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octavious Dork
4/24/18 8:57 a.m.

Cliff notes: I’ve made the decision to sell off my motorcycles, my current commuter, and anything else that isn’t nailed down to get a different car. Skip to requirements.

Back story: I have a wife and two small kids who mean the world to me. In December I narrowly avoided a head on collision while riding the motorcycle to work. I haven’t been on the bike much since then. So selling the bikes has been an almost five month argument with myself over if I will ever ride again. The answer to that question is maybe, but it will be after my kids are out of the house and no longer depend on me for those basic essentials of food, shelter, hugs...you know the main stuff. Also during this time I began to think "if I'm selling the bikes I want a fun car, and I want a car I've never owned before." It didn’t make sense to try and keep a fourth car right now, so the Mazda 3 will also be sold to fund this car purchase. Full disclosure, my wife and I bought the 2008 Mazda 3 brand new, it has been a fantastic car and was her daily driver/kid hauler/grocery getter until January of this year. It’s only ever asked for disposables like gas, oil, and tires. In February at the 150k mile mark, and with thoughts of keeping it for longer, I did a full tune up, and new brake pads and rotors all around. It’s a great car and part of me hates to sell it, but…I’ve always felt it was under powered. I like the lightness of the steering but the plowing effect of front wheel drive in a sharp turn really annoys me. I took over daily driving the Mazda in January when we got my wife the newer family truckster/kid hauler/grocery getter/tow pig/long distance SUV.  Trust me it took longer to talk her into getting a newer car than you can imagine.  Also, just so we have all the information going in, the yellow 911 in my avatar is still in my garage. So the wife and kids are in a safe car, and I have an old car to tinker/work with my kids on.

With the decision to sell made, I reflected on my car history, and unless you like Jeeps, it has been kind of boring:

  • 1979 Mercedes Benz 240D
  • 1973 VW beetle
  • 1995 Isuszu Rodeo 5spd
  • 1976 Porsche 911*
  • 1999 and 2004 Crown Vics (work cars but we drove them like we stole them)
  • 1980 Jeep CJ 5
  • 1997 Jeep TJ 4cyl
  • 2002 Jeep Liberty
  • 2000 F150 Supercrew
  • 2007 Jeep Wrangler UK 6spd
  • 2002 Subaru Outback 6cyl
  • 1990 Ford F150
  • 2002 Jeep Wrangler 6cyl
  • 1983 Jeep CJ7
  • 2007 Mazda 3

So the current question is, what to get? I originally started looking at Boxsters, because Porsche, and they are darn cheap. However, my wife suffers from "what if" syndrome, and kept coming up with "what if you have to pick the kids up?" Dang she’s a fine woman but the logical adulting side of her drives me to the crazies! However, she made a valid point and she doesn’t care what I get other than it needs to have four seats, so I’ll keep her around.  I started thinking what are my criteria.


  • $8000-9000 max
  • 2 doors
  • 4 seats
  • Manual transmission
  • Rear wheel drive
  • Reliable
  • Cheap parts
  • Good aftermarket
  • Fun to drive
  • More power!!! Than a Mazda 3…

Do you know what I realized during the past couple months? There are very few cars that fit my criteria. I also realized I’ve never owned an American made muscle car but I like them. Right now I'm leaning towards SN197 Mustang GTs 05+.  But as I’ve started to look, I see all kinds of things in my price range.  SN195 Cobras and Mach 1s, WS6 Pontiacs, Infinity G37s, BMWs, etc. I’d like something that I can use everyday but still possibly go to an autocross or whatever and have fun.  Not necessarily win, but just have fun.  Plus we have some great roads in TN and while the 911 is the main twisty road carver, it needs some things before I’m ready to take it on a 200 mile backroad loop.  I’d like the new car to be fun in the twisty stuff too.


So is a Mustang GT what I really want?

eastsideTim UltraDork
4/24/18 9:36 a.m.

It might be.  If it’s your daily driver, I’d definitely pick a S197 GT over a SN95 Cobra.  The older one is very primitive feeling compared to the newer one, not to mention a newer GT will be a lot safer to transport your kids in.  I’ll note, the only S197 I have driven was a 2014 V6 Performance Package Model, so my experience may not be completely valid.  I haven’t driven the other cars on your list, so can’t really make an educated comment on them. 

docwyte SuperDork
4/24/18 9:58 a.m.

You can get a decent E36 M3 for your budget and probably even the sedan version.  Or an E46 330i ZHP...

jimbbski Dork
4/24/18 9:59 a.m.

The prices of the 2005-2009 models are right in that range. Some higher, some lower. As always it depends on options, mileage, and condition.

I have driven a couple and rode in some as well and they are the best Mustangs built up to that point.  I'm not a big fan of the 2010-2014's as far as styling but they did come with the 5.0L 4V rather then the 4.6L 3V. I would consider one as a DD.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
4/24/18 10:32 a.m.

You might- I have had a number of S197 GTs as rentals and they're probably my favorite Mustang.  The higher trim ones had pretty nice interiors, the engine is enough to get you in trouble, and the handling is still "Mustangy" with the live axle- whether or not this is a good thing is up to you, I like that they'll rotate and hop around and make things feel a little bit dangerous.

