Home » Cheap And Functional, But Hideous: 1991 Dodge Dynasty vs 2001 Toyota Echo

Cheap And Functional, But Hideous: 1991 Dodge Dynasty vs 2001 Toyota Echo

Sbsd 2 6 2024
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Good morning! For the second (and at this rate, last) day of my Facebook Marketplace explorations, I’ve got a couple of cheap reliable beaters for you. Neither one will win any beauty pageants, but they should get you where you need to go.

Yesterday, we looked at two cars that would be a lot of fun… if they were properly drivable. It wasn’t a blowout of a vote, but a fair number of you would rather find an engine for the Trans Am than find a transmission for the Escort. Honestly, I have a feeling that the Escort’s shifting woes are an easy fix, and that someone with some knowledge, patience, and tenacity could get it going through all its gears in a weekend, and have themselves a fine little runabout for cheap.

Vidframe Min Top
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But I think I’m with you all on the Trans Am. I have wanted an F-body ever since I was a kid; the time has just never been right. And the third-gen with a stick is what I would want. It’s an easy car to work on, and replacement engines for it are cheap. Of course, I don’t own an engine hoist. (Yet.)

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All right. Let’s take a look at a couple of cheap running cars, before I get completely fed up with Facebook’s inexplicable algorithms and clunky search function and endless spam/scam ads and go back to my trusty Craigslist. Here they are.

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1991 Dodge Dynasty – $1,150

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter overhead cam inline 4, three-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 102,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

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Love it or hate it, you have to admire the versatility of Chrysler’s K platform. Park a Plymouth Voyager, a Chrysler LeBaron, and this car side-by-side, and while you’ll see the family resemblance, you’d never guess that half the mechanical parts were interchangeable. The C-platform Dynasty, along with the Chrysler New Yorker and Imperial, were as big as the K derivatives ever got, soft comfy sedans with nice traditional designs for buyers who were intimidated by Ford and GM’s modern soft shapes.

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You would expect a car this size to have a V6 under the hood, and most Dynastys did. But the bare-bones base model, most commonly seen in fleets, made do with the same 2.5 liter four cylinder as the much smaller Spirit/Acclaim and Shadow/Sundance models. Coupled to a tried-and-true Torqueflite transmission, it made for pokey acceleration, but easy maintenance and solid reliability. This one runs and drives just fine, and looks as though it has a new battery.

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Inside, the no-frills motif continues, with a split bench seat, crank windows, and simple controls. One of the complaints leveled at American cars of this era is that the interiors don’t hold up. This one does look a little grubby, but everything is intact. I think it’s mostly just dirty. It seems silly to think of detailing a car like this, but a good deep cleaning would make this interior a much nicer place to be.

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Outside, I think it’s probably beyond help. The clearcoat is toast, and that big scrape in the left front fender doesn’t help. It’s too bad, because this “Black Cherry” color used by Chrysler in the late ’80s/early ’90s was really pretty all polished up. I find it amusing that the seller mentions that they have a set of OEM hubcaps for it – sure, slap ’em on, why not?

2001 Toyota Echo – $900

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.5 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Portland, OR

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Odometer reading: 193,000 miles

Operational status: Your guess is as good as mine, actually…

I hesitated about featuring this car. It’s certainly cheap enough, and it fits the “ugly” part of the brief, but I have absolutely no idea whether or not it’s drivable. There is no text description in this listing whatsoever. I didn’t even know that was possible. I’m going to assume that it runs and drives, which may be foolish, but I can’t imagine anyone asking $900 for an Echo in this condition that doesn’t run. They’re not desirable cars, and this one is beat to hell, so it had better run.

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The Echo was Toyota’s replacement for the long-lived and much-loved Tercel. It wasn’t an exciting car, but the Tercel sold like hotcakes, and was the unofficial car of college campuses all across the country for a decade and a half. And yet, Toyota felt the need to create a movement to attract young buyers, something they called “Project Genesis,” which the Echo was part of. It didn’t work – the Echo was a flop in the US, possibly because we didn’t get the far more practical hatchback version that was available in Canada. Toyota should have known; Project Genesis didn’t work out too well for Spock, either.

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The US model Echo only came with a 1.5 liter four, with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. This one has the automatic. It doesn’t really matter; I’ve driven both manual and automatic Echoes and they’re both functional but forgettable. The Echo was the first small Toyota to place the instrument panel in the center of the dash, rather than in front of the driver – a trend that continued in various Scion models, as well as the Yaris. I suppose you’d get used to it, like anything else, but I never liked it, myself.

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Condition-wise, this car has definitely seen better days. It’s still under 200,000 miles, youngish for a cheap old Toyota, but they’ve clearly been hard miles. The hood is wrinkled up, the grille is missing, and so is the passenger side mirror. I would have assumed it didn’t come with one; plenty of economy cars didn’t, but there is a stump there. We can’t really tell what condition the interior is in, because the seats and steering wheel are hidden under aftermarket covers.

