June 16, 2015 2:16 p.m.

With it looking more likely the Prius will be sold shortly, I'm looking more seriously at what I'm going to pick up to fill the slot in my fleet that selling it will open up- and the plan is (and has been for a while) to pick up a nice, fun convertible to enjoy cruising around the Bluegrass through the summer.

The top of my list would have been to get a Miata, but SWMBO is very far from sold on the idea of one, and since the intent is for this to be a car we can both enjoy driving I'm not particularly inclined to push the issue. She also hates (for a more justifiable reason that is in no form the car itself's fault) Eclipse Spyders, so that's out too. Her being able to drive it also requires that it be an automatic- yeah, I know I should teach her to drive a manual, but it's just never been enough of a priority to worry about.

I've been looking over the available cars in the price range I'm expecting to have the money for (the Prius should sell for about $3500, and I can kick in a bit on top of that), and on the whole the most promising prospects nearby (though unfortunately not actually in town here...) are all BMWs. Specifically, late 80's/early 90's 3-series convertibles and a few early Z3s.

I realize they're rather different vehicles- the Z3 clearly a roadster while the 3-series actually have a back seat and something resembling a trunk- but I'm curious as The Hive's thoughts regarding the two cars and their strengths/weaknesses. We're mainly just interested in a nice, fun car to drive while the weather is nice. It's undecided whether we'll want to try and sell it before the weather turns cooler and the convertible aspect becomes less useful or if we'll try and keep & drive it through the winter, but that is a possibility.

SlickDizzy PowerDork
June 16, 2015 2:23 p.m.

The Z3 will likely have the more reliable automatic transmission of the two, if not by much. They look nice, but fit like a glove. E30 'vert would be more practical in every way, except perhaps maintenance-wise (not sure I've ever seen an auto E30 with an honest 100k+ on it, and it may also have a timing belt to keep up depending on model).

If it has to be auto, I would almost say skip the BMWs, unless you're willing to drop the coin for a later Z3 or E36/E46 'vert with the GM transmission.

pinchvalve MegaDork
June 16, 2015 2:50 p.m.

I checked the local CL for convertibles in your price range, and 40% are Sebrings, 40% are Mustangs, 10% are Saabs, and 10% is a mix of the rest. Interesting.

And this is $3900, which I still say is a great cruiser if you want a 4-seat convertible.

June 16, 2015 3:35 p.m.

Well, the basic parameters of what we're looking for are as follows:

  1. Convertible. Might consider T-tops or targa (e.g. 90's MR2)

  2. Automatic. If it's something super awesome, this is somewhat negotiable- but for the most part is not.

  3. Largely turn-key. I'm not remotely afraid of working on a car, but I already have one major project looming once the garage is finally organized (the Elky) and don't need 2 cars sitting around waiting for that- it needs to be something we can just get in and drive right away.

  4. Cars that SWMBO either refuses to drive or is not very fond of: Eclipse Spyders, New Beetle, & Miatas. She's not too fond of Saabs of Volvos, but those might be acceptable. Capri's and other older, smaller roadsters (MGs, etc.) would also likely be objected to. For that matter, anything much older than early 90's is going to be met with considerable skepticism (half of our existing cars are already as old or older than she is...)

  5. Cars I'm wary of from word-of-mouth: Sebrings. Not the most fond of Del Sol's either.

As I said, I'm kind of torn on whether I want a roaster or a 4-seater. We already have one pure 2-seater (the DeLorean), and that fact is why the FC vert was sold several years back when I didn't have the room for as many cars as I had at the time. If I were sure we'd be keeping it for a while, I'd lean toward having a back seat since we hope to have a family in the modestly near future.

92dxman Dork
June 16, 2015 3:43 p.m.

I'd say go 3 Series if your just going to be putzing around.

MadScientistMatt UberDork
June 16, 2015 3:51 p.m.
StainlessWings wrote: I realize they're rather different vehicles- the Z3 clearly a roadster while the 3-series actually have a back seat and something resembling a trunk...

Sort of. The Z3 is essentially an E36 front with an evolution of the E30 rear suspension grafted on, so a lot of the mechanicals are the same. I have an E36 convertible (manual transmission, though) and it is a great cruiser. Not as nimble as a Miata, but it is a fun car for what it is. The automatic equipped ones with a six cylinder are, well, tolerable for performance. I haven't driven the four banger versions.

Have you looked at Mustangs or Camaros? These often lose a bit less with an automatic than smaller engined cars.

Mr_Clutch42 SuperDork
June 16, 2015 6:05 p.m.

Who would have thought that the "chick cars" are the ones your wife specifically rejects? In your budget, I have also seen VW cabriolets, and a Camry Solara droptop. I would imagine that you would reject a PT Cruiser droptop. If you two end up getting a Mustang or Camaro droptop, I would suggest you replace the shocks and struts with Koni yellows or Bilstein sports if you two will keep it for longer than the hot season. Dampening will probably be a huge factor to go with either a 3-series droptop or Z3 over the American cars, IMO.

