Saying goodbye is never easy. It hurts. It’s a frame of mind that is backward-looking – one that looks far too closely at all of the energy that was expended and at the sorrow of a future that will never be. If you had asked me almost three years ago if I would be in a similar predicament to the one I found myself in during the spring of 2020, I’d have never believed it.
I’m still rescuing shitboxes. Granted, I still have my health, a little less youth, some far better wrenching skills, I still have the same house and I’m still writing about cars with David Tracy. Only now I work for him, and he has been the one lately unloading a cadre of vehicles from his abode so he could make some life changes. I still have many of the same cars as I did around three years ago as well. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.
It’s a good thing because I love them all, regardless of how poorly they treat me at times. It’s a bad thing because there is a constant drumbeat of other cool cheap cars that need rescuing showing up daily on my local searches. This is especially poignant due to the recent downturn in the used market. It’s also bad because I only have so much parking available.
Every year, more and more cars that were previously out of reach become economically feasible for each of us. That means that you’re facing a future where you’re continuously gauging whether that “newly affordable” F8 Green six-speed Dodge Challenger R/T you’ve been eyeing for the past six years is a better option than your current fleet of shitboxes.
Well, the day has arrived when I have resigned myself to selling one of my cars. And what better way to do it than to bring it to my homies here in Greater Autopia to help me decide?
Here’s the current list of pros and cons for each one. Please be gentle, these cars may not look like much, but “looking like much” may be vastly overrated.
1993 Dodge Stealth, base trim, 5-speed
This car has come a long way since we last read about it! It now has a shiny new MAACO paint job (I did all the bodywork myself, I just don’t have a paint booth) and is still running strong with 216,000 miles on the clock. That’s right: I drove this car 2,000 miles in three years. Mostly because it was sitting at the paint shop for most of COVID.
I found this car on the local (Wilmington, NC) Craigslist for $500 and was able to talk the seller down to $300. It had no 2nd gear at the time, a CEL, leaking valve covers, bad engine mounts, a beat-up interior, a bad window regulator, bad alignment/suspension components and paint that was Carolina sun-baked.
I ended up fixing all of the above—the replacement door panels are in my garage—along with a new LED 3rd brake light. I think I got one of the last ones on the internet. It’s slow and it has a ton of miles on it, but it has a five-speed manual and cold AC. These cars are very much going the way of the Spectacled Cormorant.
2005 Chrysler Crossfire Limited, 6sp
I got bitten by the Crossfire bug a couple of years ago and found the perfect (to me) version in Florida. Called out of work, rented a car, drove and picked it up that day for $3,500 (killer price). Sporty and fun with the six-speed manual trans and in probably the best shape of any car I have. It’s garage-kept and in great condition.
The issue with these cars is that there weren’t too many made and that Mercedes parts for them are going through the roof in price. In some cases, they are becoming really hard to find. For example, the SKREEM security units are not available from Chrysler dealerships any longer, nor via the aftermarket. If yours stops working, your car is a paperweight unless you ship your unit (along with your PCM and your key) to a small outfit on the West Coast to have them re-code it.
Keys are selling for $900. Used headlights are selling for $350. Windshield glass is becoming an expensive rarity. The next rock chip can spell certain doom. You can see where this is going for ownership of these cars.
Yes, the platform and running gear is all SLK320, but the body and interior have divorced parents that are estranged. There is very limited aftermarket support for this car and near zero dealership support/knowledge of them. With that said, values are slightly climbing and I’ve seen cars in worse shape than mine selling for $5,000.
This may be the last two-seater, manual transmission Chrysler, ever.
2002 Jaguar XK8
This is a weird one. The below pictures show what it looked like when I found it on Wilmington Craigslist for $300. Also, see my girlfriend’s facial expression regarding her thoughts on the matter.
“No wheels, didn’t run, cheap price” was the description. I got the guy down to $290, bought a junkyard set of wheels and tires and towed it home.
That’s when the “Jaguar ownership” side of the car started showing. “Valet Mode” was on and the car only came with a Valet Key. Valet Mode only allows the Valet Key to unlock the driver’s door and turn the ignition. The battery was dead and is located in the non-accessible-with-a-valet-key trunk.
Master Keys for the car are $1,200 at a dealership and the “tibbe” key type is not supported by most local locksmiths. That’s just one example of how seemingly needlessly, ridiculously, expensive parts can be for this car.
