Welcome back! I hope everyone had a good weekend. I spent most of Saturday becoming better acquainted with a Nissan VQ35DE engine. I came, I saw, I conquered the valve cover leaks. This morning, we’re going to take a look at a couple of dented-up sedans, but before we do, let’s see how Friday’s Subaru competiton went down:
Another close race, but the old brown Brat squeaks by with a nineteen-vote win.
Before we continue, I want to give kudos to reader “OrigamiSensei” for coining a brilliant new term:
“Nastalgia (noun): Having fond feelings and memories for things that were not that great in reality.”
I think that’s a perfect descriptor for my feelings towards an awful lot of old cars, and maybe some movies and music as well, and I intend to start using it, so I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.
Now then: Today we have two rather rectilinear sedans, with around half a million miles between them. Both still run fine, but both are a little worse for wear cosmetically. Which one is the better deal? Let’s take a look and find out.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Gladstone, OR
Odometer reading: 289,000 miles
Toyota’s first-generation Camry came out swinging, but it wasn’t until this second generation that it really came into its own. It was about the same size as its predecessor, but it felt bigger, fancier, more substantial. And car buyers loved it. These things were absolutely everywhere, and they continued to be so for a good fifteen or twenty years after the next generation took over. The old automotive nemesis, rust, took most of them off the road in the more wintry parts of the country, but here on the West Coast they stuck around, racking up miles.
This pale yellow-beige Camry is closing in on 300,000 miles, and the seller says it still runs fine. It’s a five-speed manual, which was not all that uncommon back when this car was built, but of course it isn’t even available now. I still think that, a century from now, the beginning of the end of the automobile will be recognized not as the last production V8, nor the inevitable closing of the doors of Morgan Motor Company (you know it will happen one day), but 2011, when Toyota dropped the manual transmission option from the basic four-cylinder Camry.
Inside, this car is showing its age. The driver’s seat is shot, and the carpet is stained and worn. And I can tell you, as a recent owner of a 270,000 mile Corolla, that while everything inside probably still works, it’s not anything you could call “nice.” The hard plastic is getting brittle, and the soft plastic will have a layer of grayish-brown grime on it that just won’t come off. The almost pristine back seat tells me that this car spent most of its life as a one-person commuter.
Outside, it may not be rusty, but it has a pretty good wrinkle in one fender. It looks like it lost a fight with a parking lot bollard. Still, it looks more respectable than a lot of $1500 cars. This won’t be a pleasant vehicle to own, nor a fun one to drive, but it probably still has some miles to give.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Tacoma, WA
Odometer reading: 205,000 miles (but may be more)
Runs/drives? Sure does
The Volvo 740 was meant to replace the 240, but the 240 wasn’t having it, and refused to go out of production. Instead, this somehow-even-boxier sedan and wagon moved upmarket, with fancier equipment and more power. Readers of automotive magazines back in the ’80s will remember Volvo’s wonderful ad campaign comparing the 740 Turbo Wagon to various sports cars.
This one isn’t a wagon, or a turbo. Under the hood of this 740 is a twin-cam version of Volvo’s famous “redblock” engine, which still makes it more sprightly than your average 240. It sends power to a basic but sturdy solid rear axle through a four-speed automatic. It’s all good solid stuff, with a reputation for longevity.
This old brick is not without its faults, however. The entire passenger side is banged up and scraped; it looks like the car side-swiped something. The seller also lists a number of electrical and mechanical items that need atttention, including the blower fan motor. I know this repair is notoriously difficult in the 240; I don’t know whether the 740 is any better. But I have heard Volvo devotees say that the blower motor is the first thing to check on a used 240; if it doesn’t work, they walk away. It’s that hard to get to.
They also say this car needs a new gauge cluster, which means the listed miles are suspect. Volvo odometers are not known for their reliability anyway; most of the time you can just assume the car’s mileage is “a hell of a lot” and leave it at that.
That’s what I’ve got for you on this fine mid-May Monday morning: two dinged-up old sedans with a ton of miles, but some life left in them, for nice reasonable prices. So you tell me – is your next beater coming from Japan, or Sweden?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)