Buying a roadster, but which one?


audiblescholar
01-21-2010, 06:20 AM
I'm looking to upgrade from my long overused Toyota Corolla. She's been good to me, but it's time to move on to greener pastures.
I have a 15,000 dollar limit and I'm looking for a good-looking, reliable, used roadster. I would like something that looks good and drives comfortably. Engine performance is not a big priority, but I do need something that's not awful (Toyota MR2 doesn't cut it :nono:). Also, a manual transmission is a must.
Any suggestions?

akboss
01-21-2010, 08:52 AM
Roadster? There's a category that doesn't come up too often because of impracticality - do you mean a convertible perhaps, or a 2-door coupe?

Wikipedia defines a roadster as "A roadster, also known as a spyder or spider, is a two-seat car, traditionally without either a roof, side or rear windows."

So if you want a real 'roadster' and want it new, you either have to fork over $100K plus for a custom build, or buy a Jeep Wrangler with removable doors and top.

Otherwise, if you want a sporty convertible for cheap, the best option is a Mazda MX-5 Miata. You could consider a Mustang convertible, but those are lumbering and lazy compared to the Mazda. You might find a first-year Porsche Boxter for $15K, but I doubt it. One car that intrigued me was the first-gen Mercedes SLK's - you can find a decent model for <$15K, it will be a 1999-2001 model, but folding metal hardtop, supercharged I4, and in later years an available 5-speed manual.

drunken monkey
01-21-2010, 07:18 PM
Now this is a tough one.

It's a shame you want more outright performance than the MR2/MR-S has, as it is otherwise one of the best handling cheap roadsters out there, if not even the best.
In a side by side comparison to the MX-5, my money would go on the MR2/MR-S because I fit in it better. I'm not a big guy but the Toyota makes much more of what little space it has in the same way that a Yaris feels roomy in the front. Of course, the interior is drab as hell and it is typical of a Japanese plastic cabin but as I said, it's all about the sublime handling. To compare it to that of the series 1 Elise is no exaggeration but while it boasts similar engine specs, it doesn't have the same amount of pull.
As for the MX-5, that is only marginally pushed into second place for me.
The older cars are more cramped compared to the MR2/MR-S; interiors on the older car aren't that much better than the MR2/MR-S but the new car is much improved.
Handling wise, I found the older car to be curiously soft (leans a little too much for my liking although it has to be said that the rebound never upset the car) and the latest car curiously hard. Perhaps that is a sign of the change in tastes of drivers who now seem to want lower suspension and firmer springs. In both cases, it lacked the immediacy of action/reaction that was present in the MR2/MR-S.

Of these two cars, I can only recommend that you try both to see the differences.


Other than these two, the only readily available roadsters would be older Porsche Boxsters, BMW Z3s, Mercedes Benz SLKs and perhaps early GM kappa platform cars.
I can't comment on the GM cars but

Porsche Boxster - no matter how cheap you find one for, you have to remember that it is still a proper performance/sports car from a prestige company. Running costs are on par with a full on 911 and guys I talk to tell me that they budget around 1500 - 2000 a year for maintenance.
BMW Z3 - not a big fan. There's nothing inherently wrong with it but just isn't as focused as the Japanese two mentioned earlier or as good as the Boxster. Not a fan of how it looks but that's subjective. It, like the MX-5, feels a little soft. It doesn't lean as much but when you press on, it never seems to settle and as result, I never felt the confidence to put my foot down. That said, I should point out that I only ever had a go in a 1.8 car.
Mercedes Benz SLK - tough one. That hard top is still hard to beat but for me, this car was never in the running. One of those that I just don't like. Of course, I should add that I've never sat in one outside of a car show let alone driven one.
If you are going to fork out for a prestige German car, it can only really be the Boxster.

Of course, I want to finish by saying that what you really want, is an Elise.
The fact that my picks of the cars mentioned above are the mid engined options is pure coincidence.

If you were in the UK with 10,000 to spend, I'd tell you to get an Elise and maybe have a look at a TVR Griffith.

akboss
01-22-2010, 08:34 AM
Ah yes, the Elise - about the most honest sports convertible money can buy....great little things they are. What about a Lotus 7???

drunken monkey
01-22-2010, 09:36 AM
Never been in a Caterham 7 let alone an original Lotus 7.
Been overtaken by many though.

Are they even sold in US in any form other than kit?

akboss
01-22-2010, 09:54 AM
Kit only I believe.

MagicRat
01-22-2010, 10:01 AM
Never been in a Caterham 7 let alone an original Lotus 7.
Been overtaken by many though.

Are they even sold in US in any form other than kit?

Interesting ride, more similar to a motorcycle than a car. Very low, very narrow.
Great on quiet country roads. Disconcerting in traffic, because you are eye level with other car bumpers, and one's shoulder and elbow ends up hanging outside the "door", alll ready to be cut off by an inattentive driver.

Wonderful concept, though, as updated by the Ariel Atom.

Nappy
01-27-2010, 04:34 PM
Surprised no one has brought up the Miata, I currently drive one (and am looking to sell mine) but I must say, good gas mileage, I have the Special Edition 6 speed and she shifts like butter. I have had not ONE problem with the car, I would highly recommend test driving a Miata, the stock clutch is pretty stiff and gives the ride a much smoother feel. RWD is always a blast, and since power isn't a big issue, the Miata is a fun car to take through turns but won't get you down the 1/4 mile too fast. I took mine to the strip w/ my buddy, and my car full stock ran a 15.975 so I can't complain, but she can get up and move when you want it too. Just a though, PM me w/ any questions.

akboss
01-28-2010, 08:54 AM
Surprised no one has brought up the Miata, I currently drive one (and am looking to sell mine) but I must say, good gas mileage, I have the Special Edition 6 speed and she shifts like butter. I have had not ONE problem with the car, I would highly recommend test driving a Miata, the stock clutch is pretty stiff and gives the ride a much smoother feel. RWD is always a blast, and since power isn't a big issue, the Miata is a fun car to take through turns but won't get you down the 1/4 mile too fast. I took mine to the strip w/ my buddy, and my car full stock ran a 15.975 so I can't complain, but she can get up and move when you want it too. Just a though, PM me w/ any questions.

I mentioned this car in the second post...it is brilliant, but it has an image problem that many 'dudes' still avoid. It's unfortunate, really. They need to man up the MX-5.

jorgeandonie
02-03-2010, 02:45 PM
I have been looking at s2000, 2000-2003, you can find them relatively cheap now a days. They handle great, they are Hondas, they look awesome. And you can find them under 15k.

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