Massi just moved to Texas from Italy, the land of Lamborghini, Ferrari, and Maserati. Naturally, he can’t be cruising around in a snooze box. He has a $30,000 budget for something fun and interesting, but it also needs to be reliable. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario:
Just moved to Austin from Italy. As an Italian I am a car enthusiast! Hence would like a nice, interesting car instead of a boring-ass one. Moving here comes with substantial expenses though so I would like to limit my budget to under $30k. I am single and young so no real need to have lots of space, car can be either EV and gas. Also, I do need it to be reliable because a car is my only real option of getting around in America.
Location: Austin, TX
Daily Driver: Yes
Wants: Fun, reliable, interesting
Doesn’t want: Boring
Expert 1: Tom McParland - Welcome to ‘Murica
Massi , welcome to our wonderful country! You are going to be disappointed in the pasta sauce, but the BBQ brisket will make up for it. Since you are young, with no concerns about shuttling kiddos around, you don’t need something super practical. Also, hold off on the EV thing since you will have plenty of time for that down the road. This is your opportunity to really live life with something fun and AMERICAN.
If you were to buy a car in Italy for $30,000 you would have been looking at some tiny hatchback because fuel is somewhere around $6 per gallon. Gas is relatively cheap in the States so that means you should take advantage of having some V8 power under the hood. What you need is a Ford Mustang and not just any Ford Mustang, a Shelby GT500. This one is a drop-top with racing stripes and most importantly a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 with a manual transmission. Yes, it’s twelve years old with 70,000 miles but this Stang isn’t a forever car — it’s a check off your automotive budget list car. You want to be able to tell your kids someday - “When I first came to America I bought the fastest Mustang I could.”
Expert 2: Andy Kalmowitz - Go Big or Go Home
Massi, welcome to America. It’s a pretty okay place, and we’re thrilled to have you! I hope you’re getting settled, but first things first: we gotta get you in the right vehicle. I’ve got just the thing for you: the 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 SRT-10. That’s right, Massi. The Viper truck.
Underneath the mostly unassuming pickup truck body is an 8.3-liter V10 packing over 500 horsepower and a million torques [Ed. note: actually 525 lb-ft of torque]. Sure, you could probably find an actual Viper for your $30,000 budget, but this is better because it’s bigger. Plus, you’re in Texas. It’s literally the pickup truck capital of the entire world!
For your budget, I found you a very clean and very red example that is for sale privately a few hours away from you. It’s got under 40,000 miles on it and fits in right under your budget! It’s an early truck in the production run, so it has a short bed and a single cab... and a six-speed manual transmission. For this price, this could be the best Viper truck on sale in the world, right now.
There may literally be no more American car ever made than the Ram 1500 SRT-10. It’s exactly what you’re looking for and then some.
Expert 3: Lawrence Hodge - An Aussie With an American Heart
First, welcome to America! Glad to have you here. And, wow, you moved to America (Texas). In doing so, you need to have the American experience. That means fast food and even faster cars, or some great BBQ and V8s under the hood. If you want something fast and fun that epitomizes America — a muscle car is where it’s at, so I’m recommending the Pontiac GTO.
Pontiac is now a sorely missed, defunct brand, owned by GM and killed off in 2010. In the mid 00's Pontiac resurrected its 1960s and ‘70s muscle car nameplate, the GTO. But this latest iteration came here by way of Australia where it was better known as the Holden Monaro. It may not really look the part, but I promise you, it is a proper muscle car, complete with rear-wheel drive and a big, bulletproof 350 horsepower 5.7-liter V8.
For your price range, I found this example with only 3,438 miles on it. It’s pristine and is dressed in a great color combo: purple on purple. The dealer says it’s had one owner for 16 years who stored it in a climate-controlled garage. It’s practically brand new. So, drive it home and do some burnouts. I promise, you’ll love it.
Expert 4: José Rodríguez Jr. - Lone Star State Long Drives
Welcome to Texas, Massi! You oughta feel welcome by the capital city of Austin, which has a very healthy car scene and diverse palate in terms of both food and cars! One other thing you’ll learn about Texas is that the drives are long. If you were to head north from the southernmost tip of the state near Brownsville to, say, Stratford, it’d take you something like 13 hours to cover the 850 miles or so.
That means you’re going to need a car that is fun and engaging, but is also suited for the long drives ahead of you. And make no mistake, one of the unsung benefits of living in Texas is that its sprawling landmass makes for a good excuse to take a road trip at any moment. So, you need a grand tourer or a burly sedan with plenty of power. You need this 2014 Chevrolet SS, priced at $25,000 with a low 65,000 miles on the odometer. Or if you want to go for the most fun possible in a RWD sedan with an LS3 V8, you could go for this more expensive 2015 Chevrolet SS with a manual transmission!
The latter car will break the budget, but the price bump could be worth it given the rarity of stick shift Chevy SS models. Either way, you can’t go wrong with the big four-door Chevy. Some may call it boring and uneventful compared to many contemporary cars it was positioned against from the likes of Audi, BMW or Mercedes. But the SS is mostly boring to those on the outside looking in. Once you’re in the cockpit of the unassuming Chevy with the power of its V8 calmly at your behest — the two of you blasting through the impossibly flat and long Texas highway — you’ll come to appreciate the SS for what it is and isn’t.
Expert 5: Steve DaSilva - By My Deeds I Honor Him, V8
Massi, welcome. I appreciate your dig at our laughable public transit infrastructure and car-dependent city designs — they really are that bad. Just wait until you see the healthcare.
But you’re here in search of a car, and I think I have just the one for you. Everyone else here has gotten close, with big engines up front and driven wheels out back, but all forget one crucial point: coming from Italy, you’re gonna hate massive American La-Z-Boy vehicles. No, you’re going to appreciate something sharper, nimbler, and more agile.
I present: the C5 Corvette Z06. An American heart, and all its GM V8 reliability, crammed under the long hood of an actual sports car. This particular one is $29,900 over in Plano, but it’s one of many in the area — I just picked this one because it’s about as close to Rosso Corsa as you’re likely to find. The ‘Vette is America setting its sights on European performance, sure, but it’s still unmistakably American in character. You’ve made enough sacrifices moving to Texas, you shouldn’t have to lose the ability to have fun in a corner.
Or, bonus suggestion: go full America. Buy the biggest Harley-Davidson you can buy, slap a leather vest on your back, and leave yourself no room in the budget for a helmet. That’s freedom, baby.