say, the woman didn’t come back. And then, when a seller was finally acquired and the forms taken to a mortgage underwriter, the joy they expressed at the short amount of paperwork was very revealing.
    All of this educated me on the power that realtors have at the state level as well. They have made sure that all sorts of “important” documents are required for every house sale and somehow ensconced in state regulations. This is then the justification for why a “realtor” is needed to navigate the self-serving maze and flurry of paperwork that is all a part of buying and selling homes.

  2. My 0.02
    Buy a relatively new small to midsized runabout for everyday use; safe, conservative, reliable, economical, and spend the rest on a hobby car; something in which you can re-live your youth, frighten yourself about how unrefined they were and how badly they braked and cornered, and get to know your local constabulary as you get pulled over for an ill-timed exuberant peel-out.
    Just closed the garage door having allowed 30 mins for the gas smell to dissipate after parking the 70 Camaro so as not to earn the approbation of SWMBO for putting my kids at risk for brain damage from the odors of the Skunk car. But I still have the stupid grin from laying 100 ft of rubber with a screaming small block.

  3. Buy a new-to-you factory hot rod. I found a one owner low mieage 2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG on ebay of all places. It came with an transferrable extended warranty which I used at the local dealership to determine if the car had any issues. The motor mounts were leaking and they were replaced under warranty. Otherwise, the car is near perfect and what a rocket with the 379 cid all aluminum N/A V8 tuned to 540 bhp and 500 lb/ft and the Speedshift MCT 7-spd wet-clutch automatic. Let someone else take the depreciation hit 🙂

  4. If you want to go with a muscle car, the Challenger is the most badass car to come out in 30 years.

    Here in Minnesota, my Jeep Commander blows through a foot of snow like it isn’t even there. You’ll never go wrong with a Jeep.

  5. Mmm.. no. Full disclosure: I own a performance shop, not 30 miles from NYC, so I like to think I have a fairly good sense for the car world as influenced by morons.

    The simple truth is this: We are in a golden age of performance, and have been for some years. When I was a kid in the 80s, a Corvette made under 250 horsepower, and very likely would kill you if you bought one– but because a fairly important part fell off, not because of one’s driving exuberance.

    Today, there is a plethora of insanity rockets which are, comparably, reasonably priced. If you had told me in the late 80s that in 2017 I could buy a car made by Dodge that had 700 horsepower, a great warranty, an interior that rivals BMW, and in a car that can stop and turn, I would have asked for some of whatever you were drinking. Likewise a 550+ horsepower Shelby Mustang with a 8,200 rpm redline, for an inflation-adjusted ~$30k. Likewise a Corvette that was built properly and was one of the best supercars– not simply a sports car– you could buy anywhere. These cars would not exist if the market would not bear them.

    So, while I certainly see my share of Teslas, and will no doubt be on the front lines of self-driving cars trying to kill me on my motorcycles, the fact that the above exists is all I need to sleep at night. Because a lot of real people buy them, and those people have kids who will get rides in them, and end up wanting one of their own in short order. That mindset is still the majority, and looks to continue to be for a good long while.

  6. I just sold my 1993 BMW E34 M5. Modified with a 3.9 liter stroker motor and a Dinan Stage III suspension. I owned and loved that car for going on 22 years. The buyer was a BMW guy who knows what he has and will care for and appreciate the car as I did. I replaced it with a new to me 2010 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. It has been tuned to 540 bhp and 500 lb/ft. What a torque monster! Not as nimble as the M5, but with the option of the programable AMG button, it can be setup from mild to wild. I lke it 🙂

  7. Cars are easy. Never buy new. Let someone else take the price hit Buy a couple of years old with under 20k miles. Sell at 80k miles and let someone else take the psychological price hit when the car reaches 100k miles. Buy outright unless you can find a no cost loan with 0% interest. If you do that then most of the maintenance issues you’ll face will be tires, brakes and replacing various filters and fluids.

  8. I couldn’t disagree with Jay’s comment more. Get an SRT, Scat Pack, or Hellcat Challenger and it will surely heal what ails you. This car is pure American muscle through and through. A joy to drive. Do yourself a favor and get it in one of the high impact colors. Like this one………

  9. The increasing uniformity of American vehicles is indeed a minor tragedy; even practical cars should have a little character. I learnt to drive in a Chevy conversion van; people constantly joked about it looking like a creepy sex pervert’s ride, but I liked that it had some personality (even if the personality in this case happened to be “reclusive weirdo”). I still miss it- with the high driver’s seat, I felt like a fully-grown bull elephant on the African savanna. It was about as manoeuvrable as a battleship and the gas mileage was crap, but in a snowstorm we would pass sportier cars like they were standing still. It was a very handy and versatile vehicle, but still unique and fun to drive. Where is it written that something practical needs to be boring, too?

  10. WHAT? Toyota doesn’t “even have a fun car on offer”? You, Sir, are clearly NOT a car guy.
    [insert slap across the face with calfskin driving gloves]
    What about the Toyota/Subaru FRS/BRZ (formerly a Scion model)?

      • OK, how about my MG Midget with a Mazda rotary engine? Wife was appalled when I suggested that I should get a bumper sticker that says “this tiny car compensates for my really big..”. But, then, she won’t ride in it under any circumstances.

        Actually, it is sort of a four-wheeled Ninja bike with skinny tires.

  11. Bought a low-mileage BMW Z4 from no-bullshit CarMax about 10 years ago; found it online, did a test drive, and was out the door in half an hour. Coming up on 110,000 fun-driving miles and no problems, thanks to regular maintenance. Will replace at 200,000 or when a used M4 becomes affordable, whichever comes first.

  12. Probably a repeat of someone else’s comment further down in the chain than I want to read, but…
    Last spring, I searched the web and got several possibles, then went on a road trip to find an El Camino that was reasonable in price, performance, and state of restoration. Bought one. My third El Camino, since college days. Find yourself a restored old vehicle, Z. It may even cost more than a new one, but there were a ton of things about those old cars that were better than the new ones.

    • Yup, like after Iran sets of 4 or 5 EMP bursts over North America, at least our plug and point ignitions will fire up our cars.

    • I’m a huge fan of old British sports cars. If I had a place to work on a car and the time to do it, I’d get a project car. I had an Alpine 30 years ago for a summer. I got it for a song so I drove it for a few months and then sold it. I had a TR7 that was upgraded to a V6 by a clever shade tree mechanic. I’d find a TR8 if I had a garage to work on it.

      • Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio. 505 BHP. Lease it, though.

