Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 11:21 a.m.

So I've been narrowing my next car/project down and need some advice. I've narrowed it down to 3 cars,

1) BMW 320i (e21) 2) Fiat 124 Spider 3) 2nd Gen Camaro

So I have a few basic guides here as this car will be a daily driver/weekend canyon carver, with occasional track time here and there. The next thing that is a requirement is that it must be realatively cheap and have a back seat. Gas mileage is a factor, I know the camaro can be on the low end of that, but a 5 speed trans and some lower gearing will up the mpg's and get it in or near the 20's. Also I have a son who is two years old, and while I like the fiat spider the most, I am concerned that a child seat might not fit in the rear seat. I have never owned one of these, but I am in love with the look of them, plus light weight and dohc with possible fuel injection. I realize the concerns of buying one, mostly rust, it is mostly the car seat holding me up, I will be buying one of these three sometime in the next 6 months, I'm just trying to get an idea now what would be best.

Please chime in with some advice on what would most likely be the best purchase here. Thank you.

BoxheadTim UltimaDork
Dec. 4, 2014 11:51 a.m.

If you need a proper back seat, the only car on your list that would fit your criteria is the E21.

stuart in mn PowerDork
Dec. 4, 2014 12:10 p.m.

I'd say the e21 would be the most practical, but the Camaro will be easiest to find and easiest to source parts for.

Steelpig New Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 1:37 p.m.

In reply to Xer0: I'm going to say Fiat. I have never had a child seat in the back of one, but I bet it would fit. They are fun cars with a lot of potential, and you just don't see them around anymore.

SEADave Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 1:54 p.m.

I really like 2nd Gen F-bodies, but you are not going to get ANYWHERE near 20mpg combined in one without drastic measures. By drastic measures I mean most likely a 4.8/5.3 LSx swap with a stock or very mild cam, overdrive transmission and modest rear gears.

Not to turn you away from them, they are great cars with tremendous potential but gas mileage isn't their strong suit.

stu67tiger Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 2:15 p.m.

Your bio says you're a Navy guy, which suggests frequent proximity to salt water. If so, strike the FIAT from your list right now. The first owner of my 124 Spyder was a Navy guy, and the rockers rusted out at 2 years old... The body shop guy said to sell it ASAP.

And the back package shelf isn't THAT roomy...

Stu

Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 2:37 p.m.

In reply to SEADave: My first car was a 1977 camaro I rebuilt the engine and suspension with my dad, it is what got me into cars, I was a full time mechanic for the last 4 years before going into the navy, so the engine and transmission swap, fuel injection conversion, and rear end replacement is a bit of work, but really not that difficult or beyond my capabilities. I love the bodies and with all the technology now available there is a lot of upsides to them... its just finding one where the floorboards haven't rusted away... not that that isn't fixable

rconlon HalfDork
Dec. 4, 2014 3:30 p.m.

The Spider has seat belt mounts in the rear and I installed belts. I doubt that a car seat would fit back there and still use the front seat, but a young child out of the car seat would for short hops. I used mine daily but just to ferry kids to school and a very short commute to work. I seldom used the rear seat/shelf or the belts. I don't think it would be as reliable or practical as the other two choices but they are not stylish Italian sports cars either. Parts are easy to order but finding a mechanic is often another issue and DIY might have the car waiting for you to find time. Also, it is best to test fit yourself in one.

Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
Dec. 4, 2014 3:56 p.m.

Have you considered an E30, or BMW 2002 as an alternative to the 320i? Both have greater aftermarket support and perform better "out of the box" than the E21. Of course if you love the look of the 320i--- I can see why you'd consider it.

Early 2nd gen Camaro or Firebird would be my pick--- but they are radically different than the foreign choices you posted. The very late 2nd gen Z28s are pretty decent too--- and extremely comfortable for long highway slogs. Performance is only limited by your budget.

Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 6:45 p.m.

In reply to rconlon: I have been thinking I might have to get the 2002 as the most practical choice out of the short list, thank you for the advice. I agree, I think the best approach would be to test fit one and see how everything is.

Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Dec. 4, 2014 6:51 p.m.

In reply to Joe Gearin: I have considered both the 2002 and the e30, the e30 would seem more practical, but i do like the lines of the e21, plus the fact that it is a few hundred pounds lighter than the e30, I would go with a 2002, but the prices tend to be more expensive and for the money a car in worse condition comparatively. Most of the reason that I am leaning toward the first two and not the f-body is because I have never owned a flyweight car, the closest either being my Porsche 944 or my last car a e36 318ti. Although any money invested in the first two would probably go much further in the f-body, plus with the f-body pick and pull would become a good friend for things like fuel injection conversion, and craigslist for a 5 or 6 speed transmission.

ddavidv PowerDork
Dec. 5, 2014 4:29 a.m.

I own/race a E30 and have driven the E21.

I can't imagine why anyone would choose the E21 out of all the BMWs available. They are ponderously slow and offer neither the power of the E30 nor the delightful flingability of the 2002. They are a nowhere car, lost between the legendary 2002 and the far-better-than-it-should-be E30. If you get a 325i you'll have the power, still have the economy (surprising mpg) and with a grand worth of suspension parts it will carve corners flat and predictable at the limit. Parts are everywhere.

