Class of 2005: Muscle/Sports Cars Edition

Does the “[year from my youth that doesn’t seem that long ago] was [a non-small number of years] ago…ugh, I’m so old” reflex ever go away? 2005 doesn’t seem that long ago, does it? Even with the last few decades’ improvements in reliability and durability a 10 year old car is far from new (no matter that my brain still processes them as such). 10 years is an interesting point in a car’s life, as the car’s past the “newish” or “middle-aged” used stages and starts to be old. This is where the third or fourth owners decide whether this example will cross the “old car valley” to eventually emerge as a classic. If a car can hold its value over a typical 10 year 75-90% depreciation, it can avoid “throwaway” status.
Today we’ll focus on a few known go-to performance bargains whose identity is tied to the mid-00s: the C6 Corvette, SN197 Mustang, WRX and GTO…

We’ll open with the perennial performance bargain: the Corvette. ’05 was the first year of the C6 and while first-year ‘Vettes don’t have the best reliability reputation, it’s hard to argue with a 400hp 6.0L LS2 in a 3200lb package. Ten years gives opportunity for a range of conditions to develop, but Corvettes tend to be spared the grind of long commutes and getting crapped on under a power line, so they tend to be in better condition and lower mileage. The 16 manual transmission examples currently on eBay range from just under $20k to just over $30k, maybe a little over 50% depreciated. Not chump change, but a pretty good deal for a car that’ll still shame 99% of the vehicles on the road and perform admirably at a HPDE.

Notching down the performance ladder, 2005 was also the first year of the SN197 fifth-generation Mustang. Mustangs are a dime a dozen, right? Ok, let’s look at manual transmission, V8-powered GTs. Unmodified, non-special edition/tuner V8 GTs. There’s about five of those on eBay right now. It seems those that have managed to last this long without getting turbo’ed and/or wrapped around a telephone pole are in really nice condition and sell for around $10-15 grand, or about 1/3-1/2 their original value. Interesting to see they’re starting to exit typical used car pricing and are now swimming in the General Purpose Older Enthusiast Car pricing world (i.e., might cost the same as a clean ’85 635csi or ’95 Land Cruiser regardless of mileage).

We can’t talk of performance cars emblematic of the beginning of the current Automotive Golden Age, without bringing up the WRX. Without looking, guess what a manual-transmission 10 year old WRX goes for. I was not expecting mid-to-high-teens. Given that they were mid-to-high $20s new, some of these cars are still at nearly 75% of their original value. There’s even a guy trying to get $27k for an STI. I owned a 2006 WRXagon, and while it’s hard to find that combination of three pedals, sportiness and utility, it wasn’t that special of a car to warrant this kind of resale retention.

When it comes to mid-2000s performance cars that do perfectly skirt the crappy/special line, we can’t pass up the GTO. Based on the Holden Monaro, championed by Bob Lutz and purchased by the dozens, it’ll also be included in my book post on why auto makers should never give enthusiasts what they want. By 2005, they’d ditched the 5.7l LS1 for the 6.0L LS2 and made 400 hp. The two examples I see on eBay want $18 and $20 grand (about 50% depreciated), which represents a clear “collector” markup on an otherwise anonymous pretty fast car.
Moral of the story? If you want a cheap, fast car at the start of 10 years of parts interchangeability, a stickshift Mustang GT’s a good place to start (if you can find one). If you’re looking to go faster than that, skip the GTO and just get a Vette for a little bit more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
    PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    One side of the Vette that I have always admired is for backroads commuting. I work in an area serviced by 35-50 mph county roads that meander past woods, mountains and rivers. I work with a guy who daily drives a Z51 C5 6-speed. He gets 26 mpg daily driving.
    How? Simple, he doesn't use his brakes as much as the rest of us.
    When he approaches a curve, he has already coasted to a speed the car can handle the curve at. He doesn't have to floor it to get up to speed as his car is relatively light, and when he's going down the road it's an aerodynamic vehicle happy to lumber along in an O/D gear.
    For comparison's sake, I get 28 mpg daily driving a similar route in my Pontiac Vibe (driven wisely)
    I'd give up 2 mpg to DD a Vette.
    There was a clip for Top Gear a few years ago where they punished a Prius while chasing it with an M3. At the end the M3 had better gas mileage for the test. It's all how you drive and what your car lets you do. The less you use the brakes, the better your MPG.
    So in relation to this post. I would absolutely recommend to anyone to buy a Vette and DD the hell out of it.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      I work hard to punish the Prius whenever I have to drive it… I hate that car.

      1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
        PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

        I sold them starting in 2002, back when they were custom orders (mostly). When they really got popular in the next generation (when they looked like eggs instead of cars, because the point of a hybrid is that everyone around you KNOWS it's a hybrid) I remember the first time I drove one at a Corporate launch for the Prius. My initial thought was, "Okay, so if my laptop was a car, it would be this." I mostly hate them for what they represented, a clueless Whole Foods shopper who couldn't connect the dots on where parts were made, assembled, and then sold. But they are way too complicated (joystick shifter? What the hell is 'B'?) for the average Prius owner. It really just needs a green leaf-shaped LED that comes on whenever the engine turns off and a PRNDL. I sold Land Cruisers to Lawyers and could deliver them with a demonstration in 15 minutes. Prius Owners took an hour. Not because the car was that hard, but because the owners were those kinds of people.

