Home » A Salute To Stickshifts: Probe vs Civic vs C1500 vs Mini

A Salute To Stickshifts: Probe vs Civic vs C1500 vs Mini

Sbsd 3 29 2024
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Good morning! It’s Friday, and since we have four good-running cars as winners from this week, it’s time for a runoff. All these vehicles are manuals because that’s all I searched for this week. We’ve got two red hot hatches, one sleek black coupe, and a really ugly truck. No tricks or weird scenarios this time; all you have to do is choose your favorite.

Yesterday was another foregone conclusion, and I guessed that going in. The Jetta just isn’t interesting enough to warrant the extra attention it’s going to need because of that engine. Maybe if it were a GTI, this would have been a fairer fight, but I can only feature what I can find for sale, and I don’t always have a lot of time to shop.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

And for what it’s worth, the Mini would be my choice as well. I’ve wanted one ever since they came out, and I’ve been patiently waiting for prices to drop so I can get my chance. Though now, I don’t really have a place in my life for another car, even a small one like this. But if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that you can’t predict the future at all, so maybe I will still have a shot at a scruffy Mini Cooper one day.

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So now that we have our foursome, let’s review. You can use whatever criteria you like to determine the winner: best value, coolest-looking, fastest, best date car, whatever. Let’s review our choices.

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1989 Ford Probe LX – $4,500

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Ever since I found this near-twin to my old Ford Probe for sale, I keep remembering things about it: the weird little pinball-flipper turn signal lever, the trip computer that I used to set to “Instant MPG” to watch it peg at 99 MPG going down hills, the time I brought home a lawnmower in the rear hatch – a lawnmower I still have, actually. It was a good car. But I wouldn’t really want it back; there are too many cars I haven’t yet owned to want to go back.

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But I can vouch for the fact that this would make an awesome everyday classic for someone. The 2.2 liter Mazda engine has enough pull to keep up with traffic, the five-speed transmission has an excellent shift feel, and the seats and suspension are comfy enough to make long drives with ease.

1990 Honda Civic Si – $4,800

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The seller of this car describes it as a “unicorn,” and that’s not far off. A stock fourth-generation Honda Civic Si, in this day and age, with under 100,000 miles? It’s absolutely unheard of. I mean, it’s not perfect; the paint is pretty well shot, and the driver’s seat needs a little attention, but as it sits, it’s a good “driver quality” example of a car that will be a sought-after classic before much longer.

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And a car like this should be driven, and driven hard. Too often cars of this era appear on Bring A Trailer and similar auction sites, with practically no miles on them, and not much chance of ever accumulating more. You don’t pay to have someone cook you a gourmet meal and then lock it away somewhere to spoil, do you? Hell no. You savor every bite, and when it’s gone, you’re richer for having enjoyed it. Cars should be no different.

1990 Chevrolet C1500 Cheyenne – $2,600

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Now this one? This one has been driven. This poor old Chevy truck has seen some things. It’s dull, beat-up, tired, and just plain ugly. And yet, it still keeps on going, a testament to General Motors’s engineering prowess. Whatever other sins the mighty juggernaut has committed, it knows how to build a truck. Like a rock, indeed.

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If these early GMT400 series trucks have a weak spot, it’s the interior. The half-moon instruments are cool, and the chunky four-spoke steering wheel feels good in your hands, but there isn’t much to recommend it apart from that. The radio is an odd size, the climate controls are a nightmare of tiny little buttons, and all the plastic tends to crumble like a vampire when exposed to sunlight. But you can always screw it back together with wood screws, like I’ve done to mine. It ain’t pretty, but it works.

2006 Mini Cooper S – $4,000

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This little roller skate is by far the newest, most powerful, and fastest car here. It’s also by far the most complex, and probably the least reliable. Is it a fair tradeoff? That’s something you’ll have to answer for yourself. It probably is the most fun to drive as well, with the possible exception of the Civic. I have yet to drive one of these new Minis, I’m embarrassed to admit; the opportunity has just never presented itself.

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From everything I’ve heard, this is the one to get, too: the latter couple of years of the first-generation Cooper S. It needs lots of care and feeding, but it’s generally a reliable car, or as reliable as a half-British, half-German, high-performance hatchback can be.

So there they are, the week’s winners, and as I said, I have no scenario to help you choose. You just have to vote for your favorite. You can even rank them in the comments if you want; I just don’t have the ability to set up a poll that way, so you’ll only be able to vote for one. (It’s not nearly as automated as you think, actually; you click on your choice, and a light flashes in Autopian Central Command, and poor Matt makes a tick mark on a chalkboard.)

Next week, we’ll be back with more crappy cars, and possibly a surprise for the site’s second anniversary on Monday. In the meantime, pick your favorite stickshift, and have a good weekend!

(Image credits: Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist sellers)

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ADDvanced
ADDvanced
11 days ago

Anyone who votes for anything other than the civic doesn’t know what they are talking about.

ClutchAbuse
ClutchAbuse
11 days ago

My first car ever in 1998 was a 1990 Probe GT in red. Goddamn I loved that thing. My mom had the non turbo Mazda 626 with the same 2.2 the LX has in this article. It was fine, not amazing but fine. The turbo version in the GT on the other hand was a rocket ship by the standards back then. It would keep up with just about anything if you wrung it’s neck (and oh boy did I redline the hell out of it). Super reliable, I only sold it so I could get a 4×4.

Very, very rarely I’ll still see one of these on the road and I immediately miss mine.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
12 days ago

Mark, I can tell you that between this manual Mini Cooper S and any stock Honda Civic Si of any year, the Mini is far more fun to drive. There’s no contest at all.

The Honda advantage is that they’re so easy and cheap to tune to a state where they’re even more fun to drive than a manual Mini Cooper S, and you get Honda reliability, too.

I would take the Mini, mainly because in today’s knucklehead 80mph+ traffic, I value the more modern chassis with more advanced airbags and safety features.

Mike F.
Mike F.
12 days ago

Don’t need a truck and there’s no way I could even get into the Probe with that interior, so it comes down to either the Mini or the Honda. It’s a tough choice, but I’m going Mini because at this point in my life, I can take style and fun over bombproof reliability.

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
13 days ago

My wife brought a Probe into our marriage. It was a base model and those seats sucked donkey balls. These redhead seats look very nice indeed. What did I miss.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
13 days ago

I voted Mini, mostly because I have driven this year Mini, and it was a really fun machine to drive. I’m not a fan of the center speedo, but I dig the “James Bond” switches in the console. As I recall, Mini included stickers with the owner’s manual with labels like “Ejection Seat” that you could stick next to the switches.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
13 days ago

Definitely that clean Civic…it’s the only one I voted for out of these anyway
I’ll list them too:
-Chevy just because I want a truck
-Ford even though it’s a Ford it’s like a Mazda and used to have a friend w/ a 90’s one
-Mini is last since I hate it and would sell to a junkyard or drive off a cliff ha ha

Last edited 13 days ago by Freelivin1327
SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
13 days ago

The Civic. Restore it and hold on to it for a while, it still has some upside in value even as you put some miles on it.

Clubwagon Chateau
Clubwagon Chateau
13 days ago

Civic SI, but that probe was a close second.

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