To make a long story short, in May I’m flying to CA to buy a replacement for my super-rusty crown vic. This new-to-me car will be its replacement as the all-around “this car works” car, which gets to do exciting things like sit in the airport parking lot and drive through salt brine 4-6 months out of the year.

Now, as we know, life is too short to drive boring cars, so the next one has got to be interesting as well. This is where I ask for Oppo’s collective car knowledge - to help come up with ideas of what to look for while out west for a couple days in May.

For a sample of my taste, my current line-up consists of:

  • 2002 Crown Vic P71 - Old police car, beat to shit, I’ve had it for going on 5 years and it is super rusty. Seriously. The rocker panels are a distant memory, the pinch weld is falling off, and the exhaust is held together with good intentions.
  • 1985 Mazda RX-7 - This is my summer daily, except for exceptionally bad weather days and long trips. It came from Georgia and is incredibly-not-rusty. I removed heat shields with hand tools the other day. It blows my mind, and is a fantastic car to rip around in.
  • 1971 Chevelle - the much-unloved 4-door Chevelle Malibu, this was my first car, and I still have it. Needs a bit of body work, but it’s solid. I recently swapped out the Powerglide (2-speed auto) for a Muncie (4-speed manual) and plan to rebuild the engine this year... and maybe start some bodywork.

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So what sort of thing am I looking for? Something interesting/fun, RWD or AWD (LSD preferred for RWD because snow), manual strongly preferred, budget of somewhere in the 5-7k region. This car will be purchased in CA, ideally somewhere between LA and Bakersfield or thereabout.

Here are the current front-runners in Things to Look For

  • First-gen IS300 - super rare in manual, but neat. The Sportcross is also very cool (though not manual). Should be very reliable and such. I accept that I will not find a manual one.
  • e36 328iS - much more common in manual, also has the benefit of “I’ve driven one of these before” so I know it’s pretty good. Should be easier to find, but not as reliable as the Toyota Lexus.

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What do you think Oppo?