It took a ton of work to get the engine back to life also (see photo above). But hey, it’s now running, it’s British Racing Green with only 113,000 miles, and the AC works! I reupholstered some of the interior too.
Okay, honestly that’s about all the good there is here. It also leaks coolant, leaks oil, both seats are electronically fried in place (and require drilling to get the motors and seat frames out), the dash blower motor is shot which requires the entire dash to be removed, the top doesn’t work, there’s no radio, the headlights are leaking, the trunk is leaking, the rear shock bushings are completely gone, the paint is peeling…
I don’t want to give up on this thing after all the work I’ve done to it, but I feel like I could wrench on this car the rest of my life and still never get it right.
1994 Trans Am GT
It’s green, it has T-Tops, and yes it’s an automatic, but who cares. I bought it with a blown motor and threw a junkyard LT1 in it. Not an easy task, as it must go in from the bottom.
That motor turned out to be bad, so I had to throw a third engine in it. Interestingly enough, junkyard LT1s aren’t as easy to find as you think these days. I also deleted the rear Batmobile-type spoiler (way too flashy for my tastes).
I’ve lusted after this exact car in this exact color since I was a teenager, so it’s a bit of an early-years bucket list item, regardless of how many times GM’s cheapassery of that era boils my blood.
1994 Chrysler LeBaron Convertible
Dude. It’s gnarly. It’s rad-era teal and it’s a convertible.
I picked this one up for $200 in rough shape. It had rained in the car for years, so I replaced the busted, swampy interior and tuned up the suspension and drivetrain (plugs, wires, O2 sensor, tie rods, trans fluid/filter, etc.)
It’s now weeping coolant from the water pump and she smokes badly from worm valve stem seals, which is endemic to these Mitsu 3.0-liter engines. The top leaked and the radio had been recently stolen. It was a $20 junkyard unit. And no, I don’t understand meth-head logic either.
It’s currently under the knife getting a remanufactured rack & pinion since the OEM unit just started leaking all over my driveway recently. Interestingly enough, body parts are getting harder to find on these as they’re starting to disappear from this earth.
Example: the front turn lenses in the 1990+ models are just about unobtanium in non-cracked condition. They were made from cheap plastic that cracked in the sun. You can see this in the below picture.
I think I have one of only two in Wilmington.
1997 Dodge Ram
I love it, but I rarely use it. And I’ll be candid here and say it’s the one I’m leaning toward parting with the most.
I bought it for $600 with a blown trans and a cracked dash. Both were fixed and now it mostly sits in my driveway. It was super useful hauling engines for the Trans Am last summer, but as David showed us this week, renting a new-ish one from U-Haul is only $20.
This is a tough one because it’s one of the more utilitarian, valuable and useful vehicles I have and I feel like it’s a big pile of money sitting on 4 wheels in my driveway. I love it, but it’s not passionate love. More of a friends-with-benefits type of deal.
2004 Dodge Durango SLT
David loves the design of this truck, especially the headlights. Bought it for $400 with 225,000 miles on it and it has been a trusty tow vehicle for the fleet for the past six years. I used it to grab both my current Trans Am and previous Firebird Formula (both from Virginia) and tow them each back at 75 mph down I-95 with the AC on without breaking a sweat.
I replaced the usual wear items (rotors, compressor, fan clutch) but it’s been remarkably solid for a truck that was on its way to the crusher when I got it (for the bad compressor and high miles).
She’s up to 245,000 miles now and has never let me down once in six years. This one’s a keeper.
2013 Chrysler 300S
This car was gifted to me by The World’s Coolest Uncle, Jim Toukatly. He bought himself a new Model X and decided to gift me his old 300 as long as it “stays in the family.”
His father, my grandfather, insured Utica Chrysler Plymouth after the war, so everyone in my family drove Mopar starting in the ’60s since that company helped put food on the table. This is the background of my Mopar leanings.
This car will be given to my 7-year-old old nephew in nine years, so it’s going to stay. Plus, Mark Tucker also ended up with a badass 300 recently, so it’s pretty cool that 2 writers here have slightly different flavors of the same car. A future comparo write-up of his Varvatos V8 and my 300C V6 is upcoming if David approves/allows/is in a good mood that day.