        I had one of the last hot-rod Alfa 164 Quads. Trust me, you do not want to pay for a new motor on an Alfa.

      • When I was kid I worked in the station that gassed up the TR7’s to drive to lpool docks for American export.Not much of a car but I do have a soft spot for them.

    • I had one of those! A white one. Gifted by DH. Thought it was adorable until I drove it to the supermarket with two kids and there was no room for my groceries.

      I didn’t pick up the impression that ZMan was seeking a DIY project….just new wheels.

  13. My kids had to earn their cars working at plumbing and remodeling. My son’s first car was a pick up he traded for a Mustang. My daughter got herself a compact rice burner then she did a side job for a neighbor who paid her with a Mazda RX-7. That thing was too small for a normal man but damn did it fly down the road.

    That was taking your life into your hands. I had to insist that the state troopers stop my kids and give them a ticket if they were speeding. I figured it would save their lives some day. Otherwise, they would just stop them to chat.

  14. Still driving my Camry from 14 years ago,but you’ve got a different goal.

    Enjoy your muscle car. 😉

    • My #2 car, a 1996 Honda Accord EX, loaded, with only 33,000 miles, will soon go to #2 son. I was shamed out of continuing to drive it…. He thinks it’s cool.

  15. Ford Taurus SHO is the ideal platform. Comfortable for long distance cruising, fast enough to go directly to jail and engineered well enough to be dependable and safe.

    • I thought about taking a look at one of those. I’ve never seen one on the road, which suggests they are not popular. But, the idea is appealing.

    • I drove a used ’96 Taurus SHO for years that I bought for $12K. What a sweet car. Power, style, options, performance. Put on some Goodyear Eagle F1’s, click on the sport handling suspension and had myself some fun! My only complaint, which was consistent with Ford’s, was the disc brakes. Always upgrade to ceramics to avoid warped rotors. They were considered the “Stealth” sports car because they looked like a regular sedan to the Smokies.

  16. The Audi convertible is a gorgeous car, but not sure how hot it is…The most amazing sports car I’ve seen lately is the powder blue Maserati, but a bit pricey.

    • Grandpa bought a Model T from the Sears catalogue. Ran shine with Col Sanders and hopped it up.
      Pretty much accounts for the spread of fried chicken and NASCAR.

      Ended up with Caddies and Buicks.

      Dad fixed up a hot rod 56 Lincoln and let me steer. All cars should have cop engines and searchlights.

      Always thought they should have kept producing Amphicars. Nothing like just driving into the lake and floating about.

      My first car was a 66 Impala convertible. Cheerleaders were attracted.

      I think anything that will combine a 70 Eldorado with a motorhome would work, these days.
      Probably should have stayed in welding school.

  17. My favorite car of all time was a Toyota Celica Supra. Loaded. What a nifty car! I’m supposed to be car-shopping now. I respectfully declined. I know the Acura TL I’m driving. It’s just fine. We’ve bonded. Not as fleet as that Supra was, and much harder to maneuver, but I’ve slowed down and it’s just fine. (And I don’t have to go car-shopping.)

  18. I’m sure you will get lots of great ideas on cars. I just bought a new car 5 months ago and I’m not afraid to share my preference. I bought a Lexus E-350 and I just love the car. I’ve done the sports car stuff when I was single and have spent the last 20 years with family cars, for the family. Kids are now all grown up so I got something for me. I looked at the Dodge Charger, since I was still interested in a sedan, but I understanding they are not terribly reliable. I was also looking for something that will go for 300k miles since I put a lot of miles on my car and Lexus got top marks.
    So why not BMW or Mercedes or Audi? Reliability. Why not a Ford? Everything but the Lincoln was either a starter car or a truck.
    But in the end you will make up your own mind. If you really want a sports car then you shouldn’t look any further than a Corvette. Still without any doubt the best blast for your buck, and I would have bought another one this time around but I didn’t want everyone to think I was going through a mid-life crisis.

  19. Well, I’d advise against a Humber Super Snipe, but I’ve had a lot of fun with several Morris Minors and I just love my Citroen ID19 with 4 on the column… hang on, what year is this again?

    Belay that. Time to do the Time Warp again!

  20. Mini Cooper has the most customization options, can still be had in a manual and is a gas to drive. I wish the Americans made something this fun.

    • If you’re a midget… excuse me, “smaller statured” :-), maybe.
      I wear size 12 shoes, and the only way I could get into the driver’s seat was some fancy contortions. If I just sat in the seat, I couldn’t get my right foot past the steering column, even with the seat all the way back. The “mini” appellation is accurate. I can’t imagine how anyone ever drove the original Austin-based version. I guess they were all half-starved in post-WWII Britain.

      Which points out the value of just sitting in a car. The last new car I bought was preceded by just sitting in every car in that class at the “Auto Show”. I eliminated 90% of the models because of a ludicrously sloped windshield that I banged my head on getting in.

  21. Suggest something pre-1970.
    The vehicle you buy serves a multitude of purposes, unique to each individual.
    Buy that ’69 Camaro you always wanted.

    • Had the opportunity to work on a photo shoot in Stuttgart with Porsche in the 90’s. The marketing director at the time had gone to school in Michigan and confided in us that he thought the Z 28 Camaro was the most fun car the average person could buy to drive… and it was basically a no-brainer for anyone, when you could buy three of them for the cost of one Porsche.

  22. I miss my 95 Mazda 626. It was great in snow and comfortable. I put 300,000 miles on when I sold it. They had to replace the transmission early on, but it was covered under warranty. Our current truck is a ’97 GMC Sierra. I call it “The Mexican Blackbird” if you are familiar with ZZ Top. We have replace the engine, tranny, all the sensors, it’s always something. Right now, the passenger door and heater don’t work. I remind my husband how much I hate it, but he loves the look of it.

    We are talking about a second car when we sell the house, maybe a van. I want something that doesn’t have a computer. We really went through hell trying to get this truck to where it would start without problems and it was all due to the computer and sensors. I do love old Cadillacs too. I’ve had to use rental cars lately and I think that’s a decent way to try out a car.

  23. Nothing says “fuck you” in a university town better than a huge red double cab pickup with an NRA sticker in the back window..

    • Hahaha! Amen…2001 4×4 F150 Supercrew for me…Forgot my damn NRA decal… Love looking down on all the Priuses with rainbow and CoExist bumper stickers…and green haired drivers.. my “I stand with Scott Walker” sticker has always been a good ‘conversation’ starter here in Wi.

    • I’d send you my extra oval Trump sticker — very tasteful in navy blue and white — but I gave it to a friend in Memphis. I almost asked for it back when she said her husband would not let her put it on her car as it would attract all sorts of
      nasty attention. Sorry!

