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Old 10th May 2020, 15:54   #1
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Default Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

What makes me an enthusiast is the desire to experience certain things, and the vehicular world offers many such experiences that are worthy of such pursuits.

It all comes at a cost, of course, and we are not all able to afford the same experiences. But we can all seek intensity of experience in different ways, at different budgets, by being clever and flexible about it.

One area that we can take advantage of is the depreciation curve, and how little a car depreciates at the tail end of that curve - and to take advantage of that to own a funner car.

For an example - as a (somewhat senior) techie, I can afford to say, buy a Honda Jazz for 10 lakhs. It works well, a car that can’t be faulted, a fair amount of fun can be had in it. Ori I could choose a more frisky Ford Figo, or perhaps a VW Polo that combines some virtues of the Figo and the Jazz. Whatever that car, I can own it for some 15 years, at the end of which I will likely calculate a depreciation of Rs.5K - Rs.6K per month.

Or…. I can be a little naughty about it, and take risks. We take risks in terms of reliability whenever we go for a used car, because the chances it could be neglected or flooded or abused could be high. Its chances of failure could be high, and the cost of such failure could be high too (potentially costing lives). So unless it is well informed (like knowing the seller and car from friends/family), buying a car is an action of questionable judgment, in my opinion.

That said, I still indulge. It is a guilty pleasure, taking a somewhat “calculated risk”, knowing how little of it I know, and taking a friend alone who opens the hood and looks at god-knows-what (I think he himself doesn’t know) and who stares at the exhaust judgmentally… I indulge. It allows me to aim for a better car at the same depreciation-rate, than if I were to buy new.

And then as one moves on in life, there is this temptation to take this more to the extreme.
Especially as I start to realize what I’ve missed so far, a simple fact: The late 90s have been the forever peak of driving feel.

Yes, it is worth saying again - the late 90s have been the forever peak of driving feel. It is after we had *just* the right things to make us comfortable and let us have fun, like good quality chassis and suspension, fuel-injection and such. At the same time, we still had hydraulic power steering or no power steering. We hadn’t lost steering feel yet. We had boxy designs, much sexier (subjective of course) than subsequent aerodynamic designs. Our cars had a tight, connected raw feel.

And the thing is.. this is the last chance to drive these cars with feel! As it is they are geared more for safety and efficiency, and this will only get more and more this way. And eventually, they will all be electric, then self-driving, and then manual driving will be a sport, illegal in public. So in a sense.. these cars are the best we will ever see, from one angle.

Realizing that, the middle-aging enthusiast in me cleverly calculates that owning one doesn’t have to be an expensive affair, it can cost a lost less than owning say, a new Swift like every coworker and his cousin. So this indulgence has no guilt involved in its indulgence, if indulged right.

Secondly… which one, how old, and for how much.

This is what I have in mind:
  • Something after 2005, under 1 lakh
  • Own for as long as possible, but worst case (like if I have to move abroad unexpectedly) then a short ownership won’t cost a lot in depreciation
  • Steering feel is most important to me. Also I like small cars more than big ones. Small, go-kart-like feel.
  • For reasons of reliability (sigh!) I drop brands like Fiat and Mitsubishi out of my radar, considering the vintage of cars I am looking at for practical family use.

Then, I am left with a few Marutis that I have always loved.

1. Maruti Zen (up to year 2005)
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2. Maruti Esteem (up to year 2008)
Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s-esteem.jpg

3. Maruti Baleno (up to year 2007)
Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s-baleno.jpg

4. I am sorely tempted to include the Ford Ikon (up to year 2010) in this list, but I have questions about how reliable it would be…
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Anyone doing this, buying these cars now?
Worth doing? Or is this is just asking for trouble for the wallet, if it ends up being a maintenance pit?
Thoughts?

If so, what others cars would you indulge in, what tickles your pickle - 800? Gypsy? Fiats? Mitsubishis?
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Old 11th May 2020, 00:39   #2
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Default re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

Just one car from my thoughts and experiences: honda city. You just can't go wrong and it has decent parts availability too. It does not feel like a big car too.
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Old 11th May 2020, 13:58   #3
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Default Re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

Quote:
Originally Posted by rajushank84 View Post
Yes, it is worth saying again - the late 90s have been the forever peak of driving feel.
Related thread (Where are the driver-oriented cars? The Honda Citys, Lancers, Balenos etc.?)

Quote:
This is what I have in mind:
  • Something after 2005, under 1 lakh
  • Own for as long as possible, but worst case (like if I have to move abroad unexpectedly) then a short ownership won’t cost a lot in depreciation
  • Steering feel is most important to me. Also I like small cars more than big ones. Small, go-kart-like feel.
  • For reasons of reliability (sigh!) I drop brands like Fiat and Mitsubishi out of my radar, considering the vintage of cars I am looking at for practical family use.
If I were to buy something cheap from the 2000s, it would be the HM Ambassador with a 1.8 ISZ motor. Classic body style with some creature comforts.

