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Old 10-01-2001, 04:05   #1 (permalink)
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Looking for a first car, help?

Hi everyone. :)

I'm not really an expert when it comes to cars, but I'm currently hunting for a first car and, well, I want it to last. Basically I'm looking to purchase something that falls under the 'basic transportation' bracket that I can do up over a number of years.

There's only one problem, I have no idea how to go about it. That's where you kind folks come in. I'm just going to spill my guts on what I think and, if you have any suggestions, hints, or want to save me from an extreme waste of money, please feel free to lay them out. Anything useful tip you can give me is great.

What I'm thinking is a 6cyl XA, XB, or XC sedan, preferably manual. Sounds drop dead boring to some of you yes? Maybe so, but hey, I admit it, I'm a muscle car fan. There are also a few solid reasons behind this choice.

Why an XA/B/C?

Cause they're cheap and parts are, from what I hear, abundant. They might not be the most fuel efficient ford, but they're built like tanks and take a beating, so yeah, the perfect l-plate to p-plate vehicle.

Why (on earth) 6 cylinders?

Well, because I'm a fairly lousy driver right now, and an 8 is sure to send me carreering into a wall sooner rather than later. Also, while it's all very well to have a p-plate legal 8, a friend of mine has told me (from good experience) that, should you get into a prang that results in a court case, your chances of coming out on top are slim at best. A p-plater with a V8 is the equivalent of a 12 year old with a bolt action. Legal, but it doesn't look very good.
But I don't plan to stick with the 6 forever. I'm told that, apart from gear box, diff, suspension and a couple of other things, dumping a 351 into an engine bay that originally housed a 250 is minimum hassle. Once I'm off my p's, I'll be considering ordering in a recoed cleve from Ford Muscle Parts. When I get the cash that is.

Why manual?

Because you can't learn how to be a good driver in an auto, I've tried, it feels like cheating. The only problem I think I'll have is finding a 6 cylinder manual sedan with 4 on the floor. I hear, but I have no first hand knowledge to back it up, that manual conversions for old falcons are worth the money if done right. Is this true? If so, what kind of box should I go with so that I can stick with it once I change engine? Who in Victoria does these kinds of conversions the best?

Why a sedan?

Because a good mate of mine had a three-on-the-tree XB wagon and it was just awful. The car is big enough without the extra bulk. As for a coupe, I've only ever seen one 6cyl advertised, and I didn't have the cash at the time.

What do I plan to DO with it?

Well, while I'm on my p's, just ironing out the more simple mech problems at first. Then a high gloss black paint job (from the bare metal, rust proofed and all), and then maybe some interior work. I'm thinking (for seating) something durable like grey suede on black vinyl. After the car looks top notch, I'd add any enhancements I can that won't have to be ditched after the engine switch. Big exhaust, 9" diff etc.

Basically I want to get a car and stick with it, but, if I'm out of my mind or being stupidly unrealistic, let me know. I'm completely open to any reasonable suggestion that fits under a $4000 starting figure.
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Old 10-01-2001, 06:22   #2 (permalink)
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Actually I would think parts for XA/XB/XC would be starting to become a bit thin, you dont see many on the roads or wreckers any more. Most of the ones are around are either done-up V8s or a one owner, much loved and driven only on sundays etc.

I would say a XF or EA would be better in that regard. Yeah I know not many people have anything good to say about EAs, but if you find a 5 speed MPI with low kms then it will be no worse than any other older Falcon. But you get the added advantages of A/C, P/S, EFI, comfy interior, 5 speeds, decent fuel economy, much less rust, huge availability of parts, safer etc etc

I honestly cant think of any advantages an XA has over an EA, other than the option of a 351C conversion. Although with the cost of petrol it would probably be a better idea for a 302W EFI into the EA or XF, especially if it will be daily driven.

For $4k you could pick up a pretty decent EA Spack or Ghia privately, and pick up a Max Ellery workshop manual on the way home
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Old 10-01-2001, 06:37   #3 (permalink)
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damn right parts are thin ... I have either run all over melbourne trying to find stuff or paid through the backside to get parts..but if you buy one already roadworthy and looking good you wont have the same problems !!!
long live the muscle cars !!!