  24. I’ve always bought old or at least used cars. Right now I’m driving an old Saturn (’97) that my trusted mechanic found and bought for me knowing I had jack sh*t money for a car–a $800 car. I like it, but it IS ugly as hell. I even like that–absolutely no one would bother stealing the thing. It’s the only way to drive cheap–usually have to put $300 in repair a year–anything over that it ain’t worth repairing. I enjoy its various “challenges,” all the little oddball problems that come with an old car. Poverty spurs creativity, doncha know.

  25. Fortunately you have a wide variety of sports cars to choose from. You can narrow your choices by coming up with answers to some questions:
    1. Foreign, domestic or either?
    2. Price range?
    3. Used OK? You can get really good deals on slightly used vehicles if you aren’t too demanding about colors and options. Many will still have a warranty but you may have to do a bit more work to find what you want.
    4. How long do you keep vehicles? Consider that German cars are expensive to maintain if you own one out of warranty. I’d argue that in general, German sports cars are much more fun to own than Japanese or domestics. But that’s my own preference for the combination of high torque, precise handling and the luxurious side of sport driving.

    Here is my list for you to consider:
    1. Audi S3 or S4 – On the expensive side but you’ll fall in love. (Get a CPO)
    2. Subaru WRX – A variety of models to choose from and AWD adds some safety and all season driving while still being fun.
    3. BMW Z4 – Get a used one with low miles (late 2000’s). You’ll need to budget some maintenance each year but these things are fun to drive. The 3.0 has plenty of power while the M version is more expensive but has gobs of power.

    Lastly, buy a manual gearbox while you still can…

  26. This all sounds great in theory, but don’t kid yourselves. The reality is that the money that goes into car dealers pockets would instead go into Wall Street’s Pockets. Just look at the big car dealership chains that have formed. They are all subject to the same kind of metrics that squeezes other companies because of wall Street’s self-interest and it’s not like they offer some kind of a bargain compared with the locally-owned dealership. Being subject to the whims of Wall Street in turn results in employees being squeezed.

    I don’t feel any particular love for my local car dealer, but at least the franchise model allows for the democratization of wealth. And by and large, the democratization of wealth is good for local communities because local successful business people are usually the local movers and shakers, and they are usually the ones who get good things for their communities done.

    Ohio Stadium at Ohio State University was constructed in the 1920’s largely through the efforts of the Lazarus family, one of the founding families of what is now known as Macy’s Inc. You simply don’t get that kind of involvement in your communities with distant corporate ownership. The local Macy’s store manager is a relative nobody who doesn’t have the financial wherewithal or the personal gravitas to pull something like that off. Most of the local business titans that would need to be shaken down shaken down to pull something like this off today wouldn’t even return a phone call from the store manager of the Macy’s at the mall. The owner of the operation, however, is it in an entirely different position and to their credit are able to do good things for their local communities.

    Too much wealth concentration on Wall Street, means they get all the money!

    • either those or a Ford F-150 4WD. The cars are fun to drive and the truck is fun plus you can look down on the world.

  27. I’ve been predicting for a long time that once the driverless cars hit the road, the complete transition to no-drivers will happen almost overnight. Once the insurance companies figure out that the driverless cars don’t crash, they’ll force drivers out of the market.

    Between women, lawyers and insurance companies, the America you remember is almost gone. I’m just glad that I was born in ’71, so at least I had a glimpse at what used to be.

    • The flip-side of this argument occurs after a self-drive car has its first serious accident and lawyers start sizing up google’s assets.

      But yes, enjoy today’s amazing cars while you can. 🙂

      • I’m very much a skeptic with regards to self-driving cars. I can see technology for crash avoidance and safety, but a world of Johnny Cabs is not happening. It’s an thing that scales up into massive unknown complexity. That means massive cost and the demand is not there for it. It’s like quantum computing. The demand for it is not such that it can cover the cost of getting over the many technical hurdles.

        • I too am skeptical of ‘self-driving’ cars. The unknowns are weather (San Fran doesn’t have ice and snow to deal with) as well as what would happen is for example, Orlando; Confused tourists, confused elderly, harried and aggressive locals and crowded roads. Computers don’t handle random events very well.
          Another example would be any metro area on I-95. There’s also the distracted driver issue:
          The Tesla was on ‘autopilot’, the sensors were blinded by the sun to a 18-wheeler turning and the car ‘submarined’ the truck. When Fire Rescue extracted him, a Harry Potter movie was still playing on the car’s display.

        • Really interesting thought, Z Man;

          So, since all the self-driving cars are constantly signaling all the other self-driving cars their location and status, it’s not hard to foresee a gigantic failure cascade caused by an unanticipated event not covered by the synchronized* instruction set. IOW, somebody hits a squirrel and the whole city locks up.

          I remember one of the Murphy’s Laws of Software back in the mainframe days that went something like, “If carpenters built houses like programmers build software, a woodpecker could knock down a city.”

          *And it would have to be synchronized, at least regionally.

          • Just wait ’till the first malevolent hacker gets busy, creates a little fender-bender pileup and then tells all the self-driving cars behind it to put the hammer down.

  28. Gave up all that ” car as personality ” thing a long time ago. For one thing, I couldn’t afford it. For another, the wife and I are minimalist, practical people. A car is how we get from point A to point B. It needs to be reliable; it needs room these days to occasionally carry grandchildren. We don’t care about the sound system or Bluetooth. We own an Equinox SUV and S-10 pickup. One of the best things about both is that we don’t have to climb in or out. Open the door, put your feet on the ground.

    On a related note, my idiot son-in-law owns a Miata. Nothing wrong with that. But he has two children and one sedan, and he and my daughter both work. He delights in telling me no one should own an SUV. Did I mention he supported Bernie Sanders? Anyway, their sedan is in the shop, and we have been shuttling kids. I finally said, ” you do realize If I didn’t have the SUV you would have no way to get your children anywhere? Your Miata is a toy. If anyone has a vehicle here that has no business owning it, it is you. ” And, delight of delight, my daughter drove the wife and children several places this weekend. Sunday afternoon she said, ” Mom, I want one of these. It is big enough for the kids. It is easy to get in and out of. The floor is flat in the back when I need to deliver a cake. ( She runs a home business ) I can see over the bushes in parking lots in it,. I really like this. I need one of these. ”

    Nitwit said, ” You aren’t getting an SUV. ” Well, you don’t tell my daughter she can’t do something. She looked at him and said, ” When I’m ready I’ll buy one. ” Some days it is worth getting up.

