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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/19/08 10:17 a.m.

I figured I'd start a new thread. I'm the editor. I can do that.

Last year I did a little math exercise. I was curious if new cars were more popular than old cars. Since I didn't have time to call all of our readers or do a proper survey, I simplified it. I simply recorded the model years for every car that participated in our local autocross series during 2007. We had 161 cars participate at our events, and the average model year was 2000. I should have separated out the Miatas, because they definitely pulled down the average.

What does this mean? That's up to interpretation. Also, this data didn't influence our course or cause major changes here at the magazine. I was really just curious. If I had to draw a conclusion, I'd bet that we all have more interest in older cars, but the newer ones make more realistic purchases. For example, what's going to draw a bigger crowd at a local autocross, a Datsun 510 or a WRX? But what do more people drive? A Subaru.

Discuss.

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
12/19/08 10:19 a.m.

You suck!

Margie

(just wanted to make sure this discussion maintained the proper flavor.)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/19/08 10:20 a.m.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

carguy123
carguy123 HalfDork
12/19/08 10:24 a.m.

Everyone wants to own a cool car but reality sets in and there comes the Subaru.

It almost seems you can't be Grassroots in your income to be able to afford a cool Grassroots car.

Of course your attitude can still be grassroots with the newer Subie or whatever. When the time comes for mods, 5 minutes after you make your purchase, just resist the urge to buy a fully complete whizz bang system and cobble together one on your own.

"Making do" with a newer car instead of the cool car you really want is grassroots.

Actually taking the newer car out to an autocross day or HPDE instead of spending the money and the time to build up that really cool car is definitely grassroots since grassroots is making do with what you've got instead of getting what you really, really want.

mistanfo
mistanfo Dork
12/19/08 10:36 a.m.

I prefer (for me) an older car and a newer bike. However, I will keep the wife in newer cars, for peace of mind, and currently, she does not desire a bike of her own. The average build year in my fleet is 1996. The 2006 motorcycle seems to balance out the '84 Conversion van. I'll keep running NA Miatas as long as they stay cheap. Don't really care if I'm competitive in my class, as I build a car for ME, not whatever group I run with.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
12/19/08 10:51 a.m.

What's the break-off point for a "new" car. 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? 50k miles?

Is there a gray area where a car isn't "new" but not yet "old"?

Does it vary with the car? Like, do some cars stay "new" longer than others? All new Minis seem new to me.

Let's see... '94 Miata 15y/o. I'd say it's an older car. '99 BMW - 10y/o. Doesn't feel nearly as old. But doesn't really feel quite "new".

Would a post 2000 P71 be new or old?

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Associate Publisher
12/19/08 11:21 a.m.

I think that my girlfriend's 2000 Impreza wagon seems new, then I realize it has about 140,000 miles and that my view is skewed since I don't own anything newer than 1984.

I thought my 1998 Buick Park Avenue Ultra was pretty new when I had it in 2006 even though around it had 200,000 miles. The only problems I had with in the 30,000 miles of ownership was the transmission let go, the drivers window was off track and a steering box bolt sheered off. It ran 15.5 in the quarter with just an intake. Sold it for what I paid for it, $1,500.

On the other hand my brothers 2000 BMW 3 series felt like it was getting old at 110,000 miles in 2007. The headliner was falling down, the pleather on the door was pulling off, the interior plastics scratched easily and the window regulators had problems. The door lock/emergency switch didn't work, the head and tail light "out" lights were on even though they worked. The control arms were replaced twice and it had a cold idle problem. Also the auto transmission was going. Bought in 2002 for $22,000 Sold it in 2007 for $8,000.

I believe new and old is dependent on who is viewing it. My parents generally had 5-15 year old cars so they seemed new to me. Conversely if someone always is leasing or buying new cars a 5 year old car would seem old.

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
12/19/08 11:23 a.m.

I think there is a point when old cars stop being grassroots.

I would love to have a 510 but now they only come in two flavors, rusted out or restored/restomodded and being auctioned to the highest bidder. 914s are getting to be the same way. Rust buckets to be stripped for parts, expensive race cars with 911 motors and flares grafted on, or low mileage originals at the auction. My 914 is slowly being converted into a track car, but I have owned it for years and I am attached to it. I don't think I would ever sell it. But parts are getting pricey and I recently spent more on suspension parts for the 914 than I spent in total for my Challenge Swift.

