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My daily life revolves around used cars. As a former fast-talking auto auctioneer, it was once my job to inspect, appraise, and liquidate thousands of cars throughout the United States. Since I put down my microphone and became a full-time car dealer, I have gone from auctioning off 150 vehicles an hour – yes, we really do talk that fast – to buying 150 vehicles every two to three months.
I see and bid on everything from $300 Volkswagens that belch more black smoke than a diesel truck rolling coal, to $30,000 DeLoreans that hopefully can go at least 88 miles per hour. The auctions never run out of weirdness when it comes to cars because they sell over 10 million every single year. So with that big number in mind, let me tell you about these two cars that have about as much in common as Mel Gibson and Mel Brooks.
Option A: 1993 Chevrolet Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car Edition
This 1993 Chevrolet Camaro Indy Pace Car has all of 4,187 miles on it. Neither of those numbers are a misprint and yes, those are multi-colored stripes on the hood. Every week, I find at least two or three museum pieces that have been stored in the private garage of an auto collector.
As you can tell, there are some very broad strokes to the definition and tastes of a collector. It could be a guy who has an extreme case of what I call "Automotive Compulsive Disorder" who chucks 20 or 30 old cars into a field and lets the weather and elements have at them. I once knew a guy, a car dealer at that, who "stored" seven 1990s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertibles in the Georgia sun, and within two years those cars turned into complete junk. The fact that he stored them in an open field he didn't actually own and near a public road didn't help either. A few of the local meth heads and kleptocrats decided to strip-mine his collection, from the radiators to the tops themselves. He had a brief time in prison in between the before and the surprise after and trust me, he looked like he had soiled his britches when he saw what happened to his personally prized Cutlasses.
Then you have whoever owned this Camaro. Is it a one-of-a-kind? Nope. Just 1 of 125, and an insignificant number at that (#87). But let's open the door to this Camaro and see what we find.
Oof! I don't remember this multi-colored silly string design as a '90s must-have. Wasn't this popular back in the 1980s? GM had a tendency to be about two steps behind the MC Hammer fashions of that time, and this Camaro is living proof of that.
The Camaro had about one whole year of exclusive glory before the 1994 Ford Mustang debuted and blew it out of the water. After that it was nine long years of declining sales and the most minimal of changes to the model line.
By the mid-2000s, it seemed like every one of these Camaros had an angry owner because the top of the dashboards would literally crack and cave in unless you covered them up. This car wears a carpet dash pad for that reason. GM used a lot of thin material in the plasticky interior, and the elder-Bush-era ergonomics did the Camaro few favors.
Still, I do have to give GM enormous props for offering a bona fide 275-horsepower sports car for less than $20,000 back in the day. Even though some portions of the parts bin lasted far longer than others. Which brings me to the new car of today.
Option B: 2015 Honda CR-Z
The Honda CR-Z is one of the most hated hybrids of the modern era but honestly, I don't get all the hatin'. This one has only 4,016 miles. A repo. The car was purchased in April, taken back by the bank in August, and liquidated this past Monday. I bought it for $13,800 plus a $295 auction fee. Not bad for a near-new car that has virtually no competition on Autotrader or Ebay.
There are two unusually nice things about this particular CR-Z. First off, it has a stick, which is the way God intended all of us to drive any car with a sporty soul. Is it slow? For the modern day, admittedly, yes. But unlike my new-car auto journo brethren, I'm used to driving old cars that can make you smile without having to go fast – like this CR-Z.
When it comes to real-world driving, I like older cars far more than the conscripted mediocrity we get these days. A lot of new cars are prisoners of safety standards. As a result, the driver is enclosed in a cocoon of isolation with insectozoid-looking interior design elements that frankly just don't do it for me.
The CR-Z would be an optimal car for me if it had two things: more noise isolation (damn it's loud!)
and a bigger battery that could make it go fast from the get go. Honda included a Sport+ button that makes the car drive super-quick for all of 15 to 30 seconds. Then the battery loses most of its juice and you're up a creek if you have to go through any steep inclines for the next few minutes while it slowly recharges itself.
It's not a sports car like the Camaro. Forget the optional $5,000 supercharger package. Forget the fact that this car has the wrong suspension geometry for any modern-day sporty car, and definitely forget the old CRX and Civic Si models from times past as the soul of the CR-Z. This is a two-door sporty hybrid that will get over 40 mpg and give you a better reason to enjoy the commute than any other hybrid in today's market.
As a long-time 1st-gen Honda Insight owner and someone who owned both of those older Hondas back in the Clinton era, along with an HF, I get why Honda made this car. Unfortunately the product planners and marketeers royally screwed up the launch of this car by summoning the ghosts of Honda's past during the launch, which, along with the pointless two-door hatch configuration, is why I was able to buy this 4,000-mile EX with a six-speed for just over $14,000.
The Camaro sold for about $1,700 less, $12,100 plus a $265 auction buyer's fee. A great price for a car that is, well, a period piece. So with this in mind, let me ask you: If these were the only two cars available to you, which one would you take? A 1993 Chevy Camaro Indy Pace Car Edition with only 4,000 miles that was owned by your late Uncle Vinny? Or a 2015 Honda CR-Z that was recently repo'd from Aunt Vinny who thankfully lives in Vegas and never visits?
The choice is yours, and no, there is no Option C. Let's just say that you have quick and easy access to a free car. So pick one of the two and let us know how you came to that all too unique decision.