We should all realize that times are still tough for a lot of people and driving around in something flashy just isn’t as impressive as it used to be. Just look at Pope Francis, who’s going to be tooling around in a Renault 4 because it has all of the luxuries one likely needs in a car – doors and windows.
But what if you want to live responsibly but still have a little, non-showy fun? This week, I found a couple of sporty looking cars that aren’t fast or gas-hungry machines, but instead based upon thoroughly modest transportation.
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia had the derisive tag “The world’s slowest sports car” for much of its life, a claim that probably wasn’t true based on some of the other cars I looked at. It was basically a Beetle in a party hat, but it’s a recipe that worked out well. It was meant to be a good-looking car that had all of the mechanical complexity and ownership costs of a toaster, which is why this 1971 Karmann Ghia still looks like a good idea today.
So the flat-4 sitting in the back of the car probably doesn’t make any more than 60 horsepower which means it’s going to be up to you to stir that four-speed a lot. That’s where the charm of the Karmann Ghia comes in, though.
It does get a bit wrong when you look inside, though. This being a ‘70s model, it has an awful wood applique dashboard. And where are these seats from, a Geo Metro? I’d rather sit on sticky black vinyl ones than have to look at these. For almost $8,000, could you live with that?
Maybe not after you’ve looked at something more Swedish. It’s hard to talk about slow sports cars without bringing up the Saab Sonett III. This car, introduced for 1970, was the first Saab to sport a floor-mounted shifter. Between that and the Ford V4, this was a rather conventional car – sort of.
I’m a huge Saabophile, but the Sonett III is one of the most handsome cars the company produced. Cars like this orange 1970 Sonett III are attention-grabbing (with pop-up headlights!), after which you can tell the people who stopped you on the street that it’s this funny little Swedish car that’s fiberglass like a Corvette. It’s just full of fun facts.
Well, maybe except for the performance. Even at less than 2,000 pounds, 65 horsepower and a four-speed manual sounds a lot like the setup you get in “the world’s slowest sports car” seen above. This does look to be in more original shape than the VW, and in decent shape at that. At $9,000, though, it’s more expensive and on the pricier end of the Sonett IIIs out there.
Still, it’s much more my taste than the Karmann Ghia will ever be. There are just too many of them out there and, compared to the Saab, looks more old-fashioned. So while a Sonett III might cause more of a stir when you drive around than the Pope would like, it’s ultimately a responsible economy car.