    • Ah, finally someone who thinks as I do. My vehicle is a tool, As you say, it gets me from A to B.
      In 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe with AWD, stability control, 3 rows of seats (g’kids, y’know), pax cabin surrounded by air bags, and a 6-yr, 60k mi warranty. In ~88k miles, I have spent for nothing but routine maintenance. It’s been a dependable vehicle, and excellent for typical Northern Colorado driving conditions. And lots of carrying room when the two back rows of seats are folded.

      Before that, I had a 1998 Chevy S-10 ZR2 pickup. Loved that little beast. Except that I had to replace the driver’s seat-back lever TWICE: learned that it was made of “pot metal,” that could not survive use. The repair was fairly expensive, as they had the time-consuming chore of removing the seat, etc. I also had a brake diaphragm(?) blow out. Huh? WTH?
      I swore that I’d never buy another GM vehicle. If the manufacturer would use such cheap parts in its effort to save costs, I wanted nothing more to do with its products.

      One reason I went to Hyundai was the warranty — I figured that it a company stood that firmly behind its product, then it was a decent bet that the experience would outshine the one I’d just had with GM.

      My first car was a 1968 Fiat Spider 850 that I bought with money from my very first job after college. Fun little car, but of absolutely no practical use whatsoever. 😉

  29. If your criteria is a new, driver oriented sports car, check out a BMW 235 or its M variant. Jeremy Clarkson raved about the new M2 during the first episode of amazon’s Grand Tour.

    One advantage of BMW’s is an active aftermarket. A 135/235 can be tweaked up to very close to its big brother M version without boy-racer bulging bodywork.

    Maybe does not fit your Q-factor requirement, but unfortunately any true driver oriented sports car will be unique and less common than Camry’s.

  30. The comment about renting a version of what you’re interested is very good – highly recommended, and take it both around town and on the highway for at least a couple of hours. You might not find out that the seats are unbearable or the armrest is precisely mis-positioned without doing this.

    Virtually any modern car with any shred of performance cred is going to have a auto-manual option. No clutch, but one can shift up and down and run the gears. I had an Audi years ago, small A4 sedan but a ball to drive it in the ‘Trip-Tronic’ mode once you got used to it. Since most of these modern trannies have 6 – 8 gears you can really have some fun, even if you miss having the clutch workout (I do). The problem with the foreign performance vehicles, though, is that they are maintenance hogs – even the fairly conventional ones, Porsche, Benz, Beamer, all of ’em. You can look forward to regular checkups with a minimum $500 bill, likely to be $1000. Sucks to be a waiting room drone.

    If you can stand the hard ride and no visibility (bad for city freeways), then American nuveau-muscle is the way to go. No substitute for cubic inches, and if you can find a renegade mechanic you can re-flash the performance chip (or replace it) and re-tune the factory’s de-tune. The very very best option is to get ahold of a plain wrapper Police-interceptor model, then invest a little in further improving the suspension and volumetric efficiency.

    Have fun and piss off the squares. They deserve it.

  31. If you want a new classic roadster, you can’t beat the Miata. If you don’t mind used, you can get a Porsche Boxster for a decent price. YouTube has tons of very knowledgeable reviews of all fun cars…

    • I hate to admit it, but you will find the Japanese give you much more for your money than the Germans and for less over all. For example, compare the Audi TT to the Nissan Z-370 of equal year and you will quickly discover how much Audi (and Porsche) “nickel and dime” you for extras (heated seats, electric mirrors, etc.) In comparison, the Japanese include these “extras” for free.

      • Karl, that’s why the Porsche recommendations were for used 🙂 tremendously good deals on used german cars here. the jap cars are ok but do not have the dynamic sophistication of the german cars.

        • @ Solomon – Personally, I feel German performance cars are over-engineered for 99.9% of drivers. Especially when you consider no one outside of Germany will every be able to appreciate what they can do on an open autobahn. If and when I get over taken on the autobahn, it’s by the heavy Audi’s, BMW’s and MB’s. Porsche’s, because they are so expensive even here, are not so frequently found here. In Switzerland, however, you will find more high-end cars than Germany. But the speed limit, like most of Europe, is only 120kph (75 mph).

          If the Honda S2000 was still in production, I would have bought a third, rather than the Mk-2 Audi TT roadster. It was an excellent car with no vices, a small economical, high revving engine with excellent output, great weight to power and very well balanced. It would have been worth the sacrifice of a smaller trunk (which included a spare tire, unlike the TT) for Honda’s better reliability.

          If thezman can find a good used 2007-2009 Honda S2000, with low mileage, a good service record, a removable hard top (for winter), and has a garage to keep it out of the weather, IMHO it would be money well spent and an affordable daily driver.

          • I was about to buy one when they came out, but events had me going in too many directions at the time to spend time on it. The asking price on good ones these days is well above what I would pay. It seems that the demand is higher now than when new. Spending $25K for a ten year old roadster, even one in great shape, is not money well spent. That is the sort of car that has been abused. You run the risk of getting a very expensive doorstop.

      • Pieper was a real man and officer. Would the USA produce such soldat(s), in the sense of Siegfried Knapp’s book: Soldat. The Malmédy Massacre involving Pieper is an example of Victor’s Justice manufacturing a crime. Of course in Viet Nam America had its Lt. Calley.

        Dan Kurt

  32. Most new cars look like motorized versions of blimps crossed with refrigerator boxes to me.

    I can’t imagine paying for one, though I will be forced to eventually, I suppose, unless I allow myself to succumb to my animal instincts and get a Pre 2009 Mustang GT (after 2009 they started screwing them up again).

    It may look like something a frat boy would drive, but the GT is still a thing of beauty.

  33. So, skip all that crap and buy your car on eBay. I’ve bought my last 8 cars that way and never had a problem. No visit to the lot, no sales pitch, no clear coat discussion, better price, infinite selection. I grew up on my Dad’s used car lot, so take my advice on this one.

  34. My permutation of “Drive it and make up your own mind” is sit in it, adjust the seat and wheel. If it isn’t comfortable don’t even bother with a test drive. It won’t improve over time.

  35. There really are only two decisions you need to make. Whether your new Shelby GT 350 Mustang is delivered to you in the iconic Oxford White with Blue Stripes, or will it be the elegant and uderstated Ruby Red. The car, allegedly a muscle car, corners like a Ferrari and is more comfortable than a Mercedes S class. It’s is loud enough to cause little old ladies to frown in disapproval and nubile young ladies to swoon. Removing the traction control nannies results in instantaneous transformation of the the Michelin Pilot Supersports (which, with their aggressively angled side walls, look as though they were transferred directly from Joey Logano’s NASCAR sled) into plasma. I can even report an incident where a grown man instigated a foot pursuit with a car pulling slowly away from a red light in order to take a photograph.

