I began my hunt for a nice car probably sometime around 2007/2008. At the time I was driving a 2000 Acura Integra with minimal mods; Cold Air Intake, Coilovers, Wheels, Body Kit. At the time I really didn’t know what I wanted. I had considered looking for a cheap older model 240sx or 350z that I could use as a daily and a drift car. Fix it up nice, upgrade and engine swap, and be able to run with some higher end cars for relatively cheap. As my schedule and education career became busier, I found that there really wasn’t enough time for me to commit to building a car and drifting at the time so the idea of a project car went out the door. As I was looking for a replacement for the Integra, I knew I wanted something different, something sporty, something that catches people’s eyes, something moderately practical, something not overly expensive, and something I could really enjoy. Clearly a Ford GT, Ferrari, Lamborghini, or McLaren would be way out of my range, that and I personally am not a huge fan of Ferrari or Lamborghini as I feel they are too common in pop culture and there are too many examples of bad connotations associated with them. Don’t get me wrong, they are magnificent cars, just not my style. I just don’t like BMW’s so that was a no for me as well. Jaguar and Maserati have had reliability issues and honestly, at the time I was looking, the available models didn’t look that great. I also came to realize with my long legs, I don’t fit comfortably in a lot of cars. Strike out the MR2, S2000, and Mini (these dont sound like very impressive cars, but with the proper aftermarket parts and modifications they can perform on the same level as some of the higher end cars).
Eventually, what it came down to was between 3 cars: Nissan R33/34 GT-R, Acura/Honda NSX, Aston Martin DB9
Nissan GT-R: Ideally a RHD R34. What gear head wouldn’t want one of these? Dubbed the supercar killer, the R34 is one of the most respected and feared sports cars to come out of Japan. Only problem is that importing them as a car is illegal due to safety and emissions standards. The only way to own a street legal R34 is to import the parts, and build it as a ‘kit car’ and then you’d still need to get it inspected and hope that the state allows you to register it. Or try to find one that has already been through all that. Note that R33’s can now be legally imported under the 25 year old antique car exemption.
Acura/Honda NSX: Again, ideally I would have liked the RHD JDM Honda NSX. Same problems as the R34 in terms of importing (early models can now be imported). The NSX just has the profile of a super exotic. Low profile, wide body, lightweight. Designed to mimic the performance of a Ferarri 348. The NSX is a beautiful mid engine car that has the performance to back it up.
Aston Martin DB9: Why not the Vantage or older DB7? The DB7 is a great car, but the styling to me just wasnt aggressive enough for my taste. As far as the Vantage, personally I feel that the V8 Vantage has diluted the market. I understand trying to produce a car that is more affordable to more people, but an 8-cylinder Aston Martin seems out of place. My personal opinion on people who buy a V8 Vantage is a cop out buy to own an Aston. The V12 Vantage S is a relatively newer model and as such it is difficult to find one for sale that meet’s my requirements. Now, the DB9 is arguably one of the most if not the most aesthetically pleasing cars designed for its time. Respectable power, and unlike many other super sports cars was designed as a grand tourer so the ride is not quite as harsh. Also, got to be a coupe for me. The Volante looks amazing with the top down, but the canvas top just doesn’t make the car look right when it’s up.
In the end, realistically, it came down to either an Acura NSX, or ASton Martin DB9. Every now and then I’d check to see if someone was letting their R34 GTR go for a reasonable price. Around 2009/2010, during the recession, there were several listings for good condition NSXs in the $20-30k range. and a couple DB9’s going for the low $40k, upper $30k range. Had I not been inundated with the responsibilities of school and lack of an actual income, I would have been all over them. Fast forward to 2015 with checking prices on a fairly regular basis, I felt sick that every time I would check, the average prices of the cars would increase. A good NSX now will set you back at least $50-60k. A good low mileage DB9 will set you back around $60-70k.
And then it appeared. 2005 Aston Martin with 27k miles for under $50k. Something like that seemed too good to be true. And really in all honesty at the time it was. 3 previous owners from New Jersey, Minnesota, and Texas. Carfax report had minor accident, rear bumper and trunk damage which had been since repaired. Check engine light on for misfire in cylinder #6, unknown cause. The accident damage was repaired by a certified shop so that wasn’t a huge concern for me. Being from the northern part of the country, I was more concerned about rust damage from road salt than damage from a fender bender. Oh and that cylinder issue as well. So I call the dealership to get more information on the car and he just gives it to me straight. I wish all used car salesmen were like this one. Tells me everything that’s wrong with it over the phone. Previous owner traded it in for a Porsche 911 so really they’ve already made their money on that sale. Gives me the information on an independent shop that inspected the vehicle and the shop tells me the exact same things. Go to the dealership the following week to look at the car and then they tell me instead of them fixing the check engine light that they were going to sell the car as is but knock off a couple grand for the cost of fixing it. At this point, it’s a pretty large gamble. Test drive didnt seem too bad. Misfire was a bit more noticeable in the lower rpm but overall the ride was smooth. Most of the electronics worked as they are supposed to. Managed to negotiate it down to below $40k, but realistically I’m looking at at least $43k with the estimated repairs. And that figure could quickly balloon up to $60k or $70k if it turns out to be a major problem like a cracked cylinder or piston. Looking at what Astons of similar mileage and condition are going for, $60-70k is about average, but not what I wanted to pay. So after much deliberation, couple free shirts and a several bottles of water later I’m holding the keys (or key rather) to an Aston Martin DB9.