Home » Thinking Warm Thoughts: 2004 BMW 325Ci vs 1998 Ford Mustang Convertible

Thinking Warm Thoughts: 2004 BMW 325Ci vs 1998 Ford Mustang Convertible

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Good morning! Today we’re escaping from the winter cold and looking at a pair of drop-tops from sunny climates. But before we can do that, we should finish up with yesterday’s rally legends:

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And the Audi takes it. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who still appreciates these old Quattros. I love a good RX-7 too, but the Quattro would suit my purposes a lot better right now:


This was my drive home yesterday. It started snowing at around 4pm; this was taken at 4:45. It’s 10 PM as I write this, and we’re at a good 8 or 9 inches and counting. I’m taking the day off from my day job today, and so is damn near everyone else in Portland.


So because I was already sick and tired of winter before all this crap, today we’re going to look at a couple of convertibles, one from southern California, and one from Florida. It helps to think that it’s at least warm and sunny somewhere. So let’s think nice warm thoughts and take a look.

2004 BMW 325Ci – $3,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter dual overhead cam inline 6, five-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Encino, CA

Odometer reading: 197,000 miles


Runs/drives? Yep!

I can’t think of a car more suited to a particular environment than a BMW convertible in southern California. Good handling for the canyons and PCH, a little style and flair to fit in, a top that goes down to enjoy those warm nights, and in this case, and an automatic to give your left foot a rest on the 405. Their popularity makes for a good steady supply of used examples, including this one, down closer to our end of the market.

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But just because we’re on a budget doesn’t mean we can’t have a nice one. It just has a few more trips to Starbucks under its belt. This E46-chassis 325Ci has nearly 200,000 miles on it, but the seller says it runs perfectly. It’s a current daily driver, which shows they have confidence in it, and recently-renewed registration and a clean smog test back this up. The air conditioning works, and the top goes up and down just fine.

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So what’s not to like, besides the mileage? It’s a little banged up here and there, and I think it has been lowered a little – I don’t remember E46s sitting quite that low. The mileage is a benefit in one way; if the necessary maintenance and repairs common to these cars hadn’t been performed, it wouldn’t have made it this far. A 200,000 mile BMW at this age is probably a safer bet than a 100,000 mile one.

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The fact that it’s such a common car in SoCal is a benefit as well; no one is going to look twice at it. Every production assistant and sound engineer has one just like it. But that doesn’t make it any less pleasant to cruise around with the top down.

1998 Ford Mustang Convertible – $4,300

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.8 liter overhead valve V6, five-speed manual, RWD


Location: Pompano Beach, FL

Odometer reading: 201,000 miles

Runs/drives? Oh yeah.

If you have visited a sunny place any time in the past sixty years, and rented a convertible, there’s a good chance it was a Mustang. Ford’s pony car has offered a soft top option since the beginning, except for those bleak Mustang II years and the early Fox-body era, and they’ve been the go-to convertible for rental companies all along. This particular Mustang convertible, however, has something no rental Mustang has had in years: a clutch pedal.

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The SN95 Mustang’s base engine was an Essex 3.8 liter V6, finally cured of its head-gasket woes, and putting out a lazy 145 horsepower through a good old Borg Warner/Tremec T-5 five-speed manual. It wasn’t much, but it was a hell of a bump from the Fox body’s base four cylinder, and it made for a solid, durable drivetrain that was adept at racking up the miles. This Mustang is no exception: it’s sitting at 201,000 miles and counting.

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Not that you’d know it to look at it. This car looks better than a lot of Mustangs I’ve seen with a lot fewer miles. It has a new top, new tires, new brakes, and a new battery, and the seller says the air conditioning works, important for Florida.

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I would say that it’s priced a little high, but a convertible with a stick is kind of a rare combination on these, and this one is particularly nice. You could wish it were a GT with a V8, but really, this is fast enough for a nice cruiser, and both gas and insurance will be cheaper with the six.


So that’s what I have for you from snowy Portland: two shiny silver convertibles from warm places. Which one ya got?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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1 year ago

Beemer! Design looks better & good condition too (Yes, wish it was manual)

1 year ago

That Essex is an absolute turd. There is no joy to be gained rowing your own. It sounds like shit, doesn’t like to rev, and no power to speak of.

Matthew C
Matthew C
1 year ago

I like the BMW but mileage is the cars Achilles heel. The Mustang with the truck-like but unkillable Essex with the 5 Speed is the way to go. However the 5 speed in the Mustang that truly benefits from a short shift kit. Stock, those throws are long. Later SN95s V6 engines can get some more power with the Windstar intake and a proper dual exhaust.

Justin Short
Justin Short
1 year ago

Mustang, stick and close to home, also not bmw

1 year ago

Mustang all the way.
Why anybody would buy a rag with an automatic is completely beyond me.

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