    You are Welcome

    • I met a guy at the bar recently that test drives not-yet-released performance cars for the big auto makers. He stated the Shelby GT was the most fun car to drive. The best bang-for-the buck used muscle car, in his opinion?: 2002 Corvette Z06. He basically said if you can’t afford the Shelby, save your money and get the used Z06 for $15-20k.

  36. A sports car is about as useful to me as a married father of three as a seatless bicycle. Anyway…for your readers…tips from a seasoned car buyer to make the dealer both irrelevant to the buying process, and also to get a better price:

    – Use the internet to test drive cars (Edmunds, AutoTrader, etc. all have online videos) and narrow your requirements. My wife and I do this for fun on YouTube 6-8 months before we buy a car. Think ahead.
    – Get it down to 4-5 cars you think you would like, then go drive them on different days. Write down your impressions. Drive as close to what you think you want as you can (fair comparison). If the salesman is frowning because you told him, “I’m not buying today, just comparing,” you’re doing it right. Since our most recent car was for my wife, I did all the “test driving” from the back seat. My job was to chauffeur her around, and ward off the salespeople.
    – Pay cash if you can (half or more if possible), and use a car-buying service (we use USAA’s) to set up all your financing ahead of time. It takes all of the emotion out of the purchase. You’ll get a better rate, and “closing” on the vehicle only takes about 20 minutes at the dealer. You’re not there for hours filling out forms, and dealers I think do make some of their money through their “finance department”. I got our USAA loan (we did 50/50 loan/cash) in 20 minutes via their online tool from my living room. Got a 1.25% rate.
    – Car buying services also get you bids from different dealers. We got an additional $1,500 off our Acura by playing two dealers against each other. I got $13,000 off my F-150 (sweet ruby red FX-4, black leather interior) because we had everything set up ahead of time. We just sat there with the “Internet Department” at Ford until the Manager came out and shook our hands. Until you meet the sales manager, nothing will happen on price. We got the truck $200 below Ford Employee A-plan pricing. Sticker was $55,000.
    – The Acura sales manager tried to give us all this crap about the “Acura family” as I told him how much we would be willing to pay. Once you get the “you’re joining a family” speech, shake their hand and walk out. I want the car I want at the price I want, and if you won’t give it to me, I’ll find somebody who will. When we walked out, and got bids from other dealers, suddenly he was willing to come down in price.
    – Not the case with Zman, but never EVER let a woman go buy a car on her own. There are strong women out there who know how to drive a hard bargain, but mainly salespeople look at them as easy money. If you have a single female friend who says she wants to buy a car, go along as the designated asshole.
    – Don’t settle. Get the car you want that you can afford, and put as much into it as you can. It’s like square footage in a house. There are just some things you really cannot add in later on at any practical level. Entertainment packages are a waste of time though. I just need a good stereo.

    We treat the dealer like we treat the Walmart cashier. Nice person, appreciate the help, but 98% of this purchase I can do without their help. I just need them to take the money, prep the car, and fill out the legal documents. If I can drive 50 miles to save $200, I’ll do it. Our Acura came down to the dealer who threw in the all-weather floor mats and the roof rail cross bars (about $400 worth of stuff). Happy with the car. Manufacturers have finally figured out how to do brown leather the right way, so the interior is pure luxury. Besides, it’s my wife’s car. If I want to look cool, I drive my truck.

    Good luck!

  37. Any car you want to buy new, if possible, should be rented for at least a week, or over a very long weekend and driven as much as possible, preferably on a nice long trip. Then you’ll know just how comfortable it really is and whether or not you like the features. Buying a new car you only test drove around the block is like marrying a woman after the first date – you’re just asking for trouble!

    Since the subject of sports cars came up, the Audi TT roadster is good example. German designed, excessively over priced, and they’re all assembled in Hungary from parts made all over Europe which are actually interchangeable with Audi, VW and Skoda. Would I buy a new one? No. Give it four years, find one with low miles and a good maintenance record and let the other fool eat the depreciation. Reliability? Probably not so much since most German cars don’t make the quality marks the Japanese have achieved in past decades. Although VW makes more cars than Toyota, quantity does not beat quality. But on the other hand, I can still find more Audi dealers across Europe than Honda, Toyota, Nissan or Mazda.

    I would say Mazda still beats all the others if you want a nice small, affordable 1960’s retro convertible rag-top that won’t let you down and is very inexpensive to own and operate. I used to own a 1959 MGA which – if I may use the comparison – was about as reliable and trustworthy as Hillary Clinton. My wife had the first generation MX-5 ages ago and it was very, very reliable, I believe the expression is “bullet proof”. Nothing failed, and everything worked. It served quite well for vacations down to Spain and wandering all over Europe when the weather was nice with just enough luggage in the trunk to get by. But at this point in life, I wouldn’t own one again – we prefer a bit more comfort these days.

    Since we here in Germany can actually drive to the speed for which the car is designed (200-kph (125-mph) is normal for me on the autobahns) it’s not fair to comment on performance with consideration to the US where you can only legally drive 70-mph. But suffice to say my current roadster has yet to be passed by anything Mazda builds. 🙂

    • I’ve settled into the habit of only buying Honda products so I pretty much know what I am going to get. I always buy my Hondas/Acuras new. But I am really digging the Cadillacs lately … a car like that you almost have to buy used. I think they are priced the way they are new solely for the lease market. A retail customer would be stupid to pay that price.

      • If no one else will say, two ends of my spectrum are a Bimmer E46 M3 with all the problems fixed, or a 2003 or later Acura NSX. Fun in this life for sure. Drove an M3 last summer, and it was a rush. Fit like a glove – a car you can really wear. My current ride is an E46 wagon that just went over 200K, and yes, I do like working on it. Lots of BMW enthusiast web sites, where I’ve learned to do virtually anything the car needs. Good people, good FUN cars.

  38. Z-Man,

    At least test drive an Audi S series. I would suggest an S4. I don’t know if you can still get a manual transmission. My S4 2012 edition is a manual, smooth as silk. Of course I live out West and have roads where cops are sparse and one can rev up over 100 mph from time to time. The S4 easily gets to 120 without vibration because of its supercharged V6 engine.

