Here are the reasons — rational and irrational — why I picked each one:
Ford Focus SVT — I know it is rare to find any sort praise for the first-gen Focus, but the SVT (2002–04) was the only performance variant of this economy car. An exclusive 6-speed combined with a 2.0-liter Inline 4-cylinder pumping out 170 horsepower make this hot hatchback a lot of fun to throw around dirt-road corners. Make mine blue or yellow — and the three-door hatch. The five-door model looks a bit ungainly. Estimated price: $5k–$7k.
Subaru Impreza WRX wagon — Those bug-eye headlamps bring a smile to my face every time I see one of these around Portland, Oregon. This happens a lot more than you’d think. This car brings rally championship pedigree — plus room for the dog and camping gear
Estimated price: $6k–$9k.
Mercury Marauder — With a big V8 up front and rear-wheel drive, what combination is more American? The only transmission available is an automatic, which adds a little more red, white and blue. This car is a muscle sedan that pumps out 302 ponies from the DOHC 4.6 liter. It also shares the same bulletproof Panther platform Ford made for the Crown Victoria, which was the ubiquitous police car across the United States for nearly two decades. Many of the former police models are now taxicabs. All the common problems are known, parts are still available and there’s room for everyone. Estimated price: $8k-$10k.
Ford F-150 SVT Lightning — We all need a pickup, especially with so many cars in the garage. So, I want mine with 380 horsepower and 450 ft-lbs of torque from a supercharged 5.4-liter V8.
2003 is a special year for this pickup, as Ford added more threads to the sparkplug holes, so they’re less likely to blow out and ruin the whole engine. The SVT is rear-wheel drive, which means I won’t take this out to collect firewood. Then again, I’ll surely leave burnout tracks on the road during parts runs. Estimated price: $11k–$15k.
Mini Cooper S — I’m very, very interested in smaller cars that I can flick around twisting roads. The Mini Cooper S carries around 163 horses, a nice 6-speed and seats in the back that won’t fit an adult.
This car also sports one of the most iconic silhouettes ever. British Racing Green and a clean white roof are as cliché as I’m willing to go here. Sorry, but I just can’t stand flags on car roofs. Estimated price: $4k–$6k.
Hyundai Tiburon GT — These cars aren’t performers (170 hp from a 2.7-liter V6) and hardly anyone remembers Hyundai even made these, but I had a couple of friends back in college who owned these cars. Whatever reasons I conjure up to dislike the car fall apart when I look at it. This is a damn attractive car.
I might get laughed out of the Red Door Meet — as I’m not inclined to adjust the stance or overly tune the car. These cars may permanently revoke my invitations to other car events.
Thing is, I don’t care.
This isn’t for anybody but me. You don’t (or didn’t) own a car for a similar reason? Estimate price: $3k–$5k.
So, what do you think? Pointless, too cheap, an exercise in time mismanagement — or am I biased? This journey to 2003 is probably all of the above. It’s also pretty heavy on the Blue Oval. But I grew up in Wyoming, and I worked as a diesel tech for a Ford dealer for several years. I also now live in “Keep it Weird” Portland, Oregon, which might account for some of my choices.
Then again, these cars — and one truck — speak for themselves. Here’s to 2003. Feel free to comment below!