Author Topic: My personal automotive journey.  (Read 8928 times)

mikeb23ft

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My personal automotive journey.
« on: October 23, 2012, 04:05:11 PM »
This is my first post.  I'm not sure if I'm putting it in the right space or not, and I just had my wisdom teeth removed today so I'm groggy and somewhat out of it, too.  Bear with me.

First of all I think that there should be a separate forum for automotive topics!  C'mon!  It'd be great.  We could get reviews, DIYs,  MPG reports, tips tricks and fixes all in one spot.  I was surprised to see that there wasn't one when I came to post this.

My dilemma is fairly straightforward, as I currently drive a 1999 BMW 540i with a 6 speed manual transmission.  The car has a 4.4 liter 284 horsepower V8 engine.  Though I have had no problems with it, repairs and maintenance costs are steep.  I absolutely love owning and driving it but I average 17.5 or so MPG in my daily commute.  My commute is about 7 miles one way across a University campus on roads not exceeding 35mph speed limits.  It's a completely impractical use of the vehicle.

My live-in girlfriend drives a 2007 Honda Fit and we try to take her car most everywhere that we go as a couple but I still drive about 800-900 miles a month.  Switching to a car that gets 25mpg city will save me $50.00 a month.

Now here's the problem.  I'm not willing to drive a Nissan Versa/Toyota Yaris/Ford Focus/what have you.  Older European cars are my passion (the '99 above is the newest that I have ever owned).  I am not willing to give that up.  I am now considering for my next vehicle two options:

a 1991 BMW 318is 5 speed.
a 1996/7 Mazda Miata 5 speed.

Both have 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engines and are relatively fuel efficient while still being cars that are entertaining enough for me to consider owning.  Am I going too far back in years here?  Who has another suggestion of a car that I might enjoy owning that I'm not thinking about?  What are other flaws in this plan?  I am looking to spend $3-5k on my next car and do it within the next two months.  I have about $6600 tied up in the 540 and I can get that out of it.  Discuss.

Jack

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2012, 04:43:07 PM »
I'm amused that you say European cars are your passion, then say you're considering a Miata in the next breath. I mean, I understand -- the Miata is the closest thing to a modern "British roadster" and all that -- I just think the juxtaposition is funny.

Anyway, I think the key question here is: can you work on the car yourself? If the car is your hobby, you'd better be able to! Otherwise, the Miata is the obvious choice.

As far as other suggestions, my car is a 1998 VW Beetle Diesel, which doesn't sound fun until you realize that a few cheap mods can up the power by 50%+ (making it faster than the Miata, if not the 3-series), it has good handling (for a front wheel drive car), it gets 40+ mpg, lasts forever, and can run on eco-friendly biodiesel.

Aside from that, my list of interesting cars would include:
  • Miata
  • BMW 318ti (what can I say? I like hatchbacks!)
  • 1st-gen Honda Insight (don't think of it as an economy car, think of it as an aluminum 2-seater, made on the same assembly line as the NSX, and the successor to the CRX)
  • 4th-gen Corvette (surprisingly good highway MPG, relatively cheap to fix because they're just small-block Chevys, and babied by their previous owners because they were weekend cars)
The Corvette might not fit into your $3-5K budget (at least not for a decent one), but on the other hand, it would be at about the bottom of its depreciation curve and well on its way to "antique/collectable."
« Last Edit: October 23, 2012, 04:51:13 PM by Jack »

jrhampt

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2012, 04:50:44 PM »
Flaws in the plan:

Cars are not for enjoyment; they are for transportation from here to there.
Looked up the Mazda Miata's mpgs: 23 mpg is not fuel efficient.

Jack

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2012, 04:56:00 PM »
Oh yeah, another suggestion: buy whatever cheap-yet-fun car you want for occasional/pleasure driving, but ride a bicycle for that 7 miles across campus every day.

