Category Archives: Used Car Gems

Late model cars that we have deemed worthy to road test. You will have to buy these pre-owned, but it may be worth it.

My Biggest Surprise in the Ferrari 612

Driving a Ferrari 612 on such a tight track was an eye-opening experience for me. This is a big V12 GT car meant for the open road, how on Earth did Ferrari make it handle so light and nimbly on a small track with some areas only a little bigger than an autocross? And how did the car give me so much confidence after just getting to know it that I was comfortable taking the chicane that splits up the main straight flat, reaching 200kph (124mph) on the back straight before diving into the hairpin?

Looking at this track, you wouldn’t think that sort of speed would be possible from a big car like this. The 612 should have been totally out of its element here, but it was so willing the change direction, and so nicely balanced, that it actually felt right at home. I was enthralled by Ferrari when I first drove the 430 Scuderia on track, but this 612 sold me for good on their ability to make any car drive as it should. Just as the Scuderia did, the 612 seemed to connect right to my brain stem, and driving it felt more telepathic than artificial. The fact that they could do that with a big 2 ton GT car is unbelievable. Most big GTs I’ve driven don’t really get past being merely competent in tight corners, but this 612 was genuinely playful. I remain blown away by it. And that V12!! 🎶🎶🎶

-Nick

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Enter the Miata

The Miata embodies the balance I was seeking in life, both as a car enthusiast as well as in my own mindset. At a time when I was about to go full ego with a big turbo on my Subaru, one of my buddies bought this little black 93 and offered to sell it to me at the end of summer. I sold my turbo and accompanying parts and made it happen.

EVO Magazine said the Miata has the same sort of experience as other sports cars, but in the Miata everything happens in slow motion so there’s more time to savor it. That piqued my interest big time, and as a bonus, driving the Miata also made my Subaru feel fast again, and I came to realize that having multiple complementary cars beats having one crazy car every time.

I came to love the Miata’s total lack of ego, and the strategy involved in driving a momentum car fast. It’s really all about blissfully enjoying life, and it has no greater purpose than that.

I call this photo the Miata Yin Yang ☯️ and it was taken by my buddy @danvphotos who had the white Miata. We had some great drives in these cars, neither of which we have anymore, but they set the stage for the future.

-Nick

The Car I Know 2nd Best: My Dad’s Porsche 996

I’ve got a secret to tell you, the Porsche 996 is a ton of fun, despite the hate it gets from Porsche “purists.” It’s surely not the last word in Porsche perfection, but it is a really satisfying sports car experience, especially when you consider the money. Sure a 997 is better, but you’ll spend more than double for it.

My dad traded his 944 for this 996 a few months after I got my Subaru, and it’s the car I know second best in this world.

300hp in a 2900lb car, RWD with an LSD, and a 6 speed manual transmission with perfect gearing. The handling is sharp and nimble and the flat 6 engine howls with fury as the revs climb. It puts most other sports cars in its price range to shame, and there is nothing missing from the experience.

My dad still enjoys it, and I’ve been thankful he’s let me enjoy it over the years as well. It’s a Porsche you can really get out and drive because it has nothing to prove. I love that.

-Nick

Podcast: Comparing Camaros, Classic vs Contemporary

Having recent seat time in both a ’69 Camaro SS 396 and two Gen6 Camaro SS 1LEs, I wanted to compare the Camaro experience between generations that are 50 years apart.

Review in the video, gallery below. Enjoy!

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Miata Meditation

Miata Meditation

I’ve owned my Miata Club Edition for two years now, and I’m still absolutely in love with it. That said, I have often thought back to why I didn’t get one of the faster, maybe more impressive cars I was considering at the time (Corvette, M3, Cayman, etc). I remember it was a feeling, a sense of calm rather than excitement or lust. It resonated so clearly with the personal journey I had been on that it seemed just right.

Moderation. Not abstinence, nor indulgence. That was one of the main philosophies of the Buddha, at least as I’ve come to understand. Many may find it odd that I apply Buddhist philosophy to my own pursuit of material pleasures, but for a car enthusiast it is a way of life. I’m not over here trying to be a monk, giving up all material things. I’m a real man with my share of hypocritical beliefs and practices, and I actually quite enjoy being afflicted with desire. Sure, it brings with it pain and anxiety, but it also makes life interesting. Like sitting on the tip of a pin, you feel very alive despite the side effects.

The key is to also be mindful, so you don’t take things too far and find yourself consumed to the very core with material interests. You have to keep these things in context with the experience you’re looking to have in life. I never want to be one of those people who can’t be happy no matter how far they go or how high they climb. What’s the point of all that if you’re going to die miserable anyway? Learning to embrace “what is” is just as important as focusing on “what could be.” Both are important to me, so I try and share my focus between each.

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Ferrari California T Review: Is It Sweeter Secondhand?

Ferrari California T Review 16There is something extra-remarkable about the Ferrari brand. It’s more of an exclusive lifestyle club than just a car company at this point. The car is merely your ticket to join, but all Ferraris are not created equal.

