Fun In The Sun For Under $2000: 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse vs. 1983 Ford Mustang

Sbsd 6 1

Welcome back to another edition of Shitbox Showdown! It’s June 1st, which means that summer is right around the corner. (Okay, not right around the corner; it’s like ten blocks up, then turn right at the Del Taco. You can’t miss it.) So today, we’re going to take a look at a pair of highly questionable convertibles. But first let’s see who won our van battle:

Screen Shot 2022 05 31 At 5.10.41 Pm

Close one, but I’m calling it: the old Dodge is our winner. David’s right; this van has a good face, with those big round headlights. To me, it looks a little like the old retired guy who hangs out at the hardware store “helping” customers even though he doesn’t work there. (Not that I’m knocking that guy; quite the contrary, I hope to be him someday.)

Convertibles are sort of a love-them-or-hate-them vehicle. And that attitude can change from one drive to the next: sunny day (or better yet, warm clear evening), top down, good song on the radio? Heaven. Parking in a sketchy neighborhood and trying to decide whether or not to lock the doors, so some jackass doesn’t slice open the top just to find out there’s nothing in it worth stealing? Not as much fun.

Still, I am of the opinion that everyone should own a convertible at least once. It’s a unique form of motoring, and one well worth the effort, at least for a while. Are either of these two worth the effort? Well, let’s see.

2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder – $1,509

00j0j Dfvtv89uxe3z 0x20om 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter inline 4, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 125,000 miles

Runs/drives? Great, according to the seller

The third-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse, let’s be honest, let itself go. It’s not really a whole lot bigger or heavier than the previous generation, but it sure looks it. It also lost the turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive systems that were available previously. You could say it went from fast and furious to… well, fat and spurious.

00e0e Ffouc3j890rz 0lm0t2 1200x900

This example looks to have attempted to claw back some street cred by going everywhere, including off the beaten path. Either this car participated in a Gambler 500 event, or the owner is a big fan. (I’m assuming it’s the former.) That’s a lot to ask of a convertible made from a coupe, which are usually not the stiffest structures around, but I get the feeling the owner really loves and trusts this car, and just isn’t afraid to use it. A list of recent maintenance items in the ad is encouraging as well.

00r0r Lum5tikjqu0z 0x20om 1200x900

Beyond its mechanical condition, there is the question of aesthetics: I would guess that some potential owners would want to remove the giant decals and all those bumper stickers. Or maybe not; you could always make this your Gambler car, if you were so inclined.

00g0g Koaoyzfkus4z 0lm0t2 1200x900

Or you could clean it up, ignore the inevitable rattles that have developed in the dash, and road-trip it. It’s clearly up to long drives.

1983 Ford Mustang GLX Convertible – $1,900

00t0t Bmobpqkgik1z 0ci0t2 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 3.8 liter V6, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Santa Clarita, CA

Odometer reading: 35,800 miles

Runs/drives? Runs, might not be drivable as-is

“I want a Fox-body Mustang!” you say. Well, here you go. “No, not like that!”

I hear you. It’s a convertible, which is about as structurally rigid as a duffel bag. It’s an automatic, which, ew. And it has that wheezy carbureted Essex V6 under the hood. A far cry from the LX 5.0 5-speed notchbacks that everyone in my generation either had or wanted.

00o0o Ezg95sbcr9gz 0ci0t2 1200x900

Even worse, it’s an early 1980s Ford, and as much as they liked to say “Quality Is Job One,” really it was more like Job Seventeen, at least on Wednesday afternoons after a good lunch. Yes, the side trim is actually peeling off this car. It’s one of the things that makes me think the 35,000 miles is original. If it were 135,000, that trim would be long gone.

00i0i 45hmf4uei0nz 0ci0t2 1200x900

Which is a shame, because I like the looks of this era Mustang. And I bet the white seats were pretty sharp-looking, for a couple weeks in 1983. Mechanically, it could use a little help: the engine is said to run well, but the transmission, an old-school three-speed automatic, “needs work,” along with the brakes, but brakes are easy. The transmission could be nothing, or it could be a junkyard dive for a replacement.