Paul der Krake

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2012, 05:08:52 PM »
If you ride on slow roads for your commute and like the idea of Europe, why not a scooter? I'm serious. They are frowned upon here in the US but insanely popular in Europe, especially France/Italy. Cheap as hell to buy/maintain/drive/insure and can be stylish when done right. Hint: dress the part.

And keep your fancy car for rainy days and pleasure driving.

thurston howell iv

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2012, 05:51:21 PM »
How about a BMW Isetta? LOL

Seriously, I'm a huge car nut and it's totally anti-mustachian but thing change. The way I've been thinking lately, maybe you try a super cheap econo car as a test.  When you start saving a few hundred buck in fuel, insurance and registration, it might change your mind. Worst case you dump it and buy something else and you're not out a bunch of dough.

I understand about eurocars and sports cars, I love them too- I miss my Audi A4... I also  have some money pits here that are simply awesome and always put a smile on my face when I drive them but, they don't make me money and aren't really contributing to the bottom line which is why we're all here... To buy our freedom by making less=more...

mikeb23ft

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2012, 07:19:29 PM »
RE: Miata at 23 mpg.  This is a ridiculous number.  Anyone who drives a Miata in a normal fashion will beat that number by a large margin.  Freakin' EPA. 

Same with the 91 318is and the 318ti.  All of these cars have 1.8L 4 cylinder engines and are really small.  Who's driving around in these getting 21 and 23 mpg?  I beat the 14mpg EPA city number for my 540i by 3-5mpgs driving all city.  It's outrageous.  The user MPG estimates for the Miata run from 20-35, averaging 27.8, 29.4 average user for the 318is, up to 31.1 for the 318ti.  The biggest reason these cars aren't getting great mileage is that people are flying down the interstate in them at 80mpg with the AC blasting, and they're geared so short that the engines are spinning themselves to death.

There's also the premium vs. regular gas debate.  All of the BMWs in question drink 93 here in South Carolina.  At the moment that's only 3.60 a gallon but it ain't gettin' cheaper. 

I've had economy cars before.  I had a Ford Focus that I enjoyed driving but the reliability was bunk (two manual transmissions in 140k miles) and the mileage wasn't that good.  I did use it as a pizza delivery vehicle (terrible job by the way) so that may have hurt the durability.  And of course I drive my girlfriend's Honda Fit, which is a wonderful little car in its own way but it's front wheel drive layout and automatic transmission don't really get me going.

I am going to look into getting a scooter on top of whatever else I get.  For real.  No insurance or special license, 100mpg, sign me up.

I would like to bike buy I'm 1) a wuss and 2) don't want to show up at work sweating.  I did bike every day when I was in school though.

Anyone who says cars are not for enjoyment but merely transportation has no advice for me on this topic.  To me this is like saying sex is only for reproduction, you're missing the point.

I don't like VW or Audi products but I like the idea of the VW TDIs.

I was hoping to get out of this with a new cheaper car and about $2k left over to put into my investments, mutual funds in this situation.

Jamesqf

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2012, 07:21:32 PM »
IN the cheap but fun to drive category, consider also the Honda CRX and del Sol.  They are older, but there are active modding communities around.  I used to get 40+ mpg out of the CRX I had prior to the Insight, without even trying to drive economically.

mikeb23ft

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2012, 07:28:41 PM »
IN the cheap but fun to drive category, consider also the Honda CRX and del Sol.  They are older, but there are active modding communities around.  I used to get 40+ mpg out of the CRX I had prior to the Insight, without even trying to drive economically.

I would love one, or even and older civic, but they are impossible to find in decent unmolested condition around here, and when you do the prices are absolutely outrageous. 

Rangifer

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2012, 07:34:19 PM »
Sounds like you'd be well served by keeping the beemer for fun trips and buying a 250cc motorcycle. You'll get 50-70mpg and avoid the scooter stigma at the same time.

jrhampt

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2012, 07:41:29 PM »
Anyone who says cars are not for enjoyment but merely transportation has no advice for me on this topic.  To me this is like saying sex is only for reproduction, you're missing the point.