KyAllroad Dork
June 16, 2015 6:42 p.m.

The requirement for an automatic makes it a different proposition. I'd lean toward a Saab for that price point and enjoy cruising it around. I suspect the BMWs with automatics would feel too neutered.

mad_machine MegaDork
June 16, 2015 8:24 p.m.

the Z3 is basically a 318ti with a sexy body. the suspension is the exactly the same. That said, it is the most rock simple suspension of the E36 chassis design. Struts in front with two ball joints and a bushing and a trailing arm at the back with two bushings. Simple and they work well as long as you do not get to 9/10ths or above and lift while cornering.. then the ass end -will- bite.

With the Z3 you sit further rearwards than the cabriolet, so you will feel the rear end doing it's thing more

spork
spork New Reader
June 16, 2015 11:16 p.m.

If it's a choice between the z3 and mid nineties 3 series, I'd probably pick the z. It's an e36, but they tend to run later production lines than the 3 series. My personal choice would be a six cylinder, low option model with a manual roof (I'd actually want the coupe with a manual, but you said you don't want that). Manual roof and low options means there won't be a lot to break and cost $$$. Have a pre purchase inspection done and make sure the trans fluid is sampled, just so there aren't any surprises. Then enjoy driving your reliable roadster until you start your family.

Klayfish UltraDork
June 17, 2015 6:34 a.m.

I'm in the exact same market as you are right now, considering the same cars. Difference for me is that Miata is very much in play and a manual is a must. But budget is similar, and I'm looking at Z3 and 3 series 'vert. Not sure about your neck of the woods, but low $4s can get a decent early model E46. I've also looked at Saabs, which I like and are much less expensive. But they're front drive and less sporty for the most part.

If you want just a true cruiser, I'd say the E36/46 or Saab would be best suited at those.

For my own choice, it's a matter of practicality. I've got 3 kids. None of the cars can carry all 5 of us, but it'd be nice to be able to carry more than just one passenger. So I'm looking more at the 4 seaters, but I won't kick a 2 seater out of bed if it shows up as a screaming bargain.

MadScientistMatt UberDork
June 17, 2015 7:36 a.m.
spork wrote: My personal choice would be a six cylinder, low option model with a manual roof (I'd actually want the coupe with a manual, but you said you don't want that). Manual roof and low options means there won't be a lot to break and cost $$$.

Forgot to mention this. Mine has a power roof, and I find it way too complex and finicky.

June 17, 2015 8:49 a.m.

Well, the Prius did indeed sell yesterday afternoon for full asking price (a whopping $3500, but eh- it's a start...), so the hunt is on- especially since it was supposed to be what my in-laws drove when they came down for the weekend. Ooops.

Mr_Clutch42 wrote: Who would have thought that the "chick cars" are the ones your wife specifically rejects? In your budget, I have also seen VW cabriolets, and a Camry Solara droptop. I would imagine that you would reject a PT Cruiser droptop.

She specifically doesn't like the Miata because of the size- she has almost always had and driven much larger cars and doesn't feel comfortable with the smaller ones. The Prius was too small for her tastes. And yes- we both ruled out a PT Cruiser ragtop, both of us think they look ridiculous.

I'm not opposed to a Camaro/Firebird (less fond of Firebirds) or a Mustang, but it seems most of the domestics that I find around here tend to have been beat on pretty hard in comparison to the imports while still wanting similar prices for them.

I'd not mind a Solara- I rather like how they look, but haven't found one near enough for a decent price. Not sure how SWMBO would react to a Cabriolet- I've got a soft spot for them though since I rather liked the 80's models when I first started driving.

It's a pity this has a rebuilt title and isn't cheaper- it would be a fairly serious consideration: http://lexington.craigslist.org/cto/5071249259.html

SlickDizzy PowerDork
June 17, 2015 8:51 a.m.

In reply to StainlessWings:

If a Miata is too small, don't even bother with the Z3. They are nearly identical externally and the Z3 is even less spacious inside.

June 17, 2015 1:17 p.m.

Well, she has said that she at least likes the looks of the Z3 more. I stopped trying to make complete sense of her thoughts/taste in cars a ways back and accepted we would simply have to disagree on some things (she hates wagons for example).

This is the Z3 that has the most potential in my book at the moment: http://louisville.craigslist.org/cto/5043449640.html

June 17, 2015 3:56 p.m.

