Home » Chrysler New Yorker, Mercedes S-Class, Ford Courier, Saab 96 : Choose Your Shitbox Of The Week!

Chrysler New Yorker, Mercedes S-Class, Ford Courier, Saab 96 : Choose Your Shitbox Of The Week!

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It’s Friday! We made it! Time to pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and slack off for a few minutes at work while I recap the week’s winners. But before I can do that, let’s find out who that final winner from yesterday is:

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Kinda-sorta close, but Grandma wins it! Ice-cold Ensures all around to celebrate. Never underestimate the appeal of a good comfy place to sit. Lots of commenters felt somehow guilty or sullied voting for our cushy old Chrysler, but honestly, it’s all right. You can admit you have a soft side. Now hurry up, it’s almost 4:30, and we don’t want to be late for the early-bird dinner specials at Denny’s.

So, let’s recap, and as usual (inasmuch as we have a “usual” so far), I’ll give my opinions of the four winners.

1979 Ford Courier – $2,000

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I was surprised by this one, not so much that you all liked this Courier, but that you all seemed to dislike that Dodge Colt so much. It was the motorized seatbelts, wasn’t it? Yeah, I’m not fond of them either.

This little Ford-that’s-actually-a-Mazda isn’t a bad choice at all, with the exception of the gearbox issues. I bet you could find a decent replacement if it came down to it; Couriers and B2000s are scarce, but not impossible to find, at least around here. And I can definitely vouch for the rest of the truck. I owned an ’84 B2000 just about like this for a year or so, and it was a great plucky little companion during a pretty bleak time in my life. It did have one weird failure, though. (Do we have time for a quick story? I think we have time for a quick story.) When I first got it, I thought the fuel gauge didn’t work right, because when it read 1/3 full, it would sputter out and act like it was out of gas. I’d refill it, and it would run fine again, until it got down to 1/3. I finally decided to see if I could fix it, so I drained the tank, took out the pickup/sender, and discovered that the pickup tube was rusted off about three inches from the bottom of the tank. Gauge worked fine; it just couldn’t reach the last third of the fuel in the tank.

But my truck didn’t have the “artwork” on the headliner that this one does. I guess that was an option?

1970 Saab 96 – $1,495

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Freaking Saabs. They shouldn’t be so cool; everything about them is non-standard or done in some Bizarro World way, they’re not really performance cars, and the company’s whole history was one of going broke, getting bought out, being misunderstood by the new owners, and then repeating the cycle. And yet their appeal is undeniable.

This one I wouldn’t want as a project to try to make it “nice,” but I can see it with a stripped-out interior, a bunch of big round driving lights on the front, and a flat-black hood, ready to enter the Walter Mitty Rally and pretend like every road is some curvy tree-lined back road outside of Gothenburg.

1984 Mercedes-Benz 300SD – $2,500

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A Mercedes S-Class makes a statement. And the statement this one makes is “I was bought new by a mid-level movie studio contract lawyer on the day he made partner, but that was six owners ago, and now I’m just really tired.” It’s hard to imagine sometimes, when you see these cheap old cars for sale, that every one of them was once brand new, gleaming, flawless, and someone’s pride and joy. Most cars are used up long before they get as old or acquire as many miles as this one; it’s a testament to Mercedes’s engineering and build quality that this car is still game.

It would make a nice runabout, I imagine, but everything has an end, and as this old Benz nears its date with the junkyard, I expect a lot of little headaches for the last owner or two. It’ll go down fighting, but appointments will be missed, repairs will be attempted, oaths will be uttered, and ultimately that last tow truck will be called. But man, what a ride it will have been.

1990 Chrysler New Yorker – $2,200

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Back in the days of DriveTribe, what feels like a thousand years ago, I wrote a whole treatise on the joys of old-people cars. The comments were about as split as the comments yesterday between the “why on Earth would you want that, it’s boring” and “hell yes, look at those comfy seats” camps. Yeah, you’re right; this is not an exciting car. But not every car has to be, and those of us who understand that will happily sink into a soft split-bench seat, throw a mushy automatic into Drive, and just float serenely down the road. Canyon-carvers are great, but potholes exist, and there’s no reason you need to feel every single damn one of them on the way to work every day.