Haha, yes, we do apparently come from opposite and irreconcilable points of view.  30 mpg isn't as bad as 23 mpg I suppose, if that's what you can actually get out of it, and I can also understand keeping a "fun" car that you don't drive very much if you rely on something more fuel efficient for regular transportation (like a scooter).  Still, the premium gas would be yet another nail in the coffin for me.  But then again, I drive an old Toyota Echo, so like you said, er, we're probably in different universes as far as car preferences. 

That said, I would still drive the sensible vehicle until you're FI and then indulge afterwards.  My husband suffers from the same "cars are for fun" delusion (he currently owns a VW TDI and a Jeep Rubicon), and he's spent tens of thousands on cars in the past 7 years on purchase price alone (never mind insurance, maintenance, taxes, and gas), while I've spent $5k in the same time period.  Then he wonders how I have so much money.

He uses the TDI for regular commutes, and at least that gets reasonable mpgs (above 40).  Diesel fuel is more expensive than gas right now, though.  He likes the car, and if he manages to keep it for a decade or so then I suppose it won't have been a terrible purchase. 

mikeb23ft

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2012, 01:17:08 AM »
I would definitely drive an older Prius with a new battery pack, too.  I wonder how hard those are to find?

The TDI does get GREAT mpg, I just don't like newer VWs :(

cbr shadow

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2012, 05:51:27 AM »
If you're open to an older Prius, let me tell you about the older (first gen) Honda Insights..  I just bought one 2 weeks ago and WOW what a car.. last night I drove into Chicago (about 30 miles each way, plus some city driving) and averaged 74mpg!  I regularly get 80mpg to/from work because of the slower open roads.  It's really a great car.  Honda engineers designed this car with one goal in mind, economy.  It's 1000 lbs lighter and gets better gas mileage than even the newest prius.
Anyways, people seem to get a ton of miles out of them as well - a guy on the Insight message board just hit 500,000 miles!


Flynlow

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2012, 06:29:21 AM »
Anyone who says cars are not for enjoyment but merely transportation has no advice for me on this topic.  To me this is like saying sex is only for reproduction, you're missing the point.

Well said!

jrhampt, these two statements are pretty offensive:

Cars are not for enjoyment; they are for transportation from here to there.

My husband suffers from the same "cars are for fun" delusion

Because you are stating your opinion as if it were a fact.  A better way to put it is, "To ME, cars are not for enjoyment, they are for transportation."  Assuming that holds true for everyone is delusional.  Possibly your viewpoint is skewed due to your husband's spendy ways, but not all gearheads buy new vehicles and let depreciation steal their savings.  And we're not poor misguided individuals waiting for you to free us of the bonds of car ownership, we simply like cars.  Either be constructive, or consider not saying anything at all. 


Anyway, to the OP.  318is's (and really all E30's) have been skyrocketing in price lately, much like CRXs and other cars you listed.  It's tough to find a clean one in good shape for cheap these days.  E36's are, in many instances, cheaper than E30s.  I have found several later 318is, 325is, and 328is in perfect running condition, with maintenance records, and ~100K miles, for under $4K.  So consider moving up one generation. Also, I assume you do your own maintenance and repairs?  BMWs aren't really that hard to work on, nor are the parts that expensive, unless you take it to a dealer.  Admittedly your 540 has a tighter engine bay then other E39's since it has the V8 rather than the I6, but its still very DIY friendly.

The Miata is a great suggestion.  Find one in good shape, keep up with the maintenance, and it should last 200K miles plus.  Another option in the same vein is the 91-95 MR2s, the non-turbo will get better gas mileage and uses the same engine as the Corolla/Camry, so it'll get great gas mileage and give many years of service.  Despite being mid-engine, it actually has more storage space than a Miata.  I've owned all three actually (E30 325i, Miata, and MR2), and averaged 27+mpg with the E30, and ~30-36 with the Miata and MR2, depending on city/highway mix.  So I've no idea where the 23mpg number jrhampt is throwing out came from. 
« Last Edit: October 24, 2012, 06:33:16 AM by Flynlow »

rtrnow

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2012, 07:43:45 AM »
Since you brought up Mazdas, how about the 3? I too love performance cars and have been pretty happy with the 3. Mazda makes good manual trans and the 6spd in mine is great to drive. Does it accelerate and handle like a 300hp rear drive German sedan, hell no, but it is a pretty good compromise. Just so you know I sold a G37 sport with 6spd manual in favor of the 3. I do miss that car, but I don't miss expensive summer tires, premium gas, or $100 oil changes every 3500 miles.

