Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Chance asks: I need a new car. My budget is $50,000. I could buy a new Lexus or Infiniti, but for the reasons described in your article “Why Just Sell You a Car When They Can Sell You?” I do not want a new car. My criteria are: (1) widely available parts and service; (2) not susceptible to being disabled by EMP; and (3) does not stand out in public.
I do not want anything that turns heads or attracts attention. I want a traditional analog car. I would like the car to be reasonably economical and run on unleaded gas. Examples of generic, nondescript cars would be 1990s-era Toyota Corollas or Ford Tauruses; however, I suspect both cars are susceptible to EMP. I am not a car guy and know nothing about the world of custom shops except that I like to watch “Fast N’ Loud.” I have had fantasies of buying something like the Corolla or Taurus, taking it to a place like Gas Monkey Garage, and having the engine and drive train completely made over to meet my criteria. Does anyone do work like that? My concern about using a custom shop would be that service would be unobtainable elsewhere and I would become married to the shop. Am I alone or do others consider a car such as I have described to be worthwhile? How to go about such a project?
My reply: With a budget of $50k, you have many options – ranging from the purchase of a professionally restored classic car to the resto-modding of an older car with the good modern stuff (e.g., a modern drivetrain and brakes, suspension, etc.) but without the creepy tech that comes with a modern car.
If you want a car that is “EMP-proof” you’re looking at cars made before electronic/transistorized ignition systems (i.e., cars with points-type distributors). This would mean – if original – cars made before roughly 1974 or so. After that, practically every car had electronic ignition as factory equipment. However, this is not a much a liability, EMP-wise, as you might think. Just keep a spare ignition module on hand and you’re set. The stand-alone electronic ignition – such as GM’s HEI – is extremely reliable, very low-maintenance and inexpensive.
Same goes for early TBI (throttle body) fuel injection systems, which can be added (using aftermarket systems) to a car engine that originally came with a carburetor, incidentally.
The main thing you will probably want in terms of an upgrade to an older car is a modern overdrive transmission, though even that isn’t necessary if the car was not originally a performance model with an aggressive final drive (rear axle) ratio.
The simplest and most cost-effective thing to do – especially since you like sedans – would be to find and buy an immaculate/original condition large American sedan from the ’70s or early ’80s and have a shop make a few modifications to it (per the above) to improve its drivability. For example, something like a ’70s-era Chevy Caprice or similar. These are very tough/durable cars and no worries at all as far as finding parts and shops willing and able to work on them when the need arises.
You ought to have no difficulty finding one in near-new/restored to as-new shape for well under $20,000 – leaving you a huge sum in the kitty to modify/keep us as necessary.
I’m jealous! You are going to have a lot of fun with this!
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