The Ferrari California T bears the burden of being the entry-level member of this most exclusive club. It’ll get you in the door, but that’s about it. It is the low man on the totem pole, and in this world of elitist snobbery, many enjoy looking down on that. But you know what? If we can cast aside the country club mentality for a minute, the California T was, in many ways, the best real-world package Ferrari made. And now that it’s being replaced by the Portofino, the California T is one of the best value grand touring cars you can buy.

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Infiniti Q70: Luxurious and Sporty with a touch of Amnesia

Infiniti Q70 13

I spent a weekend with this Infiniti Q70 while visiting my family in Minnesota. I decided to splurge on the rental because I knew the trip would have a lot of long drives in only a few short days. My Uncle George’s house on the lake is around 3 hours away from Minneapolis, so the drive actually takes longer than the flight from Philly. We were also planning to visit my Great Uncle Bill, who lives about an hour and a half away from my Uncle. So we were guaranteed at least 9 hours of continuous driving on big open roads during this trip, might as well have a car that would make it a pleasure!

I had originally booked a “Q50 or similar” but the Q70 is what they had available. It’s a car I’ve always managed to forget about, but I knew it would be nice for the drive. By the end of the trip, the Q70 had made me a big fan. It went from fairly anonymous in my mind to a practical favorite… and I had just recently driven the all-new BMW 540i.

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$25K Used Car Shootout: Audi B8 S4 vs Lexus IS F

IMG_0354 IMG_0336

For $25K you have many great options for a high-performance daily driver. If you want a brand new car you can get a Honda Civic Si or a Volkswagen GTI, both great “hot hatches” with amazing handling and turbocharged power. Looking a couple years used, you can find a current-gen Subaru WRX, or variants of the Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro. But what if you want something even more serious with more emphasis on luxury and even higher performance? For $25K, the cars will be a few years older, 8-10 years old in this case, but you are getting $60K worth of car for less than half the price.

I’m starting to look around in this general price range for my next step, and I have various options depending on what I decide to do with my current stable of cars. I decided to go have a drive in some of the cars I’ve been looking at to see what they’re really like from behind the wheel.

I went to a local dealer to check out two Audi B8 S4s, and low and behold, they had a Lexus IS F on the lot as well – it hadn’t been listed online yet. IS Fs are pretty rare, and this one was in my range, so I added it to my list to drive.

The S4 and IS F are a somewhat strange comparison, the Audi is AWD with a supercharged V6, and the Lexus is RWD with a 5.0L V8. When it comes to driving in bad weather, they don’t really do the same things. That said, both are midsize sedans that offer high performance with a lot of polish. Overall, they serve the same basic function for the same basic price, so, despite their vast differences in many areas, that means they compete.

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Taking a spin in a BMW E86 Z4 M Coupe (it’s for sale!)

BMW Z4 M Coupe E86 1

A “special” car will keep your attention long after you’ve left it parked. It’s one thing to have a car you want to look back at as you walk away, but it’s a whole different level when you spend all day looking forward to your drive home. A car that has both the looks to make you turn around and the driving experience to keep you craving is a car that is truly remarkable, indeed.

“Special” is the single most important aspect of an enthusiast automobile, it’s what makes it much more than a mere transportation appliance. “Special” cars come in all shapes and sizes, and you can find one whether your budget is $10 grand or $10 million.

For a budget around $30 grand, an E86 BMW Z4 M Coupe is one of the most “special” sports cars you can buy. It has speed, style, and rarity. The Imola Red car you see here has just recently gone on the market for $33,500 with only 33,000 miles on the ticker.

I was offered a chance to take a spin in the car for this article, and how could I say no? I’ve been wanting to get behind the wheel of a Z4 M for quite some time now, and a more perfect example would be difficult to find. My impressions of the car are as follows…

Continue reading Taking a spin in a BMW E86 Z4 M Coupe (it’s for sale!)

A Farewell Ride in My Dad’s Porsche 996

Porsche 996 Carrera Arena Red 1

My parents are moving down to their place at the shore full time soon, and of course they’re taking their cars with them. They’re only going to be 2 hours away, but driving-wise the shore doesn’t hold a candle to the back roads of Bucks County, PA. The topography at the shore is all flat, the back roads barely curve at all, and the main roads are so crowded, and so heavily patrolled by cops, that there’s nowhere to really let the car run free. I may get to drive the 996 a few times when I visit, but it will never be like it was up here, with old our colonial roads that snake their way endlessly through the forest.

I had to take the Porsche for one more solid drive up here to say my goodbye, of sorts. So one night, after work, I spent 2 blissful hours in it out driving a greatest hits tour of my favorite roads.

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The Lincoln Mark VII LSC Chronicles, Part 1: April and May – Continuing The Story.

Mark VII Front Angle 3

This is Part 1 of an occasional series.

On April 16, as most of you dear readers know, I purchased this big gray Lincoln Mark VII LSC to replace my Miata, which I’d sold to Nick. What most of you don’t know, is the rest of the story. Through this occasional series, I will work to chronicle the past six months of what I’ve done with this gigantic piece of American history, and how it has fit into the other parts of my life in that time. Continue reading The Lincoln Mark VII LSC Chronicles, Part 1: April and May – Continuing The Story.