I need help and advice towards my first Car (I'm 16)

Alright, I am looking at 3 different cars. I am not looking to be told "No, don't do this, do this.", I'm asking for suggestions.

Anywho, enough about that, what I came here to ask was what people thought about my 3 choices, I started with a ton of them, but but I narrowed it down to 3.

1. 1987 Pontic Firebird / Trans Am, 350 4 Barrel carbeurator V8 cyclinder big block. Automatic, T-Top, RWd. - $1,500.
Currently ON THE ROAD.

2. 1979 Dodge Aspen 280 Slant 6, Automatic RWD, 4 Door w/ vinyl White top. - Under $5,000

3. 2003 Chevrolet Impala, 250(?) V6 FWD 4 door W/ OnSTAR (Offline) - $0 (In Family, but It'll be more "borrow" than Owned)

I am not sure of the Kilometers on each, but the Impala is second hand, an elderly lady (or man :|) owned it before us, it was a non-smoker, and driven kindly. Can't be more than 100,00K(?)

The Aspen sort of has sentimental value, since it was my (step)father's show car when I lived out in the country, and as far as I know it was bought Brand new by him. But rumors are it's in a field, it's crushed, it's in a garage, it got moved to the states, it's engine blew up so it rotted away in a back yard, and it's in perfect condition driving around... So if it turns out it's not around anymore, it'll narrow down to just 2, and probably make me a little depressed...

The Firebird, I understand, will absolutely have insurance pimp slapping my wallet left, right and center. But I friggin' love it! I know the man who owns it, and come this summer, when my job is done, I am supposed to be making 2.2 thousand dollars. I turn 16 in September but the Trans Am is a PROJECT CAR. It is on the road, but it is needing body work, a new bumper / support for bumper and the T-top needs to be resealed, the upholstery redone, and it's getting a paint job. Plus it needs an HD rad, since the current owner pounds it a lot. Anywho, those are my choices.

The Impala is our first car, we are currently working on an old 1/2 ton Trash collection truck, which my father used to drive until he got a new one. It's a 2005 Silverado, is commonly hauled up to 2 Tons + in trash AND a large red 1/2 ton bin for collection. It has spots for air bag suspension, and has a small 4 cylinder Vortec, and despite being small, if it could carry 3 tons on it's back, and still spin up to highway speeds (Approx. 80 Kliks an hour) , imagine without it.

Thanks for reading, and don't leave a TL;DR, because if it was too long for you to pay attention to, your input is more or less valueless to me.

Thanks again people.
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  1. I would not get any of those cars. Reason being is that American and German cars tend to be a lot less reliable and more expensive to maintain than Japanese cars. Reason being is that japanese assembly lines crank out much more cars which allows issues and product lines to be virtually perfected in numbers.

    I think the save in maintenance you will get from buying a used corolla or something of that order will overcome the price discount of getting one of your three choices.


    Putting that aside...you need to get some maintenance records on these cars. If the car was not broken in correctly or well maintained, its only a matter of time before a chain reaction of problems can occur.

    I would check first and foremost of the piston rings are in good shape, if they are not, its a no go. You can check this by making sure there is NO oil leaks yet the oil level disappears drastically over time, it means your piston rings are pretty much gone, unless you have per say one of those engines with just two rings for less friction/more performance.

    It is just hard for me to say, because a lot of people out there "think" they know what they are doing, but really don't know jack about how to maintain, how to break in, or how to drive a car for reliability.

    On first glance...probably the Chevy, mainly due to ECU. Nobody uses carbs anymore and its very picky with gas such as octane and freshness, otherwise it will ping and destroy itself fairly quickly. Plus, its FWD meaning it will be a lot better in bad weather conditions as well as having some sort of stability control and will probably use less gas.
  2. The Firebird has a small block in it. It can be a fun car but will need a lot of work. With T-tops you will need to strengthen the frame if you want serious power. I think this would be the most fun out of the 3 cars listed. The 350 of the '87 were fuel injected if I remember with the 305 being carbed. Make sure to find out which it actually is. The 305 sucks and a 350 is great.
    The Aspen just say no to. Not a very good car and fairly boring to me. The sentimental aspect of it might wear out to you.
    The 2003 Impala myself i just don't really like. It can be a dependable car for sure and does have some pep but it's not really my style.
    As per what Blakchawk had said about carbs being unreliable is not true. SOME carbs, like most Holleys, can be really finicky. Others like the Edelbrock performers series, based off of the Carter design, are great. The Holley, especially the Demon line, would be the one for a strip/ weekend warrior car where the Edelbrock would be a good daily driver. I put a performer 650 with electric choke on my 350 in my impala and that thing started perfectly fine every time. I started that car -35 celcius easily and the block heater wasn't plugged in. It started the same in dry and high humidity envirnments. That carb is now in a '68 GMC half ton and my friend has not even had to touch it once. It's almost 7 years old and has not been touched.
    Also to check the rings take it to a shop and do a compression test. Oil usage doesn't always mean bad rings. Your PVC valve might be going which will send some oil in to your intake.
    I do agree with him on the thought of looking for something like a Corolla if you don't understand cars and just want something reliable. Me, I buy cars that I crave to drive so the Firebird would be my choice, it's just be a lot of work.
  3. Hey, I never said carbs are unreliable...I just said that carbs can destroy your engine if you put the wrong gas in where a good ECU can prevent that by adjusting air/fuel mixtures more accurately and adjusting timings to give optimal engine safety yet maximizing power/economy.
  4. I see what you're getting at with that and I do agree with you that most efi engines will handle bad fuel better than carbed engines. I've just heard lots of people complain about carbs because they don't understand them and think that just because their stock rochester messed up on them they're all crap. My bad for being a little sensitive on that subject. With any friend I know who wants to get in to wrenching I try to recommend something carbed. It's a good way for people to understand and play with fuel/air ratios. And come one, what's a better feeling than reaching under the hood of a muscle car and opening up the butterfly valves watching the engine rev up.
  5. ^This There is just such a learning curve if starting with a modern car. I tried to become a gearhead on my first car which was a 98 Acura RL. Aside from brakes and oil, there was really not much that I could do. So instead I got into detailing and paint correction :)
  6. I'd say drive the Impala. The W-body has been around for so long that there aren't too many issues with the car. The motor is probably the standard GM 3800 series V6 which is quite reliable and an old-but-solid push-rod design. Its not the best driver but it will be reliable when taken care of properly, plus it will cost you $0, save up the money until you can get something nicer.
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