Which classic car for New York City?

nyc99nyc99 Member Posts: 1
edited March 2014 in Lexus
I'm kind of confused about what kind of car I want to buy and the manager for this discussion board suggested that I post my message here and that many of you would have useful thoughts - any and all would be appreciated!

I currently have a 1992 Lexus es300 which I'm planning to sell and just not sure what to replace it with. I live in Manhattan and park my car on the street. I work in New Jersey and commute about 20-30 minutes each way and I'd say 1/4 of the weekends I use the car to drive out of the city. I really like vintage cars (saw a Volvo 1800s recently that I really liked) - in general I like sporty, low to the ground cars, "sleek" cars - usually foreign. the old sl Mercedes is appealing to me. But, I do want to have at least back seats so that I could fit 4 (even if it may be a bit uncomfortable for the 2 in the back seat). Also, I'm not a car guy - don't really know anything about cars besides driving them...and I'm fairly busy, so having a car that doesn't break down all the time is very important to me. Lastly, I'm willing to spend anywhere from $5-10k up to $20-25k. The key is that I want a car that can make it through the snow, sun, and rain of the city streets and will be easy (and not too expensive) to maintain.

so...my key questions are:
1. do you think it makes sense having a vintage car at all given my circumstance (everyday car, low maintenance desire, etc...)
2. if it does make sense - what cars / models would you recommend I look into?
3. where would you recommend I look?

Appreciate any help you can offer!


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Okay, so what I'm reading here is the folowing requirements that you have for your "classic" car.

    1. Can live outdoors

    2. Reliable enough for 4-season driving

    3. Roomy enough for occasional back seat passengers

    4. Budget up to $25K maximum, preferably less.

    5. Somewhat sporty or at least fun to drive, also sporty-looking or at least distinctive.

    Have I got that about right?

    Okay, my suggestions:

    1. Mazda RX-7

    2. Volvo P1800 ES sport wagon but with a custom grill-guard

    3. BMW 635 CSi sport coupe

    4. Saab Turbo 3 door coupe, 16 valve (1986 on up I believe).

    I eliminated all convertibles and all cars with tiny or no back seats, and all fussy and unreliable type cars.

    I might think of more in a minute. Anyone else have any ideas?
  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I was thinking more like a military-spec Hummer.

    That's probably not helpful.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    Speedshift has the right idea, even if he is kidding...maybe a Jeep CJ or Wrangler w the hardtop so you can lock it up. If you could find a Toyota FJ40 (Land Cruiser) or an original Land Rover.

    The Saab might work 'cuz it has big black bumpers
    which won't scratch (New Yorkers park by Braille).

    BTW-they damaged the dainty bumper of my 124 Spider when I forgot what day of the week it was
    and got towed. Got nowhere trying to claim damages.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    ....I don't know if a car such as you described even exists. You want a sporty, durable, sleek, unusual, cool, practical, easy-to-maintain car. Who doesn't?

    As a Saab 900 owner several times over, here are my thoughts about the 900 turbo:

    1. they're roomy and versatile (fold the back seat and you have mini SUV cargo capacity)
    2. they're relatively small and quite agile (great turning radius), so parking and city driving are easy
    3. the aforementioned black bumpers are durable
    4. they're cheap to buy; probably the nicest old-generation ('93 and before) 900 Turbo coupe you can find will cost about $10k; there are plenty around for less than $5k
    5. they are RELIABLE, but can 'nickel and dime' you on other stuff (heat and a/c repairs, broken power window motors, etc.); this car is likely to be more 'labor intensive' than a same-vintage Lexus, for sure; avoid the automatic transmissions on these, they rob performance and gas mileage and are not very durable
    6. they're fun to drive and very good in snow
    7. if you find one you deem acceptable upon basic inspection, take it to a SAAB (not general, I can't emphasize this enough) mechanic and have him check it out thoroughly.

    Another car to consider here might be a Mercedes 380/500/560SEC (1982-91, the big S-class coupe), though they're not terribly 'sporty', they are well-built, quick (the 500 and 560, anyway), nice looking and hold four in comfort. Prices vary from ~$6k for an OK 380 to about $20k for a 'gem' 560. Mercedes are not cheap to maintain, though, and I don't know how I'd feel about parking one on the street in Manhattan.

    Sounds like you want something European? Though far from 'sleek', maybe a Volvo 240 Turbo (hard to find) or 850 Turbo would be a decent choice (neither even border on 'classic' at this point).

    Or if four seats and Japanese you want, how bout a Supra Turbo (though the last-gen are still quite expensive)? Or a 300ZX 2+2?

    Good luck, and keep us posted!
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    1948 Dodge Power Wagon. Mean looking and built like a tank.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    And sporty, too, in a World War II sort of way.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    None of the RX-7's I owned had a back seat.

    Still, this would be first on my list too! Great cars that aren't expensive.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Nah, you should be able to find a near show quality Power Wagon for $8,500. Of course, people can ASK whatever they wish.

