Welcome back! Today is all about unfinished business as we look at a pair of project cars that were left behind when their owners passed away. But before we dig into the barn finds, let’s look at yesterday’s results:
Ok, yeah, that maybe wasn’t a fair fight. But I wanted to find a stickshift Aveo, and that was the first viable one I came across. Between these two exact cars, I think you all are right; the Aspire is the clear winner. If both were in equal condition? Flip a coin.
Now: as you may have read, my dad passed away a few months ago. My brother and I were at his house two weekends ago, sorting through his possessions, clearing out all the personal items to make way for an estate sale company to come in. And he had a lot of stuff that we have to sell. (No cars for sale; he only had one car, and I have it now.) The whole experience has made me think about the concept of personal possessions, what happens to them when we’re gone, and how to make sure we get to do what we want to do with the time we have left. Heavy thoughts for a Tuesday morning, I know; it’s just where my head is at these days.
In that spirit, today’s choices are unfinished projects being sold by estates. Both were stored inside, at least; both are complete; both are cheap. Which one makes you want to pick up where the previous owner left off?
Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: outside Escondido, CA
Odometer reading: unknown
Runs/drives? Um, no
The term “barn find” gets thrown around a lot these days, but this Fiat Spider, along with a dozen or more other cars in similar condition, appears to be the genuine article. According to the seller, none of these cars have seen the light of day in thirty years. Most of the desirable cars have been sold off, it looks like, leaving only this little red Fiat, a Nash Metropolitan, a Jag sedan, and most of a Sunbeam Alpine behind.
It’s in tough shape, as are the other cars. At least the seller hauled it out and washed the dust off so we can see what we’re dealing with. It has some rust, but I think Fiats of the ’70s came standard with that. The top fabric is long gone, and we don’t get a good look at the interior, but we can safely assume that’s trashed as well.
Under the hood is the legendary Fiat Lampredi twin-cam four, here in 1.8 liter form. Obviously its condition is impossible to assess from where we’re sitting, but if it isn’t seized, it can probably be brought back. This engine has a good ecosystem around it, so parts aren’t a problem.
I don’t know what led the original owner to stash these cars away, but I’m glad they’re getting a second chance at life. All of them will take patience and time, and some won’t make it, of course – lots of project cars don’t, and just end up moving from one resting place to another until they’re too far gone to save. But I hope someone does take this little Fiat in. It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas tree of a car, and all it takes is the right person to decide it’s not so bad after all.
[Editor’s Note: Anyone called dibs on that Squareback? – JT]
Engine/drivetrain: 425 cc air-cooled flat-twin, four-speed manual, FWD
Location: Bellingham, WA
Odometer reading: unknown
Runs/drives? No, but they claim it ran a few years ago
If you were to distill the automobile down to its essence, that essence might very well take the form of a Citroën 2CV. This little wonder put France back on wheels after World War II, and stayed in production for 42 years. It’s a tough, simple, economical little car, powered by a basic two-cylinder air-cooled engine officially rated at two taxable horsepower (hence 2CV, “deux cheveaux”) driving the front wheels, riding on a simple but brilliant suspension that gives it stable handling and astonishing rough-road capabilities.
This 2CV won’t be crossing any freshly-plowed fields carrying eggs any time soon. Instead, it has been resting in a garage in Washington State, hanging out with what looks like a Fiat 850 coupe. The seller says their father started restoring this car years ago, but only got as far as disassembly. It’s allegedly all there, and even includes a spare engine – 425 cubic centimeters in 1962, putting out a blistering 18 horsepower.
This 2CV is largely rust-free, they say, but the driver’s door has some rust in the bottom. 2CV bodies were made of very thin steel, so it’s not hard for the skin to rust through. Replacement panels are available; the 2CV has a huge following all over the world, and so replacement parts are just a matter of shipping costs. Of course, the doors are just flat panels, so you probably don’t even need to go that far; your local sheetmetal supplier can probably hook you up.
Two grand might seem like a lot for a pile of parts in a garage, but restored 2CVs command a pretty penny, so doing it yourself is the way to get one on a budget. This car is on my must-drive bucket list: the roly-poly suspension and the weird umbrella-handle shifter are things I just have to experience someday.
I know some of you hate it when I do project cars. Tomorrow I’ll mix it up and choose two nice intact runners again. For now, just imagine you’re looking for a restoration project, and you’ve narrowed it down to these two. Will it be the Fiat, or the Citroën?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)