Welcome back to Mercedes’ Marketplace Madness! As you all know, I have an affliction that involves drooling over and buying too many vehicles of all kinds. And for whatever reason, right now I can’t seem to get rid of anything that I buy. As an upshot, you get a peek into what kinds of vehicles that I like because I keep a list of ads on my computer.
This week, we have a wild engine swap, a lot of classics, Harley-Davidson’s only scooter, and a modern sport sedan from an unlikely brand. And a lot of them are actually pretty affordable!
I’ll warn you right away, some of these may be downright stupid or crappy cars. Some of them are questionably modified. Some of them may be suspiciously cheap. And some, unfortunately, may be a bit too expensive for many enthusiasts. But it’s ok to window shop! So let’s take a peek under the covers of my long list of the cars and motorcycles that I’ve been pining for lately.
1968 Jeepster Commando – $23,000
The Jeepster name dates back to just after World War II. Willys-Overland hit the market running, selling the Willys CJ, Pickup, and Wagon with impressive numbers. Hemmings notes that in 1948, Willys built 135,528 vehicles and made a $6.5 million profit. But the company saw even more room to grow. The original Jeepster, which owes its design to famed industrial designer Brooks Stevens, was more sporty and more like a car compared to the utilitarian machines the company was known for. And it was just rear-wheel-drive. The Jeepster didn’t last long, with production from 1948 to 1950.
The name would be revived in 1966 for the 1967 model year as Jeep’s answer to competition like the Ford Bronco and the International Harvester Scout. The company–then known as Kaiser Jeep after a merger with Kaiser Motors–brought the Jeepster name back. The new Jeepster Commando featured more modern styling, more features, and perhaps most importantly, the availability of four-wheel-drive.
Before you today is a Jeepster Commando with a hardtop roof. Under the hood is a Buick-sourced 225 Dauntless V6. That sends 160 HP to all four wheels. It’s described as being in good shape, aside from an apparently bad Bondo job on the hood. It’s $23,000 on Hemmings in Hamilton, Montana with 66,500 miles.
1994 Geo Tracker Buick Grand National Swap – $15,000
The Geo Tracker (later bestowed with a Chevy badge) a fantastic little off-roader built from a joint venture between General Motors of Canada and Suzuki. The SUVs came in a variety of styles, including a super compact two-door with removable tops. Today, what few ones that haven’t rusted away can sometimes be found ripping it up at your local off-road park like a street legal side-by-side.
Others seem to end up as donors for wild engine swaps. I’ve seen Volkswagen TDI-swapped Trackers, Trackers with tractor engines, Trackers with V8s, Trackers with modern Camaro V6 power, and recently, a Tracker with a 12A rotary.
I’ve found another one, and it might be even more of an unlikely pairing than the previous swaps. Under the hood of this Tracker is the 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 that was once bolted into a Buick Grand National. [Editor’s Note: (spit take) – JT] It’s not said how this pairing came to be, but I hope it’s because the donor Grand National was absolutely trashed.
Based on the engine bay, the engine here is likely from a Grand National no older than 1986. If so, you’re looking at a minimum of 235 HP, a great boost over the stock Tracker’s 100 HP output. The seller says that the engine is built, but doesn’t say that that entails. A second-generation Buick Regal came in at 200 inches long and weighed in at around 3,300 pounds depending on configuration. A tiny Tracker like this one drops about 58 inches in length and about a thousand pounds in weight. I imagine that this thing is a handful to drive; a handful of fun!
If this all sounds good, it’s waiting for you in Portsmouth, Virginia for $15,000 from Facebook Marketplace.
1962 Harley-Davidson Topper – $3,800
What you see before you is Harley-Davidson’s one and only foray into the scooter market. As the book, The Harley-Davidson Motor Company: An Official Eighty-Year History, writes, Harley-Davidson saw its sales slide in the mid-1950s. The company was still profitable, but it figured the best way forward was to expand its lineup. Harley concluded that the way to do that was to import bikes. In 1960, it purchased 50 percent of the motorcycle division of Italian aircraft manufacturer Aermacchi. The purchase injected the Motor Company’s lineup with small motorcycles. But the bar and shield wanted more, and saw opportunity in the rising popularity of scooters.
