Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, your daily dose of sketchy cars at bargain prices! Today’s search takes us to eastern Washington and western Idaho, for a pair of 4WD fixer-uppers. Before we get to those, let’s see who won yesterday’s basic beater battle:
Kinda close, but the Buick wins it by – I have to say it – a nose. A lot of you felt that Tercel was just getting too long in the tooth to make a good beater, and I’d have to agree. Toyotas may run “forever,” but as a little buddy of mine back in Minneapolis once put it, that’s a mighty long time. They start to feel used-up and nasty after a while, even if they still start every time you turn the key. Half the miles and ten years newer sounds a lot better to me, even if it needs a little fixing up.
Both of today’s contenders could use a little love as well. One was stolen and taken for a joyride, and the other has been relieved of most of its clutch lining. But both are still drivable, both are cheap enough to leave some money in the budget for repairs, and both are able to power all four wheels. Let’s see which one you’d rather have.
1992 Mazda B2600i 4×4 – $1,800
Engine/drivetrain: 2.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, part-time 4WD
Location: outside Post Falls, ID
Odometer reading: 216,000 miles
Runs/drives? Yep, but will need a clutch eventually
Most Mazda trucks are tied to Ford in some way or another. In the early ’70s, Mazda’s B-series trucks were rebadged by Ford as the Courier, before Ford developed their own Ranger compact. Then, in 1993, the Mazda trucks became rebadged Rangers. And many Ford trucks, big and small, left the factory with Mazda manual transmissions. But for a decade or so, Mazda’s small trucks were all-Mazda, built in Japan. This is one of the last of them.
This is a Mazda B2600i, powered by a fuel-injected 2.6 liter four built by Mazda. Earlier B2600 models (no “i”) used a carbureted engine, confusingly supplied by Mitsubishi. You don’t want one of those. You want this one. It’s backed by a five-speed manual and a selectable 4WD transfer case with a low range. The seller says it rus and drives, but it’s going to need brakes and a clutch before too long. How long? Well, that’s always the question, isn’t it? I nursed a Miata with a “bad” clutch for several thousand miles before it started slipping enough to be a problem. But sometimes they go pretty quickly, once they start to go.
Replacing a clutch in a 4×4 pickup is a chore: You have two driveshafts to disconnect, a transfer case to deal with, and in most cases (including this one), torsion bars for the front suspension that are inconveniently attached to the transmission crossmember. It all has to come out before you can take care of the clutch. The question, threfore, is: is the rest of the truck worth the hassle? In this case, I’m inclined to say yes. These Mazda trucks are tough, efficient, and quite nice to drive, as small trucks go. It’s beat-up but rust-free, and if you do the clutch yourself, it’s only a couple hundred bucks and a long dirty weekend.
I’m not crazy about the cheap eBay LED (or HID?) headlights, but I’d reserve judgment until I see the beam pattern. At least the tires and battery are new, so that saves you some money.
1993 Subaru Impreza – $2,000
Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter overhead cam horizontally-opposed 4, five-speed manual, AWD
Location: Spokane, WA
Odometer reading: 149,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does
Subaru’s Impreza, especially in its WRX form, has built a reputation as a serious performance car. It’s a rally champion many times over, a video star, and the choice of folks everywhere who want to go fast for not much money. But it didn’t start out that way. It started out like this: a humble little economy car with 115 horsepower to its name, and its signature all-wheel-drive system was still just a check-box on the option form.
It’s likely the thieves who took this little Subaru for a joyride didn’t know it was such a slowpoke. After all, it looks a little like a WRX, if you squint hard enough, I guess. They absconded with the radio before ditching the car, and “messed up the exterior.” I don’t know if that means the thieves are responsible for the rattle-can paint job, or if that was the seller’s attempt to make it presentable, but either way, it ain’t pretty. At least the upholstery is still intact, and clean-ish.
The seller does say it runs well, at least. The advantage of the smaller 1.8 liter engine in these early Imprezas is a better reputation for reliability than the later, larger Subaru flat-fours. They aren’t known for eating head gaskets, and they’re non-interference engines, so a timing belt failure is a tow and an annoying repair, not a catastrophe. You’d still be wise to change it right away, unless the seller can tell you when it was last done.
I’m guessing that’s a Bluetooth speaker sitting in the back seat, as a stopgap for the missing sound system. There’s no word on whether the weird berry-flavored Mountain Dew and Strawberry Crush are included in the sale. Might be a negotiation point, if you really like Strawberry Crush. (Someone must, right?)
Either one of these would need a little tinkering, but I think in both cases the bones are good. A beat-up little truck is always a useful thing to have around, and a cheap manual all-wheel-drive Subaru is a good start to rallycross fun, or a great winter beater. So which one will it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
Wow. This inflation is nuts. Two years ago, you wouldn’t have to choose. You could have picked them both up for a total of about $600.00.
But, that’s not how this game works…Not many redeeming qualities on either of these, but I’d have to go with the Mazda.
A ’90s Subaru that has made it this far will probably run until the apocalypse. I believe in survivorship bias and watched a beat-up old 2nd gen Legacy wagon fire up instantly and drive off in a big hurry in front of Sprouts today so I’ll buy into the myth of Subaru reliability.
My grandpa had a similar Mazda in blue with the manual and a sweet camper shell – your typical old man truck. I remember riding in the middle on a long trip, trying my best to dodge the shifter. That SUCKED. Great little truck, though.
With stuff this old and scruffy, I’m going truck 99% of the time. Even if it doesn’t look great, it is always useful. It is also way easier to convince people that it is your choice to drive it around that way. All of that, and my grandpa had a similar Mazda pickup way back when, so there’s the nostalgia.
The headlights on the Mazda did it for me, for some ridiculous reason it just makes it look happy 🙂
for a desperate person I’d say Subaru, but I want that silly Mazda!
As others have pointed out that these are both listed at about double their actual value. That said, since I’m spending Mark’s money, I’ve got to go Mazda.
I’ve done that clutch job along with my best friend (the owner of an identical ’93), on our backs with the truck on jackstands. The trans/TC come out as one unit, the clutch/PP are dirt cheap and $20.00 gets the flywheel surfaced.
The torsion bars are an hour total and as an added bonus you get to level your truck up.
The Subbie is transporting/storing Strawberry Crush, which disqualifies it from my ever owning it.
Man, as the owner of an Impreza Brighton Coupe I’m partial to the Subaru but the Mazda is the least bad choice here. That said, my car has the lasting power of a cockroach so as far as durability it would be a win.
Wow, a tough one, not really. I’m a strong Subaru defender, and irrationally love the GC, I guess because my GC wagon was such a trooper and got me through so many Minnesota winters without complaining. This GC however, I can pass on as it’s a 4 door and the 1.8 not the 2.2 and 2K is really strong number. The Mazda while maybe a little rougher has way more potential.