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I've got this idea... and the wife may even let me live

I've got this idea on how to get almost everything I want from the automotive world, and at the same time take care of my automotive needs. Come on, we all have wants and needs, and they're rarely the same thing.

First off, what is my family's auto needs? Easy - I have to get to work some 40 miles away every day and back, at a reasonable expenditure of gas and comfort in all the weather that the middle of the country can throw my way; and my wife has to get my aged mother around and our daughter to school and back. We meet these needs now with a Honda Fit for my daily (it's a fun car and gets 34mpg on average, plus has an amazing amount of interior space), and a Honda Odyssey for the wife's daily, plus anything else we need (family outings, hauling big things, and long-range family roadtrips). Also in the driveway is a battered, high-mileage 1990 Toyota Corolla that I am (slowly) building into a CrapCan racer, but haven't done much with quite yet.


Now, the wants - I want to get into ChumpCar/24 Hours of LeMons; I want a motorcycle; I need a winter beater to supplement the daily; I want to get into rally/autocross; and I have this idea for a project car that I really want to dig into. It's not much, but it's enough to keep me out of trouble (idle hands and playgrounds to evil beings and all that), and attainable in my meager spare time. And hopefully, as you'll see, my budget as well.

I know, I know, 4 wheels good, 2 wheels bad, but I've long wanted a motorcycle. If I lived closer to work, I'd probably just pedal bike it, but at roughly 40 miles, one way, that ain't gonna work. I don't need much on my daily commute, and if I can get there on a fun conveyance that gets even better gas mileage than I'm already getting, so much the better. I'm quite fond of Honda's new CBR500 for its good looks and performance, good reviews and above all, its relative low price. However, I can see the writing on the wall, the gas engine is going away, possibly in my lifetime, to be replaced by hydrogen, electric, cellulose-based biodiesel, or a combination thereof, so the CBR500 is just a stepping stone on the road to something else. I'm betting that electric is going to rate high, considering the other two aren't really a going concern currently, but the only electric vehicles out there currently that can come close to handling my daily commute are the $80 large Tesla S (and I can't afford a gas burner at half that cost, so...) or some of the higher end electric motos. Or at least, the Brammos and the Zeros can handle the trip out (39 miles isn't so far, but it is mostly highway, which drains batteries mighty quick), and be charged off a simple 110 wall plug in time to get me home. The CBR500 (either the naked F or the tourer X, I can't decide right now) to get me used to riding 2 wheels daily without the stress of worrying about electric range, and then the upgrade to the electric when I'm ready (and can afford it). What's keeping me from buying one now? Finances. Read on, this is part of the plan.


Now, while the Fit takes care of my daily commuter needs quite handily, and will start me along the path of AutoX'ing later this summer, it has one major weakness - inclement weather. Such a large weakness it has for slippery road conditions or accumulation that this is almost a need more than it is a want. I've talked about this in the recent past - I need a winter beater. I've been pondering the question since that time, and come to rest on the Isuzu Amigo as my preferred beater of choice - the first gen Amigos look almost as good as the VehiCROSS, most come with manuals, and are hardy, tough little buggers. And better than the VehiCROSSes (VehiCROSSi?), they can be had for cheap, like this one up for sale close to me, that's even dropped in price recently. My budget is meager, but we managed to to buy outright, between trade-in and tax return money, the wife's minivan, so I'm saving money there by not having a monthly car loan to pay. This is a want that is within my grasp.


The project car - this is Jalopnik, so the answer to the unasked question is Miata. If you want to get into autocross, even rallycross if you're willing to take off some of the lower body bits, or even if you just want a cool car to drive around that gets good gas mileage and handles like a dream, the answer is Miata. But I am not going to stop there. You've heard of the Exocet, right? And you've heard of the v8 Miata conversions, right? Yep, I want to stuff a Chevy LS3 E-ROD and a Magnum T56 6-speed into a ladder framed go-kart and go hooning it - track days, autocross events, and even just on nice days when I want to go for a drive. Impossible, you say? Nope, someone has already done it (though with a carbureted Ford 8 cylinder), and even Flyin' Miata tested the theory of such a build successfully. The choice bit of this is that until I start on the heavy lifting (and the cool thing is that whether I start at the v8 end or the kit car end, either way I go is still tons of fun and worth it), I can get the base car for cheap, and when it's not being wrenched on, it can stand in for the daily commuter (more on that in a sec) when the weather's not freezing. The correct formula is to look for a first gen with a manual to get the cheapest car possible, but only to look for 1995s or later, as they came the limited slip differential standard. I've got three up for sale on CL within an easy drive under $2,500, that's almost within my current budget. This one even comes with a hard top, for driving in the rain and stuff.


Now, the Toyota - I got it in a deal with my sister-in-law, and it really is a can of crap. It's over 20 years old, she (and my father-in-law) never took care of it, and it has damn near been driven into the ground. And I want to strip it, cage it, and race it in ChumpCar/24HoL. Why? Oh, you know, the usual inherited familial brain damage. I call it the Gutless Wonder, and plan to paint it up in the livery of Jimmy Gibbs Jr (yes, from Left 4 Dead 2) just to see if anyone gets the reference, and to dress like zombies for 24HoL. Even with the cheap used tires I got last weekend, it's just not in a real reliable state at the moment, which is sad because I can't currently use it as a backup car and a viable replacement for my daily. I'm working on it, fixing leaks, replacing tires, and generally replacing all of the neglected bits I find all over the car. Oh yes, even after I get it prepped for CC/24HoL, I plan on licensing it and driving it as needed, with the cage, race seat, and 5-point harness, see who notices. Why am I so worried about backups for my daily commuter - the motorcycle to get better gas mileage in nice weather, the winter beater for snow and ice, and the project car and racer to double as dailies when the winter beater is too much and the moto is not enough? To finance the majority of the above, I think I want to sell my Fit.


Don't get me wrong, I love my little blue beast. She is surprisingly quick, delightfully nimble, and spacious to the point of incredulity. And I could definitely use her on the autocross course to great effect, but selling her gets me one thing to make all the rest happen - money. I can get a 4x4 winter beater for around a grand, a project Miata to get started for under 3 grand, and a down payment on a bike and riding gear for the rest of the money that selling the Fit off would bring. There are some downsides to all of this - I'd be swapping a 6 year old car that has shown very little need for anything but routine maintenance for vehicles that are upwards of 2 decades old of unknown provenance and reliability, but having multiple options means no matter what, I'm getting to work. Admittedly, my hobbies are important to me, but if my employers can't count on me showing up every day, than I'm not useful to them, and deserve to be fired. Plus, since I'm looking to buying two used cars and one new motorcycle (and motorcycle dealers who are willing to take a car for trade-in value are few and far between), I'm going to have to sell this beast myself, and that's a project and a world of pain and suffering all on its own. The upside is that I'm getting all of the things covered that I need - daily commuting - as well as getting all the things that I want. Plus extra parking space in the driveway/garage, 'cause I'm going to need it if I add all these other vehicles to the fleet.

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