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

Ride a Pony

When it comes to bang for your buck — or purchasing your first classic car — the 1964½ through 1966 Ford Mustang should be on your radar.

No other car on the planet is so universally recognized — and not just in the United States. You’ll see Mustangs on the road in the U.K., France, Germany and all over South America.

They’re bought and sold like popcorn at the movie theater, and you could probably build one from scratch — Read More

What Could Possibly Go Right?

The year was 1990, and the venue was Laguna Seca raceway. I was there to get some open track time in an MGB. My run group that day included a deep crimson Maserati Biturbo, and I spent several hours studying every detail of the taillights and rear end.

That happened because passing wasn’t allowed in the corners and the damn slug had just barely enough power to outpull a stock MG on the straights.

That experience sums up the essence Read More

Plenty of Fun — But No Adoration

A few years ago, while sitting in my cubicle at General Motors world headquarters in Detroit, MI, I began my search for a classic car — an affordable one.

Despite my being in the Motor City, I determined I wanted something from Europe — preferably English or Italian — with a convertible soft top. With these criteria, I crafted a short list: Triumph TR6, Jensen-Healey and MGB convertible. And I was off to the races.

The TR6, I quickly discovered, carried Read More

The Rick Astley of Z-Cars

Everyone has a Z-car story. If you didn’t own one yourself, you knew someone who did. Datsun (later Nissan) built an affordable 2-seat fastback sports car with respectable power and handling — and enthusiasts bought them in large numbers.

However, the evolution of the Z-car is a cautionary tale for automakers because Nissan was too quick to listen to focus groups of sedan buyers.

By 1974, the single-year 260Z came with a 2+2 version that destroyed the roofline. By the Read More