The Pleasure and the Pain

You don’t have to dig around very much to find horror stories about the Lotus Europa. Colin Chapman’s strange mid-engine “bread van” design is known for major structural problems, dodgy fiberglass and the kind of mechanical troubles only Lotus enthusiasts can tolerate.

The car’s reputation has kept prices low, but the Europa also has a well-deserved following of faithful owners, each with their own good reasons to keep that faith.

“It will out-handle just about anything on the road, even Read More

Ignore Your Inner Chad

“Midgets suck. Get an MGB.”

That was the considered opinion of my friend Chad when I expressed my intention to buy a rather crusty 1970 MG Midget back in the late 1980s. Luckily, I resisted peer pressure and bought the car. It turned out to be one of the best automotive decisions I ever made. Take that, foolish Chad!

However mistaken he may have been, Chad’s viewpoint illustrates the challenge that the MG Midget — and its alt-badge doppelgänger, the Read More

The Amazing, Affordable Alfa Spider

The affordable European sports-car pantheon usually comes down to just four cars: the MGB, the Triumph Spitfire, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, and the Alfa Romeo Spider.

I can already hear the seismic rumble of readers jumping up to mention the MG/Austin-Healey Spridget, Triumph TR-series, Opel GT, Sunbeam Alpine, Volvo P1800 and, God help us, the Jensen-Healey. Truly, there’s a case to be made for each of those and others besides, but if you ask any enthusiast, it’s almost certain Read More

A Fun Copycat

In 1958, Lotus Cars founder Colin Chapman came up with a design for a basic sports car that could be road-driven all week and then raced on the weekend. His previous (and very similar) design was called the Lotus Mark VI, so this new model was naturally called the Seven. Chapman wasn’t overly impressed with his work, remarking, “There wasn’t much to it, really. It was all well-known stuff, the sort of thing you could dash off in a weekend.”

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Back to the Future With the SR5

If you were a young man in the mid-1980s, you wanted a 4×4 Toyota SR5 pickup truck. By any name, these trucks embodied the virtues of the mid-1980s — they were stylish, a little bit boastful and a lot of fun.

It’s no coincidence that young Marty McFly dreamed of owning a tricked-out Toyota SR5 in “Back to the Future.” McFly represented the Everyman of the era.

Affordable and functional

Japanese automakers sold mini trucks in America since Datsun brought Read More

It’s Time to Buy a WRX or STI

Subaru WRX and STI models offer the unique combination of genuine World Rally Championship heritage, outstanding performance and excellent reliability in an all-wheel-drive, 4-door sedan or wagon.

Other than the Mitsubishi (with the Evo), no other manufacturer offers a 300-horsepower sports sedan with high safety ratings for under $35k.

These Subarus offer the classic “Q-ship” mix of a basic Japanese commuter car with a high-performance sports car.

Buy a future collectible now

Starting in 2002, Subaru offered the 227-hp WRX Read More

The Car That Made BMW

If there was one car that did the most to cement BMW’s reputation in North America, it was the 2002.

Actually, scratch that. There is one car that made BMW’s reputation, and it’s the pretty-much-legendary 2002. This still-affordable and very plentiful 2-door sport sedan transformed staid BMW into an affordable performance brand.

The 2002 family tree

The roots of the 2002 go back to the early 1960s, when BMW was struggling. For 1962, the company produced a compact 4-door sedan Read More

Ready an’ Willing

When the Saab 900 Turbo debuted in 1978, it redefined the sports-coupe segment.

If the sporty Swedish hatchback’s shape, spacious interior and funky wheels weren’t enough to force buyers to reconsider the definition of a luxury sports coupe, the 900 Turbo’s engine would.

Under its long, sloping hood, the 900 Turbo hides a longitudinally mounted, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. That doesn’t seem terribly weird until you realize that it’s cocked over at a 45-degree angle — and backward.

The backward 4-banger Read More

Bee-Stung: Datsun B-210

The Datsun B-210 was the right car at the right time. In mid-1973, the OPEC embargo had Americans lining up around the block for gas. The beastly muscle cars of the late 1960s were too thirsty, and the latest replacements from Detroit were strangled and listless.

As if on cue, Datsun kicked off the 1974 model year with an affordable small car that boasted up to 50 mpg. The B-210 was an instant hit. It seemed perfectly designed to compete Read More

Three Best Buys From Monterey

Usually, getting a good buy at one of the Monterey Car Week auctions is just as likely as having no traffic on California 68 between Monterey and Salinas on Friday morning.

Yet it does happen. The following three cars — at three different venues — represent good buys for the money spent. Unlike my usual Cheap Thrills tendencies, two of the three are in upper-middle-class money, proving that a good buy doesn’t always translate into debit-card money.

1936 Packard Series Read More