Dear Tom and Ray:
My lovely wife has always said that I could have any car I want to satisfy my midlife crisis. I am turning 50 this year and had thought of getting a roadster/sports car. I have dreams of driving down the road with the top down and my beautiful wife next to me. Unfortunately, I am somewhat practical and don't want to spend a great deal of money. I have looked at some classic sports cars, such as an MG Midget and Austin-Healey Sprite. However, I am fearful of getting a garage car (a car that never leaves the garage), and wonder whether there is a more reliable alternative. Please advise. Unvarnished comments are welcome. Thank you.
Ray: From your choice of cars, I can see you're seeking out a midlife crisis, with the emphasis on "crisis," Tom. You've picked some real heaps.
Tom: Oh, au contraire, Piston Puss! Those are great cars! You get the wind blowing through your hair --
Ray: -- as you get pulled along by the tow truck.
Tom: You get the feel of the road --
Ray: -- every single pebble.
Tom: You get the smell of the gasoline --
Ray: -- and the burning oil -- and the impending electrical fires. These cars are the very definition of "garage cars," Tom. And they SHOULD stay in the garage, because not only are they unreliable, they're unsafe, too.
Tom: So you wear a football helmet.
Ray: Tom, choose carefully here. If you screw up your midlife crisis the first time, you're just going to have to do it all over again.
Tom: Which is what I've been doing for the past 30 years!
Ray: What you need, Tom, is a Mazda Miata. Back in the 1980s, the engineers at Mazda said, "What if we built one of those great, British-style sports cars -- a two-seater, convertible, low to the ground, with just enough power and superb handling -- but, unlike the MGs and Triumphs, we made one that STARTS every day?"
Tom: That idea became the Miata. And since Mazda's been making them for 20 years now, you can find one in almost any condition, and at almost any price point you want.
Ray: Right. So if you want to simulate an old MG Midget, get a Miata that's been stored under a pile of leaves for the past 10 years. Or, if you want one you can actually enjoy, find a more recent one in good condition.
Tom: I can endorse the Miata, Tom. It's a lot of fun, even though it doesn't leak enough oil for my taste. Happy crisis!
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)