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Keep Tbird or Elantra as a PRACTICAL 3rd car?

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850 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I asked this question on a different forum, knowing that this will obviously be biased towards Tbird, and because I kept feeling guilty... BUT it can't hurt to ask you guys too...

Here's a link to my post/thread (I am the OP, username 97Tbird) where I posted the question - you don't HAVE to read responses from other posters but it might be interesting for some, I think)

My original opening post from that thread:...

So we have to get rid of one of our 2 old cars, as has been replaced by a new one

Here are the 2 candidates from which we must choose one to be our 'beater' / spare car: (and the other one has to go)

1) 97 Tbird (Sport Option)- my current 'beater' - our spare car - 170 k miles.

I wanted this to be my 'project car' sometime ago. Was my first 'real' car and I am rather attached. Gas guzzler. RWD.
Engine has an oil leak but don't know the origin. Has 'cult' popularity - American made.
Needs front suspension work - prob. shocks and springs.
Paint is peeling in large patches on all horizontal surfaces - hood/roof/trunk
Has a tiny crack on rear bumper from a rear-ending which was never repaired - no structural damage.
Rather loaded at the time- sport pkg-somewhat rare-moon roof, auto climate control, auto light etc.
Still starts and drives well, not like a new car, but it drives well.
Has bubbling tint in the back window, antenna won't go down all the way, weather strips in the back are coming off.

I have realized that I don't/won't have the time to put into the Tbird as I once planned, to make it a show/project car...
When I think of everything it needs to make it a 'nice' and 'fresh' mechanically and cosmetically, I think it might take more than $6-7k ..
Also, even if i did fix it up nice, it will still have to be parked outside, as we only have a 2-car garage.

2) 2003 Elantra - 205k miles.

About 65-70 % (rough guess) of those are hwy miles.
-will be replaced in a few days with a new car.

Like me wife is attached to the car too - no wonder, as it has been dead reliable in its 205k miles - only 1 repair.
Although it has about 35k miles more than the tbird, the car itself is newer...(the dash does have a crack or two which I think i can repair - perhaps not).
Clear coat coming off in small patches on hood and trunk. Less damage than Tbird.

Compared to Tbird, I know exactly what it needs to make it a decent spare/3rd car/beater: a new wheel, CV joints/boots and reattach the rear view mirror properly - that's it. (With the Tbird, I am not sure - I know I can find out, but have a feeling it might be just more than shocks, due to the oil leak somewhere)
Elantra is more suited for the job as it gets about 28-30 MPG average (even without cruise control) - that, IMO is the biggest thing going against keeping the Tbird instead.
As this car has no potential as a show/project car, I don't have to re-paint it, and it can stay outside at any time...and even if i did make this car a bit nicer (looking) it won't cost anywhere near what doing that to Tbird will cost.

..How many miles can we still get out of it? No one knows, but I know a few Elantra owners from the same year/model that have gotten over 300k miles...(from forums, not personally)

So, there you have it - Tell us what you think, and who gets your vote to stay/go.
If you need any other details I have not mentioned, pls ask.
heard from the place I brought the Tbird to for an estimate of needed work: (the shop is an indie but almost only works on Fords- i never found this place to be the cheapest BUT they do good work, are honest and run by a former Ford Master tech whom I have known for about 8 yrs now)

so, what he said was: (all quotes includes labor)

of immediate concern:
- ball joints/front brake pads and rotors: about $900

of not so immediate concern:
-- shocks: all 4 (at least one in front in one in back, BUT those OE/OEM parts are not made anymore, so will have to be all 4) - cost depends on what I want, but let's say at least $400??

-- oil leaks from filter adapter gasket, head gasket, VC gaskets (all slow leaks/not major but will have to be done at some point)
-- ATF leak from some rubber seal where it connects to the torque converter (not major/immediate, but again, must be done at some point)

IDK if I heard him right, but he said for all the oil and ATF leak fixes it will around $ 600 ???