You might wonder why on Earth anyone would want a car as beat-up as these. Well, not too long ago, I had a job in a bad part of town, where I had to park on the street, and I specifically bought a $500 Toyota Corolla in about the same condition as these, just so I didn’t have to worry about my car. There’s something very freeing about driving a car that already looks this bad: Park it where you want. Bully your way into traffic; they’ll let you go first. And if something catastrophic goes wrong, you haven’t lost much. So which will it be – the slow-moving American tank, or the cure-for-insomnia Japanese compact?

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(Image credits: Facebook Marketplace sellers)

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Mocamino
Mocamino
2 months ago

I have a 2000 Echo. While the clear coat is coming off in sheets, it’s still running strong at 365k miles. It’s boring and uninspiring, but it just keeps running. If this white Echo runs and drives, it probably still has at least another 50k in it, another 100k if the oil was changed with any regularity. It should provide good basic transportation at a super low price of entry. And with the already-present body damage, if you have to street park it, who cares?

And as far as Spock and Project Genesis, I’d say it worked out really well for him. He made a noble sacrifice, saved his crew, and got reborn. Sure, sharing a brain with McCoy for a while was probably a pain, but he got out of it alive.

Last edited 2 months ago by Mocamino
Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
2 months ago

I’d probably buy the Echo, and take a plasma torch to the fenders. Then put some massive skinny tractor style tires on it. I’ve always wanted to try making a small, lightweight front-wheel drive off-roader out of an old Toyota. Looking at the wheel loading weights, I think it might work.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
2 months ago

When you’re looking at these two, emotions go out the window and it becomes strictly business. The Echo would get better MPG, cost less to maintain, and have better availability for parts at this point. Cut/dried.

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago
Reply to  Pneumatic Tool

True, but what’s the Venn diagram overlap of “people shopping these type of cars” and “people that make rational, emotion-free life choices”?

Last edited 2 months ago by D-dub
Needles Balloon
Needles Balloon
2 months ago
Reply to  D-dub

Quite high, since the buyer of these types of cars risks homelessness if they even breathe wrong. It’s the buyers of new Chevy Blazers who get excited by 23″ wheels who don’t make rational, emotion-free choices.

Fuzz
Fuzz
2 months ago

I’d be surprised if the Echo doesn’t drive, it’s got pictures in 2 different locations(interior look different) and is on a road. So the Echo clearly wins even if it has gone 10 rounds with various obstacles.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
2 months ago

The Echo is a better car than anything Chrysler could ever cough up.

I will give the Dynasty credit for having a 4-cylinder in a huge engine bay and looks easy to work on, but it’s still not as good as a Toyota.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago

The Echo looks like it does run, it’s out on the street. But it’s way too Rory Gilmore for me. I’ll take the Linda Evans discount-special.
Oh, and great TWOK reference.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

“Project Genesis didn’t work out too well for Spock, either.”

Didn’t he just kind of show up in the next movie like Kenny in Southpark?

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Spock was reborn because of Project Genesis! I think it worked out as well as it could for him.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

Just like Kenny!

Tbird
Tbird
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

“Project Genesis” resulted in the re-birth and accelerated aging of Spock after his death in “The Wrath of Kahn”. I’d say it turned out pretty well for him in the end.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tbird
EastbayLoc
EastbayLoc
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

After he died of radiation at the end of Khan, they had Star Trek III and the whole plot was to find him on the newly terraformed planet. Kind of sucked as a plot device for a whole movie.

Last edited 2 months ago by EastbayLoc
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  EastbayLoc

Aside from some cheesy fun on the search for whales the whole pre TNG ST movie franchise kinda sucked after wrath of Kahn. I did not care for the JJ Abrams stuff.

David Smith
David Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Too much LDS in the seventies.

It has it’s moments is what I’m saying.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  David Smith

Do you really mean Latter Day Saints or LySergic acid Diethylamide?

EastbayLoc
EastbayLoc
2 months ago
Reply to  David Smith

Ah, the Captain Kirk line from IV when they’re in SF. Had forgotten it.

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago

If the Echo runs then that’s the correct choice. In fact, even if it doesn’t run it’s still the correct choice.

LikesCars
LikesCars
2 months ago

My best friend in high school had her parents old Dynasty… it was beige and the “Dy” from the emblem had snapped off giving the car its fond nickname. Oh the memories and shenanigans that car led us to. Nostalgia vote for the nasty!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  LikesCars

That swings my vote! Its the nasty rolling discount bordello FTW!!

Last edited 2 months ago by Cheap Bastard
D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago
Reply to  LikesCars

“the emblem had snapped off”. That’s some passive phrasing for an obviously deliberate teenager modification.

Last edited 2 months ago by D-dub
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  D-dub

But what a modification!! Sure beats a Toyota Taco

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I prefer the classic “YO” tailgate myself.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  D-dub

A true classic.

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
2 months ago

In this condition, you have to go with the newer model – Echo wins provided it indeed runs.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago

Wow! Great job Mark! You found two (presumably) functional cars for less than $1200 each that are priced at least double what they are worth!

