I Come From France! What Car Should I Buy?

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Thomas just moved from France to the Detroit suburbs. He needs to get a cheap car quick but it can’t just be any car, it needs to be an American car, a freedom car! Ideally, he is looking for a V8 but also needs somewhat decent gas mileage. What car should he buy?

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Here is the scenario -

Hi, I’m a French newcomer in USA. I discovered Jalopnik two months ago. So, I arrived in August with my wife and we get a one-month rental car. After we need to car to drive around as we are in Detroit north suburbs. We saw the loan terms for a foreigner, so we want to pay our car cash. That means my budget is a bit tight.

My wife will get a normal car, like the average family car. But me, I’m a car guy ! And I‘m a little lost between all the car I can buy...So I need your help to have some great idea to find the perfect car ! I will commute with it, so something with 15 MPG will be a deal breaker for me.

About the car I’m looking for, I have not too many specifications… I just want an American car! Something you can’t find in France and even Europe! And for me American = V8…

Just one thing I don’t want is a V6, bad mpg compare to a 4 cyl, and they don’t sound great compared to V8 and I already own one. As I say, in France, I own a V6. It’s 2002 Peugeot 406 Coupe V6 with a manual gearbox, so please do not propose an early 2000’s V6 coupe. With all this consideration in mind, based on your experience, What Car Should I Buy?


Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $5,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Detroit suburbs

Wants: American, V8, not terrible on gas

Doesn’t want: A V6

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Pony Up


Thomas, we share the same name, though I’m not nearly as sophisticated as you to be referred to as “Thomas.” But you are in America now, and not just anywhere in the U.S. of A, you are in the Motor City so you need something with a real motor.

Now the challenge is the budget combined with the fact that you need to have three pedals. I’m going to go with an easy choice but a good one, a Ford Mustang.


No matter where you go, everyone knows the Ford Mustang. Here is a 2002 Ford Mustang GT 5-speed in “fair” condition. It has new brakes but the owner says the exhaust is leaking and it sounds really loud. Personally, I don’t see a downside to that and I imagine every third car in Michigan has a leaky rusted exhaust anyway. The 4.6-liter motor didn’t make a ton of power but did return a respectable 26 MPG on the highway.

If you return to France to visit family or whatnot, and they ask you “What do you drive in America?” You can tell them with pride, “A Ford Mustang with a V8.”


Expert 2: Jason Torchinsky — You’re A Little Delusional, But That’s Why We Love You


Thomas, you crazy Frenchman, I don’t know what kind of shots you had to get before they let you in here, but they’ve done a number on your Gallic brains. Good gas mileage, V8, $5000 or under? The cheese has slid of your croque monsieur if you think that’s something you can easily find.

Still, this is me you’re talking to, dollface, and I think I may have a solution for you. Not a good solution, but one that roughly fits your criteria: this 1997 Pontiac Trans Am. 


These Trans Ams weren’t exactly the pinnacle of American Muscle, but for $2900 you don’t get to bitch. Sure, that big-ass 5.7-liter V8 only made around 285 hp or so, but that’s not too bad, and it’d go 17 miles in the city on a gallon, 25 on the highway. That’s about the best you can hope for.

Plus, this one looks to be in pretty good shape, and is absolutely nothing like your old Peugeot.


If you really want to have some fun and can scrape up another couple grand, I think you should check out this AMC Spirit GT. It’s got a V8, it’s vintage, all modified, and a lot of fun. Plus, AMC has a strong French connection via Renault!

Expert 3: Erik Shilling — The Heartbeat of America


Thomas, my man, your demands—American, V8, good on gas, around $5,000—are nigh impossible if we’re being realistic. So I will recommend that you stretch your budget just a little bit and get something awesome: a motherfuckin’ Corvette.

Like a Mustang, a Corvette is quintessentially American while being surprisingly frugal on fuel on the highway. Here’s a 1999 ‘Vette for $8,500 which gets 26 mph on the highway, which I realize is over your budget but not that much over. This one’s been repainted, sure, but you’re going to have to compromise if you want American V8 power on the cheap.


This one also comes with a manual transmission, which you will appreciate, since you’re European and expect, nay, need a manual gearbox. As a daily driver it’ll be a bit of a pain, but, otherwise, it’s in great shape, according to the owner. No rust, and you can take off the roof. What’s not to like?

Expert 4: Aaron Brown — Nothing Says Welcome to America Like a Crown Vic


Oh man, Thomas, welcome to America! Land of the free-roaming V8s! Speaking of V8s, I know exactly what you need.

This, right here, is what we call the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. Ever see one? Better hope not. Well, at least not in P71 police spec, like how I’m recommending it to you.


Look, in police spec, the Crown Vic is a 250-horsepower workhorse that’ll take anything you can throw at it. It can haul a full family (or a couple of criminals, whatever suits you best), run all day and all night, and if it breaks down, you shouldn’t have any trouble sourcing parts for it. Also, it’s cheap as dirt!

I can’t promise you’ll be seeing anything north of 15 MPGs, but man, it’s Crown Vic dammit. How could you say no? Just, uh, maybe lose the lights and sirens.