I would add the GTO and maybe the Genesis V6 to your list.

EDIT:  As a bonus, the S197 actually has a rated towing capacity between 750-1500lbs depending on options, so if you don't want to give up two wheelers entirely it can tow a trailer with your track/woods/motocross bike on it devil

Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
4/24/18 10:45 a.m.

I have to echo the S197 sentiment over an SN95.  I"'e had both and I'd honestly rather have a V6 S197 over a V8 SN95 for DD use, the chassis is that much better with no band aids applied.



octavious said:......... but the plowing effect of front wheel drive in a sharp turn really annoys me.........?

Just one comment.  FWD plow is mainly a driving style thing.  I've owned both a Focus and have had my C30 for 10 years now.  Both are related to the MAzda 3.  I've also driven a fair number of Mazda 3's, both cookie cutter and Mazdaspeed.  They are all great balance chassis that benefit from trailing braking to help it rotate.  Corner entry or even corner exit understeer can easily be a non issue with judicious use of the pedals!

octavious Dork
4/24/18 12:11 p.m.

Adrian - copy that.  And noted.  


Well so far I'm glad it seems that I was just overthinking the "why would you get a GT when you can get a Cobra"

ultraclyde PowerDork
4/24/18 1:02 p.m.

The older Cobras (with the exception of the terminators) weren't any faster than the S197s and were much less...nice?.  I bought an '05 GT new and I still DD it. It's a good car stock and with a few light mods it's a truly great do-all daily driver. I really can't praise it highly enough.  There are cars that might be better at any one thing than it is, but for the money few if any do it all as well.

I'd find the best cared for, most stock one you can and get it. Be aware, though, in dead-stock trim, particularly with all season tires, they plow like a mule when you hit a corner hot. Sway bars and good shocks give you a car that is very neutral and can be pushed to over or under steer by choice of line and speed. To really feel like they should, you want sway bars, better shocks, and a tune that removes the Ford-spec throttle lag. Those 3 things sharpen the car perfectly.  A coworker bought a later , 400+ horse GT new and swore mine was faster just because it felt right, even though I was down 100+HP on him.

Gratuitous Pony Pic:

t25torx Dork
4/24/18 1:31 p.m.

Yes you do.

I never thought I would own one, but after owning an S197 I would get another in a heartbeat. I had the 4.0L V6 so it wasn't terribly fast, but the updated interior over the SN95 was a huge leap forward in build quality.

I would actually suggest you look at the 2011+ V6 models. They are starting to come down in price and when you compare them to the S197 GT's they make more sense as a daily.


So you get 10 less HP but a huge increase in MPG. And if you get a 13+ then you get the IRS rear. I have seen cars with over 85K miles start to dip under the $10K price point.

Rusnak_322 Dork
4/24/18 3:54 p.m.

The IRS came in 2015.

There were a few pretty good articles in GRM about both the GT and the V6 S197.

I have a 2013 GT convertible and love it. It is a blast to autocross even if I can go faster in my wifes NC Miata.

4/24/18 4:36 p.m.

I've got a 2007 GT convertible, and I've had a lot of fun with it.  I use it pretty much how you're describing.

Gobs of power.  The handling is fine, but it's not as sharp as the smaller sports cars I've owned.  Does great hauling kids around.  The clutch is kind of heavy in stop & go traffic.  Don't expect to get much in the trunk.  If you have to ask about gas mileage...

I'm actually thinking about selling mine, and getting a Focus ST or something a bit more practical.  I love the utility of a nice sport-wagon.  But the GT has been fun!

dean1484 MegaDork
4/24/18 4:51 p.m.

In reply to octavious :

I can not answer your car question but I applaud you for making the right choice regarding your responsibilities as a Dad.  I had to do the same with car racing.  Back then we were loosing 1 or more drivers a year in the New England regin and with young kids I had to step out of the seat for the same reasons.  

In short you done good!!!!

fasted58 MegaDork
4/24/18 9:01 p.m.

'05 GT 5-speed owner, bought mostly stock at 46K miles for fun DD, bucket list car. OK stock but a lotta potential, chassis is good right outta the box ✔.

Aftermarket is huge for these cars. Research, build to preferences or as budget allows. Koni's or D-Specs, sport springs, tubular control arms etc all add up to a nice suspension package. Have my D-Specs set near full soft for DD and long trips, world of difference over factory. Only takes a few minutes to adjust firmer to suit. Aftermarket wheels and 255's fit nicely w/ conservative lowering, I went w/ Steeda Sport Springs, only 1" plus drop but significant. Tune gets rid of the factory throttle dead spot like UC said. Mostly Saturday afternoon bolt-ons too that won't break the bank. One of my favorite builds.  Pretty much everything UltraClyde says.

4.6L 3V is rated 300hp factory, not a dog by any means but there are 300hp minivans now. It fits the car well tho. Rather have a Coyote but don't like the 2012-up body style. '05-'09 is the classic style I was after. Bolt on supercharger for the 4.6 can surpass the Coyote stock but why not start w/ the Coyote to begin with if that's your bag. 