    Dan Kurt

      • I just bought an Audi Quattro S5 ragtop. It’s a 2013 with 28,000 miles, $70k new, but then again, some other sucker took the hit for the first $30k. 333HP and it’s a snow monster to boot (I live in Chicagoland).

        I figured it was that for $40k for this head-turner or some boring SUV. I went for the gusto!

        When you roll into a gas station with the top down with this thing, people look at you like you just walked into a zombie movie and youre the only one who’s still alive.

      • Let me add this on the S4. In early December I drove the car 1800 miles in three and a half days solo. I had planned to do the trip Christmas week but saw a storm was due and the forecast was for a severe winter. A direct route from the inland North West to Arizona would be foolhardy so I picked the long way. I didn’t want to risk the bad forecast would make my plans blow apart so I flew up from Arizona to Spokane where the car was being stored and picked up the car and drove I-90 to the Seattle area, actually Everett. I only had problems with snow between Spokane and Moses Lake where I saw and counted six wrecks including one semi that jackknifed and was on its side in a field. Rye Grass Summit was clear as was Snoqualmie Pass. The next day I made it from Everett to Roseburg, Oregon on I-5 with rain coming down and weather reports calling for impending snow and ice. The next day continuing on I-5 I made it through the mountains of Southern Oregon and Northern California in heavy rain with only a sprinkling of slush in areas making it to Fresno for the night. The last day was a piece of cake at a little over 600 miles to Arizona. It is a good thing I made the trip then as the weather has been horrendous in the Northwest since then with snow, icy roads, and sub freezing temperatures.

        Driving the S4 was such a pleasure with its four wheel drive and power. I have a bad back yet the trip never bothered me because of the comfort of the Audi seats. Another thing on a long solo trip, a manual transmission keeps one alert. Manuals are fun and, I believe, safer on long drives.

        Dan Kurt

  39. Cars are mechanically amazing devices these days, but the limits of the vehicles are so “out there” versus any kind of sane behavior on the highways. Here’s my solution. Old school full size pickup for me. Anonymous full size sedan for the missus. Buy the sedan slightly used and a couple of years old and pay half price. Old cars/sports cars/hot rods for fun on weekends. Race car driving school for kicks. Learn some real skills.

  40. Z Man;

    If it’s a thumb in the eye to the Cloud People you want, then it’s a full sized pickup truck you need.

    OTOH, living where you apparently do you might consider going for a ‘Ghetto Cruiser’ TM. Back in the day when I was commuting to a cloud enclave surrounded on three sides by vibrancy just a literal pistol shot away from the projects, that was my day-to-day ride. Specifically a car no self-respecting vibrant would be caught dead in. Then it was a mid-milage blue Olds 4-door with the more reliable short block 8 and minimal power equipment to go wrong. Replaced the white-walls with black-walls, put on the no-knob door unlocking pulls, etc. Only bad moment was when a coolant hose let go half across the DMZ between enclaves.*

    Today that would be something like a mid-milage Buick, I guess

    *Decided to ride it out and break out the duct tape as soon as it was safe to do so. Duct tape: A major player in the red-neck tool kit along with a vise grips and a big hammer; Maybe a screwdriver or two if you were uppity.

  41. I’m a girl but I’ve always liked cars. As a 4-5 year old in 1950 I could identify just about every car that passed on the road. This was before I could read. My mother was mystified as to how I learned this as she paid no attention to this sort of thing. We had a pre-War ’38 Oldsmobile for a lo-o-ong time. My Dad was just not that into keeping up with the Joneses! When my big brother got out of the Air Force he came home sporting a 1953 Buick Roadmaster convertible, gunmetal grey with rolled and pleated red leather upsholstery. Our boxer dog loved riding in the back with the top down. So did I! Nowadays I can hardly tell a Camry from an Altima (my husband’s car). Yawn.

    I drive a 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible (6 cyl), gold with black top, which matches my Pug dog, Sid. I found this online about 5 yrs ago at the BMW dealership in Nashville, taken in trade. It had about 125,000 miles on it; perfect body, leather upholstery, needed new brakes right away, but you have to do certain things maintenance-wise anyhow. BTW this is my 2nd Sebring. I had a 1997 that went over 220,000 mi. but finally reached the end of the road. Our third car is a 1987 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser/Delta 88 hybrid station wagon. The odometer and speedometer is off-kilter so I’m not really sure how many miles it’s got or how fast it can go. It passes our e-check every year, though. I found the thing in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Delaware OH in 2000 and got it for a song. Florida car so no rust. Had a re-built GM engine (8 cyl) dropped in it so she goes like a bomb. I love passing people on the interstate. I’ve gotten several speeding tickets in it. Not recently, though. The newer GM wagons “squished” the roof by rounding off the corners in the 1990s, so it really couldn’t hold much. I like having this vehicle so if I see a sofa by the side of the road that looks good, I can wrangle the thing into the car pretty well;-) I also like these two cars b/c they do NOT have the icky electronics that the newer ones do. Just more stuff to break and to keep an eye on you, “for your own good,” of course! Many people have offered to buy it. Not selling it yet, though.

    • That’s the thing. The cars really do look the same. This was inevitable when they decided that aerodynamics would rule the day. But, we have lost our spirit too. The car makers would make more interesting looking cars if we demanded them.

      • Even Henry Ford himself said that if he’e asked his customers what they wanted they’d have told him a faster horse. Maybe the customer has changed less than the business has.

      • It’s all due to the fuel efficiency restrictions. get rid of those and maybe we can have interesting cars again.

      • I can clearly remember one late afternoon in 1963 riding my bike home for dinner and seeing a Silver split window Corvette Stingray parked in front of a neighbors house…an airline pilot….

        It was as though I was looking at a UFO that had landed…. Even though i had seen the futuristic concept cars that graced the covers and pages of Look,Life…and Sports Illustrated…..this in the flesh was an out of the body like experience…..I’ll never forget the feel of running my hands along the sharp fiberglass body lines, and the perfection of the finish that was raked by the late afternoon sunlight,
        nor the kindness of the pilot that must have seen me, and came out side to indulge my 10 year old incredulity… first picking up my bike from the middle of the street where i dropped it, and THEN allowing me to sit in his spaceship……Just frickin,WOW.

        Nah, they dont make em like that any more…..

      • Z, it is more than the aerodynamics. There is now regulation in the EC and US that there must be enough clearance between the metal parts of the engine and the sheetmetal of the hood so that if you hit a pedestrian there is some absorption of the force before the head hits the manifold. That is why the font ends of almost all cars look similar.

        As for stick shifts, this is a real shame, because they are now just about perfect, typical of a product at the end of its life cycle.

