Home » Grading The Substitutes: My Takes On The Week’s Shitbox Showdown Choices

Grading The Substitutes: My Takes On The Week’s Shitbox Showdown Choices

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My high-school Honors English teacher, the late Gail Mitchell, once said that for any given situation there is a quote from a famous poem to fit. She hasn’t been wrong yet. I can only describe the last few days in the words of Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men / Gang aft a-gley.” Or, without the eighteenth-century Scottish brogue, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” And boy howdy, did my not terribly-well-laid-to-begin-with plans go awry this week. I’ll tell you all about it in another article, which I’ll work on over the weekend after I get back to Portland, but for now I just need to express my heartfelt thanks to my fellow writers here for rising to the occasion and covering for me.

Every time I need a sub, which is more often than I’d like, the chatter in Slack is about who “gets to” fill in, not who “has to.” Which is great; it means that I can take care of business when I need to, and you all get to see some different views on cheap cars.

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Vidframe Min Bottom

But it’s not as easy as it looks. Finding cars that are worth talking about, in the price range we usually deal with here, with ads that have enough information and photos to be useable, is sometimes a challenge. So for today, I thought it might be fun if I went through each of the week’s matchups and threw in my own two cents on the choices.

The Bishop – 1984 Lincoln Town Car vs 1977 Lincoln Mark V

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The Bishop is a man after my own heart, and a shootout between two designer-label Lincolns is right up my alley. Granted, I am absolutely not a label snob – the most common label on my clothes is probably Kirkland – but I can appreciate the finer things, even if I don’t seek them out. These old designer Lincolns are definitely among the finer things, built to a standard rather than a price (at least, more so than other Ford products at the time) and focused on comfort and presence above all else. They’re styled like bank buildings, and probably handle a lot like them as well (though I can’t say for sure; I’ve never driven a bank building), but they’re the closest thing you’re likely to find to a mobile isolation chamber.


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So which one would I choose? That’s a tough call. I’ve always loved the sheer fuck-you mass of the Mark III-V Continentals, but dusky pink isn’t really my color. And I can’t imagine the daily trials and tribulations associated with trying to find room to open doors that long on a nearly seven-foot-wide car. I’ll take the slightly downsized Town Car. It feels more manageable, and fuel injection is just the icing on the cake.

Thomas – 2001 BMW 740iL vs 2000 Jaguar XKR

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Our young Mr. Hundal came out swinging on Tuesday with a themed matchup – and it was a great theme. I mean, James Bond! He’s everyone’s favorite dapper cold-war throwback, cool even under the direst of circumstances, ready and willing to let us all vicariously live out every twelve-year-old schoolboy fantasy we ever had. He is also in possession of an endless supply of cool gadgets, most of which he doesn’t understand and misuses every time the plot requires him to do so – but by some miracle figures out at the last second. And the greatest of Bond’s gadgets have always had four wheels.

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Thomas included the fantastic BMW sedan from Tomorrow Never Dies, which came as no surprise, but then he threw in a curve ball by also grabbing the ice-racing Jag driven by the baddies in Die Another DayIt’s funny; as kids we all want to be the hero. We want to pretend to be Luke, not Darth Vader. But as we get older, some sympathy for the devil starts to creep in, and we can see the appeal in being the bad guy. Or at least the antihero.

Regardless of who’s driving them, this is a BMW from just before the styling went to shit, and a Jaguar from just after. If I’m going to put up with more British treachery, it’s going to be for something a lot more desirable than this. I’ll take the 7er.

Mercedes – 1999 Land Rover Discovery vs 2005 VW Touareg

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Cheap off-roading is one of our favorite pastimes around here. Between David’s many and varied Jeep exploits, and Matt’s hare-brained scheme to turn a suburban family hauler into a winter rally car, we all do seem to love getting dirty. I don’t get to drive fast on dirt as much as I’d like to, but once upon a time it was a favorite pastime of mine. Back then, it was just me in a VW Golf tearing it up on old logging roads. How I wish the Gambler 500 had existed back in 1992; things might have been very different. My pal and fellow Illinois native Mercedes Streeter is of course a veteran of many Gambler events, comfortable behind the wheel of everything from a Smart to a Ford Econoline (if I remember right) in such conditions. And of course, one of her favorites is the Volkswagen Touareg.

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I’ve heard a lot of good things about VW’s crossover punching above its weight when the pavement ends, and with my experiences in a Golf, you might think I would choose the Touareg. But the past seven years of All-British Field Meets have shown me one irrefutable fact: the Land Rover folks have more fun than anybody. The Land Rover club offers rides around the motocross track in the infield of Portland International Raceway, and last year my wife and I took a very  fun ride in a beat-to-shit early Range Rover and had a blast. I already wanted a Landie anyway, and that ride did nothing to lessen that urge. I’ll take tthe Disco.

The Bishop – 1982 Peugeot 505 vs 1980 Olds Toronado

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I have a certain nostalgia for diesel cars from the early ’80s. For four years, my parents owned a 1980 Volkswagen Dasher with a diesel engine, which displaced all of one and a half liters and made forty-eight horsepower. Nevertheless, it served my mom well as a commuter car while she was finishing up her Master’s degree, and we took at least two family vacations in it that I remember, one to New England and one to the Colorado Rockies. I know the slowness, the clatter, the smell, the odd looks you get at truck stops pulling up to the diesel island with all the semi trucks, and it’s all sort of comforting in a way.


But even I draw the line at Oldsmobile’s trouble-prone and fortunately short-lived 350 cubic inch diesel V8. I worked at a service station for four years in the 1990s, and saw hundreds of malaise-era GM products roll through the doors – and exactly one of them that I can remember was powered by this cast-iron nightmare. Most of them were swapped out or converted to gasoline decades ago. I do like this era of Toronado/Riviera, but only if they have spark plugs.


By contrast, Peugeot diesels older than this one are still used as taxicabs and workhorses in some very rough and impoverished parts of the world. I imagine typical American roads don’t even make this one breathe hard. And I always liked the style of the 505.

So that’s it, I guess. No sense in putting up a poll for these; you’ve already made your choices, and pitting these against each other is like comparing apples and oranges and bananas and starfruit. I’ll be back to business more or less as usual next week. We still have two more cross-country drives to make, but I won’t have to do those alone, so I should be able to keep up my Shitbox Showdown duties more easily then. Massive thank-yous to the Bishop and Thomas and Mercedes for lending a hand. See you all next week!

[Ed note: If you asked me to choose from apples, oranges, bananas, and starfruit, I’d have an opinion. So what the heck, let’s poll!]

(Image credits: sellers)

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67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
18 days ago

I find it hard to choose between a Peugeot 505 and a BMW 7 series, I see I am not alone either.
I finally went with the 7 series because I suppose I could always make the engine work and it sure would be nicer to drive.

18 days ago
Reply to  67 Oldsmobile

Exactly my logic here

18 days ago

I’ll take the Peugeot and convert it to run on bio-fuels and cruise down the road smelling like a Mickey-D.

18 days ago

Peugeot. My mechanic has a sense of adventure and is within walking distance, and I can give it the same ag diesel as my tractor.

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