Brett recently got diagnosed with ALS. Even though that isn’t the best news, he has received he is taking this opportunity to check owning a sports car off his bucket list before his health condition dictates otherwise. He has a lot of options on the table and a fairly decent budget. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario:
I’m 43 years old and have recently been diagnosed with ALS. Pretty crap situation but I’m trying to make the most of it. I’ve always been a big car nut, but have always ended up in trucks and SUVs for the majority of my life. I have just recently started buying fun automobiles and currently daily a 2014 Focus ST (I have three young kids) as well as a 2001 Miata that I bought six months ago as a fun weekend car. My wife has a brand-new Suburban.
I always imagined I’d get a nice sports car once the kiddos were out of college and on their own, but that’s no longer in the cards. So I’m thinking there’s no time like the present.
I’ve never owned a proper “weapon” of a car. I’m looking for something that’s going to make me smile every time I get in it and drive. I’m OK with two doors or four, manual or automatic, two-seater or more but it needs to have some power and be a hoot to drive and it needs to be special. 911 Turbo, C6 Z06, S54 BMW M Coupe... these are the things that popped in my mind first. Something with some presence. Something that sounds as good as it looks.
Low depreciation is important as well. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to drive, but my guess is that I’ll probably only own this car for a year or so. I need something that’s on the flat part of its depreciation curve. Our finances are in a good place, but I’m not interested in losing five figures on a car I’ll only be driving for a short period of time. Ideally, I’d like to be able to sell it in a year for close to what I paid for it.
Reliability is also important. I’m not able to wrench very much as I’m already losing fine motor skills and strength in my hands, and I want to enjoy driving this car, not watching it sit in a repair shop. My budget is up to $45,000 but I may be able to flex a little more.
Budget: $45,000 with some flex
Daily Driver: Maybe.
Location: Houston, TX
Wants: Fun, fast, special
Doesn’t want: Unreliable or steep depreciation
Brett, I am sorry to hear about your diagnosis but good for you for taking this opportunity to get the car of your dreams. All the cars you listed are fantastic choices, though the 911 Turbo is going to be a difficult one for the budget. You came to us, however, to get ideas beyond that list. I really wanted to tell you to buy an NSX but finding quality examples for even under $50,000 is a challenge. So I propose the next best thing, of sorts: the Lotus Evora.
The Evora takes a similar formula of the NSX, with a lightweight chassis, a durable V6 in the middle, and excellent dynamics. It might not be as iconic as the 911 or an M car but that is what makes it a bit special. And due to the Toyota powertrain and fairly simplistic interior, reliability is fairly solid on these cars. That and they’ve already taken the big depreciation drop. The other bonus is the Evora is a 2+2 configuration, and while the back seat is not really suitable for adults, but this is a car that you can share with your kids and it’s a great experience for them to see their dad enjoy his sports car.
Here is a nice example a bit above your budget, but it has very low miles and a great color.
Oh shit you already said an S54 M Coupe of some kind. I have driven an S54 M Coupe. It’s a good car. But you don’t need me to recommend it, as you already know to look for it. You’ve probably already found the 2003 M Roadster on Houston Craigslist by now.
Knowing that you’ve got the desire for it, though, I’d point you towards something that feels even more special than the M: the FD RX-7.
I’ve driven one of these things, too, and before I got into it, I was afraid the mythic FD wouldn’t meet my expectations. That it wouldn’t hold up.
I was completely wrong.
The last RX-7 not only still feels quick by today’s standards; it feels genuinely fast, and it’s imposing. Addictive, even.
Moreover, it feels more like a sports car than an M Coupe, or even, say, a C7 Corvette. Those cars feel like platforms for an engine. You drive them primarily so that your right foot can go down. The RX-7's twin-turbo rotary is just as wonderful to use as an S54 or an LS, but the rest of the car feels even more in line with it. Sitting in that Bubble Era bubble cockpit, the road in front of you starts to look like Le Mans. You want to run the thing out again and again and again. You want to drive to the mountains. Any mountains. Mountains three states away if necessary.
It sounds to me like it’s time to get yourself something raw and ridiculously viscerally stimulating. While you could easily get something really old that would fit that bill, it seems based on your suggestions that you’re looking for something newer, so I’ll suggest a second-gen Dodge Viper GTS.
It’s got a huge and loud 450 horsepower V10 under the hood, a chunky six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, and a beautiful coupe shape that draws damn near every eye on or near the road. With the Viper, there’s no B.S., just pure power, noise, and driver engagement. Really, that’s what you want. That’s what we should all want. The one above is for sale near you, and listed for under $39,000, though it’s got a rebuilt title. Beautiful, low-mileage examples have sold for in the low $50s, so I bet you can find a good one in your price range with a bit of digging.
I also have to admit that I was considering suggesting an Alfa Romeo 4C, because it’s a great handling, acoustically-wonderful car that’s also fairly raw (thanks in part to its unassisted steering). But the Alfa has an automatic transmission, and that’s a huge drawback when we’re talking about pure driver engagement. Though, if you’re really okay with letting the car do the shifting, go ahead and check out the Italian.
You’re certainly in a tough spot, but just know I think you’re handling this in the absolute best way: Grab life by the juicy parts and squeeze, hard. In this case, I think the key adjective to focus on in your fun, fast, special trifecta is special, which is why I think this 1990 Renault Alpine is perfect for you.
You can think of the Alpine as Renault’s answer to the 911—a rear-engine pure sports car, and while it’s not exactly a 911's equal, these can be a hell of a lot of fun.
That rear-mounted turbo V6 makes a respectable 200 HP, and I’m pretty sure it’ll feel like even more when you’re behind the wheel, really getting into it. It’s got a great exotic look to it, like a stylish small spaceship, and here in America, where they’re as rare as ham-flavored Skittles, it’ll definitely stand out.
Every drive in this thing will be an event, every mundane errand turned into a triumph.
Our pal Gary Duncan has one for $32,900, well within your budget, and assuming you don’t shovel the trunk full of manure or anything, there’s no reason why this rare car won’t hold its value. The engine is basically the PRV V6 used on a number of cars, so maintenance and parts won’t even be all that bad.
This thing is unusual and striking and quick and fun, and, yes, very special. I think you’d have a blast in the Alpine.
All the recommendations above are so good! So difficult to choose from. I will now present mine, which is a Ford Mustang Shelby GT350. Not the R, because you asked for a sports car, not a masochist machine. The regular GT350 will do.
Brett, you said you were looking for something that makes you smile when you drive it, has power and presence, is special, sounds great and depreciates slowly. The GT350 fulfills all of those requirements. I’ve driven these things before, taken them out in public and mixed them in with all the other Nissan Rogues and Mercedes-Benz GLCs out there. This Mustang sticks out like a sore thumb.
It’s got one of the most incredible engines I’ve ever experienced: a naturally-aspirated, flat-plane crank V8 with a redline north of 8,000 rpm and 526 HP. This is an engine built for going fast. It’s rev-happy and—if you’ll permit me—fucking loud. The GT350 comes exclusively as a manual, but it’s a wonderful Tremec six-speed you won’t get tired of shifting.
Now that the mildly updated 2019 versions are out, the 2016s are looking to be good deals. There are plenty in your price range with pretty low miles, and if you truly plan on selling it in a year or so, I can’t imagine they’ll depreciate much further. Here’s a nice white one with 8,124 miles on the clock and costs $44,990. Just go and drive one. Drive one and tell me you don’t want to bring it home immediately.
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