Anyways, now you guys have a better idea of what's needed...

cv joints/boots
One wheel to replace a warped one (OEM steel wheel is about $60 online)

253 Posts
Well given that all cars are replaceable no matter what, heck I have let go of a 69 Dodge Charger 318, and a 1972 Charger with a real nice built 440 just because they weren't feasable to keep around compared to the other cars I had no matter how lame they might have been I was just able to better afford gas, and even had less repairs to deal with, if you are not really going to do anything with the T-bird other than drive it, it will survive for a while even if you don't do the repair work, my 95 Cougar went to the scrap pile all rusted underneth and needing much suspension and other misc dumb stuff, I just decided in the end the body was to much in dissarray and even though I had a 97 Intrepid I was going to sell I decided to fix it instead just due to the fact that the body was holding up 25% better so the Cougar got the axe and got scrapped was a shame too cause it drove right in and I beat the tar out of it cause I knew it was going to be history afterwards and it was still running smooth as can be.

From a technicians standpoint if you were my customer I would tell you to keep the Hyundai for peace of mind and fuel economy, even though the T-bird will hold itself past 200K as well you will never get that fuel economy and the Hyundai is cheaper to fill, also seems to need less work, so it just makes more sense, heck I drive a Honda with a 1.6 on a day to day basis cause the fuel economy is awesome and it never let me down, but my T-bird will always be around.

The T-bird is only worth it if you are like me and desire it for something more to toy with, I love vintage automobiles the best from the 60's and 70's due to the no nonsense I came here to take names kind of image but I can buy 5 of the Thunderbird in good condition for the price of one of them, and with all the money I saved with that one, build an all purpose car that looks nice, can move out pretty quick if need be and still handle and ride like a dream and have ac and good heat, so that's all I need for now. It really depends on you but me I'd say keep the Hyundai and latter if you change your mind, buy another Thunderbird because Ford produced a lot of them. One day they will be harder to find, but I still see 80's models every now and then for not too much so there is always a chance to find a mid 90's in the future.

Just my opinion though but the old saying goes, cars, women and money come and go, can't keep everything forever, even if you think otherwise, if I had a dime for every car I said I'd never let go of I'd be rich.

Super Moderator
7,490 Posts
It really depends what you could get for either car. The fact of the matter is neither car is worth more than about $1000 as it is right now, and if either one dies on you, figure it would cost you at least $2500 to replace it with something else that would be reliable, so my opinion would be that unless you can get $2500 for either one of them, it isn't worth selling, and you might as well just hang onto it. What I would do is take good pictures of both of them, and list both cars for sale on craigslist separately for $2500 each. If someone buys either one of them, then whichever sells first is the one you let go. In the meantime, I would take the tbird off the road so that as time and money allows, you can start to bring it back to life. If you daily drive the bird, this will never happen and you will just run it into the ground. If you start fixing it up, you are only making it more valuable, and with all the suspension done, you might actually be able to get some money for the car instead of selling it for next to nothing. If it never sells, eventually you will have your rebuilt tbird. If the Hyundai blows the motor tomorrow, you still have the bird and all you have to do is register it and drive it.

2,472 Posts
If your going get rid of one honestly flip a coin and you will know right then. If you like what coin "choose" then that's the one, if not its the other.

Though Mike is right they both are basically worthless.

Food for thought though how much does a timing belt job run on the Elantra?

Not to knock your mechanic but those prices are high unless that $900 is complete front end minus rack. I come up with ~$300 for all new front control arms Upper and lower with Sway bar link (Raybestos Professional), $80 for a alignment and $200 labor/shop supplies max. Figure another $100 for Motorcraft strut rod bushings and ~$100 for all tie rods. I'd gather all that plus sturts and shock could come in ~$1000 out the door if all done at the same time.

1,996 Posts
Is a 3rd car supposed to be PRACTICAL? My 3rd car is for fun. Keep the Bird and pass on the Elantra to someone else.

WOT Junkie and avid corn burner
3,734 Posts
OP, go see RobertP. He'll be able to take care of your brakes and ball joints for less than $900, I'm almost willing to bet on it. If not, I sure as hell can.
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