Under the steel and fiberglass body sits a 164cc two stroke. This engine is a development of the DKW-based 125cc that Harley received as WWII reparations. Unlike a typical scooter engine, this thing doesn’t have a fan to help cool itself. Instead, it gets whatever cooling it can from under the body. It made 9 horses and drove the rear wheel through a CVT. Top speed is around 45 mph.
American Motorcyclist magazine noted that Harley brass was concerned about how a little scoot would be received. But William H. Davidson was confident that the Topper would make the Motor Company a top name in scooters just like it was for cruisers. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that fewer than 3,000 were sold before Harley pulled the plug in 1965.
So this little guy is a cheap piece of motorcycling history. It’s an older restoration that appears to be holding up well. But it’ll need to be revived if you plan on riding it. This Topper can be had for $3,800 on Facebook Marketplace in Fremont, Michigan with 5,322 miles.
1947 Oldsmobile Series 68 – $18,000
Launched in 1938, the Series 60 was a full size line populating the entry-level of Oldsmobile. One major feature of these cars is their wide bodies. The deletion of running boards and moving the transmission shifter to the column meant that three could now sit on the vehicle’s bench. Like many vehicles of this era, it was also available in a wide variety of body styles, including the fastback that you see today.
This Series 68 is noted to be an older restoration, and it appears to be holding up well. Under the sparkling blue paint is a redone cloth interior. I didn’t see any rips or tears and the seller says that you even get the original radio. The engine here should be a 257 straight eight making 115 HP.
It’s $18,000 on Facebook Marketplace in Hudson, Wisconsin with 100,000 miles.
1952 Hudson Wasp – $23,000
Speaking of Hudson, here’s another gorgeous classic. The Hudson Wasp was introduced for the 1952 model year as a development of the Pacemaker. It features a unitized construction that, like the NASCAR-dominating Hornet, allowed the Wasp to sit down low. These cars came with such luxuries like a wind-up clock, leather grain dashboard, and courtesy lamps.
This Wasp is powered by a 232 straight six pushing 112 HP to the rear wheels through a three-speed manual. It’s said to have been freshened up with new paint, a new interior, and a fresh engine. It’s $23,000 on Facebook Marketplace in Chino Valley, Arizona with 78,000 miles.
2005 Smart Fortwo CDI – $6,975
One of my favorite cars in my fleet is my 2006 Smart Fortwo CDI. These were never sold in the United States, but they were in Canada. These cars are a rare sight to see on this side of the border, so I always get excited when I see one for sale.
Smart officially launched in the United States in 2008. The car it brought over is the second-generation of the Smart Fortwo, a city car that does exactly as it says on the tin. Americans expected to be the second coming of the hyper-efficient Geo Metro, but things didn’t work like that. The Fortwo scored just 41 mpg highway in EPA testing. That made it the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid in America, but the requirement for 93 octane fuel and just two seats made that number less appealing. A Honda Fit still gets great fuel economy sipping on 87 with room for four for about the same price. And the Smart’s 70 HP engine, a 999cc three sourced from Mitsubishi, took 12 seconds to get the car to 60 mph.
Smart actually had a choice of engines to import to the United States. Europeans could buy a faster, but thirstier Brabus. Or they could get a slower, but thriftier diesel. Back when Smart USA existed, I asked representatives why it didn’t bring over the diesel, and was told that the company felt that the engine that we got was the best mix of speed and economy.
Thanks to Canada, you can buy the car that Mercedes and Smart refused to sell in the States. Smart’s operations in Canada began in 2004 with the first-generation Smart Fortwo CDI. Though these are city cars, Canadians loved the diesels so much that more than half of the country’s sales were outside of urban areas. And it’s easy to see why. My diesel scores 70 mpg around town and it’ll still do 55 mpg with the speedometer pegged at 80 mph. No hybrid will net you fuel economy like that. And even with the often higher price of diesel this is still cheaper to run than Sheryl’s Prius.
You’re probably waiting for a catch, and there sure is a big one. Under the trunk is a 799cc Mercedes-Benz OM660 inline-three turbodiesel. It makes 40 HP and stock, it’ll take you 20 seconds to reach 60 mph before going on to a top speed of 84 mph. This car is purely for wins at the pump, not for speed.
