Build a kit car. Except for the cost of the tools you will probably need to buy, they can be cheap. An 800 pound Super 7 with 140 horsepower motor would certainly be a fun car. As I said before, there are books and plans, the plans are free, but the good books are tough to track down as they went out of print a while ago.
A 427 Cobra has always been a dream car of mine. A decent build with a modest paint job could run about the same as a well optioned compact car. Not sure I'd want to devote so much time and space to such a venture. I have little care for aesthetics. It would end up with some rough edges, for sure.
The wife's 2007 Fit Sport was a riot. It handled like a go-cart. With 2x the power it would've been an amazing car. Alas, the AC was barely adequate mid summer unless the cabin was air was recirculated, and it was noisy and a bit crude. In that respect, the Fiesta RS is appealing. It just looks a bit too ricer.
Vehicles, I am convinced, are better than most folks ever dreamed they could be.
That is true. The only car I've come across recently with bad reviews is the Mitsubishi Mirage...mostly for being basic and slow. Most reviewers seemed to enjoy making a joke of it.
I laugh about the 2017 Subaru with the Eye-Sight system . . . can you imagine someone trying to commit suicide in a Subaru? . . . it'd be damn near impossible.
On the one hand certain drivers aids can lower insurance prices...on the other hand idiots will still try to run you over.
I wouldn't build a cobra kit, too common because everyone wants one. The Super7 isn't really a kit, it's a pile of steel tubes you go buy and start welding. Want more power, stick in bigger motor. Your own Ariel Atom of sorts for around $10,000 including donor car car for suspension. Nothing but money and time stopping you from an 800hp blown V8 that weighs 1000 pounds.
That said, there are a few cool kits out there. How about a V-twin powered car? Again, 120hp in an 800 pound car.
I always lusted after a Cobra. I've owned quite a few of Shelby's Dodges over the years but a Cobra or a kit was always something I wanted.
Until we traded one at the RV dealer where I used to work - that cured me.
I could not get in and out of it.
Once I was in...I couldn't DO anything - my feet barely fit in the footwell, my knees were jammed into the wood steering wheel, and if I tried to shift back to second/fourth, my elbow slammed into the rear firewall.
Kit was built to accurate factory dimensions. I'm 6'4", 185, 34" inseam, size 13 shoe. They were obviously designed for someone 5'5"!
My "first" car, the first one I bought was a 1967 Lotus Europa S1 MkII. Bought it from a NASA engineer in Houston for $1100 in 1974.
Joe trying to cram himself in a Cobra reminded me - I had to take off my boots to drive it, they fit inside the hollow doors. Side windows were plexiglass with 4 wing nuts to hold them or slide them down in a slot in the door. full manual, no crank.
What a fun car. Once changed lanes UNDER a semi's trailer.
In the early 70's my brother worked for a family friend who was a car collector and would go on drinking binges.At the end of a week long binge,he drove his restored MG TC under a log truck.The car didn't survive,Doc fell down across the seats and didn't get badly hurt.
I'm driving a Caravan. Meets my needs for hauling multiple kinds of crap. One day it's firewood for a buddy, the next steel sheet metal for another.
The Caravan is a good compromise single vehicle for my purposes, but if you don't need the capacity, a smaller sportier car is the ticket.
My ideal mix, ( which I am close to now ) would be a full sized Van for cargo and camping, and an economy minded car, but fun, a Hot Hatch, for commuting and day trips. Today it's a Caravan and VW Sportwagen.
The Sportwagen isn't quite enough to haul all I want, the deal breaker being a real mattress for camping. ( I camp in a Medieval Pavilion, in a bed. Air beds just don't cut it for weeks ) I tried, but it was just a touch too small.
Plus of course, my Cyclone. I'll let you guys know if it goes, which will be when I just can't ride anymore.
I've worked out my needs and prejudices over the years. You, OTOH just need a commuter for the Global Cooling days when Florida has snow, or you need to haul some item just too awkward for the bike. ( there's a Lot of stuff like that )
So my recommendation is a Hot Hatch, used, and I'd ask the others what type they've liked, or broken.
I loved the Lotus Europa. In stocking feet. I would only consider a kit car if building one is what you want to do for fun. You have better things to do with your time..... unless that's one of the better things.
I worked on one of those Lotus cars. I literally could not get in it and actually drive it. A buddy of mine happened by so we pushed it into the shop.
Had a similar problem with a Fiero. Was wrecked to where most of the interior panels needed to be removed. Had to enlist the help of the smallest guy in the shop to get at the under dash area.
But then I owned a Fiat 850 Spyder. Smallest car I ever want to own. The seats could slide back so far that I could not reach the pedals. Two 220 pound guys had to be good friends to ride in it together. Literally shoulder to shoulder, door to door, and necessary to have him move his leg on every shift.
I don't buy into the "Bought a minivan, gave up" nonsense.
I drove vans from High school on, because all my buddies with Camaros and other hot cars lost their licences and had to walk for a season. Guess who gave them rides? Moved almost all my friends, it's a thing with van owners.