        1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
          Jeff Glucker

          I use B quite often while on the highway, so I can stay off the brakes when I'm speeding.
          The steering is just SO l lifeless, the CVT doesn't care how loud it's whining, the seats suck, the centered display is stupid… at least ours is free because it's the wifey's work mobile.
          The one random thing I do like? That it can show you what button your finger is on if you give it that half-press.

          1. salguod Avatar

            You and me both. I have a love – hate relationship with ours (2007 Touring). Actually, love is a little too strong. I respect it. I respect the technology and that, despite the advanced tech, it's one of the most reliable cars on the road.
            But that numb steering, the drone of the engine, no temp guage, no radio or HVAC readout on the main screen (but I can tell you my instant MPG!), the tinniness of driving a Corolla stuffed with batteries. It'll corner better than you think (which is not saying much), but you have to push past a lot of NOOOO! from the car to get there.
            The steering wheel controls are pretty nice and I like the keyless entry. It's a hatch, so it's got that going for it.
            My wife loves the car. I tolerate it. I'm hoping in 2 years or so I can talk her into a used Accord Hybrid – MPG with a bit more zest.

    2. Preludacris Avatar

      "The less you use the brakes, the better your MPG."
      Man, do I wish more people understood this!

      1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
        PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

        Yep, I had a very good driving instructor who taught car dynamics not just functions.
        He said something along the lines of "Brakes should be primarily for stopping and in preparation for sharp turns, not because you used to much gas pedal."
        He preached anticipation like crazy. Like I said, he was very good at what he did.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Ditto here. My driving teacher was an ex-truck driver. Trusted in communist times, he was one of the few who were cleared to drive across the border to trade with our fearsome capitalist-imperialist neighbour, the Federal Republic of Germany. He did so with a Volvo F86, a super rare Western tool east of the border. Lots to talk about.
          Anyway, anticipation was one of the foundations of driving. Reading traffic and the road leads to better, more economic, more relaxed and highly focussed driving. Man, I was lucky with this teacher! Got away with only the mandatory eight hours (+ night, ice and autobahn-lessons), too.

    3. Sjalabais Avatar

      There's one big * to that comment: You have to brake a bit harder every time you are done driving, preferably use the handbrake when parking, too. In order to keep the rear disks alive – I have seen seized calipers twice. I also live in an area of relatively slow, relaxed country driving. My driveway has up to a 35 degree grade though, so backing down to the house at some speed and then braking hard takes care of this issue. Unless we have snow and ice, which renders our driveway useless anyway.
      Great selection above, it's a shame and astonishing that the Subaru retains its value so well. Btw, I just read that 35.6% of every new car sold in Norway in 2014 was AWD. That's 5% up in ten years. Yes, and the realization that "2005 is ten years ago" made me quiver, too.

      1. PotbellyJoe ★★★★★ Avatar
        PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

        True, but being that it's a manual, he's using the parking brake and the road into our complex is 50 mph, so you come down hard at the end.
        Either way, the less you slow down, the less you have to speed back up.

  2. pj134 Avatar

    If you look at a GTO as a Grand Tourer, they make a lot more sense. In fact, they may have been the best affordable GT of the generation. The drive train is bulletproof and everything is fairly simple since it's based on a platform that started as the 1967 Opel Commodore. The only thing that regularly goes is the rear, all four seats are couch equivalents and it has plenty of power to take you to just about any speed for just about any distance.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Seriously, it has so ancient roots? I'm surprised!

      1. pj134 Avatar
        The V platform made it from 67 to 07. It was also the platform for the Cadillac Catera, which means an LS might just fit with some modifications. Which also means that you could actually make a desirable Catera. Something GM was entirely unfit to do when it came into being.

  3. JayP2112 Avatar

    Interesting. 4 yrs ago I shopped EACH ONE OF THESE CARS to replace the Audi.
    Vette- still expensive, expensive to maintain (clutch, etc), and I'm not a 'vette kind of guy.
    WRX- the unbeaten examples were still expensive.
    GTO- Higher mile 5.7s were reasonable, low mileage odd-ball colors too. I couldn't pull the trigger.
    Looking at the prices on these Mustangs are making me giggle that I got a smokin' deal on mine. 7500 miles, leather, 5 speed, unmolested for $15500. I just had to fly across the US to get it.

    1. Land Ark Avatar
      Land Ark

      I did the same thing. At the same time. With the same results – almost.
      I ended up with a 2006 Impulse Blue GTO with 37k miles. I bought it off eBay sight unseen for $16,600. I flew to Florida to get it and drove it 19 hours back home.