But that's just me. Your requirements are different. You probably should look at a City, Lancer, Baleno etc. Don't be fixated on the model (pick whichever is in the best shape) or the budget (double it if you find a very clean example). End of the day, you'd still be getting a lot of car for the money.

As you mentioned small go-karts, please also consider the Honda Brio. You can have a lot of fun in one.
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Old 12th May 2020, 03:33   #4
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Default Re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
If I were to buy something cheap from the 2000s, it would be the HM Ambassador with a 1.8 ISZ motor. Classic body style with some creature comforts.
Interesting choice for sure! The Amby is actually the opposite of what I am looking for, if at all I go in that direction I guess I would prefer a Padmini or maybe 118NE.

Any downsides you see with this approach though? The only time I've owned a really old car is in the US, and being a Honda it was reliable and just worked. I can't tell if this is being naive in the Indian market, since our use (owing to road conditions and also quality of parts in general) makes for more rapid wear and tear.

The way I see it, it is just repurposing what I call a "depreciation budget". Let's say 50K a year. With that I can do one of these things
  • Use up that 50K in 1 year: Buy a 90s car for 90K, use it for a year and sell it for 40K
  • Spread it out over 5 years: Buy a 4L car (say Punto) use it for 5 years and sell it for 1L
  • Spread it out over 10 years (newer Figo, or maybe a used Civic)
  • Spread it out over 15 years - something like a new Duster, keep it seemingly-forever

Last edited by rajushank84 : 12th May 2020 at 03:36.
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Old 12th May 2020, 16:38   #5
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Default Re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

Truth be told, there are a couple of really good cars that were a hoot to drive but didn't quite sell like the hot cakes they were meant too.

You may need to extend your budget slightly, but something a Maruti A Star, or even a Honda Brio would really make you happy.

But to really set your heart racing, nothing can beat a Mitsubishi Lancer, though only if you can manage a clean one.

You could even consider the Skoda Fabia, or even the Chevvy Beat diesel but again the beat maybe unreliable in terms of parts etc.
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Old 12th May 2020, 18:39   #6
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How are the Mitsubishis on maintenance and reliability?
Would it be practical as anything more than a city runabout, in terms of being able to depend on it for longer trips with family?
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Old 19th May 2020, 21:59   #7
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Default Re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

Hi Rajushank!
From that era of cars, I would certainly recommend getting a Mitsubishi Lancer and then tune it to get the best of out them. Otherwise, I've also seen 1st gen Skoda Octavia VRS's going for Rs.3 Lakh or under too.

Regarding reliability and servicing, there are plenty of 3rd party garages in India which service Mitsubishi's so that should not be a problem, and from what I've heard that Mitsubishi's are quite reliable too.

Here's a good example of a tasteful lancer:-
Image Credits - Team-BHP (Tastefully Modified Cars In India Thread) | Thanks to ironH4WK
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Last edited by akash_v12 : 19th May 2020 at 22:09. Reason: Addition of comments
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Old 19th May 2020, 23:18   #8
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Default Re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

Quote:
Originally Posted by rajushank84 View Post
This is what I have in mind:

-Something after 2005, under 1 lakh
-Own for as long as possible, but worst case (like if I have to move abroad unexpectedly) then a short ownership won’t cost a lot in depreciation
-Steering feel is most important to me. Also I like small cars more than big ones. Small, go-kart-like feel.
-For reasons of reliability.
From your list, I would prefer the Baleno over the Esteem, Ikon and Zen. Heck, I would have had one today but had to go for the SX4 due to ABS and airbags as well as additional ground clearance which I needed.
However if I had to choose from any car, I would go for the first generation Swift ZXi. The steering was good and the handling was tight. You can't go wrong with either the G13B or the K12 that came later. Being a successful Maruti, you can find spares and a good resale. I would stick to a 2004-05 model since those are likely to have their registration renewed in 2019-20 after the first 15 years. Also a ZXi because additional safety in terms of rear wipers, airbags and ABS. Good luck with your search.

Last edited by Researcher : 19th May 2020 at 23:25.
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Old 19th May 2020, 23:36   #9
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Default Re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

Well, I still have and love my 2007 Hyundai Getz.
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Old 20th May 2020, 02:52   #10
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Default Re: Post-modern fun-to-drive classics from the mid-2000s

How about the Palio 1.6!! I know its a Fiat from a bygone era, but cmon, its 1L, it's a mid-life crisis, it's about having fun, EVs are just around the corner, why not go all in. A decently maintained car will work out easy for 1-2 years of fun.

I don't know why, but I'm imagining myself in one green shade.

Cheers, NA
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