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gde31ff New Reader
5/21/20 12:46 p.m.

Just in case Coronavirus takes me out, I'd like to have a "project" car in the garage for my two boys to work on while they remember me.  I am taking all of the safety precautions (and ditching my Harbor Freight jack stands), but you never know.....  I used to have a '71 240Z and it had everything I'm looking for in a project car.  But, those are simply priced out of my range now.  So, I found FOUR "classics" w/in a reasonable towing distance.  All pretty solid (from the pics :) bones and all need various degrees of mechanical (project) work.  I am looking for a weekend, dry weather, manual tranny, RWD car that I can work on and take to the occasional autocross.  Here's the list - 1985 944, 1980 Spitfire, 2000 MR2, 1997 Miata.  NONE of them can be driven home for various (mechanical) reasons.  No UTC or even $20xx Challenge in the future - I just want to give the kids a chance to wrench and row through the gears instead of playing Xbox all day.  If the end result is something they can drive on occasion in a few years, then that's icing on the cake.  I don't think there is a "loser" in the bunch, but I'd love to hear some varied opinions from all the GRM petrol-heads on which way to go here.  Stay Healthy!  What's your QUICK TAKE?

Mr_Asa Dork
5/21/20 12:48 p.m.

I'd probably go for the 944 or the Spitfire.

Indy "Nub" Guy
Indy "Nub" Guy PowerDork
5/21/20 12:49 p.m.

In reply to gde31ff :

Miata's the answer.

gde31ff New Reader
5/21/20 12:52 p.m.

In reply to Indy "Nub" Guy :

It always is (the answer) - I know......not that there's anything wrong with that.  There is already a Mazda3 and Mazda5 in the garage - so there's the sentimental vote there that maybe we end up in the pages of Zoom Zoom (JK - LOL)

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/21/20 12:54 p.m.

A good project car is one you want. Which do they want?

I want the MR2, personally. 

MrChaos SuperDork
5/21/20 12:56 p.m.

The miata and mr2 are going to be the easy and reliable options, the 944 is going to have the Porsche tax on parts, but the spitfire gives you the joy of late 70's british build quality with all the weight and ugliness of late 70's us regulations like big plastic over-riders and wing mounted reflectors, and the big ugly 5mph bumpers

5/21/20 1:02 p.m.

Since it should be usable when done, the Miata is the low hanging fruit.

Friends don't let friends drive Triumphs, so I will proffer an MGB in it's stead. Engine swap at your discretion.


Course there is the TR& for couch change money and eager for repower options.


Volvo 122 makes for a usable classic. They oddly enough do not take to engine swaps or much else in the way of performance upgrades.

For that matter, ANY of the RWD Volvos are great project cars. The 7 series in particular will swallow just about any drivetrain or mod you want to make.


Any G bodyV8 powered  option is a good one. Endless possibilities.

Thing is, if it is not their idea in the first place, it ain't gonna get done, so maybe ask the parties  involved. For example, while you eschew FWD, the kids might prefer it for a project. Some people actually like FWD, go figure?! Bad upbringing if that is the case...




drock25too New Reader
5/21/20 1:04 p.m.

Spitfire for sure.  I had a  '75 that was stolen about 15 years ago and I still miss it. It didn't even run when it was stolen.  Someone backed up to it and loaded it on a  trailer.  I  was moving at the time and neighbors didn't pay any attention to them.  I still have the title and every time I see one that year I check it out. 

bmw88rider (Forum Supporter)
bmw88rider (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
5/21/20 1:09 p.m.

MR2 would be my choice as long as you don't need a hardtop. 

Cactus HalfDork
5/21/20 1:10 p.m.

In reply to NOHOME :

I second all of that. MGBs are excellent. Ultimately if you want the kids involved, get them involved now.


944s are a pain to work on but are lovely to drive. I'd vote any of the rest of the options.

gde31ff New Reader
5/21/20 1:14 p.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

I am working up a few slides of these cars in various states of preparation for my kids to "vote" on.  That should be fun.  From rusting hulk to driver to Le-mons to concours - just to see what kind of reactions I get.  I'm just a little partial to "out of the norm" kinds of rides, which has me leaning MR2 or Spitfire. I know I'd be looking to LS swap the 944 since it's not the S2 that's going to be worth $80k.  But I think the cost-per-mile, even with the LS, would be a little more painful with the 944.

93EXCivic MegaDork
5/21/20 1:20 p.m.

I'd go with either the Miata or Spitfire. Spitfires are stupid easy to work on (well except rust).

NickD UltimaDork
5/21/20 1:22 p.m.

MR2! MR2! MR2!

Those ZZW30 MR2s beat the daylights out of a Miata in stock trim in my opinion. I want one so bad.

John Welsh (Moderate Supporter)
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) Mod Squad
5/21/20 1:36 p.m.

I like both Miata and MR2. 

Are there any Nissan 350z or 300zx out there to be a spiritual representation of the 240z?

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/21/20 1:38 p.m.

I reject your reality and insert my own. If I had $2500 to pass a car onto my kid:

Civic - Honda interchangeability, Honda reliability, and always fun to drive even at sane speeds.

Cherokee/Wrangler - Join the Jeep club, but more importantly, everything is big, chunky, simple and easy to get to and work on.  You can spend 2 hours adding LED lights to the front bumper because there are no fancy curved body molds or complex underhood trim. Try that with a Scion TC. (An old truck or SUV would also work here.)