skyrefuge

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2012, 10:14:28 AM »
RE: Miata at 23 mpg.  This is a ridiculous number.  Anyone who drives a Miata in a normal fashion will beat that number by a large margin.  Freakin' EPA.

Unfortunately, it's not really that ridiculous of a number.  The two cars I've owned in my adult life are 2nd and 3rd Generation Miatas.  For the 2nd-gen '99, near the end of its life, with mild hypermiling techniques, I could get it up to around 28mpg (half highway/half suburban).  My new one does a little better (~30mpg under the same conditions), though it requires more-expensive premium gas to achieve that.  And that is definitely not driving a Miata in the "normal fashion" that a Miata is intended to be driven.  I can easily get close to that 23mpg number if I'm driving it in "fun" mode, which it sounds like you'd be doing.  It's always surprised and bothered me that such a light, small-engined car gets such relatively poor mileage.

I don't think the 1st Gen numbers are that much different (even though it's the smallest and lightest of the 3), and Fuelly stats support this:

http://www.fuelly.com/car/mazda/mx-5%20miata

The 1st Gen numbers seem to average around 25-26mpg, with plenty of examples at or below that 23mpg number.

jrhampt, these two statements are pretty offensive:

Cars are not for enjoyment; they are for transportation from here to there.

My husband suffers from the same "cars are for fun" delusion

Because you are stating your opinion as if it were a fact.  A better way to put it is, "To ME, cars are not for enjoyment, they are for transportation."  Assuming that holds true for everyone is delusional.  Possibly your viewpoint is skewed due to your husband's spendy ways, but not all gearheads buy new vehicles and let depreciation steal their savings.  And we're not poor misguided individuals waiting for you to free us of the bonds of car ownership, we simply like cars.  Either be constructive, or consider not saying anything at all. 

ha, I'm not sure how you found your way to this forum, but it's connected to a blog run by a fine face-punching fellow named Mr. Money Mustache.  The culture around here is based on the idea that if someone is doing stupid shit, you tell them that they're doing stupid shit, preferably with a metaphorical punch to the face.  Trying to protect their feelings and indicating that the stupid shit they're doing may be "ok" just lets them continue to live in their brainwashed bubble.  The face-punch is an attempt to snap them out of it and see how serious their problem really is.  One reason so many people are in financial trouble is because no one had the balls to punch them in the face when they were making stupid decisions.

Now, the person on the receiving end of the punch may then still say "yes, I know I'm being stupid, but I fully understand and accept the personal and environmental consequences of my stupidity", then everything is cool (sort of), but it's still good that the face was punched, and much better than some namby-pamby enabling of their current ways.


Flynlow

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2012, 10:56:35 AM »
ha, I'm not sure how you found your way to this forum, but it's connected to a blog run by a fine face-punching fellow named Mr. Money Mustache.  The culture around here is based on the idea that if someone is doing stupid shit, you tell them that they're doing stupid shit, preferably with a metaphorical punch to the face.  Trying to protect their feelings and indicating that the stupid shit they're doing may be "ok" just lets them continue to live in their brainwashed bubble.  The face-punch is an attempt to snap them out of it and see how serious their problem really is.  One reason so many people are in financial trouble is because no one had the balls to punch them in the face when they were making stupid decisions.

Now, the person on the receiving end of the punch may then still say "yes, I know I'm being stupid, but I fully understand and accept the personal and environmental consequences of my stupidity", then everything is cool (sort of), but it's still good that the face was punched, and much better than some namby-pamby enabling of their current ways.