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I can tell you one thing: my next car will be something very much like this. Not this one; it is a tempting price, but I just dumped a bunch of money into my daily driver, and it seems silly to swap it for something else right now. but when the time does come, I’ll be looking for a grandma-mobile.

That will do it for the week. All that’s left for you to do is click one of those buttons below, and choose your favorite. I feel like I’ve been favoring American and European cars so far, so next week we’ll be turning Japanese (I really think so!) and focusing on cars from the Land of the Rising Sun. See you then!

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Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
2 years ago

Ugh, I don’t like any of these choices. The Benz, I guess.

Justin Short
Justin Short
2 years ago

Saab. Second choice is the New Yorker

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
2 years ago

I’m still mad the RX-8 didn’t win, but I will concede that a floaty grandma-mobile has a certain charm. I had an 88 Olds 88 for a while a few years back, and man was that thing fun

David Smith
David Smith
2 years ago

I went with the New Yorker. When it dies I’ll yank the seats out for the home theater I’ll never get around to making.

My vote just broke the tie with the Merc, I almost wish I didn’t vote just to see the tie remain.

Bryan McIntosh
Bryan McIntosh
2 years ago

Grab the New Yorker, drive it until it falls apart, and use the money you would have spent on something more expensive to buy a motorcycle or fast project car. And, if you come across one and have the skills/ambition, take a wrecked/rusted out Spirit or Shadow R/T and swap in the Turbo I drivetrain; it should fit fairly easily!

Raj S
Raj S
2 years ago

The courier was instantly ruled out because 1) I voted for the colt, 2) that was an easy vote, 3) I really don’t understand how the courier won, because the busted tranny will make it miserable to own without expensive repairs that will be more than the car is worth and take forever to find the parts for. And for what? A truck that you can buy with a better engine and without these problems for like $500-1000 more?

As for the Saab, too many unknowns. I don’t know what I’d be getting into, and can prob find a better starting point.

At the end the mileage on the Mercedes (yes I know it’s a diesel) and the worn out interior made me go for the K Car.

Gene1969
Gene1969
2 years ago

I chose the truck.
Won’t somebody please think of the truck?

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
2 years ago

The ultimate objective of a ‘shitbox’ is not a project. It is to be a cheap thing you can hop in, drive off, and only carry liability insurance on until it either throws a rod, rots out from under you, or accidentally becomes cool allowing you to unload at a meager profit.

Only one of these cars meets all of those requirements: the New Yorker.
It is the only shitbox on this list that runs and drives with no mechanical issues, is not ‘some assembly required,’ and you’re really not going to give a shit (beyond salvaging the driver’s couch) if it gets rear-ended by an M4 Sherman-sized pickup. (Added bonus, you’ll survive it!)

David Klein
David Klein
2 years ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Hear hear.

My grandparents had a 1990 New Yorker that they rolled just outside of Cereal, AB in the summer of 1990. Even in their 70’s, they both walked away with just some bruises. That thing was a tank. I think the only difference theirs had from the one in the article is the landau top – theirs was grey.

So, inasmuch as the Merc has some style, the New Yorker is the best of this bunch.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
2 years ago
Reply to  David Klein

One of my favorite pieces of trivia about Chrysler in the 80’s and 90’s is that not only were they the first to have airbags standard in cars, and the first to put them in trucks, while also leading the way in crash structures?
They were also the first airbag involved accident.
In 1990, a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron crossed the centerline and hit a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron head on, at a combined speed of over 70MPH. One of the drivers was not wearing their seat belt, the height of stupidity.

To give you some idea of how severe the accident truly was? One was a LeBaron Coupe, one was a LeBaron Convertible, with the top down. The coupe’s drivers door was torn completely off, the convertible’s driver’s door was crushed into the unibody on the horizontal axis and crushed on the vertical axis as well. All the seats were broken in both cars. The end of the hoods on each LeBaron was past the leading edge of the door.
It was that bad.