As martin says, an EA 3.9 MP EFI is not a bad option too .. it will go faster and be more fuel efficient but lacks the personality ( or is that rust ??:D :D :D )

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Old 10-01-2001, 06:51   #4 (permalink)
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cool gruntly

Yep, go the six definately. If you have some time to hunt try to find a little old ladies car or deceased estate. If you find a GS in the XA/B/C model then your a step ahead already: eg. worked 6 cyl, factory fitted toploader (possibly), better suspension and cool stripes and bonnet. Good one to drop v8 into later or just keep stock as 6cyl. (also GS's hold their value too:D )

Have you considered an XW or XY???? (being biast here)
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Old 10-01-2001, 17:09   #5 (permalink)
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This is all great stuff, thanks for the input. :)

Martin: parts are kind of rare huh? damn, that's a pain, but still one I'd be prepared to live with if the end result is a decent car. As for the EA option, well, my Dad owned what was probably the most overworked EA ever. EA series 2, 3 speed Auto Fairmont. The tacho had clicked over, twice, and it was already up to yet another 200,000 when some bastard in a truck smacked into the back of it while it was parked and bent the chasis so that the left hand rear was higher than the drivers side bonnet. A real mess. It had gone through 2 engines, 3 power steering pumps, 2 head gaskets, and a nasty, nasty, nasty brake fluid spill. Not to mention the typical EA a/c woes. But hey, for the amount of mileage it did VERY well. I don't think I could ever bring myself to own one though, too many bad memories. :(

I spose that an advantage would be that Herrod's still work on EA's. :) What exactly is the MPI? Little rusty on my terminology I'm afraid. Is the EFI V8 any chop?

As for XF? I'm afraid if I see another badly done up XF with an illfitted longreach grill on the road, my head will implode. I like a little individuality in cars, not that I don't apreciate the suggestion, but, well, you know, xf's a a dime a dozen car. :)

XA coupe; you're right on the personality stakes. :) I mean, if I can find a rust free straight body, even if the inards have had the crap flogged out of them, I'll be willing to give it a try. I suppose the one advantage of muscle cars is that, in good nick, they appreciate in value, whereas EA's are forever stooping to new lows.

botch; Xw or xy? Well, I _have_ considered it, but I just wouldn't be happy with anything less than an HO! (or at the very least replica Gt engine and a shaker) Heheh. Seriously, I just like the XA/b/c shape better. Would you say Xw's or Xy's are easier to find in good condition? If so I'm definitely willing to consider it. I just assumed the more recent models have more parts available . . .
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Old 10-01-2001, 17:30   #6 (permalink)
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I agree entirely with Martin.

I've got a 4.1 carb 4sp man XF in good nick with 289,000k which is about to go on the market for $3,450 after I bought EA S 3.9 mpi 5 sp with 117,000k and showroom interior and excellent body for $3,800 from a dealer. There's no comparison between the two cars and, regardless of what I eventually get for the XF, the EA is tons better value for money and an all round much better and nicer car. And XF's weren't necessarily trouble free either - it's not like Ford invented head gasket and oil leak problems with the EA.

If you have your heart set on XB etc, you might be better buying one that someone has already done up, as a full rebuild, respray and retrim doesn't add all that much to the basic market price of most mainstream cars. People who do it never get their money back. Have a look at modified cars in the Trading Post and Auto Trader and see how many mugs have cars with receipts for three or four times what they're trying to get for the car. Or, despite what you say about reasons for not having a V8, look at XB coupe that's becoming collectable (can't remember proper designation - XB GT or maybe GS Botch mentioned) which will hold value better, although I've got a feeling a halfway decent one might be around $10,000 to $12,000 now, but if you're going to do it up you might get a good base in your price range and you'll have a fair chance of geting back the money you put into it if you spend wisely, which you won't with any basic car.

