Since this blog (and blogging generally) seems to be dying, this will probably be my last post. Anyway, I went car shopping yesterday. It’s not that I really need a new car, my current car, a 2003 Honda Civic Si hatchback, is running fine even with 200k on the clock. Still, I will probably be moving back to California soon, which means a convertible would be nice. Plus, reliable as my current car has been, it’s time for something new. Unfortunately, there aren’t many convertibles presently available, and fewer still that meet my basic requirements.
Actually, the only other firm requirement, besides the convertible top itself, is a manual transmission. Automatics are for girls, real men drive sticks. At the bottom end is the Mazda Miata. A fine car in its day, it just hasn’t kept up with the times. 25 years ago, a 0-60 time in the 8 second range was still pretty sporty for an inexpensive car, but I’m not driving something that can be blown away by a mom in a Dodge minivan with a V-6. Somewhat more impressive is the Honda S2000, sort of a halfway point between the Miata and the much more expensive BMW 3 series convertible, but Honda stopped making them about 4 or 5 years ago.
So that has me shifting gears (so to speak) and looking at domestic models. For one, you can still get a big V-8 in an American car without spending a fortune, which nicely solves the lack of power problem. And if you want a convertible, a V-8, and a stick shift, that pretty much leaves you with either a Ford Mustang or a Chevy Camaro. A friend (who lives in Southern California) recently bought a Mustang so configured, and loves it. But I’ve never been keen on the Mustang’s styling, indeed, even going back to the late 60′s, the Camaro was always the better looking car. Also, the Mustang still (still!) has a solid rear axle whereas the Chevy has an independent rear suspension. The latter almost always makes for both better handling and ride, the only excuse for putting the former on any car (and especially one intended for performance/sporty driving) is because you’re too cheap to put a proper suspension on the back end. So the Mustang is out.
So you can get a Camaro with a convertible top, a V-8, and a stick shift. The only remaining question is: which engine? The standard V-8 puts out 426 hp, and yields 0-60 times in the 4.7 second range. Not quite Corvette territory, but pretty impressive still. This will net you around $45,000, which, considering what you get, isnn’t bad at all. Or you can spring an extra $10-15k and get the version with the Superman engine and trick suspension, which gets you a 580 hp V-8 and is still available in both a convertible version and a manual transmission. However, according to both Car & Driver and Chevy’s own brochure, this only lowers 0-60 times to about 4.0 seconds and you pay for it in extra fuel consumption. So why spend the extra money for so little apparent gain? Not to mention the supercharged V-8 in the faster model is likely to be less reliable and more expensive to repair?
Anyway, food for thought. The only other possibility that fits my basic requirements would be a BMW M3 convertible, which can also be had with a manual, but is much more expensive, both to buy and to maintain. And, since I haven’t even begun to research those, no point in writing about that option yet.