And... gave up? Ever tried to make out in the back of a Camaro? Small bucket seat car with a stick shift? I had a Lot of fun in the back of a van. For decades. In fact, a few couples had fun in the back while I drove. ( I suspect one eldest son was conceived on a queen sized bed in the back of my van ) It wasn't "get a room", it was "Use the bedroom".
Towed big trailers, hauled hang gliders to the top of mountains. Carried a tow strap & come along so I could pull myself out of trouble on seasonal roads in the woods, and used it far more often yanking 4x4 loons out of trouble. ( and myself, more than once )
Got used to being the Designated Driver, and hauling entire parties around. Back in the before times, every Saturday night I'd take a load of friends to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, then run Lake Ave down to eat ribs and wings at our favorite local joint. ( the Lake Ave of "Rev On The Red Line" Foreigner semi-fame )
Vans are how I got used to driving cross country in comfort. Get tired? take a nap. Usually hit a motel every other day for showers and a swim. I really like the Sportwagen ( which has the chassis & suspension of the GTI ) but it's not that comfortable taking a nap in after driving 15 hours.
It's not that I don't like muscle cars. I worked at Legendary Auto from the days it was just in a rental garage. I've pulled seats and floor pans out of bug infested Muscle cars that were rotting in a brush pile. I've ridden in award winning Hemi cars and helped build a few. ( I like the A-body Chrysler products... Chevy Novas are nice too )
And I freely admit my autocross times in a Dodge Maxivan can't compete with an Atom.
When my commute was 110 miles a day, I bought a minivan to save gas money. Honestly, with the right gearing, an Edelbrock intake, and the proper cam, I got the same mileage out of a 360 that I get out of today's minivan. All my vans ended up with headers. ( cheaper than the stock crossover pipe... that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it ) That's why an old van that's not rusty is on top of my "next car" list. Bump up the ponies to 350-400 and get 25mpg when my foot's not in it.
It still won't beat a Camaro in a drag race. I don't care.
So go ahead an mock the Minivan. Buy into the fake macho of a culture that really thinks a Honda Civic is a hot rod and having kids to haul around is the end of life.
And to be totally honest, I own a Cyclone. I don't need another dangerously fast road toy. I'll spend that money on something that will fly. Preferably something that will go miles without the engine running. Just surfing invisible waves in the sky.
( Had a doctor ask me what I'm going to do when I retire. Told her I'm going to build an airplane. "Oh, you can't do that!". Why not? Done it before. )
BTW, you didn't hit a nerve. I admit to some passion on the subject of cars, but mostly it's a matter of wanting people to drive what will make THEM happy and ignore the fads.
Kinda fun to go all evangelical.
Doesn't sound like you have any need or want for a minivan. You should... maybe look for a Subaru WRX or a Mitsubishi EVO. ( a real sleeper. Ugly, plain, quick )
After all, I own a Buell. I had the fastest bike, once. Back when that title changed hands almost monthly. I loved my Suzuki GS1100E. If I was reading the bike magazines to tell me what to like, I'd have a Victory or a GSX. But I already know what I want in a bike.
Good handling. Good brakes. More than enough power. It has to do the ton, effortlessly, with a passenger. That's my list. Buttercup, my Cyclone, does that with ease. Eats the other bikes for breakfast in handling. ( my former racer buddy told me to never let him ride my bike again, after the first time. He was gone 45 minutes. He told me he was on a back country road he knows to be safe at 70, figured from feel he was doing 60, and looked down and it was really 90. He then claims my bike started talking to him and told him to brake later, go faster, what are you, a wuss?
I told him she does that to me too. I just tell her to wait until we can pass a CBR-R in a corner.
>>>>it's a matter of wanting people to drive what will make THEM happy
Could not agree more . . . . WE've conceded that we are "vehicle people" . . we LOVE driving and there are times . . . on a lazy afternoon where we just jump in a vehicle and go.
Not once have we ever NOT had an incredible adventure.
One of the most memorable, from recent times, when we were at H.I.T.S. for the Dressage competition. We were leaving . . it was late in the day. . . and we had no particular place to be.
The afternoon sun was heading to the West so we decided to follow it . . . . hopped in the MG . . . cranked up Valerie June . . and set out along one of the most famous (mostly for it's 18 water falls) roads that cut through the Catskills . . . we saw several of the waterfalls in the late afternoon "magic hour" . . and just kept continuing to wander. By the time it was dark and becoming chilly we'd arrived at Platte Cover Road and off we headed . . . down . . down . . . down. I moderated the brakes and used the gear box in an effort to keep the brakes as cool as possible. The darkness denied us the 200 mile view across the northeasten corner of PA . . . but the ride was breathtaking . . .
We made it to the bottom . . . wandered down the backroads into Woodstock . . . spun by the famous, recently reopened, Colony and meandered over to Mercado for an incredible dinner.
Then . . . . with the Harvest Moon high in the sky . . . we headed out the back roads and turned the 10 mile trip home into another wonderful 2 hour drive with intermittent stops . . . smack dab in the middle of the road . . . turning the lights out, the music up and just sitting with our heads laid back staring at the sky.
