I’m going to guess that the majority of us had a parent buy a new car at some point during their childhood. I just thought it’d be fun to second guess their choices. The purchase I’ll be second guessing is my parent’s purchase of the 1996 Impala SS. As you may have guessed from my previous article(this) I’m a bit partial to it. But I still wonder, what would I have purchased in 1996 with a budget of ~26,000 dollars. Apparently the Pontiac Grand Prix was also on my parent’s shortlist o_0

Now some basic guidelines for this hypothetical. If you were one of 7 kids, you can’t replace your mom’s Suburban purchase with a Miata. Try to keep the car’s basic purpose in mind, but feel free to answer it in your way. For example, did your dad by that 5 series sedan? You and I both know he should have bought the Touring. Also let’s keep it to new (at the time) cars. This should make it simpler. (can you even find used car prices from 1996? that’s a rabbit hole I would love/hate to be stuck in) This should also limit car purchases as investments. Since we have the benefit of hindsight and it can’t be unseen, you can use that knowledge in your pick (sorry Volkswagen). However, If your parents were unlucky and bought an outlier, like one of the few lemon Camry’s, try to keep that in mind.

My choice:

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1996 Nissan Maxima SE (a fully optioned tester priced at $26,480, I could forgo the sunroof if needed)

While it lacks the V8 and special qualities of the more limited Impala SS, it also has a chassis that was developed after the Iranian Revolution. The Maxima is down on power and torque, but also down on mass so acceleration is similar. The Maxima has a long proven record of reliability so it could have taken well over 200k of use as a DD and roadtrip car also (seriously GM, how do you fuck up an odometer?) Importantly, the Maxima offered a manual transmission, always a plus. Now it’s not a perfect sports sedan (boo torsion beam rear suspension), but it was one of the better ones and was priced well under the class standard (328i started at $32,900) If I had $26k in 1996, I’m going to the Nissan dealership.

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What would you pick?