Baby, let me drive your car

Mercedes Benz SLS AMG, at the top of Mike's most expensive list.

This is a short entry about cars–of the extreme variety: either very (VERY) cheap or very (VERY) expensive. The two extremes are represented by a father, NCPR’s Chief Engineer Radio Bob Sauter, and his son, a 247wallst.com reporter/editor Mike Sauter.

Mike’s article, The Ten Most Expensive Cars to Own, might not have leapt off the page so

Nissan GT-R, at the "low" cost end of Mike's list.

dramatically if not for his father’s renowned penchant for the least expensive cars. Granted, Mike takes into account the cost of maintaining these high-end chariots, but I’m going to guess that Bob’s maintenance costs are minimal, dealt with at the local auto parts store, and that’s about it. In other words, nothing to throw the equation out of whack. Mike’s cars still=mega-bucks. Bob’s cars=cheap to buy and fix.

So, I asked Bob, “How many cars have you owned through the years and what do you estimate as the average cost?”

He said, “98 cars, average price $100, highest ever $2,200.” Grand total spent for all 98 vehicles: $8,799.

Radio Bob says: "This 1956 Jaguar XK-140 drophead coupe cost me $175, and I sold it (after blowing the engine) for $125." (Editor's note: yes, that's Bob.)

What was your best or worst car deal? Do you miss the vehicles of your youth? Are you saving  for a hybrid or electric car (but dreaming of the hot wheels in Mike’s article)? Do you love or hate cars? Some of both?

I’ll start with this: my favorite car was an old Saab, 4 on the floor.

Bob reports: "A fully restored XK-140 on ebay now featches upward of $75K...I suppose I should have kept mine."

Only problem: the ignition was next to the shifter, so the key was beside the driver, between the front seats. In extremely cold weather, one could exert a lot of leverage on the key to start the car…and break off the key (which I did twice).

But that was back when winters brought us -30F nights on a regular basis.

Okay, your car stories…

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7 Responses to “Baby, let me drive your car”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    Sorry to say but there is no longer such a thing as a “cheap” car.

  2. Radio Bob says:

    Don’t forget that my $175 in 1967 would actually be $1,198.63 in 2012 dollars… you can still find cars that run (somewhat) for under a grand (I belileve).

  3. Walker says:

    One of my all-time favorites was a battered 1967 International safety yellow, straight-six, three-speed on the column pickup truck that had been used hard by a contractor– I bought it in 1973 for $325, drove it for five years and sold it for $250. Indestructible! I was sideswiped once by a drunk, and pulled over to check the damage– I couldn’t find a mark, at least that I could distinguish from what was already there.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    Bob,
    Several problems with your comparisons.
    You are talking about very used cars to get under $1,000 and you will likely soon be spending thousands on repairs.
    Also, don’t forget interest payments. 6% on $1,000 is one thing. 6% on 20, 30 or 40 thousand is something else.
    And don’t forget, much of what we consider to be an essential part of our budgets today didn’t even exist in 1967. This means that if a person’s income kept pace with inflation, the budget becomes tighter and tighter.

  5. tootightmike says:

    Oh I think there may still be cheap cars. One of our clan here bought a Toyota Corolla for $1,500, and has driven to work every day for three years now. Gas and oil changes have been the only cost…no tires, no muffler, no radiator…it’s pretty amazing. It probably helps that it’s the most boring, social-worker color ever.

  6. Barb H. says:

    I still miss my 1966 Plymouth Valiant 4-door sedan. Slant 6 engine. Rust with a few spots of white paint.
    I bought it for a dollar (saved it from the junk yard!), and sold it years later for $100. What a car! I’d stop every 200 miles to check the gas and fill up the oil…..

  7. Michael Greer says:

    My first car, back when I was 16, was my grandmothers 1954 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. It was black with white leather interior as soft as a glove. Though it was pretty rusty from sixteen winters in Pennsylvania, it still ran like a top…and it had all the features too, like automatically dimming headlights, power adjusted seats, electric windows, retractable antenna, scanning radio, and a cigarette lighter for every passenger…Man! those were the days. It had an automatic transmission and the hugest V8 ever built…454 cubic inches of pure power…and it would accelerate from 60 to 90mph in a heartbeat, and pass anything but a muscle car.
    In the last 40 years, I’ve had a lot of cars. Some were fun, some were cool, some were comfy, some were pretty advanced, but the 54 Cadillac had all those things a long, long time ago. Oh yeah…and it got 12 miles per gallon….