I found my way here to enjoy open discussions with people sharing the common goal of Financial Independance.  Quite familiar with the blog, thanks.  Not sure why that merits an attitude from you, but whatever floats your boat, pookie.  Having worked as an automotive engineer for a number of years, a lot of my techinical knowledge is in that area, and I post in those threads more often because I feel that's one of the few areas I may have more knowledge to share than the average Mustachian.  Don't like it?  Don't read. 


I'm not trying to protect anyone's feelings, if you say, "Driving an aging, V8 BMW with no ability to fix it yourself is the height of stupidity!"  I'd be right there with you.  Saying, "Cars are not fun, they are transportation, END OF STORY."  is bullshit.  There's no face-punch there, just someone spewing an opinion and trying to pass it off as fact. 

I didn't say everything was OK.  I said try a more efficient car that is still fun to drive.  No reason to punish yourself with a shitbox when there are vehicles just as economical and reliable, but not totally soul-sucking to drive. 


$_gone_amok

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2012, 11:18:33 AM »
Here's my list of reliable, cheap and fun cars to own. These are easy to work on yourself and cheap to maintain.

Late 80's to mid 90's car that gets high 20's to mid 30's MPG

Honda CRX
Honda civic
Mazda miata (1 gen)
Toyota Celica all trac
Acura Integra


Jamesqf

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2012, 12:08:46 PM »
I'm not trying to protect anyone's feelings, if you say, "Driving an aging, V8 BMW with no ability to fix it yourself is the height of stupidity!"  I'd be right there with you.  Saying, "Cars are not fun, they are transportation, END OF STORY."  is bullshit.  There's no face-punch there, just someone spewing an opinion and trying to pass it off as fact. 

I didn't say everything was OK.  I said try a more efficient car that is still fun to drive.  No reason to punish yourself with a shitbox when there are vehicles just as economical and reliable, but not totally soul-sucking to drive.

Couldn't have said it better myself.  And the plain fact is that almost all of my fun cars, from the Austin-Healy Sprite through the CRX and the current Insight, have been pretty economical to drive as well.  To me it's simple engineering: if you want a car that handles well and accelerates briskly, you have to make it small, light (the basic "Simplify, then add lightness" Lotus design philosophy), and low to the ground.  If you do that, you almost inevitably will get decent highway mpg.  Hell, even the greatly over-engined Corvette can get close to 30 mph at highway cruise speeds.

skyrefuge

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2012, 01:12:12 PM »
Saying, "Cars are not fun, they are transportation, END OF STORY."  is bullshit.  There's no face-punch there, just someone spewing an opinion and trying to pass it off as fact.

My point was that line sounded exactly like something MMM himself would write, in a much-appreciated effort to get us all to snap out of our shared insanity and strengthen our frugality muscles.  So I was surprised that, as an MMM-reader, someone else writing the same thing here on the forum caused you to get offended (and not even for yourself, but on behalf of someone else...the OP seemed to take the face-punch without any issue).

MMM fully admits to being a big gearhead, but he simultaneously admits that it's stupid, and thus, he works hard to keep those tendencies in check.  I'm not quite as big of a gearhead, but as a fairly recent buyer of a brand-new 2-seat convertible at the top trim level that takes premium fuel, who also admits that it's stupid, I think we're basically in the same category (except that he's clearly better at fighting his stupidity than I am).  So there was the chance that the OP was also in the same category, and a well-timed face-punch could have vastly widened his choice of vehicles.  There's certainly no harm in trying, and if no one had delivered such a punch, I feel like the forum would have been failing in its ideals.