E21 cars (at least where I live) are few and far between, way more rust prone and have miniscule resale value...for a reason. Though BMW never really made a bad car up until recently they certainly made a lackluster one in the E21. Sure, you can modify it and make it into something better...that will be the equal of a bone stock E30. Why?

(And now the replies from the E21 faithful who will defend their chosen ride)

pushrod36 Reader
Dec. 5, 2014 8:17 a.m.

What's your budget?

On the topic of fuel economy, I have a 1968 GTO with LS1 swap. I get 16-18 going down the highway with a healthy cam and the 6-speed transmission.

Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Dec. 5, 2014 1:58 p.m.

In reply to pushrod36: I'm trying to keep it to 3500 for the initial purchase, no idea how much is going to end up in it over time though.

SEADave Reader
Dec. 5, 2014 2:45 p.m.
Xer0 wrote: In reply to SEADave: My first car was a 1977 camaro I rebuilt the engine and suspension with my dad, it is what got me into cars, I was a full time mechanic for the last 4 years before going into the navy, so the engine and transmission swap, fuel injection conversion, and rear end replacement is a bit of work, but really not that difficult or beyond my capabilities. I love the bodies and with all the technology now available there is a lot of upsides to them... its just finding one where the floorboards haven't rusted away... not that that isn't fixable

Trust me, I'm not trying to talk anyone out of a 2nd gen F-body, just commenting on the likelyhood of one meeting your stated fuel-efficiency requirement. I was going to suggest that if you can't find rust-free 2nd gen's you should look in the Northwest, but it seems that you are in the PNW yourself.

I have been watching this guy on the Victoria BC CL for a while: http://victoria.craigslist.ca/cto/4698482567.html I haven't put eyes on it but pretty decent price for a real Z-28 manual with "minimal rust." His asking price works out to $2800 in USD.

92dxman SuperDork
Dec. 5, 2014 3:17 p.m.

I'll throw this out there. How about a slant 6 Dodge Dart sedan? You could probably find one in your budget and have room for a kiddo seat.

TeamEvil HalfDork
Dec. 6, 2014 4:46 p.m.

BMW for sure. Too much mullet in the Camaro and 124 is too . . . delicate . . . to be a serious contender without a lot of money and time lavished on it.

pushrod36 Reader
Dec. 8, 2014 12:13 p.m.

With the stated budget I would do the BMW.

Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Dec. 8, 2014 5:22 p.m.

In reply to 92dxman: The dart isn't a bad idea, I've always liked the look of them, and I could probably one right in my budget, so now it's scratch the fiat and between BMW and Dart, it's funny I was just reading about the slant six the other day, wondering how many people make go fast parts for it. I think it will ost likely come down to what I can find in the area at the time, currently in school in Pensacola fl, but get orders in January for my next duty station, probably just see what I can find there

bentwrench Dork
Dec. 8, 2014 6:01 p.m.

I covet a slut 6 with fuel injection (turbo?) and a 5 speed...

Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Jan. 11, 2016 5:11 p.m.

Just wanted to update, been a year, just picked up my new ride, its a 87 325e, ended up getting a 4 door as my 4runner took a poo and I needed a family hauler

Xer0
Xer0 New Reader
Jan. 11, 2016 5:19 p.m.

Just wanted to update, been a year, just picked up my new ride, its a 87 325e, ended up getting a 4 door as my 4runner took a poo and I needed a family hauler

tr8todd Dork
Jan. 21, 2016 5:33 a.m.

Go BMW, but don't limit your scope of models. 2002 is going to be expensive. I see many examples fetching 15K. 320i is a pathetic excuse for a BMW, yet still I'd love to find a decent shell and throw in a Rover V8 and 5 speed with a nice suspension and wheel package. It would make for an awesome retro daily. E30s are very good cars, but everybody knows that. Thats why their values are climbing steadily. E36 and later BMW 3 series are very good cars and are under appreciated. Start surfing the BMW forums and find yourself a nice enthusiast owned later BMW such as an E36. You won't regret it. The key here to buying an older car is to buy one that is owned and loved by an enthusiast, not just a cheap ride for some privileged college kid.

tuna55 MegaDork
Jan. 21, 2016 7:36 a.m.

I LOVE the second gen Camaro. I think the key is to go with a very early one or a very late one. The suspension and drivetrain has probably the best aftermarket of any car ever, in terms of cheap and good. They are very fun to toss about, as well.

All of these are good choices, and somewhat rare in good condition. I'd just search for all of the above and see what great examples come up first.

Rupert Dork
Jan. 31, 2016 3:53 p.m.

In reply to tuna55: Of course with a Camaro and many others of that ilk, the big issue is the previous owners care or lack thereof. I've seen a ton of pony cars that spent most of their time spinning rear tires and very little getting oil changes. Or with a bunch of "hop up" goodies from Pep Boys hanging all over. Neither makes a good choice.

Having said all that, the tin worm may be your worst enemy! It's often cheaper to throw a whole drive train away on a US branded ride and buy a replacement than to deal with rust or missing nickel and dime trim parts you can never find.

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