Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Time once again to get our hands dirty looking at a couple of cars that cost less than a week at an all-inclusive resort, but don’t include the watered-down drinks or karaoke night. It looks like young Thomas was having a little fun in here over the weekend. I don’t mind, of course, but he left a half-eaten container of poutine next to the keyboard. I’m not your maid, sonny boy; pick up after yourself. Dang kids.
This week was supposed to be all Japanese cars, but you know how it goes: If you’re not looking for something, you’ll find it everywhere, but as soon as you start searching, they vanish like the cockroaches in the kitchen of your first apartment. I found plenty of Camrys and Accords, but there’s only so much to be said about those. So today we’ll look at a couple of sporty Japanese numbers, and the rest of the week we’ll look at all the other cool stuff I found that I wasn’t actually looking for.
But before we get into those, there is the small matter of last week’s champion to settle.
Well, would you look at that? Despite the howls and protestations of so many commenters, the old K-car derivative has emerged victorious. A narrow win, but a win nonetheless. A few people have requested ranked voting for Fridays; I’ll see what I can do.
[Editor’s note: How the hell did a K-Car beat out a diesel Merc, a V-4 (!) Saab, and a sweet little stickshift Ford/Mazda truck? This makes no sense. Please help me understand. -DT].
Now, let’s take a look at today’s competitors:
Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter inline 4, 4 speed automatic, FWD
Location: Clearlake, CA
Odometer reading: 186,000 miles
Runs/drives? Yes indeed
Everybody knows someone who once had a Toyota Celica, but no one has ever had one themselves. I’m not sure how that works, exactly, but when the subject of the Celica comes up, which admittedly isn’t often, it’s always “my friend/roommate/girlfriend’s sister had one.” They’ve rarely raised the interest or pulse of most enthusiasts, with the exception of a few special versions like the turbocharged all-wheel-drive GT-Four (or All-Trac as it was known in the US). Most Celicas were more like this one: sporty-looking but not particularly sporty, stylish but forgettable — exactly the sort of car your friend’s roommate’s girlfriend’s sister would drive, I guess.
The convertible versions like this were made from coupes, modified by ASC in California — even the ones that were sold in Japan. This one hasn’t strayed too far from home, and unlike any other California car we’ve featured (as far as I can remember anyway), this one just passed a smog test and has fresh registration. It has lived a bit of a hard life, it looks like, and yes, that bungee cord is actually holding the trunk shut. A replacement latch might be hard to come by, but you can probably come up with something better than a bungee cord.
Inside, things look… dusty. A good vacuuming and some Armor-All would go a long way here. But the clean mechanical bill of health from the state of California is encouraging, and this looks like it would make a good reliable runabout if you wanted a convertible. It won’t set the world on fire – the 2.2 liter four and overdrive automatic used here could also be found in the contemporary Camry – but it’ll keep chugging along for a good long while yet. And hey – the top works.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.7 liter horizontally-opposed 6, 5 speed manual, AWD
Location: Denver, CO
Odometer reading: 159,500 miles
Runs/drives? Yes, but needs some work to be roadworthy
Before Subaru became the official station wagon manufacturer of farmer’s markets everywhere, the company built this doorstop-shaped sports coupe, starting in 1985. Dubbed the XT in the U.S. and the Alcyone in Japan, it was completely different from anything else Subaru sold at the time. Hell, it was completely different from anything anyone else sold at the time. Sleek, wedgey, and futuristic, it looked out of place next to Subaru’s sedans, hatchbacks, and wagons, which in the ’80s didn’t even have a model name in the US.
That high-tech futurism also showed in the mechanical specification, which included available four wheel drive activated by a push-button on the top of the pistol-grip manual sgearshift (Subaru wouldn’t make AWD standard across the board until the mid-1990s), a turbocharged engine, and an adjustable-height air suspension. By 1988, when this XT was made, it had gained two cylinders and permanent all-wheel-drive to become the XT6.
The seller claims to have spent a lot of money whipping this one back into shape, presumably after some years of neglect, but abandoned it after finding a newer Subaru. This fickle behavior has left the XT6 half-finished and looking for a new home. The power steering is out, which may be a problem because the XT6 uses an unusual electro-hydraulic power steering setup that is probably a nightmare to fix and requires special very expensive fluid from Subaru [Editor’s note: Toyota MR2s of the era also used an electrohydraulic power steering design. In fact, MR2 pumps are favorites amont folks converting cars to EVs. I wonder if you could retrofit it to work in this XT6 and safe a few bucks? -DT] . Luckily it’s not a very big or heavy car, so just work on your upper body strength and you’ll be fine.
The outside looks a little scruffy, but it’s such an unusual car that you could probably leave it as-is and still get admiring looks and comments from car folks. And that cool asymmetrical steering wheel and pistol-grip gearshift are sure to be conversation starters at Cars & Coffee. Every photo in the ad shows the pop-up headlights in the up position, leading me to wonder if they can in fact go down, but that can’t be too hard to fix.
So you’ve got your rare high-tech flying doorstop in need of some repair, or your sorority-girl-special safe bet convertible. The choice is yours.