Good morning! I’m back, after some slight technical difficulties last week. Our entire neighborhood was without internet service all Thursday afternoon and night, but of course folks still have to watch their cat videos, so the mobile network was jammed up, too. It took me ages to get a message through to Autopian HQ, but luckily my distress signal made it all the way down to Australia and was picked up by our good pal Laurence Rogers, who came through in a huge way. Thank you again, Laurence!
Today’s cars have nothing in common except that they’ve both been exactly where they are for a long time. Which one is a more likely candidate to revive? We’ll see in a minute. First, let’s see how Laurence’s Aussie choices went over:
Easy win for that Holden uuuuute. Personally, I’d rather have the Falcon; the extra length on the Commodore may be useful, but it looks goofy. Besides, as I mentioned in the comments, it would be fun to tell people you’re bringing a Ford Falcon to a car show, and then show up in that ridiculous thing.
I have one hard-and-fast rule when it comes to project cars of my own: they have to run and drive. This is partly practicality, because a flatbed tow truck can’t back up our steep and narrow driveway (found that out the hard way), but more importantly, because my wife wouldn’t stand for a non-running car sitting around. And that’s probably a good thing. My MG is currently breaking that rule – it’s taking up the entire garage, up on a QuickJack, while I replace the rear suspension bushings, repaint the wheels, and have new tires installed. But at least there’s a game plan; it’s not “I’ll get it running again eventually.” Our two choices today don’t seem to have such a plan, and I get the feeling they’re for sale under duress, because another member of the household is sick of looking at them. Here they are.
Engine/drivetrain: 361 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Hemet, CA
Odometer reading: 96,000 miles
Runs/drives? Probably not, but you can ask the spiders
First, let me just say that I think Chrysler missed an opportunity recently: They should have called the base-model six-cylinder 300 the Newport. Back when this car was built, Newport was the name of the entry-level Chrysler model, still fancier than a Dodge or Plymouth, but a lot simpler and cheaper than a New Yorker, Imperial, or 300. With all the nostalgia tied up in the LX/LD platform, the Newport nameplate would have fit right in. But nobody asked me, I guess.
There was no such thing as a six-cylinder Chrysler in 1964, of course; that was reserved for common Dodges and Plymouths. This Newport is powered by a 361 cubic inch V8 and a push-button operated Torqueflite automatic transmission. Both are simple, stout, well-built units, but judging by the number of spiderwebs under this hood, this engine hasn’t turned over in a long time. Could it be brought back? Probably, if you threw enough new soft parts at it. Would it be easier to just drop in a known running engine from something else? Undoubtedly. But some folks like a challenge.
It appears to have been dragged out of the weeds a little ways, anyway; I think this is an earlier photo, showing its original resting place, and the photo above is after they towed it out and aired up the tires. The body, thanks to that warm California sun, isn’t rusty except for some surface rust where the paint is gone. And surprisingly for a car left sitting out in the open like this, all the glass is intact. It’s not a bad-looking car, though personally I prefer either the earlier Virgil Exner craziness or the later fuselage-sided monoliths.
Somewhat worryingly, this is the only photo of the interior that we’re given. Is that because only the right rear door opens? Or because the rest of the inside is a complete horror show? Only one way to find out, I guess.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Burleson, TX
Odometer reading: 343,000 miles
Runs/drives? Ran when parked five years ago
I admit that I’m kind of jealous of people who can buy a new car and keep it for decades. I set out to do it once; I bought a brand-new base-model Mazda Protegé with the intention of keeping it forever, but circumstances changed, as they tend to do, and “forever” was actually only four years. The seller of this Isuzu Rodeo has held onto it eight times as long, racked up nearly 350,000 miles, and is finally letting it go after it has sat for five years with bad brakes.
This Rodeo is unusual in that it’s such a plain model; I’ve seen a few four-cylinder 2WD models before, but I had no idea they were available with a bench seat. It’s amazing how de-contented a “stripper” model actually was once upon a time: Not only were power windows and locks not part of the equation, but usually neither were air conditioning, intermittent windshield wipers, or even a radio. If carmakers today made such a plain no-options model, they’d sell a dozen of them to Luddites like me, who would almost immediately regret not springing for the fancier model.
One advantage of a car with one long-term owner is that every bit of its history is accounted for. Maybe not all of it is written down, or remembered, but there are no “I don’t know how the frame got tweaked; it was like that when I bought it” moments. This seller probably can’t tell you exactly how it acquired all of those 343,000 miles, but they can almost certainly tell you how it got that dent in the front, and they’re probably still embarrassed about it, or mad at someone else about it.
This truck was parked five years ago for a bad brake wheel cylinder, but it allegedly ran and drove just fine before that. Some work will be needed to wake it up, and then the entire brake system should probably be gone through. It also has a leaky exhaust manifold gasket that should be replaced.
Leaving a car sitting around in a non-running state isn’t something I would ever want to do, but I understand how it happens. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” after all, and an extra car is often low on the priority list. But I can also understand how a patient spouse can walk by a derelict car only so many times before enough becomes enough. I don’t know for a fact that that’s the case with either of these, but it sounds plausible. Which one would you drag home and revive?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)