00r0r 1ubl1rmf6bcz 0ci0t2 1200x900

At least the top looks intact. And you can actually see through the rear window.

And there you have them: a has-been sports car that has been shaken half to death on gravel roads, or a disheveled pony car that wasn’t really any great shakes to begin with. What’ll it be?



Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit

50 Responses

  1. Mitsubishi.

    There was nothing sadder than a guy driving a Mustang with those wheels. I believe Ford made the low model look drastically worse to shame people into buying the V8.

  2. Have you people not watched any of Mercedes Gambler 500 videos?!? I would never touch anything that has been that abused. Factor in that it is a convertible. That Eclipse is going to have the structural rigidity of Ted Cruz’s spine! No thanks!

    As someone else pointed out, one junkyard trip could go a long way to making the Stang presentable.

      1. The fact that they bought that plate and mounted it for the pictures speaks volumes about the seller. Not sure what it says about them as opposed to the usual opposable thumb covering up the plate. Maybe they care a little. That’s a good sign? Maybe they stick that plate on all their worn out heaps of scrap metal so I think exactly that? Oh bother…

  3. A nearly 40 year old car that still looks presentable is an example of horrible quality. Honestly, it looks better than many 5 year old Altimas you see.

  4. Mustang all day.

    Swap on an 85-86 nose if I can find one.

    Explorer 5.0 longblock, keeping the EFI, with a cam and valvespring swap.

    AOD trans with a Lentech valvebody.

    Subframe connectors.

    Roll bar.

    Maaco paint job.

    End result? Cheap, fun, street-legal (even in California if you install cats and keep the EGR and smog pump functional) convertible to cruise in that didn’t cost a whole hell of a lot with all of the costs added up.

  5. I’m a diehard Mustang guy, but gotta go with the Eclipse if only for the manual.

    Not to mention the safety element…if you’re going to drive an older, more dangerous car, it should have some cool elements that make up for the increased possibility of serious injury.

    Even if I had to spend $500 getting those stickers/decals professionally removed, still a better deal.

    1. No matter what you do to that Eclipse, it’s still going to look like something Pontiac rejected at the time, and smell like that dog that is pissing in the back seat in the photo.

      If there’s one sure way to get me to not even look at your car, take a pic of your dog in it. Especially if it was a minivan or other enclosed vehicle (SUV, wagon, etc). Not even gonna waste the trip over.

  6. Oof. These are not necessarily cars where you want to increase people’s ability to recognize you driving them to this extent.

    Still, the Mustang has the most potential as a project, and if the trans is already going, might as well delve into the possibilities.

  7. I’m really confused how so many have voted for that pile of flaming dogshit with a Ford badge.

    You can hop in the Eclipse, pop it in first and be on your way, while all the ‘stang stans have already aknowledged they’d have to visit a junkyard first, then spend countless work days and gobs of money to eventually end up with a pile of flaming dogshit that might actually drive somewhere. Slowly.

  8. I try to be pragmatic in these picks. If I can’t fix it, can I sell it? “Fox Body Mustang” is almost as magic as “Toyota.” Someone out there knows that he’s smarter than me and can fix it with pliers, duct tape, and a can of STP Oil Treatment.

  9. I went mustang. Even though it is a pretty undesirable version it’s easy enough to swap bits around to make it desirable. There’s potential to have something worth much more than you paid in the end. The mitsu is just eventual junkyard fodder.

