Essay, Old Cars

Buy a fun car while you’re young

1968 Chevrolet El Camino b

When I was a kid, my dad wanted a Chevy El Camino. I mean, really really wanted. He imagined himself driving in carlike comfort while being able to haul lumber and other large items with ease in its bed. He was so hot to own one that he tried to convince my mom that our family of four would fit just fine shoulder to shoulder across the front seat. 

Mom wasn’t having it. Thank goodness, because the four of us shoulder-tight on that bench seat did not sound like fun to me. But I feel bad for my dad that he never got his El Camino.

As Dad aged, that spark for fun motoring left him. I think that’s natural for anyone who didn’t get to sow those oats when they were younger — he never knew the joy of the fun car and so those synapses never formed in his brain. By his middle age he declared that his cars were meant only to get him from A to B.

BMW 3-series coupe

I’m in the middle of making the same mistake. When I was young I wanted a 3-series BMW coupe. Really really wanted one. But I never felt like I should extend myself financially to buy even a well-used one. I could have, but I always played it safe with my money.

I regret it. While it’s important to be good stewards of our finances, it’s also important to seek good, fun experiences in life.

I’ve already told my wife that after the kids are done with college I’d like to buy a fun car. I’ve lost my BMW lust in middle age, so I don’t know yet what that car will be except that it’ll be older and will not be my daily driver. Whatever I choose, it’ll be our road-trip car and we will make memories together in it.

This one’s for my dad, who would have been 78 today.

Standard

26 thoughts on “Buy a fun car while you’re young

  1. I was going to say that the answer is always Miata, but then came to the part about it being your road trip car, and they have precious little cargo space.

    I have gone to the other extreme, although my fun cars have also been cheap ones. You absolutely must do this.

    Like

    • Maybe a Mini? Or a Fiat 500? If I want to go modern. I can see myself in a RWD Chevy Malibu — should be great parts availability. If I can find a 2-door that hasn’t been hooned or modded to death that is. Ooooo, or maybe a wagon!

      Like

  2. Jim, suggest you sign up for Hemming’s daily email. Interesting brief articles about the wide range of vintage (anymore I think that means pre-OBDII/1996) automobiles, a good jumping off point for those automotive daydreams…..

    Like

  3. DougD says:

    Good idea Jim.
    I’ve made the mistake of having a fun car all my life, but for most of that time the fun car hasn’t been driveable, which I’ve now realized isn’t as much fun.
    We went on a big road trip a few years ago (in our minivan :( ) We saw people in huge motorhomes, we saw people on Harleys, we saw people towing pop up trailers with bicycles on top. I decided the people who appeared to be having the most fun were travelling light in a sports car.
    Currently 2005-2009 V6 Mustang convertibles are tempting me, they are inexpensive and some have been really well taken care of. 4 seats, 5 speeds, canvas roof…

    Like

  4. 25 or so years ago, my father confided in me that he was restless in his marriage and having all sorts of crazy thoughts. Ironically, this conversation occurred while we were walking the rows of classic cars at the Barrett Jackson Auction in Scottsdale. I listened to his foolishness and suggested he buy a red Corvette instead. He did and it proved to be the wise choice.

    Like

  5. Good advice, Jim, and one that I followed back in the day. In 1963, when I turned 16, the first car I ever bought was a 1960 Karmann Ghia convertible. In 1966 I was 18. I went to Vietnam. Saved my money and when I returned in ‘67, I traded the Karmann Ghia in for a ‘65 Pontiac GTO, the 389 with the 3 carbs and a 4-speed. Went back to Vietnam again in 1968, saved my money, came back in ‘69 and traded the GTO in for a 1967 Chevelle SS with the 409 and 4 speed on the floor. Fastest car I ever owned. I saved the Chevelle but a few years later I bought a ‘72 Ford Mustang Fastback. Later, I traded the Mustang in for a 1975 Corvette with the T-Top. I’ve had many cars and trucks since then, but the Corvette was the last of my young at heart and fast cars. Nowadays I drive a Ford F-150, but looking back, I’m glad I took that road.

    Like

      • DougD says:

        I can confirm that vintage VWs are a lot of fun, but long distance trips aren’t really their forte. Too bad you didn’t come to the CC Detroit meetup, you would have seen what condition I arrived in after too many hours in a sweltering hot VW.

        Something that could keep up with traffic and has A/C would be more flexibly fun for you & Margaret. I enjoy the dreaming and scheming too, keep us updated on what you’re thinking about…

        Like

        • “Keeps up with traffic” and “has a/c” are requirements. I’m not thinking about anything too classic or too exotic — just something fun and affordable. We might even just do a Fiat 500 or something.

          Like

  6. I drive a ’05 Crossfire SRT6, every day. Yes, every day, snow, rain, sun. Snow tires are what makes it possible, and I swap them out in spring for my summer slicks. A/C, and heated seats makes the commute and long trips comfy.
    It is fun and fast and make my heart go pitty-pat.
    Have a good time dreaming about your fun car.

    Like

  7. TBM3FAN says:

    Fortunately for me I have owned one of my fun cars since 1969 and added another one to it in 1984. Both are and always have been in 100% perfect mechanical condition. Now just a day ago one of my frugal patients, known since 1984 at 20 years old, told me about his fun car of the last three years. A Porsche Cayman GT4 that he takes out on the tracks at Sears Point and Laguna Seca.. He showed me a video of him blasting down a straight away at 140 mph past a McLaren. Now that is a fun car!

    Like

  8. susanJOY Hosken says:

    Jim, I love red cars and ones that appeal to me visually as well as being red. I got my first red car from money after my dad died and waited and waited to finally see my lovely red car I have now. It makes it so special having a car one really loves…for me anyway. I hope you get your special car Jim…don’t wait too long…susanJOY

    Like

  9. I had my most fun car when I was 31. It was a Honda CRX 1.6 SiR DelSol, a two seater with an electric roof that was like something out of James Bond. You released a couple of latches on the roof inside, then pressed the button. The boot lifted vertically straight up, the roof slid back into it, then the whole thing descended again, leaving the top open.

    Even better than this was the VTEC engine, amazing thing that was super quick (it was only 1.6 but so fast) but driven sensibly still returned 45-50mpg. Those VTECs are like two engines in one, and when that kick comes in at something like 5000rpm then it revs all the way up to 7500 or something crazy, it’s a great thrill. Handled very well too as it was low and wide. Kind of miss it, but practicality triumphs these days with a young family, so I get more excited about VW MPVs!

    My brother is a mechanic and got really into the VTECs around that time. He put the same model 1.6i VTEC engine in an old Austin Metro and it was insanely fast and super fun. One of his mates did the same in one of the original tiny minis. Even faster! He’s still got a Honda S2000 now which are a different league of performance…

    Maybe when our kids have grown I’ll explore another VTEC…

    Like

Share your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.