Doesn't much matter . . . . Porsche, Super Duty, Audi, MG, or Jeep . . . it's the DRIVE . . . not the vehicle.
90 Voyager, factory turbocharged 4 cylinder, front wheel drive, and for the moment a 3 speed auto (I'm pondering a 5 speed conversion just for fun). As stated above - not stellar on fuel economy but awesome for hauling big stuff out of the weather. Easy-removal second row seat means it can be a 5 seater with a nice size trunk, or a 2 seat cargo van.
And yes, that's a side exit exhaust (the pic is from before I put the 2.5" SLP tip on it - it looks like an old T/A racer now)...and it'll do one HELL of a burnout!
For heavy hauling, I do love my Cummins:
The only downside to that is weather. I have a nice bed cover on the 8' bed, but if I want to carry anything tall the cover has to come off, or I use the 26' car hauler trailer.
If I had to have a swiss-army-vehicle that could do it ALL? I'd go for one like I saw when I worked at the RV dealer. Guy showed up with a full-size GMC Savana panel van. No windows, pure cargo...and it was RATTLING. Looked it over and sure enough, there was a Duramax badge on the door.
Here is an immaculate 1994 Gladiator conversion "barn find" I landed. One owner, who passed away in 2009. Had not moved since. Never driven in winter.
I like a good van now and again. I had several over the years. This is a full conversion with four captains chairs and a power bed/ couch, tv, vcr, curtains, rear heat/air, even a factory dustbuster vacuum.
This thing rides as smooth and quiet as my former Suburban XL Denali. Comparatively the only two detriments are that Damn tire well hump/ hood making a narrow foot well and the typical van wiggle in 80 mph traffic.
Someone mention van not being fast?? I had a G20 1989 to 1995 that came to me with a blown engine. Only one I had lying around at the time was my 400 small block. So I overhauled it running the factory 2bbl getting 14 mpg. Then I cammed, intake, holly carb, headers with side pipes and such. Mpg went to 8, but it was as quick in the 1/8 mile as a new Mustang Cobra in 1993/94. And that was with 800 pounds of tools and fishing gear in the back.
Until the Suburbans and 4 dr trucks of the mid to late 90' s, if you wanted a nice ride for the family a conversion van was the thing to have.
So when you buy a car 99% of the time the value goes down. I've never made money on a car, it's just the way it is. Well, many years ago, the early 90's, I picked up a used 1989 BMW M3. Original sticker was $36,600.00. One of our driver school instructors sold exotic cars but had an M3 as a personal vehicle. When he heard I wanted one he sold it to me. It had around 80,000 miles on it and I got it for $15,000,00. I put over 10,000 miles on the track with it during the next several years. I then decided to upgrade the suspension with a fully adjustable coil over set up. It took me 7 years to complete. In fact, it took so long the input bearing in the differential brinelled and I had to rebuild the diff! Once completed a friend offered to restore and paint the body if I gave him my other car so I did. Now it's 95% done, needing some sanding and buffing, and I'm afraid to drive it. These cars are getting so rare that the prices have gone though the roof! I took it in for an alignment and the guy who owns the shop, an old friend, told me it was worth over $70,000.00! Now it sits in a storage garage. I had to go out and buy custom insurance that won't let me hardly drive it anyway! I love driving this thing, it's a true drivers car, but selling it and buying a cheaper drivers car sounds like the right thing to do. Yet it's tough to get rid of something you've gotten to know personally!
Beautiful hotrod Greg. Too bad the value has taken the fun out of it.
I guess I am on the other side of the fence. I have made money on the majority of the vehicles that I have owned. The sure fire way to not come out ahead is to buy new. Unless the value is gained through the vehicles use.
Funny thing. Many years back I obtained a wrecked near new Z28. Back when money meant a good bit more. 6000 mile $19,000 value clean title car. I fixed it properly got 90 percent of the job done all that was left was to put the final paint on it. It was cut in and completely reassembled.
I screwed up taking it for a test drive. It was so much fun to drive. It would power drift around on ramps, do donuts in parking lots, all of that sideways drifting stuff. Took it to the drag strip had a ball with it. Drove it about six months this way.
Then I painted it. Shit. On this day it became the $19,000 car. After 30 plus hours painting, sanding, buffing, installing factory stripe package I became a nervous nelly. No more fun driving, fear of parking dings, washing the Damn thing as much as driving it. So it became beautiful, now it was useless to me. I sold it a few weeks later.
I have that issue with being the custodian of my low miles original 04 Vette. Just too nice to hammer on. I will hammer on this old one that was acquired for this purpose.
I know of what you speak, Vern. A friend built an AC Cobra Kit:, Beautiful job, built 351, Tremec 6-Speed, the works. Drove like a dream. Then, like you, he painted it. $5000 paint job, and absolutely stopped driving it. I suggested Earl Scheib at $200, then paint it before he sold it. I never saw it driven again...