  10. I kinda figured the Mustang would be a V6 automatic, the only way it would not win in an absolute landslide over that sticker album. I was briefly almost tempted to pick the Eclipse because of the stick shift, but… nah. I just don’t want to invest that much effort in removing the stickers. The Mustang is definitely the devil I know. In my life I’ve owned two Mustang IIs (one with this same engine and transmission, one with the 2.3L 4-banger), a ’78 Zephyr wagon Fox-body, a ’79 Fox-body Mustang, and my ’70 Cougar convertible. I do not like Fox-body Mustangs because I’ve always found them ugly as sin, but their aftermarket is deep and wide, and I can do whatever this car needs done in my sleep. It’s my kind of shitbox, and if I paint it a sufficiently dark color, its looks won’t offend me too much.

  11. The Mustang is at least the basis for something better (or maybe not, this one is the luxurious GLX trim!). The Mitsu you drive ’till it dies then throw away. An old convertible to me is a toy, a side project, so the Mustang has more upside.

  12. Congrats, I think you found two of the least desirable drop tops in the middle of drop top season.

    Eh… I guess the Eclipse? That Mustang might not be running until next summer, though it has a lot of potential as a project. A good day at the local salvage yard could have you going home with a much better power train for pennies on the dollar compared to a crate motor and transmission. If you want to feel the wind in your bald spot now though it has to be the Eclipse.

  13. Ugh, that mustang might be the only car I wouldn’t pick over an Eclipse that’s been through what that one’s obviously been through. I loathe that era’s design, and I don’t believe for a second it’s accumulated THAT much wear in just 35k miles… unless it’s been abused even worse than the Mitsubishi. It’s an auto, it’s in terrible shape. It’s the bare bones of a bottomless pit of sweat and blood and money that I’m not remotely interested in. I actually think the Eclipse is a great-looking car, aside from the stickers. And it already runs. I love a cheap little 5-speed, and this one’s apparently already proven itself to be about indestructible.

  14. “Convertibles are sort of a love-them-or-hate-them vehicle. And that attitude can change from one drive to the next” “Still, I am of the opinion that everyone should own a convertible at least once. It’s a unique form of motoring, and one well worth the effort, at least for a while. ”

    Yes, I agree with these statements. Especially if you can just have the convertible as non-primary vehicle. Top-up, my MG is a buzzy, noisy, claustrophobic experience. Top down is just great fun. I love driving it after the sun goes down too.

  15. This is a really tough one. That Eclipse has clearly been to hell and back, and probably on multiple journeys. But, if you’re going to abuse a car that much, you clearly had to do some maintenance on it to keep it running. Plus, manual.

    That Mustang looks like any shits given about it were so far in the past that the convertible top was only handy to keep the other occupants from getting doused in liberal amounts of Aqua Net sprayed by the owner on the way to the arcade. But, it’s the easier of the two to work on, the aftermarket is incredibly deep for a fox body, and if the crappy auto trans is on the way out, that would be a (probably expensive) opportunity to switch it out for a manual.

    Fun in the sun for the Mitsi, or loads of spanner work for the Mustang? I would pick the Mustang, not because it’s the sensible choice (we’re way past that here), but because it would be great to work on with the kids

  16. I don’t live in a country where the climate is conducive to your convertible ownership mantra. It’s more the kind of thing I could see myself renting while on holidays, perhaps.

    Neither of these cars grab me, so I selected the Mitsi. Those decals coming off would be job 1.

  17. So we have a car that has basically never been driven because it probably slipped in every gear from the factory and was the antithesis of fun to begin with. Which no amount of money can possibly not make a 1983 Ford, which is quite frankly, Ford’s absolute worst in every single regard.

    And on the other hand, we have a car that was pretty much guaranteed to have been sold to a 15 year old with 0/0/0 and sold at auction as a repo, was then driven into the ground so hard that it sold for $500 or less, and then was driven into the ground even harder.

    I’ll save my cash since I’ll have to walk anyways, thanks.

    1. To be fair, the Gambler 500 hasn’t had a $500 car requirement for a while and I know people who definitely don’t care about whether they used a cheap car, just so long as they have something that looks fun and interesting. And this was probably the only convertible in the field.

      That said, the Gambler 500 is a great way to trash a car. Anyone buying this better also be buying for the Gambler.

Leave a Reply