Plus, it’s brown!
1993 Chrysler New Yorker “Salon”
Velour, grandma’s couch/living room on wheels, fake gold, fake chrome, fake wood… what’s there not to like?! I rescued this car from a back alley in a bad part of town for $500 last summer and brought it back to life after it was facing certain death-by-crusher.
I’m really glad that I did, as I get more compliments on this car than any other. Especially from younger Millennials and Gens Y & Z / These Kids Today With Their Devil Worshiping Rock & Roll Music. I think it’s weird too.
The dash is apart now while trying to fix a broken speedometer. If I can’t fix it (the part is unobtanium), I may just use a speedo app on my phone going forward.
This style of car is now extinct. I have one of the remaining examples.
2003 Dodge Stratus Coupe SXT
I bought this one in 2015 for $225 from a woman in Nashville, TN. Her daughter had just been in a front-end collision and had broken the radiator, but continued driving until the head gasket blew and the head warped. I filled it with water, limped it home and repaired it in my then-apartment parking lot. I also popped some sweet-ass hood pins in the mangled hood to keep it down.
I wrote my second piece ever here at The Autopian on this car; you can check it out here. It was the sophomore effort that kept me from becoming a one-hit wonder here, and I’m wicked glad it went over as well as it did with y’all.
The car was originally from Kentucky and has some nasty rust on the rockers and left quarter that serve as a badge of honor here in rust-free Coastal Carolina. I put a leather interior in it from a junked Sebring Coupe (see mismatched dash color), and that’s about it. It’s currently my daily. Under $1k invested has yielded eight years (!) of faithful service from this great little Mitsubishi-made machine.
1995 Buick Park Avenue Ultra, supercharged
You may have read about this recent purchase here, as it was brought about to smite that fancy-pants Publisher, Matthew B. Hardigree, and his new BMW. Yes, I know it looks like Shrek has been using it as a hovel in his post-fame years and that it also doesn’t do things like move under its own power or smell very nice. It’s also a health hazard, as it’s filled with mold and is also carrying a tank of bad corn-gas and what also seems to be a bad starter.
Okay, when I write it all out like that, it seems pretty much like a shoo-in for the one to get rid of out of everything listed here, but you would be underestimating my intense desire to win this upcoming pseudo-gauntlet I threw down at Matt and his BMW. Plus who doesn’t love a supercharged, green car that is the moldiest, grossest underdog on the planet?
A rebuild series (similar to David’s project Cactus) is envisioned here because writing about this type of car and scenario is so much more fun than writing about one on the opposite end of the spectrum, which would be: “I bought a tan ‘98 Camry with tan interior. There was nothing wrong with it so I put gas in it and drove it. Meh. The End.”
See what I mean?
2004 Chrysler Sebring Convertible
This is my 12th Sebring and also my most recent purchase. The last ICE drophead Grand Tourer from America’s #3 automaker, ever. They’re dirt cheap to buy, cheap to fix, cheap to run, very pretty and a very bold choice in my book.
This one was $600 and just needs a new battery and a trans service (ATF+4 only). Find another better, running $600 convertible. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Yes, I know that my fervent defense of the Sebring Convertible places me in the minority around here, but I will stand firm on my beliefs and what I hold to be an open mind to all cars. Always see the best that there is to see. Always focus on positivity. Focus your Center. Balance your chi.
Now exhale slowly and say it with me: Seeeeebring.
Time To Choose
I know I may have a problem with owning too many cars, but hey, at least I’m passionate about something, right? Even if that something is a quiver of shitboxes. Also, have you counted up Mercedes’ fleet?
There’s also a sweet-ass Nitro R/T for $800 that I have been making moves upon that may also appear in my driveway in a couple of weeks. Who doesn’t love a Nitro? Oh, wait, what’s that? Most of car culture? Hogwash. Those trucks are gorgeous. How am I one of the few and the proud that think so?
Regardless, the herd must be reduced. Let’s hear which you would choose in the comments below, as I could use help from a rad and informed readership.
We don’t have a “thumbs down” button yet, but it’ll definitely be -1pt from me for anyone that responds with something along the lines of “they all suck!” The factory warranty expired long ago on most of them and they are still alive due to the love and care of passionate owners like The Collective We.
Thanks for your help, my Autopian friends!
All photos by Stephen Walter Gossin
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