Older RX7, MR2, Celica, etc - This is about as old as a kid would want to go for a classic car. Still easy enough to work on, but cool enough to elicit some passion. They are not going to have fond memories of keeping and old Cavalier running. 

Cobalt SS - OK, I know I dissed the Cavalier above, but the Cobalt SS is something that you could get into cheap, but wind up with something that they would really be proud of and take to car shows or the track. Good junkyard parts availability, and you can go NA, Turbo or Supercharged!

VW Pheaton, AMG E55, etc - Why not set them on the path to being an electrical engineer now? (A $2500 Pheaton, you must hate your kid!)



gde31ff New Reader
5/21/20 1:38 p.m.

In reply to 93EXCivic :

Gotta love opening that clamshell hood and just sitting on a front tire as you work on the incredibly accessible bits - all of them.  I'm no fan of rust, which is the usual deal-breaker for me on most pre-1980's vintage cars.  But this particular Spitfire looks fairly solid.

CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter)
CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter) Reader
5/21/20 1:39 p.m.

In reply to gde31ff :

I like what Robie said.

If you want them to be involved, let the decide. 

If you build it for the challenge you can teach them budgeting as well as wrenching =)

gde31ff New Reader
5/21/20 1:42 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) :

Good question about the "new Z" - I always seem to get stuck on how portly they seem to be and part of my "thinking" is to grab hold of a "mostly" analog vehicle before they are all gone.  I had a 2002 SVT Focus that I LOVED (despite the FWD), but once the blasted microchips got wet in a gully-washer, the car was an electrical nightmare.  I love the computerized car as an appliance for getting me to work on time, but I sure learned a lot more (and had more fun) with my analog 240Z.

Klayfish PowerDork
5/21/20 1:43 p.m.

If you're looking for a project for your boys to work on, my vote is Miata.  It's the easy button answer and there's a reason for that.  Parts are cheap, readily available, endless aftermarket and forum support.  Plus the car itself is easy to work on.  The other cars are cool, but the Miata will make the best true project without giving you headaches.

MadScientistMatt PowerDork
5/21/20 1:46 p.m.
93EXCivic said:

I'd go with either the Miata or Spitfire. Spitfires are stupid easy to work on (well except rust).

Is putting the Miata drivetrain in the Spitfire an option? devil

tremm New Reader
5/21/20 2:19 p.m.

I don't know if you're serious, but if you are then you should ask them. Then they're less likely to get stuck with a white elephant that no one really likes & feels obligated to store and pay for for a decade after you die.

Real solution is to learn how to play Xbox. Ask them for some easy games to play, there are some out there that are basically movies with very little gameplay. 

Wait for 6 months and buy a ps5 and GTA 6 for <$1,000 and you'll probably get more hours of time with them than a car. Just my .02

Boost_Crazy HalfDork
5/21/20 2:19 p.m.

For a project with the kids, Miata all the way. Most people don’t find tracking down hard to find parts fun. You can find Miatas at Pick n Pull. The aftermarket is huge. I’ve found that with bringing new people into a hobby, the greater the chances of the project being successful, the greater the chances of them sticking with it. 

dps214 Reader
5/21/20 2:28 p.m.

I doubt any of those are worth $2500 if they have enough mechanical issues that they can't be driven home. Certainly not the 944 or miata, probably not the mr2, though I don't know anything about spitfire values. That said if I had to choose from that list I would go for either the miata or the mr2. The only reason to pick the 944 is if you really wanted something with a fixed roof or you just really, really hate yourself. Otherwise, it's just a heavy, difficult to work on miata built with 15 years older tech.

Hoondavan Reader
5/21/20 3:29 p.m.

If you're looking for a fun project with your kids, I'd lean towards Miata.  Easy engine access, an endless list of affordable, easy to find go-fast upgrades.   You can also have them research the improvements themselves.  Modern enough that you see them often.

The Spitfire has a truckload of nostalgia.  I suppose the downsides are that they may have a ton of rusty/seized bolts.  Go-fast parts and upgrades are likely harder to find (used/cheap).  I suppose a straight-6 or Rover V8 engine swap may be "easier" in the Triumph, if that's a goal.

I really like 944s, but have you looked into the clutch replacement procedure for the 944?  It's awful (rear transaxle car).  

Even 260zs and some 280zs seem to have gone nuts on value recently.  There are still a few deals out there, but there are also a lot of overpriced rust buckets as well.

dps214 Reader
5/21/20 3:59 p.m.

I'm not an expert, but I really don't understand the 944 LS swap starting with a N/A model. If you want the thing to be at all reliable with the LS you pretty much need the turbo trans and definitely need something stronger than the stock N/A clutch, and I'd really want the turbo brakes too. At that point for the cost and effort involved I really don't see any reason to not just start with a turbo and get all the better equipment thrown in, plus the better front end and interior too. Especially if you're willing to spend $2500 on the base car, that means you've got about $4-5k to spend to get a turbo donor chassis and come out at the same total investment. But regardless of starting point, that swap is pretty far beyond "fun project with your kids" IMO.

Of those, I'd say the MR2 is the sweet spot of reasonable to work on, easily and cheaply available parts, and fairly unique.

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