Just found out that M3 with the rebuilt title I linked a bit earlier is actually on a lot that I ride right past on my way home... will have to stop in and give it a quick look-see. I apparently had put in the wrong year when I initially looked up the KBB estimate on it and it's actually not too unreasonably priced. The bad is that it may be on a commercial/buy-here-pay-here lot...

mattmacklind UltimaDork
June 17, 2015 8:24 p.m.
pinchvalve wrote: I checked the local CL for convertibles in your price range, and 40% are Sebrings, 40% are Mustangs, 10% are Saabs, and 10% is a mix of the rest. Interesting. And this is $3900, which I still say is a great cruiser if you want a 4-seat convertible.

I love these. Just want to say that. That is all.

beans Dork
June 17, 2015 9:10 p.m.

I too am in teh looves with those funky Olds verts.

But, I'd go straight to the Z3.

Mike Dork
June 17, 2015 11:13 p.m.
StainlessWings wrote: Well, the basic parameters of what we're looking for are as follows: 1. Convertible. Might consider T-tops or targa (e.g. 90's MR2) 2. Automatic. If it's something super awesome, this is somewhat negotiable- but for the most part is not. 3. Largely turn-key. I'm not remotely afraid of working on a car, but I already have one major project looming once the garage is finally organized (the Elky) and don't need 2 cars sitting around waiting for that- it needs to be something we can just get in and drive right away. 4. Cars that SWMBO either refuses to drive or is not very fond of: Eclipse Spyders, New Beetle, & Miatas. She's not too fond of Saabs of Volvos, but those might be acceptable. Capri's and other older, smaller roadsters (MGs, etc.) would also likely be objected to. For that matter, anything much older than early 90's is going to be met with considerable skepticism (half of our existing cars are already as old or older than she is...) 5. Cars I'm wary of from word-of-mouth: Sebrings. Not the most fond of Del Sol's either. As I said, I'm kind of torn on whether I want a roaster or a 4-seater. We already have one pure 2-seater (the DeLorean), and that fact is why the FC vert was sold several years back when I didn't have the room for as many cars as I had at the time. If I were sure we'd be keeping it for a while, I'd lean toward having a back seat since we hope to have a family in the modestly near future.

How about a Mercedes? You could have an SL for that money.

June 18, 2015 9:02 a.m.

So, went out and looked at the M3 on my way home. Near as I can tell, it had the rebuilt title because it had been hit pretty hard in the driver's rear. It had been pulled out and bondo'd but not repainted yet (and still needed a bit more hammering on the smaller areas). Rear bumper cover was split a bit and not hanging quite right. The top looked like somebody had taken a box cutter and cut it in like 5 random places and punched out the rear window so it was only 70% attached (may have been from the accident though). Had unfortunately not been kept under cover, so the inside was damp from the rain we've gotten. For better or worse, the seller wasn't there to talk to and it took an hour or so of playing phone tag to actually talk with him- by which time SWMBO had gotten a chance to look over the pictures and go, "Yeah, no." I might have been willing to go for it if I could have gotten it down about $500 or more, but her objections weren't wholly unreasonable.

In looking around some more, we found a 1998 6-cylinder Mustang that she really liked the look of (it's her favorite color of blue- I wasn't surprised...). From everything the seller could tell me it sounded like a pretty good potential purchase- price was a bit higher than it likely should have been but they did say 'OBO' on it so I'd assume there was room for haggling. Unfortunately when I texted them about trying to meet up to see it (they're 2 hours away) I found out they'd just had a death in the family and wouldn't be doing anything with the car for a few days until it had been dealt with.

Pity our budget isn't about $2k higher- we both REALLY like this: http://lexington.craigslist.org/cto/5078663529.html

June 18, 2015 9:47 a.m.
Mike wrote: How about a Mercedes? You could have an SL for that money.

That would work- but unfortunately all of them around here that I can see are either well out of the price range or need work to be drivable.

Aspen Reader
June 18, 2015 9:48 a.m.

I would think a $4-5k BMW is going to have issues. For the same money you could get a pretty good Saab vert.

Mr_Clutch42 SuperDork
June 18, 2015 10:47 a.m.

In reply to StainlessWings: I wanted to suggest a C4, but your budget isn't big enough yet. I imagine it's the same for a Mini cooper droptop. If you can talk your wife into a 5-speed, you can throw in a FC RX-7 also.

drdisque Reader
June 18, 2015 10:51 a.m.

V6 Mustangs are lousy cars. '94-'98 V6 Mustangs are especially lousy cars.

June 18, 2015 12:33 p.m.
Mr_Clutch42 wrote: In reply to StainlessWings: I wanted to suggest a C4, but your budget isn't big enough yet. I imagine it's the same for a Mini cooper droptop. If you can talk your wife into a 5-speed, you can throw in a FC RX-7 also.

I would love an FC3C- I had an '88 for quite a while, was the car that got me into working on cars in the first place. There was an S5 automatic one up in Cinci a few months back that was an absolute steal but that I hesitated on trying to buy because of the Prius not being sold and it was sold fairly quickly- only to have SWMBO also lament that she should have just told me to go ahead and buy it.

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