    Great looking truck but nasty to drive in New York rush hour.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    But you could just drop it into low and create a parking spot wherever you want.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I still think an RX-7 is your ticket. It's svoopy-doopy, doesn't cost much used, and if someone wrecks it while its parked, so what just go pick up your insurance check and buy another one. There's no shortage and they aren't going to be classics.

    How about a Mustang? Also fun, great value, and expendable and easy to get dented parts replaced.

    Only edge the Mazda has is that nobody steals Mazdas.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    I'd suggest an older Volvo 740 or 760. Nobody pays attention to these, anyway.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    nope, he wants sporty. Volvos are about as far as one can get from that unless he picks an older P1800. They are fine, rugged little cars but that fancy grillwork is VERY expensive to replace.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • thedarkwolfthedarkwolf Member Posts: 70
    which knocks out the RX-7. Unless well cared for the apex seals on those can go at anytime. One overheating is all it takes. I think even running it out of gas can cause them to go. They have a problem with flooding if shutoff and then started again soon after.

    Know anything about 240z and 280z?
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,602
    ...like an RX-7 would get eaten alive in NYC. Anything bigger than a Miata is going to override its bumpers. You also have to make 'em scream to get any power out of 'em (at least the ones I've seen), which you won't have much of a chance to do in heavy traffic. I've heard that RX-7's are very high-maintenance, as well, and if you don't keep on top of it, they'll deteriorate fast.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Oh, they aren't as bad as that. You are all probably thinking of the 3rd generation twin turbos. The earlier RX-7s do need some special attention, that is true, but no more so than a Saab or Audi or other esoteric import. The 3rd gen, yes, they are fussy and need extra good care (also blazingly fast) but the early RX7s are pretty tough if you don't abuse them.

    That's a good suggestion, a Nissan 280Z---like the early RX7, they are cheap and disposable. You could buy 3 for the price of one clean low mileage used Miata, and they are a bigger and sturdier (body wise) car. A 260Z is troublesome, and a 240Z is really too nice a car to sacrifice on the bloody altar of NYC.

    Also a 300ZX is a possibility. Very attractive, fast car and pretty trouble-free.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    What about any Toyota Supra from 1986 to 1997? You can't kill those things.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,602
    ...I think in its final few years, the thing just got too overblown for its own good and priced out of its original market, a fate that also befell cars such as the 300ZX, RX-7 and, now, the Prelude. I always thought the late 80's to early '90's (forget the exact year span) Supra was a really attractive car though. I'm sure insurance premiums on the final generation Supra will be a killer...
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Are probably the most misunderstood and underrated cars out there. I've owned three of them and they are GREAT cars.

    The apex seals cause no problems unless the car gets overheated...sooooo, make sure your cooling system is in good condition.

    They like clean oil and they will burn a quart every 1000 miles or so. This is normal.

    And for the size of that tiny engine, they are extremely fast even without turbos.

    3rd generation? In my opinion they went way overboard and lost their market.

    Others will disagree....
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    About the only good things you can say about the 3rd generation is that they are really , really fast and really really beautiful, but not very very reliable.

    Yes, I agree, most people do misunderstand the early RX7s. They are a drop dead bargain right now. All they need is just some normal maintenance, clean oil and as Isell says, never, ever overheat one.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    Would these cars work for NYC:

    1982-87 Audi Coupe GT or 1990-91 Coupe Quattro
    Any BMW 3-Series coupe 1988-up
    1986-88 VW Scirocco 16V or 1990-94 Corrado
    '90s Alfa Spiders?
    1993-up Camaros
  • thedarkwolfthedarkwolf Member Posts: 70
    wiegh around 3700lbs and the turbo versions like to blow headgaskets.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    .....most of the cars we've cited throughout are fifteen year-old European cars, not exactly 'low-maintenance'. Again, this is a hard bill to fill.
  • thedarkwolfthedarkwolf Member Posts: 70
    They should be pretty low maintenance and mechanical parts should be pretty cheap. Wouldn't have to worry about the body rusting either :).
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,602
    ...but wouldn't a Corvette shake itself apart in NY City? My Dad had a Corvette when I was real young...in fact, I just barely remember it. It was a '62. He hit a taxi cab with it, which shattered the passenger-side fender and sliced the door open. Really messed up the cab too...I think he broke out its taillight ;-)

    On the plus side, I'd guess the maintenance wouldn't be too bad.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    One misconception about Corvettes is that they "don't rust".

    Uh-uh. The frames are steel and they can rust badly, basically rendering the car useless.

    NYC isn't quite the Gaza strip. I think any number of decent cars can survive there but don't expect them to remain cosmetically attractive.

    This is why I suggest disposable cars like Japanese ones or old German sedans or yes, even Alfa Spiders. These are not going to be valuable so no need to worry about them, presuming you are insured of course.
  • corsicachevycorsicachevy Member Posts: 316
    I know this isn't that sporty, but a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible just seems to fit New York City. It is long, low, beautiful, comfortable and can easily seat four passengers. Unfortunately, these cars tend to serve as "professional women" magnets.