This Smart Fortwo CDI can be had from a seller in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania for $6,975 with 104,000 miles. This one is just $400 more than I paid for mine, and it appears to be in better shape. Be sure to ask if the seller has any importation paperwork.
1950 Chevrolet 3100 Panel Truck – $28,500
Launched in 1947, Chevrolet’s Advance-Design series of pickups were the automaker’s first truck design update after WWII. These trucks were marketed as bigger and stronger than their predecessor, and featured a then modern design. This wonderful brochure talked up the trucks’ optional feature that circulated outside air around the cabin, the cab’s high visibility, and even the trucks’ recirculating ball steering.
This Chevrolet 3100 is a panel truck, and features a mix of replaced and original parts. Power comes from a rebuilt 235 Stovebolt straight six. According to Chevrolet, the engine in this truck was originally equipped with a 216 Stovebolt called the Thriftmaster. This was good for 92 HP. It’s unclear where the 235 came from and what it’s making, but if it’s making stock power the numbers could be as low as 92 HP or as high as 155 if it came from a Corvette.
Either way, it’s a gorgeous panel van. The seller wants $28,500 from Hemmings in Milford, Iowa with 74,000 miles.
2012 Buick Regal GS – $13,999
When General Motors was tasked with giving the fourth-generation of the Buick Regal a successor, it took a peek in its international portfolio. Then GM Opel division in Rüsselsheim, Germany developed the Epsilon I, a platform that made the basis for everything from the Chevrolet Malibu to the Saturn Aura. The platform would get a sequel in 2008 and as reported by Automotive News, the successor to the Saturn Astra was supposed to ride on it.
However, Saturn itself would falter, leaving nowhere for the new car to go. The General chose Buick, and the new Regal was born. In another curious case of GM badge engineering, one of GM’s Epsilon II cars was sold under a ton of names. The Regal was also sold as the Chevrolet Vectra, Holden Insignia VXR, Opel Insignia, and Vauxhall Insignia. And yep, they all looked the same.
Wait! Don’t go just yet, because I think this car is still worth consideration. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter Ecotec LHU making 270 HP and 295 lb-ft torque. That gets connected to a manual here and it’s driving the front wheels. That equates to a zero to 60 mph sprint in 6.2 seconds. That’s complemented with a fully-independent suspension, Brembo brakes, and recorded 0.90 G forces on the skidpad. It’s no Grand National, sure, but it’s still a quick Buick. I also like how it’s fast without being shouty about it. These look like something that your grandma might drive.
This one is being sold by EchoPark Automotive Syracuse for $13,999 in Cicero, New York with 64,644 miles.
1976 Silver Streak Continental Supreme Luxury Liner – $20,000
As the folks of Tin Can Tourists note, Silver Streak trailers were originally the creation of the Curtis Wright Company. And before you ask, it is unrelated to Curtiss-Wright, the airplane manufacturer. As Airstream notes, immediately following WWII, Airstream founder Wally Byam teamed up with Curtis Wright to build an aluminum trailer. Byam already had experience in building the first Airstreams and used it to help create the first Curtis Wright trailers in 1946.
However, as Airstream notes, Curtis couldn’t keep financial promises, and in 1948 Byam went back to building Airstreams.
In 1949, the company was sold to investors who formed the Silver Streak Trailer Company. Production on the trailers continued until 1997 when the factory closed and the brand seemingly vanished.
So what you’re looking at here is an Airstream competitor. Tin Can Tourists notes that construction of a Silver Streak is different from an Airstream. The anodized aluminum shell was reportedly built on the frame before being filled out with its supporting structure, appliances, and other interior fittings. There is debate over which trailer is built better.
At any rate, what you’re getting here is 34 feet of vintage goodness. The interior has been remodeled and upfitted with modern appliances. You get all of the amenities that you’d want on the road like a full kitchen, air-conditioning, heat, plumbing, and even a doorbell. It even has features found on more modern rigs like an electric tongue jack.
Unfortunately, the seller notes a couple of unresolved water leaks and a bent axle, so those would need to be fixed before a long trip. It’s $20,000 on Facebook Marketplace in Mercer, Pennsylvania.
That’s it for this week, folks! As always, thank you so much for reading.