The Dream Garage Game

I’m at 35,000 feet, no new podcasts, the wifi isn’t working, and I’ve already read the airline magazine. It’s time to go back to an old friend to keep me occupied, the “Dream Garage Game.”

The Dream Garage Game is something most auto enthusiasts have played by themselves, with friends at work, over drinks at a bar, or just about anywhere. Its beauty is that you can play by yourself, or with friends and the fun doesn’t diminish one bit. There’s also no “right” answer so you can have an infinite number of variations based on timing, mood, and imagination.

Most variants start with something like, “you have $100,000 to build a three-car collection?” The dollar amount and number of cars included in the game vary to a high degree and provide most of the challenge. Anyone can come up with a list of dream cars when given “money is no object” criteria. It’s far more fun to create constraints that force me to make difficult choices to get the most for my imaginary money.


While I played variations of this game as a child, my affinity didn’t truly blossom until I was training for my first half-marathon. It was during those grueling training miles in the Texas summer sun where I needed my mind to focus on pleasant things and not my burning lungs, weary legs and the sweat stinging my eyes. As I “ran” down the long roads into nowhere surrounding my neighborhood, I conjured up scenarios where I had the money to modify my car (scratch lottery wins, medium size jackpots, DB Cooper’s suitcases). I created parts lists in my mind so detailed that I was figuring out dyno numbers for each stage of modification, and the locations I would purchase parts from, or what shop would do the work.

But the list of things I would do to my car was exhausted quickly as my training progressed. I had to move on to bigger and more detailed mind dreams to keep myself running. That’s when I really started the “challenge,” what would I buy if I had $100,000 and room for only three cars. At first blush, this sounds easy, but if you’re really into cars, it can become very difficult, fast. Then, of course, there are the caveats; can I keep my current vehicle as one of the three, and if so, does its value count against the $100K? etc.

The parameters are up to you or your friend’s imagination and how cruel you want to be. For most people, $100K is an obscene sum of money, but in the car world, it doesn’t take much to blow past that figure. Hell, a base 911 starts just a smidge under that right now, add two or three options, and you’ve blown the whole budget on a single car (despite it being a fantastic choice).

The joy for me is trying to fit all my passions into the equation. To find something that will be fun for every situation. For me, that means a relatively luxurious daily driver (and maybe one that could tow one of the other cars to a track), and two fun sports cars. What cars I choose changes almost every time I play the game. Here’s an example.

Game On


Lately, I’m swimming in the deep end of the pool of Porsche, so I would gravitate to a 2008-2010 Cayenne S for the daily, and a 911 of 80’s G Body or 997 variant, which leaves me about $25K of theoretical money for the third car. While I love small, nimble cars, I also like brute force and power. So in this current garage scenario, I have to find a way to add a Corvette. For $25K, there is only one answer for me, a C5 Z06. I’ve owned this car before, and it’s one of the few past cars I wish I never had to get rid of. If I had a bit more cash, I would absolutely go for the C6 version, but you can get an astounding C5 Z06 for $25K all day long.


The problem with the above solution is that it is a bit limited, and I’ve owned two of the three cars in the past. Which means it’s time for some caveats; no cars I’ve already owned, including different trim levels of the same vehicle. Ouch, I just ruled out any Corvette or Cayenne; so its time to re-examine my picks. I need a daily driver that’s fun, sporty, and a lovely place to be. Let’s forget about having to tow a car to the track, so SUVs don’t have to be considered, we’re going for sedans or wagons. If I leave the 911 in the garage, which I am, that means I have about $50-55K to get two vehicles; what to do? The BMW M3 is a paragon of automotive obsession that I have never had the pleasure of owning, maybe this round of the game is an excellent time to get one. I can split the remaining budget many ways, spend most of it on the M3 and then just leave enough left for a Miata? Nope, can’t do that, I’ve already owned a Miata.

As with most thoroughbred cars, the best advice in the world is to buy the newest and best one you can afford, so I’m going with a budget of $35-40K to find an M3. That sum of money leaves me in the E46 era from 2000-2006, or the early years of the follow-on E90/92 generation from 2007-2013. The E46 is a car that is well known for its problem areas if not properly maintained, and at this point it’s age will mean that most models I find will need something, if not a whole lot of things. The follow-on generation is newer, bigger, and has one of the best V8s that didn’t originate in Detroit, but it is also not without its problems. At this price, a low mile garage queen is not in the imaginary budget.

Photo Courtesy of Carmax

The good news is I have a solution for this game, an E90/92 (sedan/coupe) from Carmax, with their outstanding warranty. I always peruse the Carmax site (among others) for cars I like. Not that I am in the market, but just to know how the market looks. I know I can always find an M3 for around $30-35K, leaving me $5K for Carmax’s fantastic warranty, which should be plenty. Many people will scoff at buying an extended or after-market warranty for a car, it is not always the correct decision. But for this particular car, I will happily spend that money, knowing that it will likely pay for itself if I own the car for 3 or more years.

For the Win

Now that I have the 911 and an M3, it’s time to round out my theoretical enthusiast garage. With $15K left, and no Miatas allowed, you may think I’ve boxed myself into a corner, but you’d be wrong. I have the lux daily driver, back-road, track day and autocross covered with the Germans, now it’s time for something a little different. Time for me to find the auto journalist special, a Ford Fiesta ST. For $15K, there are many, many options to choose from for this enthusiastic hot hatch. It’s an Econ-box to most, but those “in the know” understand that this little 5-door with 197 HP and a manual transmission is an absolute blast to drive. There’s a reason professional auto journalists who routinely drive the newest supercar offerings like Matt Farah, Jonny Lieberman, and others have chosen to buy them as their daily cars.

The Fiesta ST fits into that fun category of “slow car fast” in that you can drive it flat out in many situations and not be concerned with being arrested. Try to wring out a Corvette or 911 to redline in the first three gears, and you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the law, less so in the Fiesta. The FiST (as it is known to its fanbase) is certainly not luxurious, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s small, practical and wildly entertaining, and for $15K, I’d be happy to have one parked next to an M3 and a 911.

Photo Courtesy of Carmax

This is just one example of how the game can be played, there are many, many more. Hopefully, my take on this has entertained you and maybe even spurred some ideas for your own version. Just remember, the most important rule is that you make the rules. Enjoy!

Author: Ryan Carignan

I am an automotive enthusiast, writer, and photographer; welcome to my blog!