Don't fall into commmon trap of thinking that older cars are more solid and therefore safer in a crash. There's lots of things that aren't obvious, like dashboard separation and crumple zones, that are a lot better in newer cars and make them a lot safer. Then again, if you're going to T bone a Hyundai Excel, the XB will clean it up a treat, but so will the XF and EA. All other things being equal, the best protection you've got in a crash is to be in the biggest car, which is why people are better off in big cars when they start driving. Injury rates in small cars are three or four times higher than Falcon size cars, so that's where you're safe. But hit a tree and you're in trouble.
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Old 10-01-2001, 18:50   #7 (permalink)
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you may have trouble finding a decent 6 cyl maunal XA/B/C especially in a GS. A 302 is more powerful, but if left stock is not that powerful. My 2nd car was a 6cyl XA .. the third was a 302 john Goss special. As an auto the coupe was nothing special.. both 6 and 8 are capable of breaking the speed limit by a large margin so it's really up to your right foot.
BTW, it's good to see a young bloke into classics !!!
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Old 10-01-2001, 19:18   #8 (permalink)
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EA S: I'm not so sure I'd want to sell the car after doing it up, not immediately anyway. You're right though, there's no way I'd get my money back. I guess the main reason I want to start from scratch is because I don't like not knowing everything about the car. If it isn't stock, it might have all kinds of dodgy crap thrown in it. There are a number of very bad bakyard mechanic jobbies out there.

You're EA sounds great by the way, and not a bad price either. The amount of 200,000+ Auto EA's you see dealers flogging off for upwards of 6 grand is just criminal. What dealer did you get it from?

XA; yeah, I had that figured about manuals. :( Which is why I'm toying with the manual conversion idea. I mean, I've seen column shifts converted with no problems, so why not an auto with the hardware already on the same line of latitude? Sure, it's not authentic, but I don't think I want to restore a car to it's original spec. I want it to be Gruntly Spec. Which eventually means a BOSS 351, which in turn means a big wad of cash. I know I'm dreaming, but you gotta have dreams. :)

Oh, and as for the classics, well, when I was a little tacker my neighbours used to drive me to school. They had a white XB 500. Even though it was completely standard material and nothing even so much as deserving a second glance, I always thought it had style.
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Old 10-01-2001, 19:26   #9 (permalink)
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Having done a auto to manual conversion myself they aren't that hard ... .but bloody time consuming under the dash!
Technically you are supposed to get an engineers report if you change an auto to a manual but if it's done properly there is no way of telling unless you can read compliance plates.
Have a peek at my car .. it's a fairmont not a GT ( I just like the guards and bonnet! ) so it's all been done to my specs. When I had a XB GT I was always worried about originality with parts .. with this I worry about if I can afford it and thats all !!!

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Old 10-01-2001, 19:43   #10 (permalink)
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Wren Road Autos, Wren Road, Moorabbin. Pure bloody luck. Just happened to be passing and went in to look at something else and it caught my eye and was too good to pass up and bought it 20 mins later. The body and interior alone justified the price. Up to that point I was looking at doing up the XF to decent specs, which would have cost $6,000 easy and wouldn't go as well as EA, so I figured even if I had to drop a new donk into the EA I'd still end up streets ahead. Done 4,000k and only problem is dodgy starter motor, but that's just a service item. Timing case and maybe head gasket were done before I got it and no leaks. You won't get same deal out of the dealer. Half a dozen people left their names after me in case I didn't complete purchase and dealer realized it was priced way too low, obviously on basis of lousy EA reputation, but for once the customer beat the dealer.

I know what you mean about the peace of mind of doing it up yourself. "Respray" worries me because you don't know what's under it, and likewise "rebuilt engine". But there's some cars that you look at and you just know that the owner's been careful about everything, and they're the ones I have in mind, and there's usually big dollars more then you pay in them.

I've got it fixed in my mind that the collectible XB I'm thinking of had 351 decal on front 1/4 panel and was XB GT, but I can't pull it out of my memory clearly.
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