Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! I trust you are all well on this fine Thursday morning. Today, I’ve got two cars guaranteed to provide weekend fun – after you spend a few weekends putting them right. But first, let’s see how our “P.O.S. Blowout” went yesterday:
Wow, that Nitro couldn’t even beat out a PowerShift Fiesta. That’s saying something. And yes, I’m perfectly aware that there were better options available in this particular used car sale. And if I were actually shopping for one, those would be my choice. But for entertainment value, I think I chose correctly.
Today’s choices are both from the post-malaise late 1980s and early 1990s, when horsepower started to creep back under hoods, and American automakers discovered that there was such a thing as “handling.” Even better, manual transmissions were still de rigeur for performance cars. Both of these cars have seen better days, it’s true, but either one could still provide some cheap thrills, if you’re willing to turn a wrench or two. Let’s check them out.
Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter dual overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Eugene, OR
Odometer reading: 45,000 miles
Runs/drives? Yes, but has been sitting, and power steering is out
Take one run-of-the-mill midsized sedan, add a high-revving engine from a company that knows a thing or two about the upper rev ranges, back it with a manual gearbox, cram it full of luxury options, and what do you get? Well, if you ask Ford, you get a BMW competitor. That might have been a bit of a stretch, but the first-generation Ford Taurus SHO was a hell of a car. Not a refined car, but it was fast (for the late ’80s), great-handling (for a Taurus), and flew so far under the radar it was practically invisible. Only a trained eye could spot the subtle differences between this and a rental-spec Taurus – until you opened the hood and saw this:
The SHO’s Yamaha-built four-cam V6, with its sinuous variable-length intake runners, is still an impressive sight today, even covered in dust and gunk from storage like this one. This engine puts out 220 horsepower, and redlines at 7,000 RPM. If you’ve never experienced one of these cars, you’re missing out. Plenty of cars are outright faster, or better handling, but the fun factor of a manual SHO is off the charts. It’s more exciting to drive than any Taurus has a right to be.
This SHO has very few miles on it, but it has been sitting for a long time, it sounds like. It runs and drives, but the power steering is kaput, and we all know how much needs to be done to a car after it comes out of long-term storage. Belts, hoses, tires, fuel, and all fluids will need to be changed. The paint and interior are also a little tired, but that just adds to the stealth factor. Refurbish it back to 100% mechanically, leave it scruffy, and go have some fun.
It’s too bad the original wheels are absent, though. And personally I’d prefer something other than refrigerator-white. But there weren’t too many SHOs to begin with, and a lot of them are gone now, so if you want one, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to color.
Engine/drivetrain: 5.0 liter overhead valve V8, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Silverton, OR
Odometer reading: 98,000 miles
Runs/drives? Runs great!
Yeah, yeah. I know. Go ahead; make the mullet jokes and the Dead Milkmen references. Get it all out of your system. I don’t care. I unabashedly love the third-generation Camaro. I’ve never owned one, but I’ve driven a couple, and I’m aware of all the faults and shortcomings. They rattle and squeak and they ride like ox-carts and build quality is only a suggestion. But they also handle better than you’d expect, and they make cool V8 noises – as long as you get one with a V8. And really, why wouldn’t you?
This Camaro has the least-powerful V8 available in 1989, a simple throttle-body fuel injected 305 making 170 horsepower. It’s mated to a five-speed manual, the enthusiast’s choice, but a bit rare for a Camaro. Automatics aren’t really a sin in these cars; they fit their “mash the gas and cackle maniacally” character, but the discerning F-body connoisseur demands a clutch pedal. This car is said to run and drive well.
That’s a good thing, because cosmetically, it needs some help. The seller says it’s “in the middle of restoration,” but to me it just looks worn-out. These cars are all cheap flimsy plastic inside anyway, and with the abuse they too often see, it doesn’t hold up. The seller says it comes with everything needed to fix it up, though.
Outside, it’s, well, an old Camaro. Spots of primer and Bondo are almost expected. The seller says the only real rust is in the rear hatch, and they’re including a replacement for that. With a little know-how, you could whip this thing into shape in no time. Or leave it looking as-is, and embrace the stereotypes.
Having a second “fun” car can take a lot of pressure off your daily driver. It’s hard to find one car that can get you to work reliably and economically, and also be fun to tinker with on the weekends. So why try? Get a second car. Make it something cheap, manual, and out-of-the-ordinary. Like one of these, for instance. Which one would find a home in your garage?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)