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BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/5/17 10:43 a.m.

Need some advice here (what else is new?). Basically I've been dealing with an achilles tendon injury in my clutch foot for 4-5 months now. It's healed to the extent that I don't have to wear an aircast anymore, but it's still not fully healed (podiatrist did say it can take months to fully heal). While I can walk OK with the appropriate insoles, driving a car with a manual transmission is giving me grief. That wasn't a problem until the Porsche's demise but I can't drive the beater truck to see clients. A short lease takeover isn't going to work either, as a) I don't know how long it'll take until I'm fully healed and b) I'm putting way too many miles on a car each week (about ~700).

So essentially I'm looking for a presentable car in the $4k range that is reasonable fun to drive with a slushbox and enough of an enthusiast car that I can get away with driving a 20 year old E36 M3box when visiting clients. I'm also trying to very much avoid the typical bland Beigemobiles, given that I'll have to spent a good 15-20h/week in said car. It also has to double as my wife's backup car, which rules out pretty much any station wagon. Plus the enthusiast car part rules out SUVs.

Poking around CL so far brought up the following, but I'm wondering what else I'm missing:

  • Couple of C4 LT1 Corvettes. Seller is of course out of town but should be able to show them later this week. Slightly above my budget, though.
  • A couple of SAAB 9-3s, but the only one with an automatic was a convertible. I like SAABs and my wife likes the look of the convertible.
  • The odd grandma-owned gem in the rough, but a lot of them are domestic boats from the 80s and fail the test due to the level of beigeness.
  • I've seen a few Audi A4 quattros in the price range, but I'm a little concerned about them becoming expensive holes in the driveway. Same goes for the Passat 4motions I keep eyeballing, especially the W8s.
  • I may be able to convince my wife that a Volvo 780 might be neat if I can find one in good shape. So far that's a been a problem.

Any other vehicles I should look at? I'd be OK traveling up and down the West Coast but it would have to be available within 7-8h driving from Northern NV.

Stampie GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/5/17 10:47 a.m.

You need a Q45. If third gen swap the rear diff for a 350z LSD.  Most fun per dollar and you still look respectable. 

Ransom GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/5/17 10:47 a.m.

If I had to have an automatic, it would get me around my biggest deterrent to Volvos and perhaps Mercedes. I don't actually have a great grasp of how badly Mercedes are hit with the depreciating German luxo-barge technical terrors, but I think I'd check them out.

rslifkin SuperDork
9/5/17 10:50 a.m.

E38 7 series?  X308 Jaguar?  Both comfy and slushbox equipped, relatively cheap and quite presentable.  And they drive far better than their size would indicate.  

STM317 Dork
9/5/17 10:51 a.m.

Infiniti G35/37?

SN95 Mustang?

Ransom GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/5/17 10:59 a.m.

Ooh, Jags. I forgot about that. Terrifying, but for me we're back to cars that only automatics have really saved me from getting more tangled up over...

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/5/17 11:14 a.m.

Late 80s Mercedes S-Class was my first thought but that got nixed by my wife as being too big for her to comfortably drive. Same goes for Q45s and probably LS400s as well. The pre-self composting wiring loom Mercedes are actually holding up pretty well in general (I've owned a few W124s).

MugenReplica New Reader
9/5/17 11:18 a.m.

-Saab 900's or 9000 (at $4k it'd be in perfect condition)
-Volvo C30 or S80 (you'd have to search around)
-XJ8 or XJ6 (personally I'd stay away from for DD, but who knows)
-90s-early 2000s Infinitis (G20, Q45, QX4, G35 etc.)
-Any W140 Merc. There's actually a 95 S600 V12 (buy oil stock) near me for $4k in good maintained condition.
-Lincolns or NON-northstar Cadillac's from 90's to early 2000s

dannyzabolotny Reader
9/5/17 11:30 a.m.

A 2001-2003 BMW 540i, they can be had for around that much. Luckily for you, most of them are automatics (and the automatics tend to be cheaper than the manuals). They're pretty stout cars but the V8's often have timing chain guide issues around 160k miles so if you want something a little less maintenance intensive, find a 530i from the same era. They're great cars to drive, they look handsome even by today's standards, and they have a great enthusiast community.

My other suggestion is more of a straight up luxury car, which may not have as much enthusiast cred— a 2000-2006 Mercedes S500. Their drivetrains are bulletproof and their Airmatic suspension system is quite easy to fix on a DIY basis. They're very classy cars and they have an excellent ride— great for driving people around and they look pretty sophisticated as long as you keep them clean. The S500 isn't as fun to drive, but it's so refined and comfortable that you might still enjoy it.

oldtin PowerDork
9/5/17 11:34 a.m.

e46, e39 bmws - 4k around here will get a nice looking one with enough left over to do R&R the cooling system.

John Welsh
John Welsh MegaDork
9/5/17 11:39 a.m.

Don't you have a need for AWD too for getting allowed on the Mountain Passes w/o chains in the winter?  