If I was starting from scratch, instead of with a car that is partially done, I don't think I would start with a 914. Of course, I consider my NA Miata to be 'the new car' and I am allergic to car payments.

m4ff3w
m4ff3w Dork
12/19/08 11:52 a.m.
carguy123 wrote: Everyone wants to own a cool car but reality sets in and there comes the Subaru. It almost seems you can't be Grassroots in your income to be able to afford a cool Grassroots car.

I'm pretty low on the income bracket but daily drive a megasquirt'd 81 X1/9.

I don't know about anyone else, but I think it is a cool Grassroots car. It might not be a Miata, but it is fun!

carguy123
carguy123 HalfDork
12/19/08 11:54 a.m.
m4ff3w wrote:
carguy123 wrote: Everyone wants to own a cool car but reality sets in and there comes the Subaru. It almost seems you can't be Grassroots in your income to be able to afford a cool Grassroots car.

I'm pretty low on the income bracket but daily drive a megasquirt'd 81 X1/9.

I don't know about anyone else, but I think it is a cool Grassroots car. It might not be a Miata, but it is fun!

See you've made the most of what you had, now that's Grassroots!

Bobzilla
Bobzilla New Reader
12/19/08 11:56 a.m.

"I think there is a point when old cars stop being grassroots. "

I'm really beginning to feel this with the Swift GT project I buried/married myself to. . . .

Tim Baxter
Tim Baxter Online Editor
12/19/08 11:58 a.m.
Snowdoggie said: I think there is a point when old cars stop being grassroots.

No kidding. That's the main reason I have a Miata rather than an MGB. The Miata's cheaper to buy, and cheaper to own.

Travis_K
Travis_K Reader
12/19/08 12:12 p.m.

I have a couple of thoughts about it. Many new cars need too many parts replaced to just buy one and start driving it daily. Not that you cant use one everyday, but it may need $2k worth of parts and a few long weekends of work before its useable. If people dont fix eveything themselves, they couldnt even afford to drive old cars. I seem to remember just reading on here someone saying they had an estimate for over $600 to do shifter businhs and alternator on a neon. For me, that would be a $25 set of booger bushings and a $35 junkyard alternator, and about 2 or 3 hours to fix it. lol

Also, newer cars are going to be more popular at an autocros, becasue the classes (at least stock class and somewhat sp as well) are set up to phase out the older cars when they get too old for the average person to maintain. Neither or the 2 cars i have had as daily drivers have ever been in good enough mechanical shape to autocross either (both were at least 20 years old).

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
12/19/08 12:19 p.m.
Tim Baxter wrote:
Snowdoggie said: I think there is a point when old cars stop being grassroots.

No kidding. That's the main reason I have a Miata rather than an MGB. The Miata's cheaper to buy, and cheaper to own.

That's strange. Last year I was a proud owner of a Rubber Bumpered MGB LE in rough condition. I had owned an MGB in college and had also owned several Midgets in the past. I started thinking about a restomod MGB with the Moss Motors Fuel Injection Kit and realized I would still have the low horsepower pushrod engine with about 2K worth of fuel injection. I then thought of swaping a twincam 4 into it and then started wishing it had four wheel discs and an independent rear end. I finally realized that what I was really trying to do was make an MGB into a Miata and that it would cost more to build than the cost of just buying the Miata. I sold the MGB and bought a Miata.

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
12/19/08 12:22 p.m.
Bobzilla wrote: "I think there is a point when old cars stop being grassroots. " I'm really beginning to feel this with the Swift GT project I buried/married myself to. . . .

I would take that off your hands in a split second if you ever want to get rid of it. Selling my Swift GT was the biggest mistake I ever made.

wawazat
wawazat New Reader
12/19/08 12:23 p.m.
Marjorie Suddard wrote: You suck! Margie (just wanted to make sure this discussion maintained the proper flavor.)

Copy your butt at the office Christmas party David?

ddavidv
ddavidv SuperDork
12/19/08 12:25 p.m.

