BMW’s E39 generation 540i is a legend. They are not M5 fast, but they are not M5 expensive. They are also more comfortable in everyday driving than an M5 and cheaper to maintain. I’ve always said that if you buy a 330ZHP or a 335i you’ll just hit yourself for not going to full send and getting the M3, but with the 540i, it might be a more sensible car for the guy looking for some executive class ride for cheap. This next one has a few needs, but it’s got a 6-speed manual. Find this 1998 BMW 540i offered for $5000 in Little Italy neighborhood of downtown San Diego, CA via craigslist.
This next car isn’t for the faint of heart. It features a garish paint job that will get you more attention than you might want. It does, however, have a 4-speed manual gearbox, and at least 3 of the gears function. Not bad for less than $2500. Find this 1993 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon offered for $2400 in Oakland, CA via craigslist. Tip from Matt V.
When do you supposed the last 4-speed manual gearbox equipped car left an American assembly line — if you said 1998, I wouldn’t be surprised, but according to Murilee “Phil” Martin at Autoweek it was 1996 with the Toyota Tercel for cars, but the Ford F150 was available with a 4-on-the-floor for a few more years. Find this 1998 Ford F150 XL offered for $3995 in Albuquerque, NM via craigslist.
The Civic comes in three flavors. First up is fast — the Type R or Si version or modified. Then there is the plebian sedans that you see driven around by grandmas and by people who view a car like they view a dishwasher or a pair of pliers. And finally, there is the Civic VX…which V for very, and X for xtreme. Actually, I’m not sure what VX means, but I do know that it came from the factory only in the hatchback and it pushes out 92 horsepower from a 1.5 liter D15Z1 VTEC-E equipped 4-cylinder attached to a manual gearbox. If don’t like to drive a Prius and if you like to get your fuel economy the hard way…this is the car. Find this 1992 Honda Civic VX offered for $5,200 in Prairieville, LA via ebay. Tip from John.
After mentioning in the last post that a late model TSX was probably a better car versus a 90s Ford Taurus SHO in every possible measure except style…I decided to put my mouse where my mouth was (does that expression work…or keyboard where my mouse was…I dunno…I’m gonna work on that one) and feature a late model TSX. Here ya go, better than the SHO in acceleration, speed, braking, turning, reliability, and usability. Find this 2005 Acura TSX offered for $5000 in San Francisco, CA via craigslist.
Read out loud and really fast for best effect: Hello car fans and welcome to another edition of Unlikely Manuals — the game show where even if you lose, you go home with a sore left leg and copy of our home game. Today’s next contestant is a late model Korean economy car with a plastic engine cover emblazoned with a meaningless acronym related to its particularly fuel injection strategy (nobody ever said; I wasn’t gonna buy this car because I wasn’t sure about the method of fuel injection, until I popped the hood and saw the chromed GTDiMqVPDQ badge and then I was sold) and you’d expect to open the door and be greeted with some steering wheel mounted buttons that were connected to a CVT that has all the positive engagement and auditory appeal of an immersion blender in a can of marbles. Lo and behold, if you look past the low rent cloth seats and black plastic interior trim that was inspired by the Harbor Freight free coupon lineup, you’ll find a manual gearbox shifter. Granted, that shifter might have the feel of an immersion blender in a jar of kimchi, but if I’m gonna drive an economy car and save on fuel, it better be manual gearbox…and I don’t care about the injection. Find this 2012 Kia Soul with 6-speed offered for $4,500 in San Diego, CA via craigslist.
This next car comes as a tip from ME who writes; perhaps you can use this one on a slow day. Full stop. If this is what DT shows on a slow day…then I can’t imagine what we’d share on a fast day. This has everything you’d need in an analog world — manual brakes, manual steering, manual transmission, manual windows, manual headlights, manual ignition timing advance (okay, I made that last one up). All this thing needs is a set of stock wheels and a wingectomy to be perfect for your daily drive or your kid’s first car. Find this 1993 Toyota Tercel DX offered for $2900 in Staten Island, NY via craigslist.
I was talking a friend the other day who is a truck guy, and he asked me my advice on a diesel pickup truck. I’m not one to go around spouting off random opinions…oh wait…that is exactly what DT is, so I AM someone to go around spouting random opinions, so here goes; don’t buy a newish diesel pickup with one of them fancy twin-turbo common rail diesel V8s mated to a 8-speed auto and instead always insist on a classic diesel inline-6 single turbo and a manual gearbox like this next Cummins ISB 5.9 powered beasty. Find this 2003 Dodge Ram 3500 Diesel offered for $18,400 in Yuma, AZ via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!
There are a few things I don’t like about this next car. First, it is white…which is a great color for a commercial delivery van or a lawn company truck, but not so good on a sports-coupe. Next, this thing has an aftermarket set of aero-ish parts that might look okay when new, but a few curb dings and they look like crap…so I’m wary of that. And, lastly, I don’t like the wheels. But other than those few complaints, I love the interior, the manual gearbox, and even the de-badged look. Find this 1998 Lexus SC300 offered for $4,950 in New York City via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
I don’t like posting cars that are “expensive” and this next car is no cheap and depreciated luxury barge…but…BUT…it features the second most beautiful shape from Jaguar (first is the E-Type…hands down) and it is equipped with the rarely-seen-on-this-side-of-the-ocean manual gearbox. This is a combo that is hard to beat. Find this 1993 Jaguar XJS offered for $25,000 near Houston, TX via craigslist. Tip from FuelTruck.