Fuel mileage after tune and mods was 20 mpg +/- mostly highway, conservative driving.

Very few complaints: Ford Keep Alive Memory will actually drain the battery on early models. No factory fix I been aware of, answer is battery tender if stored for long periods. Factory pedestal spoiler, meh. Rather have spoiler delete or lip spoiler (first world problem). Third pedal was not DD friendly in work boots. 

To OP: a lot of these cars were bought as toys only, early model S197s are probably out there in your price range. Spring fever, dealer and crack price owners may make it look bad but I'd consider a 60-70K  mile for $10K after negotiation a reasonable price. I'd stay away from cars w/ high mileage or too much E36 M3 hangin' off 'em. Weed out the hooners too... you'll know 'em when ya hear 'em. Took me over two years looking regularly to find my S197  in Satin Silver (no compromise in color) but well worth the wait.

No regrets, great car for the money and potential.

Good luck hunting.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
4/24/18 9:15 p.m.

Have you driven the different generations? They have their own character and one might appeal to you more than the other from behind the wheel. The good thing is finding them to drive should be easy enough. 


Appleseed MegaDork
4/24/18 9:45 p.m.

Ask yourself how many people you need to mow down. 

TurboFocus Reader
4/25/18 2:11 a.m.

ive seen mordern bmw's being suggested in these threads. i would argue against them in the reliability factor that you care about. the e46 i owned was ALWAYS springing some sort of leak, turns out thats normal in those cars. a buddies e92 is always getting worked on, he just spent 500 dollars on fuel injectors and chalked it up to 'the cost of owning the car' like these types of expensive repairs were common. 

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
4/25/18 4:29 a.m.

I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet: GRM 2012 Mustang CAM Project

That looks like it would be a fun car to duplicate. 

octavious Dork
4/25/18 8:43 a.m.

Thanks guys.  Interestingly I originally thought I wanted a coupe, because daily driver during the winter, and because I thought they would be more expensive.  Turns out in some instances I have seen lower mileage convertibles with less miles than the coupe.    My only convertible experience has been a 911 targa, and the cheap flappy tent material on a Jeep wrangler.  For those convertible owners is top up driving pleasant?   


I have driven the new edge style, I have not driven a S197 body style yet.  I've driven the BMW and no offense to all the BMW guys on here they just don't do anything for me.  My coworker let me drive his manual 335 the other day and it is a really really nice car, but I don't want to own one.  I'm not a huge fan of the looks of the Infiniti but I do see those suggested often. 


I've also been reading the Vorshlag thread on the 2011 Mustang mods.  Great detail over there even if it is for the 5.0 and not hte 4.6.



Ian-  Thanks for that.  Looks like I have something else to read now.  lol

Adrian_Thompson MegaDork
4/25/18 8:56 a.m.

 If you have kids one thing to consider is that with the S197  there is actually more headroom in the convertible with the top up then the coupe. Width is marginally less but manageable. I actually fit in the back seat of the convertible better than the front passenger seat if we had two people in the car. In the front the seat her to go so far forward my legs were cramped but if my 5 foot 10 daughter was in the front seat I could sit behind her. Never did it for more than two hours though. 

 If you have snow you need snow tires in winter end of discussion   

4/25/18 9:12 a.m.
octavious said:

For those convertible owners is top up driving pleasant?  

Mine is easily the most quiet and pleasant convertible I've owned.  With the top up the wind noise is minimal.  Top down is surprisingly quiet too.  With the top down and windows up you can easily have a conversation at highway speeds.  I was amazed by that one when I first bought the car.  No need to blast the radio.

The top has pretty big blind spots, which can make parking lots more challenging.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
4/25/18 9:34 a.m.

The top has pretty big blind spots, which can make parking lots more challenging.

Years of driving trucks and vans taught me to back into parking spots - makes dealing with blind spots much easier.  A full size conversion van with all of the window shades closed is a giant blind spot.

octavious Dork
4/26/18 7:17 a.m.

I've backed into parking spots for years so no problem there.  


And I sold my other bike yesterday.  I need to do a couple things to the Mazda 3 and get it listed, and then I will be in full car shopping mode.  

4/26/18 8:08 a.m.

No issues with the blind spots, then.

Also, Kids + Convertibles = More Fun.  You become the coolest dad at afternoon pick-up.

octavious Dork
4/26/18 8:23 a.m.

No issues with the blind spots, then.

Also, Kids + Convertibles = More Fun.  You become the coolest dad at afternoon pick-up.

LOL.  So true.  In a sea of minivans and SUVs I think any car with only 2 doors stands out.  When I take them or pick them up both kids want to take the Porsche.  Gotta start them early...

Chris_V UberDork
4/26/18 8:56 a.m.

I had an '06 GT Premium Convertible. great fun in twisty roads, great fun to cruise around in. With Pypes axle back exhaust it made great noises.

As was said, LOTS of aftermarket support, decent enough quality, and for me, at least, dead nuts reliability.

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