Over the course of this series, I’ll walk you through my own process of researching and choosing an older sports car, while taking a peek into the fascinating subculture of sports car fanatics.
How Did I Get Here?
Here’s a little backstory on my own commuting dissatisfaction. I moved away from Nashville (where Love and Science is based) in the summer of 2016, and began working fully remote for the next 3 years. It was wonderful to leave all that traffic battling in my rearview mirror, but I decided to give all that up and move back to Nashville anyway. Of course, I moved back to Nashville just before the great shutdown of 2020, so that extended my work from home routine just a little bit longer.
Over the course of the 4ish years that I wasn’t commuting, my “daily drivers” kept getting a little more ridiculous – after all, I didn’t actually need to drive anywhere daily. I started with a 12 passenger van for my then-family-of-4, and eventually wound up with a 24’, dual rear wheel class B RV (camper van) to support my eventual-family-of-5. This was great until I began trekking back to my Nashville office and the occasional off-site client meeting. Suddenly it seemed almost ridiculous to be pulling up in an RV.
I eventually ditched the RV for a 1-ton crew cab pickup truck with an 8’ bed – probably sounds overkill, but remember, I was previously driving an RV to the grocery store. The truck is still my main vehicle, but it brings its own challenges. This was never more obvious than when I had a 2-day in-person client workshop at their downtown office. I couldn’t fit my truck in a parking garage, and on-street parking was basically impossible. I instead had to park about a mile away in a pay lot, then keep walking from the office to the lot to renew my parking every 3 hours. Suddenly, an idea was born: What if I get a cheap, small car for meetings or days when I feel like shaking up my commute?
The Case For a Sports Car
Now, I did briefly consider a newer economy car like a Kia Rio or a Nissan Versa, but there were a few sticking points for me:
- I hate the way newish sedans look
- Current chip shortages and inflation have made these once-affordable vehicles close to $20k investments
- Their 0-60 times are absolutely brutal
I started thinking that rather than simply get a slow, boring car that helps me cram into a parking space, maybe I should be looking for a little adventure to help me cram into a parking space and escape my return to mundane commuting. Enter the used sports car, and here’s why:
- Terrible depreciation makes them surprisingly affordable after just a couple years
- Generally good acceleration, especially after about the year 2000
- Makes you feel like you’re doing something kind of fun even if you’re just sitting in horrible traffic
- If you hang on to it long enough, it might become a collectible and suddenly skyrocket in value
I’ve never thought of myself as a “sports car guy,” as I’m bald, relatively frugal, and have never cheated on my wife. However, two of my coworkers opened my eyes with their Mazda MX-5 and Mustang GT. It turns out sports cars can be fun, reasonably priced and not sleazy. After getting a taste of their vehicles and what sub-7-second acceleration feels like, I decided that not only could I stomach a sports car, I desperately wanted and needed one.
Sports Car Search Criteria
So now that I was emotionally invested in the thrill of my own sports car, I had a tall task ahead in meeting the needs of my analytical side. The loose initial framework my right and left brain agreed upon was as follows:
- $15k or less (preferably way less)
- 0-60 acceleration below 7 seconds (I wanted to be as close to 5 as possible, but that ruled out some of my favorite vintage models right away)
- Ideally V6 or V8 engines (4 cylinder wasn’t a deal breaker though)
- Ideally 1970-1980’s era
- Hard top
Now again, this was a loose framework. My initial preferred vehicle (1998-2001 Porsche Boxster) didn’t even hit all of the criteria, as it was too new and convertible. Still, this was where I started, and while I flexed well outside these criteria throughout my search, I actually wound up pretty close in the end.
With my framework in hand and an eye toward childhood nostalgia (more on that Boxster later), I began searching and studying, and eventually narrowing down what I believe to be the best used sports car options available.