Friday, June 26, 2015

Car Obsession Reaching Critical Levels

My car obsession has started to reach a critical point again.  Back in 2005 it happened.  I had been without a performance car for years and following my near death health emergency I decided I needed a fun car now.  So I bought the newly restyled 2005 Mustang GT, then a couple years later I upgraded to a higher trim level 2007.  Since then my obsession has been relatively dormant.  I did some minor modifications to my Mustang but mostly have just been sitting back, enjoying it, doing a little autocross, and racking up the miles.  Newer Mustangs were relatively the same as mine and even with the addition of the 5.0 I felt slapping a supercharger on mine someday would keep me up to speed.

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
Then everything went to hell or to Hellcat I should say.  That damn Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat seemed to rekindled the auto world and my obsession.  It has 707 horsepower for Christ sake and under $60,000!  Suddenly it felt like general horsepower ratings in cars took a huge jump.  My 300 hp Mustang is now getting eclipsed by Camaros, next generation Mustangs, and even new model Honda Civics.  I am definitely feeling the crunch on the street too.  Casual stoplight challenges are getting tough and recently a Subaru Impreza STI not only beat me but toyed with me.  So embarrassing.  My obsession is starting to change into a panic of confusion over what to do.  What am I going to do to literally keep ahead of the competition??

At first I went with the obvious “knee jerk” reaction which was, “I’m going to buy a Hellcat.”  I called a dealer, I lined up spot for when they got the okay to order one and was ready to take the plunge. Then my girlfriend kind of slapped some sense into me and made me answer some real questions.  Could I really afford it?  Yes but I'd be back to a tight budget which kind of sucks the fun out of life.  Is a Challenger Hellcat really the car I'm looking for?  No it isn’t .  I want something that has power but controllable power.  The Hellcat has monster power that is all over the place and I don't think they have a way to control it.  It's a tire smoking machine.  Taking it to any track other than a drag strip would be a joke.  Driving it would all boil down to the driver’s ability to control his foot more than the car.  So I let it go and my obsession smoldered in the afterglow of almost having new horsepower.

Ford Mustang GT350R
Then Ford announced the Mustang GT350 and the GT350R.  I wasn't terribly crazy about the new styling but here was a Mustang build for the track so it has much better handling than my Mustang and a Hellcat.  I thought very nice but judging from the pricing direction Chevy took with the Camaro Z/28 the track focused GT350 should sell for around $75,000 which is way out of my price range.  But then they announced the price and it was $45,000-ish??!?!?  WOW! So amazing to get a track oriented car with 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque for that price.  My obsession rose and rose and I started getting a little crazy about getting one.  I called a dealer attempting to pin down a spot to order a GT350R before they sold out.  But then I remembered the words of my girlfriend and did a reality check.  Do I really want a car payment?  Well the payment wouldn't be as bad as the Hellcat and with my paid off Mustang for trade-in and $6000 down it should be around the payment I was making on my previous Mustang.  Next question.  Is this really the car I'm looking for?  What the hell am I looking for anyway?  So I started to think long and hard about it.

What I want in a car is really to be done looking for a car.  I want something that I can own forever and feel this is it, this is my car.  I want something I can endlessly tinker with and improve but is already a strong enough contender that I'm not going to be struggling at stoplights against the newest thing out of the showroom.  Something iconic and somewhat timeless that will always be looked upon with respect even by people with something faster.  Is the new 2016 Mustang GT350 that?  Yes I think it will be one of those cars, and with 520 hp naturally aspirated it has room of much more if I wish so yeah.  Is my current Mustang GT at that level?  No, not even remotely but could it be?  Could the real answer be to modify my existing car to the level of modern counterparts?  I really don't know because of the car’s age as well as money and workspace I have to do it in.  Or I should say lack of workspace.
My 2007 Mustang GT

So what would be the advantages of upgrading my Mustang?  Well for one it would be cheaper.  Certainly parts cost money but you aren't strapped into a loan to get one.  At worst case you pay a little interest on a credit card as you pay it off.  Also I really love the color and look of my Mustang.  Sure I see a zillion Mustangs daily but not too many are Grabber Orange.  The new 2016 has a weird metallic Triple Yellow and a Competition Orange but they just don’t have the same pop as my Mustang's orange color.  On the down side my 2007 Mustang GT is coming up to being 10 years old and it has about 102,000+ miles on it.  Some performance modifications don’t recommend adding them after 50,000 miles because of the chance it could damage an older tired engine.  But then some people say to hell with it, just add the parts and if it pops then it pops and you go buy a new engine.  Buy a new engine?? Suddenly the “cheaper route” isn't sounding so cheap.  They don't make my 4.6 L engine in a crate engine so that would mean converting it to the new 5.0 which American Muscle says requires a lot of hidden expenses. Also while praying the engine doesn't pop I would estimate to gradually get my Mustang close to the performance level I’m looking for is probably around $20,000.  So to dump all that money into a car and then the engine blows would be a huge loss.  Not to even mention the problem of having only a tiny one stall garage to work with.  I really don't have the space for a project so I'd have to possibly rent some space somewhere which would also cost monthly.

1972 DeTomaso Pantera GT5
A last and possibly more crazy option is to buy something older, iconic, and basically finished.  Buy a project that another guy is done with.  Stop chasing the newest thing and just stay with something that is incredible no matter how fast it is going.  My most recent obsessed example of this is to buy something like a DeTomaso Pantera.  They are an utterly gorgeous borderline supercar with a completely repairable Ford engine.  It's beautiful, it's fast, it's iconic, and it won't cost millions of dollars to keep running.  Best of all it's all I could ever want. It looks like a goddam Lamborghini which is more than I could ever dream of owning.  It can go to track days, car shows, cruises, and even if it gets beat in a race it will certainly be better looking than whatever it's racing against so even if you lose you win.  Even though it looks exotic it's really just an italian Ford so prices for these are still reasonable, costing about what I would pay for a Mustang GT350.  They are starting to get noticed by collectors however and won't stay low for very long.

So basically my goal is to lose the car obsession.  Well not lose it but more to focus it on a single car and stop looking for something better.  I want to lose that panicked feeling I have right now because I feel the auto world is advancing without me.

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