  4. alex aka grandpa rex Avatar
    alex aka grandpa rex

    Be still my heart. I ordered a WRX in January of 2001. Got the car in April from the second shipment to all of New England. World Rally Blue. Sedan. No wing. What a sleeper of a car! I removed the Subaru badging from the lip of the trunk and people would walk around the car wondering what it was at first.
    My most memorable drive was on the Dragon probably in 2004. Drove up from Atlanta one morning really early and we each made 2 passes of the dragon at speed. All I kept saying to myself was "get to the apex and hit the accelerator." The WRX was an easy car to drive fast safely.
    At 90k miles the car was running great so I put in new sway bars and endlinks to tighten the suspension, changed the water pump and timing belt, and was ready for another 100k. The car was still a delight to drive.
    Then, on a beautiful Spring morning I was driving down a city road and looked in my mirror. I was doing about 25. He was doing about 70. He booted me airborne, spinning me over a 20" concrete abutment, just missing a telephone pole and into a front yard. I looked around, and the guy drove off! Cops came by moments later as they had been chasing him when he whacked me. That was the end of my WRX. I have a small piece of alloy wheel that I keep as a relic.
    The car was always very mechanical sounding. the boxer engine always had a cool sound. Turbos, wastegates. Lots of gear whine and transmission clanking. I miss it today.

  5. Wildcat_445 Avatar

    No comment on the "musclecar" angle. However, all we've been able to afford lately are older cars. The '99 Acura TL we bought in 2011 was one of the best cars I've ever driven, and for its age (and given the hell we live in), it had not a spot of rust on it. I think older folks drove it–there were typical 2-car-garage scrapes and dings on the sides, but the leather seats looked barely worn, and the paint otherwise looked like new. It had a few age-related issues but nothing unusual. (It replaced a craptastic '02 Malibu that had to be the worst car I'd ever sunk my ratchet wrenches into.) When the TL got caught in the floods here this past August, it took my other half several weeks to find a car she could afford, all cash, and ended up with a 2004 Civic. The body is straight, the paint nice for its age, and the inside is a bit clean but not too badly worn. For its higher mileage, it's quite solid.
    The way cars are built these days, they can easily go 10 years before starting to show their age. Plenty in this area have hit on hard times, and their cars are far worse off…but they also do not take care of them. Those that do are rewarded with less frequent replacements. My CR-V is going on 18 years old now. I joke it's still being broken in. Although rust is doing more damage than anything mechanical at this point.
    I still remember in the 70s, all the cars my dad went through. Without fail, once his GMs would get to about 75,000 miles or so, they were done. Rusted out (the '71 LeSabre even lacked a floor on the passenger's side–I felt like Fred freakin' Flintstone as a passenger!), multiple mechanical issues, you name it, the cars were pretty much at end of life. The '79 Newport he bought new acted like it was 10 years old the entire time he owned it. 2-3 years old, I was constantly driving to pick up my mother, who'd gotten stranded at some place or other because the stupid thing wouldn't run.
    It was kind of ironic, then, that despite the better quality, that '02 Malibu had so many things wrong with it…and it all started when the car got to (you guessed it) 75-80,000 miles. Included the dreaded 3100-V6 plastic head gasket issue, which nearly destroyed the engine. But beyond that, my dad's old '88 LeSabre was 15 years old when I sold it for his estate, 132,000 miles, barely rusted and still running fine.
    Durability has come a long way, for the most part. 10 years old and 100,000+ miles was something unthinkable 20 years ago. Nowadays, it's common. If a 10 year old musclecar is something you can afford, go for it! Enjoy something affordable. 🙂

  6. Greg Avatar

    A 2005 Benz E55 AMG is hard to argue with. Available for under $20k, will walk away from all cars on this page, pretty reliable, and you can fit 2 car seats in the back and luggage in the trunk.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      I still have a very hard time believing cost of ownership on those isn't several multiples of any of these.
      Parts are very well engineered, but my experience with Ze Germans is that they're much more expensive and have much more elaborate replacement procedures.
      I'm not saying an older AMG isn't a great ride…but it's definitely a different ownership experience.

  7. bluehillsmike Avatar

    I used this calculus buying my 2008 GT on New Years Eve 2009 in a WI snowstorm. Dealer let it go for $20k with $20K miles, already chipped, flowmasters and Hurst short shift—and adult owned, pristine, black on black. It's under cover waiting out another Wisconsin winter. Most newer GT's Ive seen on ebay are the adult owned and not beat cars (I'm 57–kinda). Kids can't afford a newer Stang. The '05 is now old enough to be in the thrashing catagory.

  8. EriktheAwful Avatar

    I've daily driven an '06 Mustang GT for six years now. I think it's the most inexpensive, reliable, and easiest to daily drive car of the bunch. You can fit four adults in it for short trips, it gets decent V8 gas mileage (25-28mpg on the highway). Parts are cheap because there are a ton of them out there. It autocrosses far better than a big V8 car should. To be honest, I lean towards Japanese imports, but I like my Mustang. I have 83K on it and I'll probably drive it past 200K.