Mid Week Match-Up: Fun & Topless in Mid-Atlantic

Today’s Mid Week Match-Up (the Wednesday feature where you as the reader help match car with driver) comes as a request from DT regular AbnMike, who writes:

I have a request. My friends back east are looking
for something “fun” and “topless”, and vastly different than what I
think of when those two words are together.

Married, two
young kids. They are looking at a 2005 Mini convertible. Personally if I
were going the mini route I’d go with the original one, instead of the
newer models, but their idea of fun is driving it, not working on it.
Not my choice of course but I’ve also heard bad things about the
maintenance costs, burning through clutches, etc.

suggested a Jeep. This is a fun car, remember, as they already have the
nuclear family mini van and a Subaru.  They claim that any Jeep for
their cash price ($4000 to $5000, no higher) is rattle canned, wore out,
etc, but are not against the Jeep.

Any other suggestions
for a “fun” car that can be used on weekends or in inclement weather (he
rides motorcycles to work), reasonably safe, topless, and with lower
maintenance costs or maintenance that can be performed with a Pep Boys
credit card and a weekend (oil changes, etc)? Needs to be a four seater
and be able to hold two car seats.  Mid-Atlantic area.

DT E-i-C Vince: I’m going to suggest an E46 generation BMW 3-series, not the M3 (that’ll cost $200 for oil changes) or a rattle canned salvage 330ci, but for a $5k budget you can buy the nicest 323ci convertible in the country, so why not?  Like this 2000 BMW 323ci convertible offered for $3,610 here on eBay located in Levittown, PA.  Okay, its got a slushbox mated to the basic M52 inline-6 rated at 168 horsepower, but this thing has only 55k miles on the odo and it looks nice.  Should be good for a few more miles before the cooling system explodes.