George is a political activist working for a good cause. He needs an affordable ride to help get the word out, transport voters to the polls, and shuttle the candidate around. What car should he buy?
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Here is the scenario:
It’s that season again. I’m starting a new job on a political campaign in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and I’m looking for advice on my next purchase. Before you say a “Miata,” I have that covered. My 473,000 mile 1990 example will be sitting the election out. I also have a “Miata of Motorcycles” to spice things up, a Kawasaki Ninja 250.
I’m looking for a campaign car that will look good, be reliable, functional and fun to drive. I will need to shuttle campaign volunteers, literature, signs and occasional boss/candidate around. I don’t want a coupe, because I don’t want my team hassled with the back seats. My budget is up to $10,000. Bonus if the car is memorable.
Budget: Up to $10,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: Washington, DC
Wants: Reliable, fun, and functional
Doesn’t want: Anything with only two doors
So, of course, we are going to rile up all the commenters who want to keep politics off their car blog, but political allegiances aside, this is very much focused on the car and not the cause. I say you want to get something that can maximize your people-hauling capacity and project your message, and that means a van.
Of course, you can pick up any number of giant Econoline vans that can carry a whole football team, but that is likely a bit overkill and not the easiest to park in DC. A reasonable middle ground would be the Mazda5. It’s quirky and fun to drive, gets respectable MPG, and has seating for six. The 5 also has enough sheetmetal real-estate to wrap it in some kind of campaign ad.
There aren’t many Mazda5 vans in your area, but here is one way under budget that seems well-cared for but it does need some minor work.
Knowing the nature of your political campaign would help, because you ideally want the car to communicate your message. If the campaign is about cranking up farm subsidies, maybe get a pickup truck or an old flatfender Willys. If you’re lobbying for sweeping climate change action, maybe buy an EV or a PHEV.
Since I don’t have this information, I’ll focus on something that will make both sides of the aisle happy: something modest enough to appeal to the masses, efficient enough to appease environmentalists, and characterful enough to be memorable to all who witness its glory. It’s the Geo Metro, essentially an American Suzuki Cultus, which is great, because driving this communicates an understanding that America can work hand-in-hand with other nations to accomplish amazing, three-cylinder feats.
The 1992 model above, which I found for sale in North Carolina on Facebook marketplace, appears to be in great condition, and only costs $1,200. It even comes with two big stickers that read “I’m saving fuel to buy more guns.” Clearly, the Geo Metro is a car that appeals to all sorts of people.
Buy it, and let your candidate bask in the mass appeal.
I do appreciate the very Jerry Brown-esque suggestion of my coworker David Tracy (the “boy governor” rolled in a bare bones ‘74 Plymouth when he ran California back in the day), you my find yourself having a hard time squeezing in and out of that Metro.
Now, my first inclination was to recommend what is certainly the most wrong option possible, a 1980 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, yours for $3,500 and whatever it costs to replace the starter. But then I found these.
Yep, someone is offloading not one but two not-quite-Stranger-Things-era Mercury Grand Marquis wagons. These are easily not only practical, spacious, and clearly affordable, but also charming and nostalgic. The seller wants $3,600 for one and $4,200 for the other. Get them both and you instantly have what all politicians want anyway: a convoy. The sense o grandeur will not be lost on the electorate.
Hello George! I hope you enjoy your exciting foray into politics, and the glorious city of Washington, D.C., the Hollywood for people who want fame but are still just a bit too ugly. Not you, of course. You’re great. And, as someone great, you’ll need a great campaigner’s car that sends just the right message. Lucky for you, I know exactly the thing for you: this 1977 AMC Hornet.
This Hornet fills everything you need in a campaign vehicle perfectly. First, anything you get has to be American—you’re running in America, and there’s just no way around that, which is why Tom’s seemingly rational opinion is so misguided. Davids Geo is a captive import, so I guess that squeaks by, but this Hornet is built by AMERICAN Motors! You can’t get any more American than American.
It’s a humble car, not showy or ostentatious, and as a classic suggests you both respect tradition and are concerned enough about the environment to keep something old in good shape instead of wastefully buying something new. It shows good fiscal sense, since it’s cheap, and resourcefulness and bravery on you (and your cause or candidate’s) part because you’re not some candy-ass afraid to rock an older car.
And you wanted something memorable? This is it! A charming, immaculate Hornet with those amazing plaid bench seats is going to charm the votes off anyone who climbs in.
Despite the car’s age, I think it’ll be a breeze to maintain because it’s incredibly basic and uncomplicated. The AMC inline-6 engine is bulletproof and easy to work on and get parts for, and these things are easy to drive and park.
This is the way to go. Everyone will remember the charming Wrigley’s gum-colored Hornet with affection, and that means votes.
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