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Discussion Starter #1
I figured we could have a little fun. Winter is coming and I know you all have opinions! ;)

After all the work in my GTV6, it is no longer a car that I would subject to the Nebraska winters.

I had a 1985 Pontiac 6000 wagon that I drove daily for the last three years, but my oldest boy has claimed that for his own. Now I'm back to driving the 91 Buick Century (yellowy-tan, brown velour - oh yeah!) that I bought for my daughter to learn to drive in.

At 190K miles, the Buick is showing signs that it is on the way out.

So I find myself shopping for a car. I like the wagon for size and practicality, but I want to find something with a manual transmission that the kids can learn on.

Can't be an Alfa - It has to be something that I don't need to put maintenance time into. And I won't care if I kill it.

Cost range = under $4000 ($2000 is better)

2004 or older is good for tax purposes (Nebraska has property taxes on your car)

Looking at Subaru Legacy and Volvo because their wagons are reasonable size. Prices tend to be a little high though. I'm open to just about any brand.

Any suggestions (Pro / Con) or experiences?
 

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My winter car (which I'll be giving to my daughter officially after she gets through her first year of college) is a 2001 Subaru Legacy GT wagon, with a hard-to-find manual transmission. As a foul-weather car that's also reasonably fun to drive in normal conditions, it's unmatched IMO. (And a perfect first car for a teenager.) Was my daily driver until I got a 164S. Not an Alfa by any means, but a terrific all-around car for most people and more fun than your typical Camry/Accord/SUV/whatever "normal" cars.

You should be able to find a decent 10-year-old Subie for under 4 grand, and it will get you confidently through the winter, especially if you put on a set of 'winter sport' tires (e.g. Dunlop WinterSport 3D) that are good in snow but still have high-speed and dry weather capability.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Dave - yes that is likely my ideal option - Legacy GT wagon would be spot on.

How about other suggestions? What other cars have people found to fit my criteria.
 

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I just bought a Milano from HMA for my winter car. Well here in VT the Subie Rules! Just can't see myself in one of those cars. It would be the better choice cause of the 4WD. I Also have many friends thay own Volvos and are quite happy. The price range your looking at favors the Subie. Last year I drove a 79 Alfetta Coupe and she gave me no problems what so ever. At least the Milano is 8 years newer. HMA & his boyz have gone through the car, and I'm confident it will do the job!
 

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I was in a similar situation and ended up with a '95 Volvo 850. What a great car. My Alfetta and 164 stay in the heater garage all winter and the Volvo soldiers on. Drives great in the snow and very easy to work on. Parts are real cheap too.
 

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I figured we could have a little fun. Winter is coming and I know you all have opinions! ;)

After all the work in my GTV6, it is no longer a car that I would subject to the Nebraska winters.

I had a 1985 Pontiac 6000 wagon that I drove daily for the last three years, but my oldest boy has claimed that for his own. Now I'm back to driving the 91 Buick Century (yellowy-tan, brown velour - oh yeah!) that I bought for my daughter to learn to drive in.

At 190K miles, the Buick is showing signs that it is on the way out.

So I find myself shopping for a car. I like the wagon for size and practicality, but I want to find something with a manual transmission that the kids can learn on.

Can't be an Alfa - It has to be something that I don't need to put maintenance time into. And I won't care if I kill it.

Cost range = under $4000 ($2000 is better)

2004 or older is good for tax purposes (Nebraska has property taxes on your car)

Looking at Subaru Legacy and Volvo because their wagons are reasonable size. Prices tend to be a little high though. I'm open to just about any brand.

Any suggestions (Pro / Con) or experiences?
Certain things are hard to beat. Like a Buick V6 sedan. The engines have reached "legendary" status for reliability - almost indestructible even with deferred maintenance, simple to own and operate, parts cost very very little, in a pinch most mechanics will already be familiar with it, fuel mileage is exceptional for such a capable hauler, comfortable cruising at any speed, real airbags, etc. When I was shopping for a daily capable vehicle for any weather, it came down to a few - but I absolutely knew it would end up being an American sedan. They simply cannot be beat, dollar for dollar. I get by with a daily driver V6 Buick variant. Paid very little, was the only car that started out of a fleet in the 20 below 0 MI winter, has monster torque, 30 MPG at 75 mph, ice cold A/C...and you know what? I love driving it. I'm a sucker for a sleeper, though (and a V6!).

I also looked at a little Saturn Ion. Not a box-stock one - but not far from it. A nice 5-speed that was outfitted with Bilstein shocks, better sway bars, simple 5-spoke wheels, and better brake pads. The damping was great - the chassis felt nothing like a stock one that I drove. The thing would have probably kept up with my GTV6 (the little ecotec 4 cylinder is no slouch and sounds good). It was really fun to drive. For giggles I looked up the dampers and brake pads - it would have only been a few hundred bucks to outfit the car. Anyway I decided to get something bigger but it was a blast to drive.

I can't imagine that you'd want to get into anything foreign and/or with AWD. Tiny, complex engines and expensive parts (like a burned out clutch) are not a good formula for a write-off car. Not to mention insurance costs, if that's in the mix...
 

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I rarely disagree with you, Rob, but your description of "foreign and/or AWD" doesn't sound at all like the Subie I've got -- which has a decently-sized and torquey 2.5L flat four (non-turbo), is easy to work on (although it almost never needs any work), and what few parts I've needed to buy have been reasonably priced. Can't comment on insurance costs as I have done any comparisons with "American" cars, which nowadays could be built in Canada or Mexico, of course, as conversely many Japanese makes are assembled in the US.

