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Tan 'N' Drive

1999 Toyota Celica

A drop-top for the summer driving season?

As I write this, it’s Father’s Day evening. I’ve checked out in the driveway several times, and I still haven’t seen any convertibles out there with a bow on top and my name on the tag. So I decided to browse around the internet for the perfect summer car and report my findings back to you. Not that I’m buying, but I’m curious.

At first I looked at everything: the $26,500 1966 Mustang; the $22,900 1962 Ford Galaxie 500XL (the name’s almost as long as the car!); and a 1965 Mercedes-Benz 220SE for a mere $36,500 (which ain’t really all that bad compared to a new Merc). All of these are currently being advertised on the classified page. A bit pricey for a weekend car—a weekend car used only in the summer months! (If you really want to get silly, there’s a 1934 Duesenberg on eBay with a Buy-It-Now price of $1.599 million!)

So I decided to put a $10,000 cap on my “purchase,” and see what’s available—that I would want, I should say.

Getting back to Hemmings, I found something not only in my price range (with change to spare) but also something more my speed: a 1976 VW Beetle, being offered by a dealer in New Hampshire for $7,500. If my memory serves me correctly, that’s not too far off from what this car sold for when it was new. Red with a black top and interior, it would be perfect for a leisurely summer drive. From what I remember about my 1972 Super Beetle, a leisurely drive is about as fast as you can expect to go in one of these anyway.

Surprisingly, the listings on eBay contain a number of Mercedes-Benz SL series cars in the nine grand range: a 1990 300SL, a 1987 560SL, and a 1985 380SL were found quickly. Remember, though, just because you can afford to buy a Mercedes-Benz, it doesn’t mean you can necessarily afford to drive one. Repair bills, when they start coming, could eventually equal the price you paid for the car.

Scroll around a bit more. There’s a ton of Mustangs from the 1980s up through the early 2000s available. Parts are cheap and plentiful, and you get just as much sun when the top’s down as you would in a Mercedes. There’s also a ton of 1970s VWs on eBay. I’m sure I could find something to my liking here.

But, if I were spending my hard-earned dough on a part-time driver, I’d want it to be something that would stand apart from the crowd. So I kept looking.

How about a yellow 1976 Cadillac Eldorado, with a tan top and gold interior. With only 49,000 miles on it, the seller is asking $9,900. Now there’s a car you won’t lose in the mall parking lot! If the Caddy’s too big for your taste, at the other end of the size scale there’s a 1980 MGB, orange with a black top and interior, almost 62,000 miles on the odometer, and the owner has a Buy-It-Now price of $8,995. I could do that. I really could! But I wouldn’t. The nightmares of British electrical systems would scare me off.

So I’ve narrowed it down to two: a 1967 Ford Galaxie 500, red with red leather and white top, only 84,000 miles, for $9,500; or a red (all convertibles should be red) 1999 Toyota Celica, (pictured above), 101,000 miles, at $7,900.

Taking reliability and safety into consideration, not to mention price, if I were a buyer I’d snap up the Toyota in a flash. The Ford is cool, no doubt, but putting a bunch of miles on a 44-year-old car might not be the leisurely exercise I’m looking for. The Celica is actually a year newer than the Mazda I’m driving now, so, what the heck—sign me up. Theoretically, of course.

Happy summer motoring!

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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