I might be one negative elitist, but I've been around boats - motor and sail - all my life, and are also a sailing instructor in our club. Besides that I've worked on numerous boats, including rebuilding wooden boats, so while there's still much to learn, I'm able to spot an inferior vessel.
The M26 is undoubtedly in that category.
Economy? Right now and here, you could get a Folkboat with a small Honda outboard for 5k$ that is wellbuilt, and able to take you anywhere - this is a used boat, but in good condition, and will take care of you in way worse conditions than the M26. (This is the type of boat Blondie Hasler crossed the Atlantic in several times) Heck the 35 footer I own (1975 Contessa 35) was cheaper than a new M26 with a small outboard. Even cheaper than a one year old with a 9.9 HP motor is advertised at right now. These are European prices, but my guess is that the differences between the boats are the same?
So if a little knowledge is elitism, I'm an elitist.
Besides that, you seem like a really nice guy, and I'll buy you a beer anytime - honestly!
The only thing wrong with a MacGregor is the negative elitist attitudes that always bash it, just goes to show the mentality of some sailors.
We have a MacGregor yacht club here in the PNW with well over 30 boats in the membership, there are vastly more MacGregors here than that, but these are what our club has. We enjoy many activities, including Regattas, MacRendezvous and cruises along with pot luck dinners and great comraderie. I have never met an unsatisfied owner, everyone seems to really like their MacGregor myself included. They are one of the most popularly sold sailboats of their class for very good reasons, affordable, versatile, easy to maintain, and forgiving to the beginner. I see more MacGregor sailboats than any other brand in my neck of the woods. The owners are happy with them.