Good morning! We’re back with a couple of clean ’80s cars that both need a little wrench-turning before they’re ready to roll. But we’ll get to those soon; first we need to finish up with Friday’s time capsules:
Easy win for the Dodge, as I knew it had to be. Even if the prices were more on par, that would be my choice. Economy hatchbacks with automatics are just sort of pathetic; economy convertibles with automatics are at least convertibles.
Both of Friday’s choices were ready to drive off, but for either of today’s cars, you’d need to call a tow truck to get them home. Once you get it there, crack open the toolbox, order up some parts, and be ready to devote a Saturday or two to it. Only then will you be ready for the barrage of “wow, haven’t seen one of those in a while” comments at car gatherings. Which one is worth the effort? Let’s take a look and see.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter overhead cam inline 4, three-speed automatic, FWD
Location: Gurnee, IL
Odometer reading: 86,000 miles
Runs/drives? Nope, turns over but won’t start
The Saab 900 is a car that challenges conventional wisdom about what a car should be, such as “Which direction should the engine face?” and “Where does the ignition key go?”. But for all their weirdness, there’s no denying that Saab’s way of doing things works, if you approach the car on its own terms. It’s just too bad there ultimately wasn’t a place in the market for such weirdness.
But even an oddball car like a Saab 900 requires the same things to run as any other car: air, fuel, compression, and spark. This 900 is currently lacking one of them, and the seller suspects fuel. It’s being sold by a dealership that seems to specialize in oddball project cars; if you’re feeling brave, check out another one of their listings that I decided not to use. Places like this often won’t spend much time getting to the bottom of a car’s problems; instead they just slap a price on the windshield and hope for the best.
Even in its non-running state, this Saab is a nice car. Its interior is spotless, and its russet-colored paint looks nice and shiny. With only 86,000 miles on the odometer, it’s about as close to a new 40-year-old Saab as you’re going to get. The automatic is a bit of a letdown. I don’t know how hard an automatic-to-manual swap is in these, but it might be worth looking into, especially if you know of a wrecked or rusty stickshift 900 somewhere.
Personally, I’d rather have a hatchback 900 than this sedan with a normal trunk, but it’s still a handsome car, in that gawky ’80s Saab sort of way.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD
Location: Charlotte, NC
Odometer reading: 167,000 miles
Runs/drives? Nope, blown head gasket
Mitsubishi’s charming, boxy little SUV was known as the Pajero in the rest of the world, named after a South American wildcat. Mitsubishi’s marketing department didn’t do their homework, however; “pajero” refers to something besides a cat in Spanish slang. In Spanish- or partly Spanish-speaking countries, therefore, this truck is known as the Montero. It was also briefly sold by Dodge dealerships in the US as the Raider.
Short-wheelbase two-door SUVs like this are almost gone from the US market, and that’s a shame. Yeah, I know, they roll over more easily, they aren’t safe in crashes, blah blah blah. They look so cool, though. And as our off-road-loving editor in chief will tell you, shorter vehicles have better angles. The Montero lacks one ingredient in the off-roading recipe – a solid front axle – but its off-road chops are hardly in question after a dozen Dakar wins.
Sadly, this particular Montero isn’t ready for off-road adventures. Or on-road ones, for that matter. Its 2.6 liter four has a blown head gasket, which will have to be replaced, and the underlying issue that caused it to fail will need to be addressed as well. Usually that means overheating, so the entire cooling system should be checked out. The seller says it was running well before the head gasket went, so with a little luck, repairs should be straightforward.
The rest of this little 4×4 looks solid, and these are already starting to gain some collector cred, so it’s worth doing the mechanical work to put this one back on the road.
With the prices of classic and collector cars climbing all the time, the thrifty way to get in on the fun is to find a car that needs some mechanical work, and be willing to do it yourself. Nobody wants to deal with rust repair, or upholstery, but the oily bits are relatively easy to deal with. So which of these are you willing to take on: the Swedish sedan with the fuel-delivery problem, or the Japanese SUV that lost its cool?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)