Both drivers walked away with nothing more than bruising and small scrapes.

Adam Atwell
Adam Atwell
2 years ago

Is it bad that all I really want is an early 2000s Cadillac Eldorado? Just something with grandpa miles on it that I can commute with when my back starts to act up.

Justin Short
Justin Short
2 years ago
Reply to  Adam Atwell

Totally OKAY!
I had an 88 Eldorado Biarritz
OMG what a Gramma car, so sweet!

Segador
Segador
2 years ago

The Mercedes is the only one that’s salvageable into something even remotely worthwhile.

AKA: it’s not the one for David.

Nopithyusername
Nopithyusername
2 years ago

hey, just to confuse the uninitiated, could the Friday poll be set up for ranked choice voting? Really, voting on these Friday shitboxes is a lot like voting for politicians: hold your nose and vote for the one you hate the least.

JohnTaurus
JohnTaurus
2 years ago

I’m not necessarily against big comfy cars, just some of them, including most any with a Pentastar anywhere on them (sorry MOPAR folks).
There are variations of the K I’d like to own, but not this one.

Give me an Olds or really a Pontiac Bonnie if we’re going 1990 FWD over any fluffed up K car. Nice 3800 V-6 and a more reliable transmission (the thing I remember about that era of FWD GM transaxle is the TCC solenoid, but it’s replaceable with the pan off, not requiring a removal, much less a rebuild).

A 1990 Continental is a basket of problems, from the electronics to the air suspension to the iffy transaxle to the head gasket blowing 3.8L engine. But I’ve seen them with well over 200K still loved by their owners (worked at a Lincoln-Mercury store in the early 00s). They rode nicer than most anything we’ve talked about so far, and actually, the steering wasn’t bad either (derived from the well-handling first generation Taurus as it was). This one old couple would repair anything that went wrong with theirs. They claimed they looked at most all new luxury cars, including Lincolns, and couldn’t find anything they liked more. Strange love.

Entwerfen
Entwerfen
2 years ago

Why is every initial image not loading on Autopian? (Mac Safari 15.4 and iOS Safari too) It’s also a miracle that my log-in held on long enough to comment. My log-in seems to drop off 9 times out of 10 by the time I get back to the article I wanted to comment on.

On topic, I prefer the Saab but had to vote for the Merc.

James Mitchell
James Mitchell
2 years ago

My dear parents bought an ’84 New Yorker as their 2nd car when I started to drive. While the seats were nice, that was absolutely the worst car I’ve ever driven. This one would be post fuel-injection, so it should be slightly more reliable and slightly less gutless. But no, the New Yorker can burn.

J Edgar
J Edgar
2 years ago

If the goal is a cheap daily driver that would get me to work every morning, I’m a little sad to say it would be the New Yorker. The seats would provide a uterine level of comfort and I bet you could find a Tony Robbins cassette or two in the glove box for an inspirational commute. A little Rhino Liner on the roof would be my first and only project.

Both the Saab and Mercedes would be fun projects, but for just a little more dough you can find better examples as starting points, and the Courier was out of the running because of the transmission.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 years ago

Mark: A suggestion for the Friday roundup, easy links to each previous debate on them?

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

My thought as well. Needed to refresh my memory on whether the Courier and Saab were manual trans or not and had to rely on the ads.

Raj S
Raj S
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Could you also just have a table at the end where you do that 5 pt breakdown of the cars? (Mileage, engine, location, does it run, and is it inhabited by raccoons)

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
2 years ago

My uncle has one of those Saabs with the 2 stroke. Really fun to cruise in! No torque for the appalacians though.

Dave Garland
Dave Garland
2 years ago

My family had one of those (they’re a little older than the contest one). With the freewheel clutch, it really had a distinctive sound, sorta like a chain saw. But if you saw a hill coming up, you’d floor it to have as much of a running start as possible, to avoid having to downshift to 2nd to make it to the top. Eventually it passed on to me, and died of a broken piston.