All cars should be soul-sucking to drive, then we wouldn't be nearly as tempted to drive them! (#NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement)

mikeb23ft

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2012, 07:02:04 PM »
I'm considering what to do.  I wouldn't terribly mind trading my car for a newer Mini but I've heard that the reliability is terrible.  Miatas scare me because I've never owned a convertible.  I think the 318ti/is is my best bet...and also the car that I'm most likely to be able to get someone to trade me out of for in a BMW for BMW swap plus some cash on their end.

mindaugas

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2012, 10:57:48 AM »
Back to practicality, what about a scooter since your roads are 35mph and under? Scooters are fun to ride and can be had for under $1k.

My mother is on her second Miata, they are fun to drive but they are noisy and have to be carefully driven to get good gas mileage. I have never thought they were particularly fast but I have only driven bone stock models.

I like the idea of an economic Honda Insight, but godamn if that is not the ugliest car I have ever seen.

Jamesqf

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #22 on: October 25, 2012, 11:42:39 AM »
I like the idea of an economic Honda Insight, but godamn if that is not the ugliest car I have ever seen.

Eye of the beholder, I suppose.  I think it's quite attractive myself.  For really ugly (in cars, SUVs are in a whole 'nother class) I have to go with all the really ugly "fat butt syndrome" cars you see lately.

mindaugas

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #23 on: October 25, 2012, 12:09:32 PM »
I like the idea of an economic Honda Insight, but godamn if that is not the ugliest car I have ever seen.

Eye of the beholder, I suppose.  I think it's quite attractive myself.  For really ugly (in cars, SUVs are in a whole 'nother class) I have to go with all the really ugly "fat butt syndrome" cars you see lately.

lol, I agree and I know that beauty is subjective. After all, I LOVE the way this and this look.

bluecollarmusician

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #24 on: December 21, 2012, 09:35:53 AM »
GET THE MIATA!

Just an opinion, but from someone who can resonate with you on wanting to have a fun and economical car, I did this research before and the Miata came out a big winner.

1st gen.... Mine was a 95. Over 5 years 40,000 miles zero problems that I could not not do myself except the clutch and timing belt, both of which are required maintenance at expected intervals.  I also averaged 30-34 mpg, and that was driving it the way the Miata was designed to be driven...it was manual and not automatic so that probably helped some.

Re. Convertible top is a ton of fun! I loved it... The only thing better is riding the bike.  It does add an extra cost in the need to replace, and you get more road noise in a convertible.  I recommend buying one that comes with a hard top.... They look cool, and are cheaper if you buy it with a car than on the after market.  I have seen several for sale with hardtop in good condition with reasonable miles for 5gs or less. 

Only other downside is trunk space.... But if you have a Fit too, then it isn't really a problem.   

I sold mine after 5 years for what I paid for it.  Only cost for those 40000 was fuel and maintenance. 
How many cars can you do that with?

Flynlow

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Re: My personal automotive journey.
« Reply #25 on: December 21, 2012, 10:07:20 AM »
I'd forgotten about this thread, OP, did you ever come to a decision? 

Also, to jrhampt, sorry if I came off as overly harsh.  I wasn't raging at you, I've simply had that same discussion with so many of my gearhead friends wives/significant others that I get more fired up then most.  The ultimate irony to me was a buddy who spent less on the purchase, upkeep, and racing of his BMW than his wife did on clothing, but he was the "bad guy" because it was a luxury.  She wanted him to trade it for a brand-new Camry (the economics of which made his and my heads explode).  Sounds like your husband just needs to get into cheaper sporty cars :). 

Couldn't have said it better myself.  And the plain fact is that almost all of my fun cars, from the Austin-Healy Sprite through the CRX and the current Insight, have been pretty economical to drive as well.  To me it's simple engineering: if you want a car that handles well and accelerates briskly, you have to make it small, light (the basic "Simplify, then add lightness" Lotus design philosophy), and low to the ground.  If you do that, you almost inevitably will get decent highway mpg.  Hell, even the greatly over-engined Corvette can get close to 30 mph at highway cruise speeds.

Sounds like a cool collection!  Any pictures?  I love the Lotus design philosophy!  This is my latest project, a Lotus 7 replica I'm slowly building (obligatory picture of sitting in an unfinished project making zoom zoom noises):