Good morning! Today on Shitbox Showdown, we’ve got two old American cars, both with their gearshifts on the floor. One moves back and forth and side-to-side, while the other one only moves back and forth. You can probably guess which is which, but we’ll get to them in a minute.
Yesterday’s Showdown wasn’t really fair. Of course nobody wants either of those; they’re both essentially functional scrap metal. The Ranger could still earn its keep for a while, I suppose, until the frame rot (which is almost certainly there) finally catches up to it, but that Subaru is a goner. But then again, some cars can manage to survive with terminal rust for a good long while, like the infamous Chicago Cutlass, recently photographed in person by Opposite Lock member Shop-Teacher. Could that crusty Subaru live on to one day be known as the “Madison Legacy”? Stranger things have happened…
Anyway, when faced with an impossible choice, you overwhelmingly picked the one that had already found a new home, and that’s probably the right call. Really, I just wanted to show them to you. It was sort of the Shitbox Showdown version of “look at this gross bug I found.”
Now then: For decades, the default location for the gearshift lever in American cars, be they manual or automatic, was on the right side of the steering column. A lot of cars had bench seats, and three seatbelts in front. You had to go up in trim level or options to find bucket seats and a center console with a floor-mounted gearshift. One of today’s cars is so equipped; the other, I suspect, has had its gearshift relocated to the floor, in front of a bench seat. (You can still fit three across in such a car, but certain gears can get a little awkward.) Both of them run, at least, and neither of them, you’ll be happy to hear, is rusted out. Let’s check them out.
Engine/drivetrain: 225 cubic inch overhead valve inline 6, three-speed (probably) manual, RWD
Location: Marana, AZ
Odometer reading: 182,000 miles
Runs/drives? So they say
This car should need no introduction to the Autopian faithful. I’ve featured a number of them over the past year and a half here, David drove one through his last winter in Michigan, and the legend that is Project Cactus, while it has a pickup bed and a mirror-image interior, is technically a Valiant. There’s a lot to like about Chrysler’s A-body: the venerable “Slant Six” engine, a simple but attractive bodystyle, and your choice of either a Torqueflite automatic or – as in this case – a good old manual gearbox. I don’t know whether this is a three-speed or a four-speed, but I’m guessing three, since it’s a basic four-door sedan.
This one has what looks like a Hurst shifter on the floor, which I don’t think came as standard equipment on a ’75 Valiant. It may or may not have originally had a column shifter; it’s hard to tell from the photos. The car runs and drives, according to the seller, but it looks like it has given up its battery somewhere along the line. Best bring one with if you plan to drive it home.
Outside, it looks like a typical Arizona car: faded, dull, but not rusty. At first I thought it was primer-gray, but looking more closely, I think it’s actually that robin’s egg blue that you see quite a lot on old Darts and Valiants. Fortunately, it doesn’t have a vinyl top; even in the desert, a Valiant would find a way to rust out under there.
Inside, things aren’t so great. The upholstery is toast, and the dashboard appears to be melted. (Hopefully it still has the radio.) The door panels look all right, so if you can find a dash top, and reupholster the front seat (which isn’t hard; I’ve done it on my truck), it might be presentable.
Engine/drivetrain: 400 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Odometer reading: 104,000 miles
Now we go from a powder-blue sedan to a great big Bird. Ford’s two-seat-sports-car-turned-personal-luxury-coupe was riding high in the ’70s, selling nearly a million examples over the three years of this generation. Believe it or not, this monster was downsized significantly from the ’76 model. It’s still huge, though, and still powered by a hulking 400 cubic inch engine putting out way less power than you’d expect.
It runs and drives, according to the ad, but that’s all the information we get. The mileage in the ad is listed as 34,000, but the odometer is shown in one photo and reads 04725. It probably has only gone around once, based on its condition, but you never know.
The inside looks pretty nice. The seller calls the upholstery “leather,” but I’m sure it’s actually just vinyl. The bucket seats and center console are uncommon; most Thunderbirds of this era I’ve seen have a split bench and the shifter on the column. The floor shifter looks a little weird in there, probably because it’s the same chrome T-handle seen in millions of Mustang IIs and Pintos. The driver’s side seat belt looks frayed and should probably be replaced – technically you’re supposed to replace them every 10-15 years anyway, but who does that?
It’s not the nicest 7th-generation T-Bird I’ve ever seen – that would be the one that belongs to my old high-school buddy Scott, who has owned his since 1989 and kept it flawless – but it’s not bad. The copper-colored paint is a bit faded, and the vinyl top looks a little sun-beaten, but it’s basically presentable. The photos in the ad show some kind of oversized aftermarket wheels, but the seller says the original wheels and wheel covers are included as well.
Both of these cars fall into that “not really worth restoring, but a fun project to tinker with” category. From the sounds of it, you could drive either one home. Fix ’em up as much or as little as you see fit, and drive them on the weekends. Who cares if they’re not all shiny and perfect? They’ve got character. Which one will it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)