Dennis will soon be relocating from New York City to Northern California. He is looking forward to buying a car that not only will allow him to enjoy the scenery but would also like something that could be passed down to his future children. 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’ve always dreamed about buying a car and keeping it forever so I can one day pass it on to my future children. Something along the lines of the feel-good story of a dad and son working together to restore dad’s old muscle car. The only thing is that I’m not super into muscle cars, but you get the idea.
Since I live in NYC, this dream has not been feasible. However, it’s likely that I will be moving to California soon which gives me the right excuse to buy a car for my daily commute and hopefully one day will be a cool collectible.
I really like German cars and have been eyeing up the M235i as I think that will be a future classic, but I’m concerned about the longevity. Right now I’m single with no kids and I won’t have a long commute so I don’t need something super practical. The goal would be to get this fun car and keep it for a while.
Even though I like coupes and convertibles I’m just not into the Miata.
As for budget, I can spend up to $35,000.
Budget: Up to $35,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Currently NYC soon to be in NorCal
Wants: Fun, reliable-ish, something that can be passed down.
Doesn’t want: A Miata
Expert 1: Tom McParland — Be The Cali Car Man
Dennis, it’s a wonderful idea to buy a car for your future kids. Now keep in mind the robots may take over before your children start driving, so I would focus on getting a car that you can enjoy now, and if it works out as a long-term automotive heirloom, that’s just an added bonus.
You are going from NYC to NorCal and want something German and enjoyable. Naturally the cliché California Car Man drives a Porsche, and sometimes those clichés exist because the car just fits the situation the best. No one gives people in Vermont a hard time for buying a Subaru. I say get yourself a Porsche and just embrace it.
Since a quality 911 would be a challenge within your budget, I say go for a Boxster or a Cayman and don’t worry about having to have an S model because it has more power, even a base Porsche is a good Porsche.
Here is a very nice 2013 Boxster with only 35,000 miles well within your budget range. This particular example has the PDK transmission, which is very good. You may prefer having a manual. In addition to being just a damn good car, these Porsches are fairly reliable and with regular maintenance could last long enough to maybe, someday share with your kids.
Expert 2: Raphael Orlove — That’s The Wrong Porsche
A Porsche would indeed be a fine choice, but if you want a forever car from the top of the German car world, you’d want something from before the company traded air-cooled durability for water-cooled profitability in the 1990s.
What you could use is a car that was built to take on those air-cooled Porsches, something that did so successfully, building an ardent fanbase and worldwide support network in the process.
I’m talking about the R32-generation Nissan Skyline.
Up until a few years ago, few Americans got to appreciate how well built these cars are. All we knew is that they were fast in Gran Turismo. But now owners are happily reporting that they feel more stout than they’d expected, almost to a Porsche-like degree. These aren’t Stanzas. These are straight-six prestige builds from the height of the Bubble Era.
Nissan even has its own factory dedicated to keeping these cars alive, and new parts for them have been churning out since 2017. Not a bad bet.
Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky — Make The Future Fun
Dennis, I like how far into the future you look. You’re single, have no kids, but are actively trying to figure out what car you’ll have to pass down to your children one day, after a heartwarming father-kid restoration and a bittersweet pressing of keys into hands on a deathbed and subsequent tear-jerking articles about it in Future Jalopnik. That’s a long view. I like it. So let’s find you a car worthy of your vision.
You’re going to want something fun and unique, something with good aftermarket support and a good base of enthusiasts. This can’t be a boring car. You also like German cars, and convertibles and roadsters, but don’t want a Miata. I threw all this into the Car Selectroblend 2000, added some protein powder, and came up with this: a 1974 BMW 2002 modified into a topless roadster.
This is perfect. The 2002 is an absolute classic, with a huge base of aftermarket parts, support, knowledge, and fans. It’s great to drive, easy to maintain, and this particular one has been turned into an open-air roadster, all the better to enjoy those California nights.
It was built as an autocross car, so it has racing seats and harnesses and a nice, stout partial roll cage. Plus, that means you and your future kid can go autocrossing in it together, further cementing that parent-kid-car bond and bringing home some trophies for the family trophy case.
This is the answer, and it’s only $6,800! If you’re waiting to pull the trigger on this, I’m not sure what the hell you’re waiting for. Buy your future kids a car, already!
Expert 4: Patrick George — Go Old School German
I also like the BMW M235i/M240i a lot, but the prospect of taking care of one meticulously for another 20 years or so—at the very least—makes me want to jump into a volcano.
Today’s German cars are meant to be lease specials, driven for three or four years and then passed on to idiots at CarMax who think they can keep a modern twin-turbo direct injection car running perfectly without going bankrupt. If you can do it, God bless. I don’t envy the attempt.
Instead, I think you turn the dial back to the days when German cars were built to run forever. How about a classic Mercedes-Benz R107/C107 SL or SLC?
These things exude class and style, even today, and they come from an era when luxury sport coupes actually sold in huge numbers. They’re ubiquitous and so are parts. They came in a variety of I6 and V8 engine configurations, too, so you’d have a lot to choose from. The vast majority of them are automatics (minus the swaps out there) but that’s never bothered me much. This is a tough, stylish car built to last forever, and it’ll be as cool in 2038 as it is 2018—and 1978.
Speaking of, here’s my pick: a gorgeous copper brown 1977 450 SLC, for way under your budget at $10,950 off the SF Bay Craigslist. It’s in fabulous shape with just 83,000 miles. Buy this and keep it running forever.
I hope to own one of these someday too. Maybe our kids can be friends.