Boxy Chevy Suburban, 3-Speed Auto Plymouth Neon, 5-Speed Manual Kia Rio, Old Benz: Vote For Shitbox Of The Week!

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Welcome back to another Friday edition of Shitbox Showdown! The Friday before a three-day weekend for most of us. I’m feeling good, and I got my Autopian T-shirt in the mail yesterday, so I can represent, yo. (I think the young people enjoy it when I “get down,” verbally. Don’t you?). [Editor’s Note: Nope. -DT]

We don’t really need to look at yesterday’s results to know which car won, but just to make it official:

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A couple of you wondered whether the Mercedes was legit, and not a scam. I have some doubts myself, but judging by the tone of the ad, I think it might be one of those rare instances when the seller really does not know what they have. So somebody go hurry up and snag it before they come to their senses.

So this week we learned two things: We collectively as a group have a hard time being sensible, and I can’t seem to stay away from red cars, as much as I claim to dislike them. (Actually, what I dislike is primary red, like 90% of NA Miatas were painted, including mine. These reds are much nicer.) We’ve put together an interesting four-car garage this time around. Let’s take another look at them.

1996 Chevy Suburban – $2,000

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I can’t believe this big beast hasn’t sold yet. The seller just marked it down to $1,700, so anybody who wanted it, go get it. Put that $300 you save towards the first day or two of gas for it.

The days of the big carryall may be coming to a close, especially if these fuel prices become the new normal. You’re certainly not going to want to commute in it. But as a weekend warrior, I think there’s still some life in the old girl. I don’t need it, but I do think it’s cool. I’ll put this one in second place for me.

2001 Plymouth Neon – $1,995

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The pride of Belvedere, Illinois is still up for sale as well, across the state line in Indiana. It’s another case of the sequel not being as good as the original, but it’s still a respectable little car. Too many Neons were treated as disposable and are now gone, but the ones that have survived just keep going, grinning like idiots at the world around them.

I think if I wanted another Neon, I’d look for one local to me, and insist on a manual. They’re not bad with an automatic, but every small car is better with three pedals, and you buy a Neon for the fun-to-drive factor, so why suck half the fun out of it with a torque converter? This car, as it sits, is last on my list, but only by a hair.

2008 Kia Rio – $2,200

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Apparently someone out there enjoys sweatin’ in the oldies, because our little non-air-conditioned Kia is gone daddy gone. It’s a decent price on a fairly reliable car in nice shape, so I’m not surprised it sold.

And really, its specification isn’t too far from the one and only new car I have ever bought: a 2002 Mazda Protege DX. It was bare-bones too, except for a “preferred option package” that included AC, a CD player, and something else minor that I’m forgetting. (When I bought it, there were two in that spec on the lot. One was white, and the other was… white. So I went with white.) And it’s just about the same spec as my current beater. So I understand the appeal of a no-frills car. But jeez, not even air conditioning? That’s hardcore. This is number three for me, only by virtue of having a clutch pedal.

1976 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL – $1,650

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Aaaaand… this one sold as well, in the time it took me to write about the other three. Big surprise. At least they were kind enough to leave it posted long enough for us to talk about it yesterday.

Someone got a screaming deal on this car, if it really was presented accurately. No rust, a bulletproof aluminum overhead-cam V8, and that bank-vault build quality, for under two grand? Shut up and take my money. This is number one of the four for me, and I expect it will take top spot in the voting as well.

And by the way, if whoever bought this car is reading this, please drop us a line. We’d love to know if it’s really as good as it looks.

So tune in next week for more crusty old clunkers. Don’t forget to vote!


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35 Responses

  1. While I think the Suburban is probably the most useful overall, I think the Mercedes is the best value. That Suburban is currently worth the most it will ever be worth, but if you kept that Merc in good shape, cared about it a little bit, it might be worth twice that in another few years. And it’ll keep running. I like cars a lot more than land beasts like the Suburban, but I couldn’t fault anyone for picking it

  2. Mark, the only new car I ever bought was a 2002 Protege. I, however, was smarter and got a silver Protege5. Waited weeks for the car with the right spec to be delivered from a dealer two states over, argued for days to get non-shiny alloys.

    Sold it two years later for like ten percent less than I paid for it, which was not the norm pre-COVID. My phone kept ringing for days afterwards. Could’ve gotten more but, you know, “divorce forces sale.”

