Small manual sports car under 5k

I’d like a small roadster to drive, not as my primary car, just as a ‘toy.’ I would like to spend no more than $5,000. It must be manual, and ideally, convertible. I am willing to accept some rough edges and minor maintenance annoyances. I do not want a money pit. I can accept a small money “hole”.

Possible choices:

Toyota MR2


Old Mazda RX-7

Anything else I should be looking into? Am I in fantasy-land hoping to find a decent car like this at my ideal price?

I get the feeling that an old RX-7 is either a great choice or a terrible choice, AND that unfortunately the car gets to decide all by itself which one of the two it’s gonna be. :slight_smile:


I would say that the only correct answer to this question is… Miata. Cheap to buy, cheap to fix, cheap to upgrade. I had one, and despite the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to own some really great cars that on paper way outstrip the Miata, it was still probably the most fun car I’ve had.

As a past owner of multiple RX-7s and a convertible lover, consider that a late 80s 2nd gen soft top RX-7 wouldn’t be on any list of things I’d buy. Those are going on 30 years old now. My guess is that an original rotary of that age that hasn’t been replaced or rebuilt will be making more smoke than power.

I’ve only driven one once, but I think that an older Miata may be the answer, as well.

Mazdas are generally pretty reliable cars (issues with Wankels aside), and assuming you can find one in your price range that’s in good shape, shouldn’t prove to be a money pit.

pardon me sir, are these your apex seals?

In agreement with everyone else here. Your criteria pretty much screams “Miata”

If it was me, I would prefer an MR2 to a Miata. The MR2 is a better looking vehicle, and the mid-engine layout is sweet.

However, I have a feeling the Miata will be newer and have less miles than a comparably priced MR2.

Well, they were. But now they’re just my apex nubs.

I liked the MR2 and in many ways, it bested the Miata’s of the time. But having driven both, there’s a sense I get that the Miata was the better integrated platform where the MR2 just missed out on some of that watch-like precision the Mazda had.

And if I remember right, the 3rd gen MR2 had no space in the front and not much elsewhere; a big miss if you’d like to maybe go somewhere for a couple of days.

Let me throw a total curve ball, and offer up the Corvair.

I didn’t make any attempt to identify low cost quality Vairs - but there are a ton of them out there. You can get Corvairs ridiculously inexpensively. I bought a 62 (early model) in really good condition for $2k. Most of the pricier ones will reflect body work and paint. If you can accept something rougher, you can get a solid daily driver well under $5k.

What a fun car to drive, and ridiculously easy to work on yourself. You could tear the whole damn thing apart and put it back together w/ a set of box wrenches and a phillips head screwdriver! :smiley:

You may prefer either early or late model style. Early model is from 60-64, late model from 65-69. Tons of manuals out there - 4 speed only. Verts will definitely be pricier - and trickier to buy given possible hidden rust issues and the unibody construction. Forget all the Unsafe at Any Speed bullshit - they were no less safe than any other cars at the time (tho all will be less safe than a recent car). And as of (IIRC) 64 they had incredible suspension - shared w/ the Vette.

If safety concerns you, get a hardtop and install shoulder belts (very few came with them - much more complicated to install in a vert.) if you get a 69, you can get a telescoping column and headrests. Tons of parts available. Easy to customize. Tons of space - big trunk in front, and in non-verts, rear seat folds down.

Sure, only 110hp at the pipe, but w/ the rear engine, a slow car that is tons of fun to drive fast! And you can’t beat the looks and comments you get driving it around town! :cool:

Yes, the 3rd gen (99-07) would be the MR-2/MR-S to get, as the g1 or g2 are old, hard to find unmolested, and, of course, not convertibles. The 3rd gen flew under the tuner radar but it’s incredibly light, dead nuts reliable and has a sweet suspension tuned by Lotus.

That said, you get a small frunk with the MR-S and a cramped engine bay. A 99-05 Miata (NB) would be more practical, but you could probably also get an 06-14 (NC) model in your price range if you looked long enough. The NC is built on a shared platform with the RX-8, so it’s a bit heavier for what you get than the NB or the newer ND, but it’s still a great car and is much more modern feeling than the NB, which is mechanically almost identical to the very first Miata that rolled out in 1989.

I had a Triumph TR250. Had a straight six, manual trans, with electric overdrive. And it was styling!

I forget the year. It was only made one year. The year before was a TR4, and the year after was the TR6.

Look at a picture of it.

Tis a very pretty car, indeed (pic here). It looks like that one year was 1968.

A buddy of mine who had a sweet Mr2 and was a fan of all things Toyota, was a big fan of the Supra. When I casually looked, it seemed you could get them cheap.

As long as you have MG on the list, you might consider a 94-98 BMW 3-series convertible. I would think it would be better than an MG in terms of maintenance cost. And one good thing is that the various 3-series share many parts, so you can often find compatible parts in junkyards.

The Miata is a 4 cylinder, not Wankel. My dad has had a 2002 for about ten years now, no issues at all. Very tossable car, great handling and fun to drive. It still looks great, too, very timeless design.

I had an MR2 Spyder, that was an absolute hoot to drive. Probably more fun than the Miata, but I haven’t driven the latter without dad in the car. :smiley: They definitely stand out, mostly due to their rarity, but IMO they’re starting to look a bit dated. I got more comments on that than any other car, and most people wanted to know what model Porsche it was.

Kenobi 65 was referring to Mazda’s general pattern of reliability as being good with the exception of the Wankel engines, not suggesting that the Miata had such an engine. It’s a callback to OP saying he/she is considering an RX-7 as well.

Nowhere near as fun as a toy compared to the Miatas, MR-2s and RX-7s of the world though.

Thank you for the photo. Brings back good times.

I was traveling over 140 MPH in Nevada. In those days Nevada had no speed limit. That rascal loved the curves. The highway patrol stopped me. Only to say, “I would like nothing better than to scrape you off the pavement”.

Didn’t think that was a very Christian thing to say.