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago

The true value of that Dodge fluctuates depending on how much gas is in the tank.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  D-dub

And whether its top tier vs lawnmower grade gas.

EastbayLoc
EastbayLoc
2 months ago
Reply to  D-dub

And maybe if you have nice groceries? Although, would you want your food touching any part of that car?

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 months ago

That’s just naaaaaaassty!

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
2 months ago

The Echo is just too weird looking for me. They’re tall, narrow, and blobby. Any two of those characteristics is going to make a goofy looking car, but having all three? I’d rather drive a K car.

Tim Beamer
Tim Beamer
2 months ago

Ex-wife and I owned a ’90 Dynasty with the 2.5. It was a decent car for 2 kids out of college. Bought it used as a former insurance adjuster fleet car. Got t-boned by an ’89 Lincoln that blew a stop sign at 40+ MPH. Walked away from it with a dinged rib.

MEK
MEK
2 months ago

Thanks but I’ll walk.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago

So far 50/50 this may go the distance. I went for the I don’t give a frack Toyota because cheaper but I sold those dynasties and they were a slow comfortable screw it car.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
2 months ago

I’ll go with the Dodge. It looks surprisingly decent for a car that was meant to be bought in bulk and thrown out at the first sign of trouble. You could have a ball driving this slowly through ritzy neighborhoods and watching the property values on Zillow drop in real time. Don’t stick around though, because someone will definitely call the cops on you.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

Maybe not. They might just figure the help finally upgraded from the bus.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

That’s why you roll slow with the windows down, looking at every house with a knowing grin.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago

Spoken from experience no doubt.

David Smith
David Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

He regrets nothing, I assume.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  David Smith

What’s to regret?

EastbayLoc
EastbayLoc
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Is it really an upgrade though?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  EastbayLoc

Depends how far the stop is from work and how nasty the other passengers are.

Buzz
Buzz
2 months ago

Both would be great HooptieX cars. If I had to choose just one though, gimme the Die Nasty

Soso Tsundere
Soso Tsundere
2 months ago

When you need a car for someone who parks by feel…

Alternately, that Echo would be a decent escape plan car, no one would look twice at it or bother to steal it. Take off the brand and model logos and identifying an older model white sedan would be near impossible.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
2 months ago
Reply to  Soso Tsundere

I disagree the Echo is a generic looking car. I always thought it was rather distinctive, and not necessarily in a good way.

Also, I can’t help but think of the “identify this car” posts on The Autopian lately. If someone can identify a Dodge Avenger by headlight shards or a generic black SUV by a few blurry pictures, you would be SOL if an Autopian reader witnessed your escape in an Echo.

D-dub
D-dub
2 months ago
Reply to  Soso Tsundere

Both of these cars are guaranteed to get you pulled over every 50 miles or so, just to check you out.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  D-dub

For a litigious charlatan that might be a plus.

10001010
10001010
2 months ago
Reply to  Soso Tsundere

A lot of old Toyotas would make excellent escape cars. After Harvey totaled both our cars we ended up buying a friend of a friend’s 1st generation Toyota Highlander. You know how once you drive something you start seeing them everywhere? Highlanders are like cockroaches and dogshit, they’re absolutely everywhere! I kept telling my wife that if we ever rob a bank we had the perfect getaway vehicle. Simple run out the doors with the cash, jump in the silver Highlander, pull out of the parking lot and merge into traffic and simply vanish from sight like a mirage.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
2 months ago

Ugh, that Dynasty is depression on wheels.
Tiny Toyota for the win!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Driving that nasty would be like walking a ‘roided up pit bull with a spiked collar. Both just scream keep da FUCK away from me!!

Sometimes that’s exactly what is needed.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
2 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

That makes me think of a Ford Ranger I sometimes see on my way to work. It’s a mid 90’s model that has clearly lived a hard life. The owner has a sticker on the back that says “This truck means nothing to me”.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago

Yuck!

I’ll take the Dodge. At least I’ll be comfortable.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
2 months ago

It seems unlikely the Echo broke down in a spot that provided a decent background for photographs, so I am going to assume it runs and drives. Given that, the Toyota is the obvious choice. A 2000s Toyota will almost certainly be more reliable than any GM product designed in the ’80s. This particular Echo is in awful condition, but for $900 we can’t be too picky.

Last edited 2 months ago by Stig's Cousin
Nycbjr
Nycbjr
2 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

did you mean dodge?

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
2 months ago
Reply to  Nycbjr

Yes, I did mean Dodge (although the same could be said for GM and Ford products designed in the 80s as well).

Nycbjr
Nycbjr
2 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

absolutely!

Honda R 157
Honda R 157
2 months ago

There’s plenty of cross-model parts swapping possible with these. And while a person could use factory bits to make that Dynasty quite quick… you’re still dealing with a Dynasty. And FWD Mopar weirdos. I think the Echo would be easier to make into something decent for low cost. Driving dynamics probably favor the Echo platform as well.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

How much for a junkyard hood on the Toyota? Might be better off.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
2 months ago

I’ll take the decade newer Toyota reliability. Thnks

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