From your reader survey of some time ago, what are the age brackets of the readership? For myself, even at my advanced age I still prefer the older cars simply because they are more 'pure' and unencumbered by useless crap and excess weight. But, one of the benefits of advanced age is disposable income, so I can afford several toys vs the one of a recent college grad. So maybe it is that the old, grassroots cars aren't necessarily owned by people with low incomes. It may be more that impractical cars and their associated costs are easier for us to absorb.

I'm not sure the autocross survey is a good reresentation of readership. Autocross isn't for everyone. I wouldn't bother with it if I didn't have a genuine 'race' car that simply wouldn't get used enough otherwise. The idea of running through the cones with a stock class vehicle has zero appeal to me now.

Keith
Keith SuperDork
12/19/08 12:33 p.m.

Older cars aren't always practical for a lot of people. Autocross specials also aren't practical for a lot of people. So most people are just going to autocross their daily driver. And if that's not grassroots, what is?

David, I wonder how your observations correlate to the average age of cars on the road? I'll bet they're pretty close. In other words, you're seeing a fair cross section of normal cars at the autocrosses.

There is a special place for people who daily drive a 17-year-old Italian car with a home-built ECU assembled from plans on the internet, though.

rogerbvonceg
rogerbvonceg New Reader
12/19/08 12:36 p.m.

I like the "making the most of what you have" argument.

I don't have the spare time to buy a $1500 beater and turn it into something. I don't really have the space, either. I do my own work, up to a point, but I have my limits there, too.

I love European sport sedans, but I can't afford a new M3 or a '72 911S. ("but that's not a..." "don't stop him. He's on a roll.")

I value fuel efficiency and low emissions.

My Grassroots choices, then, range between slightly used premium entry-level "luxury" cars (a la E46 BMWs) and slightly less-used "low rent" hotrods (a la MS3s).

Tom Heath
Tom Heath Production Editor
12/19/08 12:37 p.m.
wawazat wrote:
Marjorie Suddard wrote: You suck! Margie (just wanted to make sure this discussion maintained the proper flavor.)

Copy your butt at the office Christmas party David?

Not yet, ask again tomorrow morning.

blaze86vic
blaze86vic New Reader
12/19/08 12:41 p.m.

I'm sure a lot of people would love to drive an older car (they are simply cooler), but actually abusing and maintaining an older car is not for everyone. Most people get really tired of having to work on the car before and after and in between everything you do with it because it keeps aging, struggling just to find replacement parts, having to make custom setups for things that everyone else gets to spend $40 and bolt on. I know because I was almost there a year ago. I was so ready to get a Miata and enjoy the pleasure of an aftermarket support basin. But for me, just driving a car doesn't do it, I have to be driving something that means something to me.....and I was born with a natural aversion to anything normal.

Snowdoggie
Snowdoggie Reader
12/19/08 12:44 p.m.

In some cases older cars are a choice rather than an economic necessity. The money I spend on the 914 plus what I spend on the Miata could easily cover a $500 a month car payment if I sold both cars and stopped blowing money on them. You can't buy a new CRX or a new MR2 anymore. There are no more Shelby Dodge hatchbacks. The new Miata and the GM roadsters are not the same kind of car as the NA Miata. The only new car I would even consider would be a Mini. The Porsche and the Vette are too expensive, and the new 911s and Boxters are not the same kind of car as the 914s and the short wheelbase 911s were. For the most part, they just don't build what I am interested in anymore.

carguy123
carguy123 HalfDork
12/19/08 1:39 p.m.

For me the best thing about newer cars is no points and no carbs!

That's where I draw the line. I've spent most of my life fighting points and carbs when I'd rather have been out running. If I get an older car, oh wait I have one, I will be putting in a newer engine (S2000 in 280z). Then I'll be able to enjoy the car.

mistanfo
mistanfo Dork
12/19/08 1:59 p.m.
Tom Heath wrote:
wawazat wrote:
Marjorie Suddard wrote: You suck! Margie (just wanted to make sure this discussion maintained the proper flavor.)

Copy your butt at the office Christmas party David?

Not yet, ask again tomorrow morning.

When I see you next week, I want a signed copy! Might be worth something if you become an integral part of a patio footer.

z31maniac
z31maniac HalfDork
12/19/08 2:57 p.m.

E30 is the compromise between cool and maitainability and more aftermarket support by the day

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