        Oh, I endured the unflattering nickname “stickshift” one summer working at a car dealer. At 16 I was the low man in new car prep and the service manager told me to run a customer home in her truck and bring it back to dealer. He asked me “you drive stick?” I lied and said, “sure”. Backing out of the woman’s driveway was my very first encounter with a clutch. Buck, stall, buck stall. . . . . Finally got the hang of it and made it back to the dealership. The woman was apparently on the phone laughing hysterically at my plight. I was greeted with “hey, nice driving, stickshift.”

        Imagine what such a phone conversation would sound like today.

  42. Bought my first new truck ever early last year for work purposes (lots of driving to the Imperial City), a Toyota Tacoma with all the bells and whistles. Great vehicle and a lot of fun (if you like off-roading) so I’ll disagree with you on the Toyota comment…

    Anyway I have been a long time owner of 20th Century vehicles (80’s mostly, with a few 70’s and 90’s thrown in) and for some models that time period represented the high water mark of automotive (not e-gadget) engineering. You’ll have more fun driving a 1990 3 series BMW than any equivalent made nowadays because of the mechanical connection to the road. They’re not as fast or powerful, but its like driving a wicked fast go kart compared to the 3 series of today.

    • I think with sports cars, there is a divide between those who want to be seen driving a hot looking ride and those who want to have fun in their car. The car makers have decided that it is a girl’s world with regards to cars so they build safe. The Honda S2000 a dozen years ago was a great driver’s car, but it did not sell. The MR2 was another car that enthusiasts loved, but the public did not buy in volume. The Miata wisely went after the hairdresser/gay man market and moved a ton of product.

      • Ditto the Audi TT back in the 90s. We had a guy at the office buy one of those unawares…. his nickname was “the only heterosexual guy (we think) in the whole world who owns an Audi TT” (we sucked at nicknames, obviously). Good marketing move, though, especially after that “sudden acceleration incident” crap in the 80s.

        • Ha. I recall when they came out that a friend said to me, “Every gay man in America will want one of those.” There’s nothing intrinsically gay about them, but everyone just assumes they are the gay man’s sports coupe.

          That could simply be that in our dreary age, the only people with any style are flamboyant homosexuals. Milo is a rock star just because he is not boring.

        • The second gen Mk-II Audi TT’s are head and shoulders above those horrible Mk-1’s. We often joked they were the modern equivalent of the old VW Karmann Ghia’s.

          Keep in mind, here in Europe, the larger the engine, the higher the ownership, e.g. fuel costs, insurance and road tax. So the diesel TT’s are actually quite popular especially in the UK. Personally, I’ve been very happy with my Mk-2, 3.2 Quattro roadster. Excellent power and I can cruise 200kph all day long on the autobahns. It has plenty of trunk space sans hard top convertible (aka BMW Z4). When you run the Alpine roads in southern Switzerland and northern Italy as often as I do, paddle shifters and a quattro drivetrain is a blessing.

        • Like a guy in a late model retro Beetle. That design has gay guy written all over it. I would say the Nissan Pulsar which was called a secretary’s car at the time. For some reason I always liked them though.

      • Agreed! The S2000 was an outstanding roadster. They only disappeared because Honda refused to offer an automatic transmission, which resulted in a limited market for those who didn’t want to go “pure sports car”. I had a 2000 and a 2002 and they were brilliant cars. Unfortunately they were not well marketed here in Europe and there are only a handful around.

      • You can still pick up an S2000 with lots of life left. I tracked two of them over 100,000 miles and they were still running strong when I sold them. Not too conspicuous for your neighborhood, though you may want a hard top to keep someone from slitting your top for a cupholder wither of change.

    • +1 on the Tacoma, but what I really want is a 4WD diesel Hilux. Toyota can’t sell them here (EPA for emissions, DOT for safety, etc.) but the Tacoma would be a natural for a decent 6 cyl diesel. Tundra gets one soon, maybe a few years later the Tacoma will, too.

  43. I’m with Surveyor. Check out the new Corvettes. Not much of a commuting car, though.

    On the subject of the feminization of society, Martin van Creveld’s Pussycats is worth a scan.

    • In my neighborhood, that is asking for trouble. I see plenty of mid-priced sports cars so I think I can blend in with something a bit more subdued. They are amazing looking vehicles though.

      • Not till I brought it back to LA did I find out that my 80 Supra was a magnet for thieves. It seems they’d dismantle them in the parking lot and take the leather upholstered seats and the very deluxe radios. I bought my first alarm.

  44. At the end of November, I ordered a baby Cadillac coupe hot rod with a stick shift (an ATS-V series). It supposedly was built on the 2nd of January and the dealer called me this morning to tell me it was in transit. We’re almost there.

    • I spent a lot of time a few months ago searching new car lots (on the internet) for the car I wanted with a manual trans. I love it.

      Have fun.

      • Hard to find manuals these days. I loved my 5 speed Honda Accord with the luxury package- leather, heated seats, moon roof, etc. My son still drives it- it just turned 225 K. Couldn’t replace it though-Honda only puts Manuals in their low end crap boxes. Wound up buying the last Ford Fusion with a stick- a new 2014 that had sat on the lot- no one wants six speeds anymore. One bonus is that thieves supposedly can’t drive ’em!

        • There’s also a resale penalty now. I’ve always had a stick, but I’m told they are going away quickly. Ferrari and Porsche have said they will no longer make manuals. Audi no longer offers a stick. I read somewhere that you have to order a BMW with a stick.

          • It’s amazing that there are very few pickup trucks available with a manual transmission. I have always driven a stick shift, but my VW Tiguan has lately shaken my confidence and I started looking for a replacement. Mazda seems to make a lot of manual vehicles. Do a web search for “new cars with manual transmission” and prepare to be shocked. Or not shocked, just saddened. Viel gluck!

          • I look specifically for pickup trucks with a manual. I know I can walk in and cut 10-20% off the asking price and they will accept my offer, so yes your resale penalty is real.

        • Not a car guy unless we’re talking muscle cars but my 2012 Ram 2500 has the 6 sp manual bolted up behind the 6.9 liter Cummins. Crew cab. 8′ box. Sunroof/moonroof combination. It’s a bit slow…maybe it’s just me but jumping into the traffic gap is gonna raise a bit of someone’s ire. I’m happy with the manual. It’s unusual and that’s why I like it. It took me to Alaska and back last September. Something about driving your favorite vehicle on vacation somewhere spectacular with all four windows down and the roof open singing along to ‘Running down a Dream’ as well ‘Take it Easy’. By yourself! Pure ADRENALINE. 95K on my 4 year old truck.

