Home » International House Of Projects: Which Sweet Euro Treat Would You Sink Your Teeth Into?

International House Of Projects: Which Sweet Euro Treat Would You Sink Your Teeth Into?

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Here we are in our second week of Shitbox Showdown, and to start off with a bang it’s time for you to make the impossible ~$2000 choice between an automatic Peugeot 505 diesel and a manual Saab 900 Turbo convertible.  

First, I want to thank all of you for the votes, replies, encouragement, and yes, even criticism. We’re still working out the kinks with this series of articles, but I’m having a blast, and I hope you all are as well. Readers have asked for more basic data on the actual cars, so I’m going to make a slight format change. At the top of each listing, before I get into the nitty-gritty, I’ll include some important information: year make and model, engine/drivetrain type, location, and whether it runs and/or drives.

Now, about that last one: I’ve bought enough cheap old cars to know that “runs and drives” sometimes only means “is capable of altering its location to a small degree,” but since we’re not able to investigate these cars in person, we’ll have to take the sellers’ word for it. For our purposes, therefore, “runs and drives” means you can at least in theory limp it home.

We’ve got a pair of rare European beauties to check out today, but first let’s look at last week’s final vote:

And our Shitbox of the Week winner is… the Studebaker wagon! I’m not surprised the Stude won — not just because it’s in the same family as a vehicle named the Champ, but mostly because, well, just look at this glorious thing:

I am surprised the Crown Vic was so far behind the other three after blowing that Chevy Caprice cop car out of the water like it did, but anyway, let’s move on and get some breakfast.

French Toast – 1984 Peugeot 505 STI Turbodiesel – $2200

The left side of a Peugeot 505 diesel

Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter turbodiesel inline 4, automatic, RWD

Location: Portland, OR

Runs/drives? Yes, but not registered or driven on the road for 18 years

Peugeot never got the respect it deserved in America. It didn’t have the prestige of Mercedes or the cool factor of BMW or the high-tech image of Audi, and Volvo had the “quirky professor” demographic sewn up. Poor Peugeot was relegated to also-ran status, until it gave up and left the U.S. market in 1991. Here’s a snippet from the New York Times piece Peugeot To Pull Out Of Market In the U.S.:

A Peugeot spokesman said the withdrawal had been prompted by the failure of the company’s 405 model sedan to gain a significant share of the U.S. market.


The spokesman blamed the competition between American and Japanese automakers in the U.S. market for the failure of the 405.

“The American market is depressed and in conflict between U.S. and Japanese producers, and all the European automakers are caught in the vise,” he said.


Stephen Reitman, automotive analyst at UBS-Phillips & Drew in London, said the 405’s pricing had been “high relative to other manufacturers.”

He also observed that Peugeot’s dealer network in the United States, after the very modest performance of the previous standard-bearer, the 505, had cooled on the Peugeot make.

“Peugeot was typically a fourth brand, behind a dealer’s other European or American makes,” he said.

“It was usually relegated to a small, dusty corner of the showroom.”

Peugeot 505 diesel engine

Peugeot’s departure was a shame, because the 505 (and its predecessor, the 504) is a really nice car. It’s not luxurious, but it is comfortable. It’s not sporty, but it holds the road well. And in other parts of the world, old Peugeots, especially diesels like this, are legendary for their durability and toughness. There are still plenty of forty-year-old Peugeot diesels trundling around Africa earning their keep, which shows that keeping one on the road isn’t something that takes a hundred men or more to do.

[Editor’s note: Mark has stumped me with almost every pop-culture reference he’s made since he started writing at The Autopian last week. But I just got the Toto reference there, and I just had to add this note to revel in it a bit. -DT]

The rear of a Peugeot 505 diesel

This particular 505 isn’t in terrible shape, but it does need some help. It runs and drives well according to the seller, but it hasn’t been registered since 2004, so you’d need to go over it before putting it back into service.

The front of a Peugeot 505 diesel

Finding parts isn’t easy, but the seller seems to be a “Peugeot guy” (he has another 505 for sale for $3,500) so maybe he can help. The outside looks a little ratty, with square patches of black primer, but I don’t see any rust. And the blue leather interior looks clean and inviting.

The interior of a Peugeot 505 diesel

This car has been for sale for a while; I’ve seen this ad pop up several times over the past few years. Maybe it’s because it’s an automatic, or a diesel, or just a Peugeot, but it hasn’t found the home it deserves yet.

Swedish Pancakes – 1990 Saab 900 Turbo convertible – $2000

Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter turbo inline-4, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Bend, OR

Runs/drives? Yes, but bring a bungee cord for the hood

Good old Saab. Born from jets, murdered by bad business deals. Their cars were chock-full of odd-but-brilliant engineering and unconventional ideas that made sense if you just kept an open mind (You can’t remove the key unless the manual gear shift is in reverse — annoying? Maybe. But kind of makes sense!). Saab was the weird kid in study hall, over in the corner creating fantastic new worlds that no one else really understood.

Then in 1989, right around the same time that Bob Rock first produced a Metallica album, General Motors started absorbing the Swedish car brand. Like the previous musical reference that I know for sure my editor didn’t understand [Editor’s note: True. -DT], results weren’t optimal: the name was the same, but the feel was totally different, and that “outsider” quality that made them what they were was almost completely lost. GM-era Saabs were neither as interesting nor as well-made as their Saab-Scania predecessors.