The AWD capability of the Subie does have a cost in gas mileage and driveline lash, but the upside is that it is great in snow as well as heavy rain, freezing rain and so forth even on regular M&S tires. I've thought about fitting real snow tires for the winter but haven't needed to do so here in Virginia.
 

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Racing, what type of 'Buick sedan' do you speak of. My search for a suitable F150 for the winter has been slow. Not fun to drive but practical and able to haul great quantities of Alfa parts. :) The closer the snow, the more diverse the search. Something suitable will need to be acquired soon. Neighbor loves the 850s and usually has a couple at a time. They are related to the 164 somehow, aren't they?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks everyone!

Rob - you are so darn practical. :) Yes the Buick V6 is an ideal winter beater, but I've played that tune for the last four years and I really want to teach the kids how to drive a stick - not much chance there.

Dragline - the best Buick or Olds is the one that grandma used to drive. Usually you can find one with a $2000 or less ask in nice shape on Craigslist. The 3800 is a rock solid engine, but I have been running a 3.3 in my 91 Century - 190k miles - lots of torque (but starting to knock). I prefer the front wheel drive A bodies (not the Chevelle / GTO A body). Good room - dirt cheap parts.

"I can't imagine that you'd want to get into anything foreign and/or with AWD. Tiny, complex engines and expensive parts (like a burned out clutch) are not a good formula for a write-off car. Not to mention insurance costs, if that's in the mix..."

Made me laugh - we drive Alfas! However you are correct, I want to spend my time working on the fun cars, not nursing along a turd.

Subies still look to be the best option - maybe a Volvo or Passat.
 

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Dragline, The 850 is not related to the 164. I think you are thinking of the Saab 9000. Thats what I like about the 850. Its not a 164 with all its complications. Just a nice car that is a snap on maintenance.
 

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I had a Suburu Outback XT for years as the family hauler. Subaru are one (or were at least) one of the few remaining brands that offered AWD and a manual transmission. The "symetrical" AWD found in the older models was great. Predicable, always on, fixed 50/50 split, simple. With snow tires it brilliant. Gearbox feels very mechanical(agricultural?) which I was quite fond of. The XT had a pretty powerful engine which was actually too much for the gearbox especially if you had the car filled with family, dog, Thule cargo box etc. Also be careful of the turbo models. Mine went early as there is a separate oil "screen filter" for the turbo that gets clogged and starves the turbo of oil. If you get the 2.5 4 cyl you should have no dramas.
 

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Mark,

In 1991, I bought a 79 Alfetta GT for $1300. All I did was put on some pads, fixed the donuts, change the oil, and drove it around Chicago rain, snow, or shine for 5 years. Taught my wife and my sister-in-law how to drive stick in that thing. Turned around and sold it for $800 then used the proceed + $500 to buy an Alfetta Sedan (Yes, I love the Alfettas that much). Drove it for another 3-4 years; hauling heavy grocery for a restaurant twice a week, delivering food, you name it. Did almost nothing to it except changing oil. Then sold it to a friend for $800. He drove it 50 miles a day to and from work for another 3 years. Then it went to heaven. Too bad, those days are gone. Can't seem to get a decent Alfetta for $1000 anymore. Otherwise, those might be another alternative for you :)

Witty
 

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Volvo. I'd avoid the older Passats. That 6000 was a pretty good car and those Buicks, Man O man. I do recall changine the WP on one and almost having to remove the engine to get that one Loooonngg bolt out!!! good luck ciao, chris
 

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Discussion Starter #16
88 Milano Verde

Well my hunt for Subarus proved fruitless. Had a line on one for 5K (05 turbo outback - fun car, but some needs) but the seller started a bidding war. Plenty of beat Imprezzas, but a bit too small.

So here is what I ended up with: 88 Milano Verde with 193K on the clock.

Much less $ than the Subs. New tires, battery, brakes, water pump, timing belt and tensioner. So all my normal used car tasks were done. Deal was done through the BB - nice guy from Cedar Falls IA - we met in Des Moins.

I needed to replace the cam drive O-rings, re-torque the heads and set the valve clearances. Other than that, runs great. Sounds like it has an exhaust leak near the cat - so I'll need to do something there.

Needs the ARC sorted and probably some ABS system sorting too - plus the sunroof, power steering and AC - but none of that will keep me from driving it.

Teaching the youngest boy to drive stick already. He helped with changing the oil in the engine and trans too!
 

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You had better be careful if they use salt on the roads in the winter. The car will develop rust in a hurry under those conditions as compared to here.
 

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I had a big ol' Chevy Caprice wagon (the square version, not rounded) that I loved. Grey, crank windows (except the rear window...which the dogs love). Obviously an auto. But I think there are ways to convert it using other GM parts. At one time, at least, there were "cop car" add ons too, for handling. For a boat, as my friend said, It goes where you point it. LOL.

Nick
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Del - It already has rust. The cladding covers it up - mostly. However it did come with new rear wheel arches, so if I feel adventurous in the spring, I can cut them out and weld in new metal.

So far it is earning it's stripes. A lot more fun to drive than the old Buick.

Nick - I've had big wagons back in the day. Had one while dating my wife ;). They are fun in their own special way.
 
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