    • Ive had nothing but manuals for the past 30 years; taught all 4 kids on them; while I knew they were getting rare I didn’t realize how much. just read an article stating that many mfgr’s don’t have a single model with a stick; only 3% of cars made are manual. they blamed it on the technology improvements to the ATs. I always assumed the manual got better mileage but no more. but I still prefer them. I’m far from a car enthusiast but had a lot of fun trying a friends WRX. very fun to drive.

  45. “….. I’ve asked people for their recommendations…….”

    Since you did not ask for my recommendation, I will nevertheless provide it: never buy a brand new car – it is a ripoff.

    Get a good used car (otherwise known in our Orwellian, double speak, politically correct society as “pre-owned”). You will save a ton of money.

    There are many really good web sites that allow one to peruse online your car(s) of interest from the comfort of your couch and avoid, until the very last nano-second, having to deal with the next to last lowest form of carbon based life on earth, the car salesman (the politician is at the very bottom).

    Good luck.

  46. I dunno, Z… while I agree with you on most of this, the muscle cars that have come out in the last 5-10 years look pretty sweet. Yeah, it’s retro — e.g. Mustangs look like the classic Mustangs of old — but still. There’s a BMW and a Benz roadster that look awesome too (way out of my price range, but still). I dunno about the safety crap — again, out of my range — but that Beemer looks like a jet and sounds like an X-Wing. At least the Germans can still make an auto….

    • Just traded in a BMW – if you keep your cars and go beyond 100k miles the things that go wrong are baffling. At one point the motor-mount bolts broke and the engine was bouncing around free under the hood. Our mechanic told us it was because BMW used aluminum bolts in order to save a couple ounces.

      • What’s that old joke about Alfa Romeos? Be sure to get the Alfa repair kit…. an entirely different car, with a trunk full of money, that you tow around behind your Alfa at all times. So BMW quality control isn’t quite up to their Me-109 glory days. They still look cool, though, and since I’ll never be able to buy one anyway….

        • @ Severian – Not to split hairs, but BMW did not build engines for the Me-109. They built engines for the Focke-Wulf Bf-190. Daimler Benz built the engines for the Messerschmitt Me-109. However, Messerschmitt did build a horrible little post-war car that thankfully went the way of the BMW bubble car.

          • @Karl Horst, I could’ve sworn the original designation on the Me-109 was Bf-109, from “Bavarian Aircraft Works,” a subdivision of Bavarian Motor Works… did they build the airframe or something? Or am I completely off? Either way, the Me-109 and FW-190 were some sweeeet fighters. A mentor of mine was a B-17 pilot; he had high praise for both planes (evidently there was a 109 model with a huge cannon that fired through the nose somehow). Ah, how I love old planes….

          • @ Severian – The Me-109 was a bit long in the tooth towards the end of the war. It had a V-12, fuel injected engine, water cooled engine and had a 20mm cannon which fired through the center shaft. It got its initial start in Ethiopia and Spain but gained it’s real fame during the Battle of Britain. The Bf-109 came in later, first with a short nose, later an extended version which was fitted with an air cooled radial BMW engine.

            Aircraft parts came from all over Germany. Furniture and cabinet makers in little towns and villages would build wings, tail sections, etc. This is why, despite the heavy bombing of German cities by British Lancaster’s and American Flying Fortresses, Germany continued to advance our aerospace programs all during the war to the Me-262 and ultimately as far as the Horton 229.

            Ironically, the Me-109 was the first aircraft of the Israeli Air Force. There’s a fantastic documentary on the ex-American pilots who were recruited to fly them in 1948 called “Above and Beyond”.


          • Herr Horst,

            re: “The Bf-109 came in later, first with a short nose, later an extended version which was fitted with an air cooled radial BMW engine.”KH

            1) Bf refers to Bayerische Flugzeugwerke.

            2) the short nose and long nose plane was the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger. The long nose D model used the Junkers Jumo 213 liquid cooled engine and had an extended fuselage and nose for balance. One long nose variant was designated as the Ta 152E H Höhenjäger (“high-altitude fighter”)

            The F-W 190s also had an engineering marvel: automatic control of throttle & propeller pitch, something no other WW2 plane had.

            Dan Kurt

          • @ Dan – Typo on my part…Bf-109 FW should have been Bf-190. Thanks for the correction and additional details! Nice to see you Americans are up on German aviation history. 🙂

        • I had one in college, plus a 65 chevy to drive when it was in the shop. It was running on two cylinders but still fun to drive. The local mechanics had no idea what to do with it.

        • That would be Focke-Wulf FW 190, Severain. It had an air-cooled radial engine built by BMW. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was powered by a Daimler-Benz liquid-cooled inverted V12.

    • From what I’ve read, the designers of the Camaro, Mustang and Challenger set pout to recreate the 60’s variant for the modern age. It does not take much creativity to copy the work of others. That said, I like the looks of these cars, but they are the few exceptions on dealer lots. The rest are Ladas for the modern age.

      • Alas only Ford did it right.Compare a current Challenger to a ’70 (sexy as hell), and it looks fat, bloated and ugly. Same with the Camaro.

      • They copied the look, but can’t copy the spirit, because it’s impossible. The “pony car” was a cheap sporty car, These new versions are nothing more than expensive memento mori for boomers.

    • GM has some great opportunities to bring out some retro cars and make some real money if they want. The GTO, Bel Air, Firebird, Riviera and Cutlass are name plates that would still resonate today if they were done as well as the Mustang and the Camaro.

      A 57 Bel Air with chiseled lines like the Mustang? They would make a mint.

      Ford needs to bring out a retro Merc. Cougar, circa 1967/68/69. That was one sweet looking car.

      If they leaned on their past Heritage more, they could make some big money and gain back some market share at the same time.

    • Well said. Hi Z, longtime reader, another one referred by John Rivers via Twitter. My first purchase after finishing school and starting a career was a Dodge Charger, 2014, SXT in black. Because… I like it and it’s a fun toy. If there was a utilitarian aspect to the color, I don’t know about it. It just looks the closest to a Batmobile that was within my pay grade.

  47. Since I reached the point in life where I could afford new cars, I’ve been using the internet to get the price nailed down before I’ll show up at a dealership. I just never had any patience for the process of haggling with a professional haggler.

    You are right about Honda – an ’89 Prelude Si was my second car – fun! Bought a Mazda a few months ago, I certainly would have looked at a new Prelude if such a thing existed. Toyota has the FR-S or whatever it’s called now, it got mixed reviews and cost more than it should.

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