This Saab 900 predates the GM years in terms of design; it’s the old “Classic” 900 design, with a backwards-facing four-cylinder engine (yes, the clutch is up front!) sitting right on top of the front axle. That engine is turbocharged and powers a five-speed manual that the seller says is “hard to get into reverse.” This should probably be addressed sooner rather than later, because as I mentioned before, you have to shift into reverse when you shut the car off to release the key from the center-console-mounted ignition switch.

The seller says the car “runs and drives great,” but the 2008 tags and the cooling fan and other unidentifiable bits in the trunk give me pause. You’ll also need to find a replacement hood latch, because the original is – I can’t resist – bork-bork-borked. [Editor’s note: Once again…no clue. -DT]. 

There they are, our Monday morning breakfast treats. A Swedish pancake and French toast, both deserving of a second chance. Which one is right for you?


QuizwizAll images: Sellers
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79 Responses

  1. Oh, man, these two cars really peg my Dork-meter. The 505 has to be one of the most comfortable cars Ive driven. They must have three feet of suspension travel. As a very young man, I worked in a SAAB dealer during the classic 900 era and have a very special place in my heart for them. These cars each have a strike against them for me though. Diesel for the Pig-Out and drop top for the SAAB (don’t like to mess up my hair). My crazy car collection though, would definitely have a 505 turbo and a three door 900 turbo in it

  2. Please keep the pop culture references coming. They’re like finding an Easter Egg in an MCU flick and give me the same elitist joy when I discover them.

  3. It was the summer of 1991. I had recently graduated from college and was living in Riverside, CA. I had a daily approximately 90 minute commute to Santa Ana in hand-me-down ’81 Civic Wagon. Which could have been cool except it was brown, automatic, and had a broken a/c which I didn’t have the money to fix.

    Then came word that the estate of my Great (and great) Aunt Rose, who had passed earlier that year, had settled and I was getting enough money to get a new car (and get the hell out of Riverside).

    I was all set to go and pick up a brand new Civic Si hatch when my dad called and told me that he had just read that Peugeot was pulling out of the US and that I should stop by and see if I could get a deal. Off I went to the local Oldsmobile/Peugeot/Alfa dealer (the owner sure know how to pick them). They had 2 405’s in stock. A base burgundy sedan with a stick and a loaded light blue wagon with an auto. The price was $9998 for the sedan and around $13k for the wagon. Sticker was $17k and $21k respectively. The Si was going to cost me $12.5k.

    I really prefer hatchbacks and wagons, but my mom had owned a 505 and the auto transmission and every electric gadget on it had required service at some point before she sold it just before the warranty expired. So, being clever, I went with the sedan. It had a stick, roll up windows, a 5-year warranty, and was 20% cheaper than a Civic. What could possibly go wrong?

    You can guess where this is going. When it ran, it was great. The ride was very French, it was pretty soft and leaned a lot, but had great traction even on bad roads. I took a trip through Baja California with it and it was perfect. It was also comfortable and looked cool. I gave a girl a ride home in it one day and she was so impressed by the car, she agreed to go out with me. We’ve been married for 28 years now.

    But we didn’t drive it to the wedding because it was broken. Again. The thing had major electrical issues that were never fully ironed out. It would run and then just stop. Or the electric door locks would refuse to open and we’d get to General Lee it out the window (thank God for the window cranks). Or the area behind the dash would overheat and fry the radio. This happened to me when I was driving from El Paso to Austin TX. A damn long way with no tunes.

    Every time it would break, I would haul it in to whomever Peugeot had paid to do warranty work in their absence. The one in Austin was called The French Connection and I will never forget the scene that greeted me when I went in to pick it up at the appointed time. The authentically French mechanic was standing in front of the open hood with a cigarette – I’m assuming a Gauloises Blondes as I was a Christian Sarron fan – stuck in the corner of his mouth. He had his arms crossed and was slowly shaking his head from side to side in obvious despair.

    After a couple of years of this my dad felt so bad about suggesting the Peugeot that he let me “borrow” his stripper ’85 Civic Hatchback (no a/c, 4 speed manual) while me wife was in grad school. We got the Peugeot working and then barely drove it until she got a job and we traded it in for a demo ’97 Subaru Impreza Sport. We paid $19k for the Subaru and got $3500 for the trade in. I figured I was robbing them on the Peugeot which was close to unsellable at the time. Apparently their used car manager agreed. We had to come back the next day to get the Impreza because it needed some prep work and we found that the paperwork had all changed. The price of the Subaru had dropped to 17k while the trade-in value went to $1500!

    So I’m going Saab. I’ve always liked the 900 Turbo ads in R&T.

  4. As someone who spent the first four years of their career working at a Saab specialist workshop, I only have two words to say.

    No thanks.

    I’ll take the Peugeot just on principal alone.

  5. I clicked one at random because neither one really appeals to me, but after reading more comments, I got to thinking, on my list of odd cars I would like to own I’ve included some type of wasteland style vehicle, and I think a old rwd weird French diesel might be a good place to start. Convert it to fryer oil, put on some mud tires and a potato cannon, it could be pretty fun.

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