I Moved From Minnesota To Cali And I Need A Convertible! What Car Should I Buy?

Illustration for article titled I Moved From Minnesota To Cali And I Need A Convertible! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik

Cody left Minnesota for sunny California and he is ready to treat himself to something with an open top and rear-wheel-drive. He is a fan of classic cars but needs something that he can use as a daily driver. What car should he buy?


(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario:

I recently moved from Minnesota to Northern California. For the first time in my life, I can realistically own an RWD daily driver. So I must, and it might as well be a convertible. My Mk6 GTI has been fun, but its mileage is getting pretty high and maintenance is getting very regular. I have a seven-year-old son, so it needs to have a back seat. (This is a rare case where “Miata” is not the answer.)

My main hobby is classic cars. I’ve had several ‘60s Fords and currently own a 1964 Mercury Monterey Convertible. I grew up drag racing with my dad. He has a 1968 Mustang Fastback and we are building a Factory Five Roadster. I can perform most maintenance and mechanical repair myself, but I prefer not to on my daily driver. Getting to work reliably is a must.

I’ve been all over the map, but I don’t want something boring, like rental car silver over a black interior. Really poor visibility out of the back seat with the top up might be a deal-breaker, my kid is prone to getting car-sick. Since this will be a daily driver, I would prefer an automatic. I can spend up to $25,000.

Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $25,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: NorCal

Wants: RWD, droptop, reliable

Doesn’t want: Boring, high maintenance

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Fun And Reliable?

Illustration for article titled I Moved From Minnesota To Cali And I Need A Convertible! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: Autotrader

Okay, Cody, so you want the classic combo of fun and reliable but no Miata, this is a challenge. Almost impossible, as it always has been.

Naturally, there are any number of lightly used Mustang convertibles in Cali for you to pick from, but I imagine that would be too much like that “rental car” you spoke of. But there is a possible solution, the Infiniti G37 convertible.


As you probably know the G37 shares the same platform as the Nissan 370Z but the wheelbase is extended a bit to make room for a somewhat usable back seat. The super durable VQ-series V6 makes around 330 horsepower and sends it to the rear wheels. The G37 is more of a GT car than a pure sports car, but that makes it a pretty solid daily driver.

There are plenty to choose from with reasonable miles well within your budget. It’s not easy finding ones with interesting colors, but here is an example in your region from a private seller that is a nice metallic blue.


Expert 2: Raphael Orlove - One Man’s Trash

Illustration for article titled I Moved From Minnesota To Cali And I Need A Convertible! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: Craigslist

An Infiniti isn’t a bad choice but as my coworker Tom pointed out, it’s not exactly the most thrilling machine. I think you can do better.

Now, do you need me to tell you to get a lightly used BMW 2-Series convertible? You do not. Do you need me to tell you to get whatever model year M3 fits your budget? Again, you do not.


But I can tell you that there is a four-seat German droptop sports car that is often overlooked. That is the “bad” Porsche 911, the one nobody likes, the one that everyone hated when it was new and has tried to forget ever since: the 996, the first watercooled one.

I myself always disliked the 996, right up until I drove one. I road tripped a manual 996 convertible (pictured at the top of the article) from NYC up to the other side of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I sort of expected it to be as soft to drive as the globular blobular styling inside and out. I didn’t think it’d be a Buick, but I didn’t think it’d be sharp, and full of feel. It was fun in a way that I never thought the “bad” 911 would be.


And if you don’t trust me, take Hot Rod magazine’s Tony Angelo’s word for it. He’s as old school a muscle car guy as it comes, and what’s his most recent project? That’s right.

Prices are still relatively low. There’s one I found at your budget and one way under at $16,500. Just remember to fix that one thing.


Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky - This One Is Tough

Illustration for article titled I Moved From Minnesota To Cali And I Need A Convertible! What Car Should I Buy?

Man, Cody, I found this one tricky, to be honest. You want a reliable, RWD convertible with a back seat that’s non-boring and, since you mentioned your hobby is classic cars, I’m guessing you want something other than an actual classic car, since you seem to have that pretty well covered with your ‘64 Mercury.

But I don’t want to plop you into some modern-ish Mustang convertible or a Lexus whatever—I think you need something a bit different? I considered a Fiat 500 Abarth convertible, because they’re a blast, but you did specify RWD. I even considered a Jeep Wrangler, but that didn’t seem quite right.


So, what about a ‘90s-era BMW convertible? This 325i is an automatic, has a good-sized back seat, looks really well maintained, and is RWD and non-boring?

That could be fun, yeah? And I know people will likely disagree, but compared to your Mercury, a 1992 car is not a “classic” car. It’s pretty new! We had AOL and everything back then! I’d also like for you to at least consider, for a moment, this VW Thing, because I think it’d be a hell of a lot of fun.


Just think about it.

Expert 4: David Tracy - Jason Is On The Right Track, But Two Cylinders Off


I like Jason’s suggestion, though I think maybe you should go for something newer. How about my favorite modern BMW, the E90-series M3? Not only does it look incredible, with that beautiful hood bulge, but under the bulge is a 414 horsepower V8. A V8 powering the rear wheels—what more could you possibly want?

The convertible above is for sale in Folsom, California for $19,500. It has only 89,000 miles on the odometer, and is equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission and a power hard-top. The Interlagos Blue exterior paint paired with the gorgeous dark brown interior is a dynamite color-combo. The back seat looks pretty big, so your son should fit in there without much issue.


Like Jason, I had some trouble with this one, but fell back on a classic American philosophy: When in doubt, get the V8.

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Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)



I don’t want to rain on your parade (because it hardly ever rains here), but California has a secret: Nobody drives a convertible. Sure, CHiPs and Entourage will have you believe that it’s nonstop ragtop, but in reality convertibles are for rental cars and people who just moved here from Minnesota. See, once you’re here for a while, the sun becomes your enemy. It’s there all the time! Wrinkling your skin, fading your furniture. After a while you realize your job is to shield yourself from it, and the best answer is a solid piece of metal over your head.

IF YOU MUST: Get one of the hardtop convertibles—more solid, quieter and theft resistant, you’ll be glad you did.