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.
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’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]
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.
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.
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.
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?