  3. Well, yesterday I said I would take the Benz any day of the week. Pretty sure Friday is a day of the week, and pretty damn good one at that.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for the tanning competition with the girls from the hairdresser’s school.

    1. I went Kia as well. The only reason I’d buy any of these shit boxes is so my son (on his learners permit right now) has something to drive. Plus it has the right number of peddles. He can suffer through the no AC, it builds character.

  4. For actually daily use, it’s the Suburban all day long. My commute is very short, so I can deal with the gas prices. I wouldn’t mind having that stick Kia for a rallycross beater as well, but I voted for the ‘Burban.

  5. It looks like the voting results back me up.

    That Merc is sweet and so is the price. I hope the new owner enjoys it and lavishes upon it all the love it deserves.

    Next best value is the Suburban, especially at the reduced price of $1,700. Maybe we’re just starting to see the beginning of gas-related price erosion on our favorite dinosaurs.

    1. Half of Africa does not drive S-Class. Despite your colonial prejudice, there are not that many dictators there. /s

      Now W123 hand me downs, yeah maybe half of the drivers. Might be a toss up with Peugeot 504s.

  6. Voted for the Mercedes because there’s a nice car underneath it all, and it may have a chance of increasing in value with a bit of TLC. I’d be quite happy to own one (though I doubt I could afford to run it).

    Voting isn’t as cut and dry as I thought it would be though!

  7. I kinda *like* the Suburban, and the lowered price is certainly attractive, but I simply have no use for it, and the gas mileage is too prohibitive to have any irresponsible fun with it. The Mercedes looks swell, if you like that sort of thing, which I don’t, and it’s probably not fun to pass smog, and it doesn’t look particularly fun to drive (too nice to actually shitbox around in, too stodgy to hoon, too blah to impress, too Grandpa to get laid in). I kinda always wanted a Neon, but not without a stick. So… though I’m not actually tempted to get it, the Kia is my shitbox of choice, being actually too new and nice to be a real shitbox. I have a few aftermarket stereos lying around, and as for the lack of AC, I don’t really care that much. Before 2005 or so, almost none of my cars ever had working AC, and I lived.

  8. Mercedes for me. The Suburban is cool but I just don’t do enough towing/hauling/people carrying to justify owning one and I don’t think it’s cool enough for me to justify having it just to have.

  9. This is a legitimately tough one now.
    If you need to regularly haul 4 or more people, or move large things, then it’s definitely the Suburban. But as mentioned: gas mileage is single digits, and filling it up is going to cost you $200+ for that 42 gallon tank. If you have those specific needs, that Suburban is the hidden gem of the year.

    But if you need cheap reliable transportation? Neon. Hands down. Even if there’s hidden rust, as long as the K-frame’s sound (usually the last to go anyway,) it’s your perfect ‘basic but not too basic’ transportation. Fuel mileage isn’t phenomenal with the 40TE, but you’re still talking over 30MPG highway. And unlike the Kia, it has air conditioning and a factory radio. And even with the automatic it’s not an entirely miserable car. Especially not at $1995.

    1. For me, it was between the ‘burban and the Mecredes. In the end, I had to vote Suburban. They are about the most versatile car on the market. With the 2nd and 3rd rows folded down, you can haul 4×8 sheets of pywood in the back, you can haul 8 people and all their stuff for a trip, you can tow a boat, etc.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. Mark should update the price on the Suburban. It is in fact lowered to $1,700 given the price of steal right now that’s almost scrap value for that beast. That’s a fantastic deal in this market. If it were closer I’d be calling right now.

      2. As a fun ‘fuck it’ car? Absolutely the Benz. 110% in agreement there. And the scares about maintenance costs are overblown. Once you fix it right, it’ll stay fixed for another 40 years. It won’t be the cheapest, but a complete set of new MB Tex upholstery is a few clicks and $1500 away at Adsit. Complete replacement carpet, $1200. (That’s damn cheap, yes.) It needs a lot more spent than it costs, sure, but less than you’d think. Engine might be pricey if it needs internals, but not much worse than other marques.

        The Suburban’s utility certainly cannot be overstated. It hauls everything but ass. However, if you need to get just you and your groceries around regularly? It’s the last damn car anyone should pick. GM had to classify it as an SPV when new! 42 gallon fuel tank, 11MPG city claimed, and best case range of about 360 miles. It doesn’t need anything to go wrong to completely and utterly bankrupt you.

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