Mazda787b New Reader
3/25/10 11:50 p.m.

Ok, here's the deal. I'm on my 3rd year of studying for a Degree in Electrical Engineering. I commute ~40 miles per day for school. I am a fairly large guy, at 6'3", 250lbs, and a 33" inseam. Miata may be a stretch. I have a clean record and don't hoon my cars. Have two insurance claims in my name, one where I was rear-ended in heavy traffic by a woman on a cellphone, and another where my car was broken into. Thus, my insurance premiums are fairly low.

I currently drive a low-mileage 98 Cherokee that I purchased as a graduation gift for myself when I graduated. I was planning on attending school in northern Michigan at the time, but moved back home and am living in the Suburbs of Detroit. Between the ~17mpg I get, poor handling, and my itch to get back into a sportier car, I have thrown a for sale sign in the Jeep.

My requirements are as follows:

-$8000 working budget.

-Prefer an American car, but am keeping an open mind. Not too particularly fond of Hondas or Toyotas (Euros, Mazdas ok).

-Must be relatively easy to acquire parts for and service. Father manages an Advanced Auto Parts location. I am fairly mechanically inclined, and am about to finish restoration on a C3 Corvette. I don't however care for miles upon miles of hoses, retarded electronic systems, etc. (think abused Mercedes, British-Leyland car, etc.). I need this car to get back and forth to school, so I need it to be reliable.

-Should get >20mpg highway. As gas prices are expected to go up, I have to take this into consideration.

-I would prefer a car with <100k miles, and obviously well cared for. This may vary. My Jeep has <50k and is nearly spotless. I take very good care of my cars and it shows.

-Living in Michigan, we still get snow. Car must be at least somewhat manageable in <4" of snow. Obviously Blizzaks or iPikes are a requirement. This is mostly for RWD cars, but I plan on buying snow tires for whichever vehicle.

-Car must be FUN to drive. I would like to do some TSD rallies, and have done Auto-X in the past. This is the main reason I am selling the Jeep. I also love going on moonlight drives down country roads, etc. Pretty standard stuff. I do like to do short day-trips, etc. I'd like to be able to fit a suitcase in the trunk at least. Manual transmission is almost a must.

That being said, I have found quite a few cars for sale which fit into my price range. Some examples being:

03 SRT-4, Completely Stock, 67k Miles, Adult Owned, $7200. My Previous car was a 1st-Gen Neon and I am still active in the Neon community. Definitely a front-runner.

Focus SVT. Have found several in the 70k Mile range for ~$7500. Don't know too much about them as far as servicing, etc. I have heard ramblings about wheel bearings and such. Seems to be the closest thing I can come to my old Neon ACR.

C4 Corvette. Have always loved the C4s. Being a Corvette owner already, and a member of the Corvette club, I would love another. Interior may be a bit tight for me? Have driven a C3 and C5, no C4. Hard to find ones around here that are not autos.

Miata. I love the NAs. Have found some clean examples for 100k miles, or need some work.

Anything else I am forgetting? Other input would be appreciated.

mtn SuperDork
3/26/10 12:25 a.m.

Hope you like torque steer with the SRT-4.

I was going to suggest the C4, but looks like you already thought of it.
E30 and E36, if only because of the size... My older brother fits in them and he is bigger and taller than you (with a smaller inseam).
Saabaru's are becoming good deals.

Mazda787b New Reader
3/26/10 12:39 a.m.

Driven a few SRTs, they weren't too bad. Adding a Quaife is #1 on the list if I decide to go that route, as 03s were not equipped with them.

I forgot to mention WRXs. Most of what I have seen in my price range have >100k miles. It seems to be hard to find an un-molested one for a decent price around here. AWD + possibly a wagon seems like a plus. Are there any major fail points to look at here? I have heard that the 5-speed boxes are like glass, and the STI 6-speed unit is a preferred upgrade.

I could see a Mustang or F-Body being garbage in snow, which is why I didn't mention them.

As far as BMWs, I am not very familiar with them. Obviously, an e36 M3 has been something I have been looking at, but they all seem to have tons of miles on them.

EvanB GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/26/10 12:54 a.m.

I got my WRX for 7500 with 75k on it so deals are out there, you just have to weed through high mileage or modified cars to find the right one.

Mazda787b New Reader
3/26/10 1:04 a.m.

Honestly, if something like that came along, I would jump on it. A few examples of cars I have been looking at: Could be nice with a bit of work. I could possibly talk him down a little here. Local forum guy checked it out, said it needed a few things, none of which seemed major. Higher mileage, but if he has all the receipts it may be legit. Have seen it around the neighborhood. A little high, but looks clean. Unsure on transmission. LT1, Auto FTL Suuuper clean. Looks like it may be an auto. Unsure on condition of car, but is worth looking at. Looked at a 944 before. This one is clean as well.

I don't feel like linking to all the Miatas, I have a ton bookmarked. I'd like to sit in one first to see how claustrophobic they may be.

mtn SuperDork
3/26/10 1:15 a.m.

I'd skip the 944. Not the easiest thing to work on, IIRC from when we were looking at them.

EvanB GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/26/10 1:41 a.m.

you could buy my Miata for cheap to do rallyx and autox and get another car for daily driving

Mazda787b New Reader
3/26/10 2:09 a.m.

Garage/parking space + insurance would prohibit that. 2.5 car garage. 4 people in the house that drive, 5 cars. Not to mention I pay for my own insurance and everything. Maybe this would be a viable option in a few years, ,but not now.

lewbud Reader
3/26/10 2:38 a.m.

With proper tires, I don't see why you'd rule out the Mustang (the Camaro I can understand as they are uggglllleeeee). I'm 6'1 and the New Edge and S197 are sorely lacking in headroom for tall folk. Fox body might be the answer.

chaparral Reader
3/26/10 8:43 a.m.

I think you're describing a C4 Corvette or gen-4 Camaro/Firebird.

ZOO GRM+ Memberand Dork
3/26/10 8:48 a.m.

I've owned a C4 (LT1/s6 speed) and a Miata at the same time. Both are great cars -- although the Miata is faster in an autox. The C4 was certainly much faster at the track. I regularly got 30 to 35 miles per gallon in the C4 while driving on the highway. The Miata struggles to get more than 23 or 24 miles per gallon on the highway (low gears, open car, high revs).

I don't know what the C4 would be like in the winter -- snows would be a must. I would hold out for a good LT1, although the L98s are much cheaper.

Bobzilla Dork
3/26/10 8:51 a.m.

^ I used to work with a guy that drove his 95 LT1 C4 365 days a year. He ran all seasons on it and carried 150lbs in the hatch for the winter. his was an auto, but he still knocked down about 28-30mpg weekly.

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