CatMan
CatMan
2 years ago

Very close between the Mercedes and the Chrysler, but since Sunday is Mother’s Day and my mother is also a grandmother – I voted for the grandma-mobile

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
2 years ago

The 3.3 is really not a bad engine at all, and with it the New Yorker might actually be able to get out of its own way. Unlike the Mitsu 3.0 my grandpa’s ’88 New Yorker had. Even our Grand Caravans with the 3.3 were no slouches.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
2 years ago
Reply to  Beasy Mist

It really, really can’t. 11 second 0-60. This is the 3.3 that isn’t significantly better than the 6G72 except it doesn’t piss oil, shit valve seals, and have the worst fucking timing belt service known to man.

But you won’t care, ensconced in the driver’s couch, because you know that it will eventually get there.

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
2 years ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

It has to be better than my aunt’s ’88 Dynasty with the 3.0 and the 3-speed transmission. I imagine the extra gear goes a long way. At least until the transmission fails.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
2 years ago
Reply to  Beasy Mist

I worked on these, still do on occasion. The 41TE doesn’t fail if it’s properly maintained. But too many dipshit ‘mechanics’ who couldn’t read would insist that if you changed the fluid, you lost the sparkly bits and that would break it. You know, because you’re supposed to have all the friction material in your fluid.
Fluid and filter every 35,000 miles on higher mileage examples. Fix leaks promptly. Bench overhaul (seals, friction materials) at 100k is typical, but 150k+ isn’t unheard of. If pump seal fails, bench rebuild with the Sonnax kit. Easily goes 200k before you’re looking at boring the accumulators. Assuming no TCM issues. (Those things, ugh.) And if you don’t know how to set shaft play to within thousandths, DON’T TAKE IT APART.

If they were half as bad as idiots insist they are, Chrysler wouldn’t still be using them.
Oh, yeah. The 41TE/A604? That turned into the 42LE, 40TE, 41AE, 4nTES, 42RLE, and 62TE. The 41TE itself was used with only tweaks from 1989 until 2010.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 years ago

It KILLS me to admit it, but the best choice of luxury, comfort, and actually running is probably the Chrysler New Yorker.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

I’m okay with that. I’ve been a Mopar/Jeep apologist for years now. By the way, I’m digging the flourish on your prose as of late. Good work, keep it up!

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
2 years ago

My grandpa had a brown one he named Clancy. He loved that thing. All I remember about it was that it would bark orders at you and the seats were incredibly comfortable.

Genewich
Genewich
2 years ago

I just can’t bring myself to vote for a K car, no matter how stretched or fancy. Courier all the way for me.

Rob Knapp
Rob Knapp
2 years ago
Reply to  Genewich

My first car was a Dynasty that had been my grandfathers church car and my dads “drive to the train station” car, K cars for life!!!!

Genewich
Genewich
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Knapp

I had two K cars (two different generations of LeBarons), but neither was as good as the M body of the prior gen New Yorker or the (identical) 5th Avenue.

Rob Knapp
Rob Knapp
2 years ago
Reply to  Genewich

Nostalgia is a helluva drug

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 years ago

Gimme a manual: “Ford” or Saab
Gimme something I won’t have to struggle to find parts: Ford

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
2 years ago
Reply to  Mr.Asa

This was covered in the Ford’s post – you literally cannot fix the transmission in the Ford. Parts for it cannot be obtained for love or money outside of common bearings. And it’s got a busted fork and probably roasted synchros.
The only way you’re getting reverse back is with a whole new drivetrain.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 years ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

And? Still easier to start with an existing manual than an auto.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
2 years ago

As much as I didn’t like voting against the New Yorker and the Saab, I had to go with the 300SD.

If the 300SD sold, then I would go to the New Yorker as a close second.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
2 years ago

Gimme that diesel Benz goodness, please. It’s a timeless design that will last a lifetime as long as you keep fixing it. I’ll give a tip o’ the hat to the New Yorker for making a surprisingly respectable luxury car out of the humble K platform. Iacocca hit that one out of the park.

Outofstep
Outofstep
2 years ago

I think if restored the Saab would be the prettiest machine of the bunch but the 300SD gets my vote because you can just leave it as is and run it until the wheels fall off.

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