Chris is looking to treat himself to a sports car, but he is 6’6” so fitting comfortably is a high priority. He also wants something with timeless style and ideally a manual transmission. He has a pretty healthy budget for this two-door; 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 -
Currently in a situation that I always dreamed would happen, and now it’s real. I’ve saved my nickels and have a great job that also gives a pretty generous vehicle allowance. Those two things have set my sights on my dream car: a Porsche 911. Due to the supply chain situation, I placed a (refundable) down payment on a 911S coupe with a standard transmission, but my place in line doesn’t arrive until the fall or so of 2022. Something tells me there is a better option out there. The tricky part is that I am 6’6” so I don’t fit comfortably into many things. I also really want a manual, which further limits the options though I may be convinced to get an automatic.
For example, I do like the Lexus LC 500 and Corvettes to name a couple, but the call of Stuttgart is strong. End my indecisiveness! For background, I LOVE all cars, and have owned about 25, though nearly all have been modest. I currently own a VW Atlas (which is nice) as a family car and will keep it, so this will be a fun toy / reward for 25 years in the workforce. I can spend up to $200k for the perfect ride.
Budget: up to $200,000
Daily Driver: Sort of
Wants: Great looks, room for a tall dude, ideally three pedals
Doesn’t want: Something too small like a Lotus
Chris, if you waited for the 911, that would certainly be a fine choice. While Porsche’s iconic sports car may not be as exotic as some other rides, it’s hard to argue with the combination of performance, quality, and practicality. However, it seems like you have a craving for something that stands out in the crowd and will turn some heads. If you are insistent on three pedals, that does limit your choices, but Aston Martin has your answer.
This is a 2009 Aston Martin DBS coupe. It’s the same model that James Bond drives in Casino Royale, and it still looks fantastic today. Under the hood is a V12 motor that cranks out around 510 horsepower, and it’s connected to a six-speed manual transmission. The Aston is more of a GT car than an all-out sports car, but the larger size should mean plenty of comfort. It might be hard to justify spending this kind of money when you can have a brand new Porsche with all the bells-and-whistles for less, but keep in mind these Astons are increasing in value, so you could trade it in a few years with minimal loss.
Chris, congratulations on those years of saving finally paying off. As you noted yourself, the desire of a sports car, grand tourer, or supercar with three pedals kind of limits you to older options, certain Aston Martin nameplates excused. I also don’t know what high-end performance cars are great for tall folk, as I’m but a meager 5’10”.
With all that said, I do have a recommendation that isn’t quite as nice as a new 911 but is a special vehicle and a daily drivable one nonetheless. There’s a 22,000-mile 2003 Acura NSX in the best color — Spa Yellow Pearl — in your state and listed on Bring a Trailer at this very moment. It’s well within budget too, as the current bid is sitting at $90,500. Unfortunately the bidding’s due to run out in a few hours so you’d have to act fast. Don’t fret if you miss it though, because these have a habit of popping up relatively often; a similar model sold on the site a week ago for exactly $200K. Tall people can make the NSX work, though you may have to remove some seat padding to do so.
Otherwise, I’ll echo Tom and say if you’re leaning toward 911, perhaps you should just stick with your gut. I’d also encourage the LC 500 consideration, as that’s arguably the most beautiful car on the road today with the most elegant, thoughtfully designed interior I’ve ever seen. Not as thrilling to drive, but who cares when it looks that good.
I love an NSX and Aston Martin, but there’s no way I’d drop over $100 grand on either of those when I could snag the most legendary rotary-powered automobile in history for just five figures.
It’s the Mazda Cosmo Sport, the very first twin-rotor Wankel engine car ever, and one of Mazda’s first entrants into the U.S. car market. It was a technological marvel, and a culmination of many years of Wankel engine development. In the early 1960s, Mazda sent engineers to West German automaker NSU to study the company’s rotary engines, but year in and year out, the Japanese automaker struggled to mitigate “chatter marks” that rotors tended to leave on the inside walls of rotor housings.
But after years of arduous work, Mazda solved the issue, thanks largely to a specially-shaped apex seal; the vessel that the company used to show off its engineering feat was the sports car you see above, the 110S, also called the “Cosmo Sport.”
The space-age two-door’s 983cc engine came out of the gate in 1967 making 110 horsepower, which flowed through a four-speed manual. In ’68, the power figure grew to ~130 horsepower, which the car routed to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. That was quite modern in 1968, when many vehicles still used three or four-speeds.
The car, which could hit over 120 mph, began one of the most fascinating eras of automotive history — the Mazda rotary era. Given its history, and looks that have held up beautifully over 50 years later, I’m surprised Cosmo Sports aren’t fetching more than they are. Based on old Bring a Trailer listings, it seems these things are worth between $60,000 and $90,000. That’s a bargain that you should take advantage of.
Chris, you are living a life I can only dream of. I recently just ruled out a $5,000 car because it would exceed my budget. One day I hope to be buying my dream car. But until then, I want to encourage you to abandon your German dreams and go for a classic exotic like this 1988 Ferrari Testarossa currently sitting on Bring A Trailer. It may be located in Michigan, but if you’re going to be spending the money, you might as well take advantage of a nice road trip.
Now, I normally wouldn’t recommend a Ferrari, but with a starting bid of $125,000, a mere 5,500 listed on the odometer, and a genuinely clean, accident-free CarFax report. You’ll get your three-pedal fix with a 4.9-liter 48-valve flat-12 engine that makes 380 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, which makes this a great option for just about everything, whether you’re flexing on everyone at work or looking for something a little more playful for a weekend drive. Plus, its red Pininfarina-designed exterior goes so well with the tan interior that I kind of wish I had the money to buy this myself. It’s so 1980s that it almost hurts.
I do understand the pull of the 911, though, and I’m going to echo my colleagues in saying that if that’s where your heart is leading you, nothing else will really scratch that itch.
(Otherwise, I'll also echo my good pal Adam in throwing out a rec for the LC 500. It is a Good And Fun car that you'll have a blast driving.)