Home » Unlikely Big City Beaters With Stickshifts: 2004 Ford Mustang vs 2008 Volkswagen Eos

Unlikely Big City Beaters With Stickshifts: 2004 Ford Mustang vs 2008 Volkswagen Eos

Sbsd 9 11 2023

Good morning, and welcome to another week of cheap cars! I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. The All-British Field Meet was a blast; I got sunburned, saw a ton of cool cars, and took a wild ride around the off-road course in an old beat-up Range Rover. This is a far less serious event than the Goodwood Revival, where Jason, Beau, and Adrian spent the weekend. How much less serious? Check out one of my favorites from the weekend, a Jaguar XK140 fixed-head coupé with a blotchy, runny, rattle-can paint job:

Jag Runny Paint

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Now that’s my kind of classic. I’ve posted a bunch more photos to our Discord server; if you haven’t joined yet, now is as good a time as any.

There was no poll on Friday, and very little consensus either, so I guess we’ll just get straight to the business at hand.

When you think of cities with a thriving car culture, New York City is not the first locale that comes to mind. Between the traffic, the lack of parking, and the terrible weather half of the year, New York sounds like a tough place to be a gearhead. But as much as “nobody walks in LA” isn’t strictly true, “nobody drives in New York” can’t be true either. If nobody drove, there would be plenty of parking, right? Stands to reason. So I wanted to see if I could find a couple of cheap, fun-to-drive rides for enthusiasts in the Big Apple. And wouldn’t you know it – the first two viable candidates I found were convertibles.


(Just a quick aside: It didn’t occur to me what today’s date was when I started looking for cars in New York City. I hope no one is upset by it. Just know that I would never exploit one of the worst days in American history for this silly little column. It was completely subconscious; I guess New York is on everyone’s mind to some extent on this date.)

Anyway, let’s check out some cars.

2004 Ford Mustang convertible – $2,200

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

Location: Brooklyn, NY


Odometer reading: 180,000 miles

Runs/drives? I assume so…?

If you’re looking for cheap and fun, no matter where you’re looking, you can do a lot worse than a stickshift Mustang. And right now, if you’re looking for a cheap Mustang, you’re going to find the “New Edge” style. This one has the basic 3.8 liter “Essex” V6, powering its good old-fashioned solid rear axle through a five-speed manual. Add in a convertible top, and you’ve got a recipe for cheap thrills, no matter where in the country you are.

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We don’t get a lot of information to go on in this ad. Actually, we don’t get any information to go on. Year, make, model, mileage, and the fact that it’s a one-owner car; that’s it. I’m assuming it runs and drives, because selling a non-running car without saying it’s a non-running car is a way to get a lot of people angry with you. And these are generally pretty reliable and durable cars – the Essex V6 had some head gasket issues, but mostly earlier ones. The rest of it is about a complex as a can opener.


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It looks pretty good too; just a few typical city blemishes, and no obvious signs of rust. The inside, with leather seats in place of the standard-issue cloth, looks great, but we all know photos can hide flaws. Also, all the photos show it with the top down – I assume it goes up, but maybe that’s a question you should ask. Leaving a convertible with the top down in any city is asking for trouble.

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The photos in this ad are all a little strange anyway; why is the car parked on the sidewalk? It’s keeping some cool company, though, from the whale-tail Porsche next to it to the old 6-Series BMW across the street.

2008 Volkswagen Eos – $1,950

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 2.0 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, six-speed manual, FWD

Location: Stamford, CT

Odometer reading: 119,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sounds like it

Moving a little ways outside of the city, we find this Volkswagen Eos, a two-door coupe with a retractable hardtop. Retractable roofs date all the way back to 1957, when Ford installed the option on its Skyliner convertibles, but the option saw a bit of a resurgence in the 2000s, with everyone from BMW to Chrysler offering a folding metal roof. Even Pontiac offered a retractable hardtop convertible version of its G6. And VW offered the Eos, a two-door based on the Golf/Jetta platform, with not only a retractable hardtop, but also a power sunroof.


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This Eos has VW’s 2.0 liter turbocharged four under the hood, and six forward gears in its manual transmission. It’s a promising combination, but we know what Volkswagens of this era are like. It’s bound to have some electrical gremlins, and in fact the ad for this one says “Convertible top may not operate.” Well, at least it’s up now. But it is disappointing that its best party trick might not always work.

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Otherwise, this ad is also maddeningly light on information. They do tell us it has new tires and brakes, and like the Mustang, it’s a one-owner car, and has a stack of service records going back to day one. It does look pretty good, except for a spot of rust on one front wheel well, and rust spots are like ants – you see one, you know there are more.

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I do have to point out one funny thing on its dash: the information center shows that the left front and right rear doors are ajar. On a two-door car. Oh, Volkswagen…

Cars in cities tend to get used and abused; there’s not much point in having something “fun” if driving is going to be a chore, and there’s even less point in having something nice if it’s just going to get banged up. And yet, here are two reasonably fun, reasonably nice stickshift convertibles, right in one of the most densely populated areas onf the country. It goes to show that enthusiasm for cars can’t completely be damped by unfavorable conditions. Gearheadedness is a permanent condition, and we must have the fun cars. Which one of these are you going for?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 months ago

Verdeck Systemfehler! Oh Eos, never change.

If we’re talking city cars, Eos all day. Hard top > soft top. Less shenanigans.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
7 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Especially when the hardtop doesn’t open.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
7 months ago

If it’s broken in the “up” and “closed” position, that’s a plus!

7 months ago

I’ll take the Mustang because I wanna pretend I’m in Midtown Madness.

Sergey Pan
Sergey Pan
7 months ago

there is also headlightless W126 (C126) coupe in the background parked on the same side as the BMW

7 months ago

The smart choice is the Mustang because it’s as simple as a rock, but then I
d have to look at the interior every minute, so I’d probably end up choosing the Eos and regretting it later. There probably isn’t much other rust. Rust in that spot happens because there’s a foam block behind the fender lip and above the wheel well liner that, if water gets to it, absorbs water and encourages rust.

7 months ago

Voted Eos. The Mustang is probably a better car in most objective ways, but I can’t stand the interior.

For me, that dark grey Ford plastic evokes the sweaty, coffee-drenched F-750 aerial-lift trucks of my previous career- The mismatched 90s-bubble steering wheel and Superduty dash a parable for the confusion and contradictions of my young adult life.

Bitter nostalgia aside, that Eos has enjoyed a gentle life- maintained by an upper middle class family, and their loyal service advisor. The collision shop behind the Mustang suggests treatment more in line with the Ferrari California from Ferris Bueller’s day off.

7 months ago

I gotta back Mark up on this: the game is which poison would you rather? A “nope” option completely misses the point.

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