Monthly Archives: November 2011

As Seen on Craigslist – 1963 Buick Riviera

My Buick-loving coworker has long insisted that when his Jeep finally bites the dust, he will replace it with a semi-ratty old car.  Something that isn’t too nice to worry about ruining it, but nice enough to be a reasonably reliable daily driver.  The Jeep continues to hang on by a thread, and I keep sending him ads like this one to convince him to do it sooner.  The first-generation Riviera is still one of the prettiest cars of its era (although I prefer the hidden-headlight ’65 model), even if this particular one is probably rustier than the Edmund Fitzgerald at this point.  But for this price, you could clean it up, tune it, and have a great classic car as a daily driver and not worry about destroying it.  That is, until you spin out in the snow, wrap it around a telephone pole, and learn the hard way why GM abandoned the willowy x-frame design a few years after this car was built.  But the days before that?  Glorious!


As Seen on Craigslist – 1968 GTO

This probably isn’t a real GTO, but who cares?  For this type of money, you should be buying a driver, not a trailer queen, and the big 455 will be lots of fun on the street.  Pity the 4-speed is gone, but that could be easily rectified.  I love black cars, and these decent-quality (especially for Craigslist) photos show how well it shines, not to mention that dark paint will highlight any flawed bodywork.    Do something about the stinkbug stance and I’d easily trade in my car for this one.


As Seen on Craigslist – 1970 Chevy Nova

Despite the apocryphal story that Novas didn’t sell in Latin America because the name translated to “no go,” Chevy’s economy model was very successful for nearly two decades.  Much like last week’s Dart, these low-end models have a certain tough-guy quality to them that makes them desirable today.  Of course, the fact that they were usually cheaply optioned and lightweight while still offering big-block power doesn’t hurt either.  Since they were considered low-rent transportation, there are probably fewer of these cars left sitting around than many of their contemporaries, which tends to drive up the price.  For the money, if this car has a clean floorpan (a necessity, since the Nova utilizes a modern-for-1968 unitized chassis, instead of a separate frame supporting the body), it’s probably well worth the asking price.  I like the color and the wheels, and the interiors are usually sparse but still attractive, in a street-racer kind of way.  Bring a magnet to check for Bondo and you’ll be fine.


As Seen on Craigslist – 1969 Dodge Dart

I may be in the minority, but I’ve always liked the look of this generation of Darts.  Even though these were sold in the Mopar lineup as basic transportation, the squared-off styling (with a few rocket-age flourishes like the sharply angled c-pillar) goes from staid to striking with the addition of fat rear tires, mag wheels, and era-appropriate olive green paint.  The 340 and 4-speed powertrain is perfect for a street thumper, and the grandma-spec horizontal speedometer and vinyl bench seat complete the look – and I LOVE the pistol-grip shifter sticking up from the floor like a king’s scepter.  The column-mounted mammoth tachometer with the retina-searing shift light isn’t my style, but fits with the street-racer theme going on here.  Since these were cheap cars in their day, clean survivors are more difficult to find, and this one looks worth every bit of the asking price.


My Next Car – MazdaSpeed 3

I’ve taken a bit of a break from daydreaming about new cars, at least until recently.  Driving home one day last week, I was intrigued by one of these:

The 2007-current Mazdaspeed 3 is the souped-up version of the company’s small wagon, which is a car I’ve liked since it was originally introduced as the 2001 Protege5.  It’s been a long time since I’ve owned something that could be described as “nimble,” and adding a useful wagon shape, a 263 HP turbocharged engine and a six-speed manual transmission only sweetens the pot.  The main problem, however, is in my own head.

I’ve been a lifelong defender of the domestic auto industry, even as it’s become harder to square that admittedly silly and jingoistic position with my increasingly cosmopolitan automotive interests – if you had told 19-year-old me that I would one day admire vintage BMWs and contemplate buying a Mazda as a daily driver, I would have have laughed in your face.  I managed to keep my wife from looking too hard at the Japanese and Korean options when we bought her current vehicle, although to be fair that was during the worst of the Big 3’s troubles and it felt like some sort of patriotic duty to buy an American car.  As I’ve mentioned before, the idea of an “American” car is murky, but I would still feel like a hypocrite if I ran out and bought one of these after giving her such a hard time.

Having said that, there are a few reasons that I’m using to try to get past my anti-import bias:

  • I’m buying used.  Any money I spend on this car goes toward the local dealer (or private owner), not the manufacturer.
  • Mazda isn’t the soul-crushing corporate behemoth that Toyota and VW have become (a personal assertion that might be biased and ridiculous, but I stand by it).
  • There isn’t a domestic option in this segment – very few manufacturers offer sporty wagons.  Really, the only thing close is the Subaru WRX wagon, and those are a little too “boy-racer” for my tastes.
  • Rather than make a belabored argument that Mazda of the past decade is analogous the Pontiac of the 1960s, in that it is a brand that caters to a younger, more enthusiast-minded buyer and seems willing to take risks that few automakers would, I’ll just say this – between the subject of this post, the Miata (the best pseudo track car you can buy), the curvaciously beautiful RX-7 (quite possibly the prettiest car of the 90’s), the illogical RX-8 (the last gasp of the fuel-thirsty yet lightweight and free-revving Wankel rotary engine in a suicide-doored slotcar), and the 5 (the closest thing to a cool minivan), Mazda offers by far the most driver-friendly lineup of cars out there.

Anyway, on to the car.  Besides my own pathos, there are a few legitimate issues with these cars:

  • Since the cars are turbocharged and aggressively tuned from the factory, the gas mileage isn’t great for a car this size (18/26), but my short commute means that’s not much of an issue, and it would still be a increase over my current mileage in the Caddy.
  • The bigger issue with regard to gas is the premium fuel requirement.  I’m kind of cheap, so having to push that “91” button would twist the knife every time.
  • Mazda provided very short-sidewall performance tires, so I’d likely want to buy winter tires.
  • As much as I think I want a small car, I’d have to see how well a stroller and a set of golf clubs fit in the back.
  • I’d be limited to the 2007-09 models, since Mazda has decided to attach a gaudy hood scoop and inflict a Chelsea smile on the newer cars:

At the end of the day, I find myself as excited by the prospect of one of these cars as I do the G8 and CTS-V, both of which are still out of my price range at this point.  Outdated notions of patriotism be damned, I just might end up a Mazda owner.