My garage has seen some changes over the past two years. At the time, it contained a 2 door MINI Cooper and a MINI Countryman, with an old Honda CR-V sitting outside. The Honda was my all-weather vehicle that also doubled as a cargo hauler. Perfect fleet, right?
This was the summer of 2021, and my son moved back from his four-year stint in New York. He needed a reliable vehicle for commuting around Detroit, so he bought the CR-V. That left us with two MINIs, which was fun but did not leave me with a utility vehicle. It also left me with the chance to turn the fleet again!
I entertained selling my MINI and getting a more useful car. The car market was at the height of crazy two years ago, so I sold my MINI to Carvana for a tidy sum and ordered a Subaru Outback. The Outback has been a utility champ and has been a blank canvas for some fun personalization. While that has been rewarding, it has left me without a truly fun car to bop around in.
I love to shop for cars. That may sound like the start of a support group meeting, but it is true. I start each morning on various car shopping sites, trying to find a car that speaks to me. Unusual and quirky cars get my attention, so I avoid Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes.
Some of the vehicles that caught my eye included the VW Thing, Land Rover Defender and military Jeeps. In reality, those would only be good for buzzing around town and going to local car shows. I refined my search to two cars, but a third entered the race at the end.
My initial budget was modest, so I landed on a Pontiac Solstice. This was the two seat convertible offered by GM from 2006-2009. I drove a 2007 Saturn SKY (the corporate cousin to the Solstice) as a company car, and found it to be fun and tossable. I located a low mileage model at a local classic car dealer.
After checking out the Solstice, I remembered how small and low it sits. It has been sixteen years since I drove the Saturn SKY, so I forgot how the low roofline impedes my vision through the windshield. Sadly, the beautiful Solstice fell off my list.
Toyota GR86/Subaru BRZ
After shopping the Solstice, I realized the used car market (even for older used cars) was still too inflated. New cars entered the picture and the Toyota GR86/Subaru BRZ hit my list. Both have reasonable sticker prices for what they offer, which is a fun and great handling car.
Most of the YouTube car reviewers praised these cars for the performance bargain that they represent. Since they are also a low volume model, they are hard to find on dealer lots. I wasn’t going to order one without making sure I could fit (at 6’ 4” I have limitations), so I scanned dealer websites until an ordered unit came in.
A local Toyota dealer had one, but it was sold to another customer. They wouldn’t let me drive it, but did let me sit in it. Surprisingly, it had room in all the right places.
The Toyota dealer was happy to take my order, but wanted a price well above MSRP. I decided to try my Subaru dealer, who was happy to beat that deal and order a BRZ. I still felt the need to test drive one, so found another dealer with one in stock they would allow me to drive.
As I drove it around town, I was really impressed with the power, ride and handling. This was getting exciting! Did I just find the perfect car? I had one last part of the test drive to do–the highway run. The BRZ was really stable at highway speeds, however, the road noise was bad. It was so loud in the cabin that it would be hard to carry a conversation with the passenger or use Bluetooth for my phone.
What a disappointment. The “perfect car” for me seemed to be very elusive.
Back to My Roots
After the disappointment of the Solstice and BRZ, I considered putting things on hold until the used car market stabilizes further. The problem with that thinking is that no one really knows when that will happen.
As I reflected on possible alternatives to the Solstice and BRZ, my beloved 1979 Camaro Z28 came to mind. I sold that car in 1981 and found it in a barn just two years ago. The guy I sold it to in 1981 still owns it. Should I make another attempt to buy it back, or keep moving on?
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The answer to that question was staring me in the face. What about a new Camaro? Since retiring from GM in 2016, I purposely avoided buying a new GM vehicle so that I could explore other makes and models guilt-free. Was the Camaro the car for me?
In January 2023, I heard a rumor that GM was canceling the Camaro. At the time, I visited a local Chevrolet dealer to test drive the SS model. That car was a beast with the 6.2L V8. It was also very heavy feeling and not what I was seeking.
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Chevrolet offers the Camaro in lighter and more affordable versions, so I found a 2.0L Turbo model to drive. It was night and day different from the SS. The 2.0L engine is about 300 pounds lighter than the 6.2L engine in the SS, and the car with the 2.0L is about 400 pounds lighter overall. It was a fun car to drive and quiet and comfortable on the highway. In fact, I was shocked at how fun it was to drive at all speeds.
With limited dealer inventory, it is critical that you take a test drive before ordering a car. Don’t just sit in the car or drive around the block. Get it on the highway, take it down rough roads. I almost ordered a Subaru BRZ based on the roominess of the driver’s seat. Conversely, I almost dismissed the Camaro based on a quick drive of that beastly SS.
I Ordered A Camaro!
On May 15, 2023, I placed an order for a 2.0L Turbo with the RS package. With my GM Employee Discount, this car is about $5,000 less than the Subaru BRZ. More importantly, it just feels right! This car will check all of my boxes. I just need to get it built.
Camaro production for the 2023 model year ends in August. The 2024 model run will be short–it ends in January 2024. Also, the 2024 models will not be available with the 2.0L engine, so I’m really walking a tightrope.
The general sales manager at Gordon Chevrolet, Jeremy Dixon, is an old friend from my Saturn days. Jeremy is working with the Chevrolet Zone Manager to secure allocation for my order. Everyone seems optimistic that my order will be built by August, but let’s all keep our fingers crossed just the same.
Final Thoughts and Questions
Even for a car guy like me, it can be hard to pick the right car. It can be a process, but well worth it to find the right car. You have to keep an open mind and follow your heart.
My journey is not yet complete, so I will keep you updated as the order works its way through the system. Is my car shopping journey different from yours? Let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions. You may email me at email@example.com, or message me through the Vehicle Nanny Instagram or Facebook pages.