Midlife Crisis Cars

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

We're all familiar with the concept of the midlife crisis. It's a time when people try to recapture their youth and reintroduce a sense of fun into their daily diet. And no matter what age it hits you — 40, 50, 60 — it's accompanied by the feeling that "Life's short, so I might as well make the most of it!" For some people, the Midlife-C, as I've taken to calling it, manifests itself in a new haircut and wardrobe. For others, it's a different job or a renewed lust for travel and adventure. And yet still for others, it's all about The Car — fast, sexy and full of snazzy toys. Today, Dan Neil, LA Times Auto Critic and 2004 Pulitzer Prize Winner, talks to us about the cars that make it easier for mid-lifers to face that proverbial crisis. He'll also give us the skinny on the latest in automobile innovation,* debuting this weekend at the Detroit Auto Show. So tell us, what's your midlife crisis car?

* The Mazda Taiki, the Audi R8 V12 TDI and the Corvette ZR1 = muy delicioso!

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2001 SAAB 9^3 convertible. A cheap car to buy, tremendous performance, and a joy on a sunny day. If you keep up with the maintenance items it will run for many years. I drive mine year round. It has a great heater, as you would expect from a Swede.

Sent by Breezie from Colorado | 3:12 PM | 1-17-2008

That Audi R8, with the Turbo Diesel (Direct Injection) V12. Or maybe that E85 burning Ferrari.
Either one can use cheap fuel (canola oil or moonshine). If the Audi were ALSO a hybrid, watch out! I could go broke buying new tires.

Sent by Harold | 3:18 PM | 1-17-2008

I'll be 50 this fall. My mid-life crisis car will be a 32' recreational vehicle - either a Winnebago Outlook or one from Coachman. It's all about size, baby!

Sent by Jeff Greek | 3:20 PM | 1-17-2008

My midlife crisis hit at 40 and it is has become defined as bipolar disorder. I have been dealing with this terrible crisis for 10 years now.

Sent by Gerald | 3:45 PM | 1-17-2008

I bought two: a 1930 Ford Model A Convertible and a 1987 BMW M6 (on which my son is learning to drive)!!

Sent by Alan - Savannah , Georgia | 3:47 PM | 1-17-2008

Don't know if it was a "mid-life" crisis, but in a crisis point when I was about 40, I finally indulged myself by buying a 1960 Porsche 356 Roadster. This is the "bathtub Porsche", had only 90 horsepower, but is (to me) the iconic retro sports car. It only goes about 100mph, and I wouldn't consider driving it that fast, but it satisfied a desire of mine to buy a work of art that I could drive.

Sent by Steven M. | 3:48 PM | 1-17-2008

At 47 I picked up a 2006 Honda Insight, bright red. Love it, and it is fun

Sent by Kenneth Cote | 3:55 PM | 1-17-2008

Lotus Exige Cup Car

Sent by Tom Martinez | 3:57 PM | 1-17-2008

2002 Cadillac DeVille with heated seats.....My 'midlife' crisis car. Easy on the back, drives like a dream. We will NOT discuss the fuel, however it is easier on fuel on the highway than my old S-10 was.

Sent by joyce hiatt, Muncie, IN | 3:58 PM | 1-17-2008

My message to the over-privileged, overpaid and likely overstuffed narcissists who've voiced their fervent desire for a big truck as the cure for mid-life ills: Take a walk, not a drive. Or get on a bicycle. Don't take out your problems on fellow humans and the environment.

Sent by Jack | 3:58 PM | 1-17-2008

I've recently purchased a Mini Cooper S Convertible and it has given me a new identity! Young adults and teenagers are drawn to this car like flies to fly paper! This is not a "sporty car" but a "sports car" with performance numbers to back it up. The ergonomics and handling dynamics remind me of my MGB days except I'm not laying under the car every weekend. Mini has done an incredible job with this car! You're never too old to be young!

Sent by Gene Maliy | 4:11 PM | 1-17-2008

Long before midlife I have yearned for a cute roadster, and the older I get the more I want one. My 97 Honda Civic coupe was the more practical choice over a Miata (trunk was too small). My dream car would be a convertible with safety features (like the Volvo C70 with its rollover protection), extreme fuel economy (at least as good at the Prius), high reliability, and the looks of, say, the old BMW Z3 roadster (Z4 is too boxy). I'm hoping my Civic lasts a little longer until I get my student loans paid off--then I can afford to do a midlife splurge!--if something I want is on the market by then. But I suspect my next car will still be more practical than cute. If I had to buy today it would be a Prius, even though it's too big. If Honda made the Civic hybrid in a coupe and not just a sedan I'd consider that, but if I have to go to four doors might as well go with the slightly better fuel economy. Too bad the Insight was discontinued--not sporty but at least small and distinctive. The Honda fuel cell sounds interesting if it catches on. I suppose a more midlife crisis solution could be two cars: a practical one for the commute and something like an old MG for fun. BTW, all those SUVs and big cars on the road annoy me--if everyone drove reasonably-sized cars then us small car fans wouldn't have a safety issue! (I'm already gearing up for getting past midlife and being old and cranky.)

Sent by Nora | 4:20 PM | 1-17-2008

Great topic but I didn't hear an answer to my dilemma. I have had 2 Mazda MX5's, but gave in a couple of years ago and have been driving my practical, former winter-only sedan year-round. I lust after another MX5 (especially with the redesign!) but also want to ditch my unrealiable winter car - and I can't afford 2 new vehicles. Would love any suggestions for what car might approximate the pure joy of the MX5 with a little more practicality for Midwest winters and 4 passengers?

Sent by Cindi Keithley | 12:14 PM | 1-18-2008

The car I was looking for when I turned 50 this year doesn't exist. As a practical, ecologically minded women, I wanted something with good fuel economy, very sports-car looking, in reddish purple, and reliable. All the sports cars have powerful engines. Not even in California do we drive 200 miles per hour...who needs to drag all that power around? And all the sports cars are in either candy apple red, black or charcoal...come on guys! Red is not the only exciting color! I'm sure I'm not the only woman looking for such a car, and I can't help but feel that car makers need to get more older women on their design teams. Or at least poll us. We want STYLE and COLOR with our fuel economy and reliablity!

Sent by Pat | 12:49 PM | 1-18-2008

Is there an innoculation for this? So my spouse asks... "28 Diesel VW's is just too many!", but they were so cheap, I argue... $35.00 each at local abandoned vehicle auctions, and they get 50 mpg!! on free fryer grease! My bumper sticker claims, "50 mpg since 1976, where have you been?". Of course I could sell ALL my vw's and have less than $1,000 to go towards my 'dream' car... a 75 mpg, 4 passenger, performance diesel wagon with traveling range of 1000 miles. (for camping / traveling and hauling, just like they can buy in Europe!)
My midlife RV gets 26 MPG on bio-fuels (Sprinter, class B)

Sent by jan | 3:07 PM | 1-19-2008

People should get to drive whatever they want provided they can afford it. I all ready own my dream car, a 1969 chevrolet chevelle ss with the big block. I do not care how much gas it uses.

Sent by crawdaddy | 11:22 PM | 5-24-2008