Since you need automatic and most awd sedans are automatic, that is what I recommend.  Try something like an Infiniti G35x or an Infiniti M35x


EDIT: quick search bring up this BMW 330xi  A little over budget but maybe the dual purpose could clear up some additional funds.  

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/5/17 12:16 p.m.

That e46 is nice, just too far above budget for a temporary car purchase. Re AWD - it's less of a requirement as I'm planning to mostly fly to see clients in the winter and that allows me to take the truck to the airport. One of the perks of the current  job compared to the previous one.

Shaguar might be an option if I can find one that's not too needy. For Mercedes is have to stick to C- and E-class as my wife considers any S-class too big. E39 might also be an option, although I seem to remember issues with the filled for life autoboxen?

dculberson PowerDork
9/5/17 12:25 p.m.

Lexus GS300/GS400? Super reliable, comfortable, and handle well. Auto only is their weakness but you're looking for an auto so...

wearymicrobe UberDork
9/5/17 1:01 p.m.

Infinity M45 

Does the spell check not work for anyone else now. When I right click all I get is the Copy/Paste on the new board. 

MadScientistMatt PowerDork
9/5/17 1:03 p.m.

"The Answer" could be had with an automatic, but it holds the car back a bit. The same could be said for Toyota MR2s.

C4 Corvette was the first thing that came to mind with the thread title. TPI models still have great handling but give up significant power to an LT1. Camaros and Firebirds, too. A big V8 won't be held back as much by an automatic.

E36 BMWs suffer a bit from getting an automatic, but are acceptable with a 6 cylinder.

codrus GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/5/17 1:37 p.m.

Acura TSX?

Ashyukun UltraDork
9/5/17 3:25 p.m.

RX-8? I know the automatics get dogged on because the engines put out less power than the sticks, but they're still well-balanced, fun cars and the automatics are less likely to have been flogged badly.

ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual)
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) Reader
9/5/17 4:20 p.m.

I don't mean to reignite an old debate, but what kind of "enthusiast" car are we talking about -  It sounds like you mean more interesting highway cruiser than canyon carver?

Its a bit out of whack with earlier suggestions, but since its such a short ownership, I'd guess you're not going to want to mess with the car or put any money into it. I feel like a P71 or Lincoln Towncar could do well for you.  For half your price limit: it would need basically nothing mechanical, you wouldn't be bothered by any dings etc., comfy, cold AC & hot heat, and can be sold in 4-6 months for what you paid for it, if not more.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
9/5/17 4:24 p.m.

I'm going with C4 Corvette or 4th Gen F-Body. Those can be plenty of fun, even with an automatic. 

Robbie GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/5/17 4:34 p.m.

I was just bombing around in my 1998 XJR last night. Its an auto, looks great, and they can be had for less than $4k. Just in case you wanted to compare them to a contemporary corvette (c5 - 1998 corvette non-z06), I may have already done that for you. All stats are from car and driver road tests. You probably won't find a c5 under 4k.

Stat - XJR - Corvette Automatic - Corvette Manual

Acceleration 0-60 mph - 5.2 sec - 5.1 sec - 4.8 sec

Standing 1/4 mile - 13.7 sec @ 103.8 mph - 13.5 sec @ 104.7 mph - 13.2 sec @ 109.3 mph

Braking  60-0 mph - 117 ft - 120 ft - 116 ft

Slalom - 65.3 mph - 66.7 mph - 66.2 mph

Lateral Acceleration - 0.88 g - 0.93 g - 0.93 g

Horsepower - 370 HP - 345 HP - 345 HP

Weight - 4075 lbs - 3245 lbs - 3245 lbs

rslifkin SuperDork
9/5/17 4:51 p.m.
Ashyukun said:

RX-8? I know the automatics get dogged on because the engines put out less power than the sticks, but they're still well-balanced, fun cars and the automatics are less likely to have been flogged badly.

IIRC, the auto ones were more likely to chew up an engine specifically because they weren't flogged.  For emissions reasons, the oil injection at lower rpm wasn't quite enough, so engines that got revved higher tended to last longer.  The autos tended to lead to not being revved as high. 

NordicSaab HalfDork
9/5/17 5:19 p.m.

I'm a GM fan, but for under $4k i think the Ford product line is the wat to go. My top suggestions would be: 

- Ford Mustang

- Lincoln Mark

- Mercury Cougar 

- Ford Thunderbird 

All the above are cheap, easy to fix, availible v8, Real wheel drive, and automatic. 

Not to mention you'll get your $$$ back when your clutch foot is working. 

ProDarwin PowerDork
9/5/17 6:04 p.m.

04+ Acura TL? 

Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
9/5/17 6:36 p.m.

V70 T5.  They are better with an auto.


"Volvo" and "enthusiast"  are a bit on the opposite sides of the spectrum, though.

WonkoTheSane GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/5/17 9:10 p.m.

Another vote for the infiniti g35/37.  That VQ is a great engine to play with.  And it had enough torque that the few I've driven that were autos didn't suck!

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