    Reliability may be a problem, but the repairs should be cheap.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    It just came to me: a '66 Belvedere II four door sedan with late-model Corvette drivetrain and suspension.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    Anyone who would suggest an Eldo or Belvedere has never parked in the Big Apple, probably never even driven there. See if you can find an Old VW GTI with big bumpers, they're great city cars.

    Take it from one who's been there, done that.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    The Belvedere is the intermediate. Does that help?

    My only experience with the streets of New York was a taxi ride on two wheels to the airport.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,602
    ...and sister Dodge Coronet were about 206" long. That's about Concorde/Park Avenue-sized today, although those cars did have one definite advantage...because of their angular styling you could tell exactly where the car ended, so they'd be easier to park than you might imagine. Plus, the bumpers on 'em were plenty sturdy, in case you had to move any cars that might block you in!

    I just looked up the length of an Eldo in an old used car guide I have from that era. It only covers the '77-78 Eldos, which were all closed coupes by that time, however, I'm sure the '76 was the same length. 126.3" wheelbase, 224.1" long, overall. Funny though, but as much as the Eldo gets picked on for its mammoth size, it was relatively small compared to some other cars back then. It does have the distinction of being the heaviest FWD car ever produced though, so maybe that may be where some of the ridicule comes from.

    Anyway, here's something that shocked me, unless this is a misprint. The sister Olds Toronado back then rode a shorter 122" wb (I knew that), but is actually LONGER, at 227.6"! Not that 3-4 inches makes much difference when you get to sizes like that, though. The longest car listed in this book, which spans 1977-86 cars, is the Lincoln Continental 2- and 4-door sedan (Not the Mark V coupe)...233". The Mark is close though, at 230.3"! The biggest thing Chrylser could muster up by that time was 225", from the Newport/New Yorker in '77-78.

    These cars may be great for pushing obstacles out of the way, but I'd forget about parallel parking in a big city if you want to leave surrounding cars unscathed!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
  • thedarkwolfthedarkwolf Member Posts: 70
    I was thinking more along the lines of mid 70s-80s vettes, you know the crappy ones :), when I brought it up.
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    15K for a Henry J? The only way that would be worth that would be if it had 1500 $10 bills stuck to it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    they are only worth something as street rods. That one looks like it has some sort of stroker Chevy in it. Might be fun!
  • corsicachevycorsicachevy Member Posts: 316
    Andys120 - I have been to, and driven in, New York City. I'm familiar with the landscape.

    My suggestion of an Eldorado was made partly in jest, given the car's enormous size and the limited parking space available.

    We are all just throwing ideas around - take it easy.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    I didn't pick up on the gag.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • alwaysfordsalwaysfords Member Posts: 210
    How about a new Mini? Lots of coolness, retro feel, BMW made, small, exotic (for now), and also not too terribly expensive.
  • magnetophonemagnetophone Member Posts: 605
    alwaysfords, excellent idea!

    Another suggestion is an Alfa Romeo 164 (if you can find one, they were rathe good in their last few years here) or an Alfa Spider. Spiders are actually reasonably reliable, not especially though. I would recommend one of the RX-7 convertibles, or an Audi cabriolet if you can find one.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    I don't recommend any convertible in the city, where it's going to be left parked unattended for any length of time.

    You can't lock a convertible as the thieves will just cut the top to get inside, adding insult to injury.

    While it's true that thieves can get into any vehicle, convertibles are especially tempting for them, in my experience, and a new window or lock is cheaper than buying a top.
  • avalanche325avalanche325 Member Posts: 116
    I think it would be a good choice. A modern one of course. Actually a bigger car than the original. Dependable. I haven't driven one yet, but they look fun. Retro - not classic
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    probably the best choice of anything new, like my '83 Rabbit GTI was with good brakes and an ability to dart in and out of traffic and park anywhere. The Mini bumpers would get beat up though (If the Rabbit bumper got beat up you could unbolt it and put in another).

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    I didn't even think of that one. My brother had two of them (a rustbucket, but fun '83 and a big-time lemon '91 16v). Between the two of us, we've had four Golf/Jetta IIs. Great cars in so many ways, as long as you can get the doors to open from the outside (probably the biggest consistent problem with these cars).
  • crashtestdingocrashtestdingo Member Posts: 81
    Toyota Corolla FX. Or, a similar car but longer, with four doors and probably more rear seat room: Chevy Nova Twin Cam.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Any ex-cop car.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    Great choice, the Chevy Nova. My dad bought it new in December of 1987 and it's still running with only 67k miles on it.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    Yeah, that's a good choice, any ex-cop car. You'd have to go for the last-generation Chevy Caprices (1991-96). I've heard they're more reliable than the equivalent Crown Vics of that era. And besides, Caprices can be easily restored and parts are cheap and easy to find.
  • andys120andys120 Member Posts: 23,342
    unless you're a cop they can park anywhere.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

This discussion has been closed.