Home » Kentucky Fried Fixer-Uppers: 1998 Honda Accord vs 2009 Chevy Colorado

Kentucky Fried Fixer-Uppers: 1998 Honda Accord vs 2009 Chevy Colorado

Sbsd 3 20 2023

Hey friends! It’s Monday morning. Time to start your week off right with some poor automotive choices. Today’s metaphorical dart thrown at the map landed in Lexington, Kentucky, where I found an odd couple of “mechanic’s specials” for your consideration. Before we do that, let’s see what you made of Friday’s shiteboxes:

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A clear win for the Citroën. I think this is the right call. Obviously, it’s a moot point for most of us, as we don’t live in Ireland, and these are both too new to import to the US.

Now then: As someone who worked as a mechanic for three or four years, I’ve never understood the appeal of the “Mechanic’s Special.” After spending all day under the hoods of other people’s cars, the last thing I wanted to do was wrench on my own ride. I didn’t often have a choice; in those days I bought $500 clunkers and ran them until they fell apart, so I was always fixing something. But given my preference, I would have had a nice reliable car I didn’t have to think about too much.

But if you have the time and space to do the work, buying a non-running or barely-running car and reviving it can be rewarding, and a good way to get into a nice car for cheap. Just ask our buddy S.W. Gossin, who has turned resurrecting dead cars into a way of life. I’m not sure if either of these is up his alley, exactly, but they could be the right project for someone. Let’s take a look.


1998 Honda Accord EX – $1,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Paris, KY

Odometer reading: 255,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs fine, needs new transmission – might still be limping


“Honda Accord” is one of several possible generally excellent answers to the question, “What’s a good cheap used car?” There are other correct answers, of course, chief among them being the Accord’s competitor from Toyota, the Camry, but between the two, I like the Accord better. It’s a little bit better dynamically, and I prefer Honda’s interiors to Toyota’s.

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And the interior of this Accord – a sixth-generation EX V6 model – is arguably the best part. It has leather seats in decent condition, a host of power options, and working air conditioning. I’ve never owned an Accord of this vintage, but I’ve ridden in many and driven a few, and I know that this interior is a nice place to spend time. No one would call it luxurious, but it is comfortable and homey-feeling.

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Outside, things aren’t quite as nice; this car is shedding clearcoat like a pug sheds fur. Pretty much everything from the door handles up is dull and faded, though the bodywork is straight, and I don’t see rust spots in the usual places – rear wheel arches and door bottoms are notorious rust spots for these. A lack of corrosion there is a good sign. The seller says everything works, and two extra tires of unspecified condition are included.


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So what’s the catch? The automatic transmission is on its way out. The seller doesn’t get into specifics about how well or poorly this car is able to move under its own power, but anecdotal evidence I’ve heard over the years tells me that Honda automatics don’t fail gradually; they just suddenly stop going into gear. V6-powered cars like this are more frequently struck by transmission woes, so finding a known good used replacement might be tricky. But it’s a Honda – I bet someone somewhere has documented a manual transmission swap. It can’t be that hard, right?

2009 Chevrolet Colorado – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.7 liter dual overhead cam inline 5, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Cynthiana, KY


Odometer reading: 201,000 miles

Runs/drives? Technically yes, but has “engine noise”

Knock-knock. Who’s there? Rod. Rod who? Uh-oh. Between the connecting rod bearings and the crankshaft in a piston engine is a film of pressurized oil a couple thousandths of an inch thick. The metal parts are never supposed to touch when the engine is running. When they do, the noise – and resulting damage – can be horrendous. It’s usually a result of oil starvation; either the gap gets too big, or the engine gets run without oil for some time, or a bearing “spins” in its housing just enough to block that life-saving flow of oil from reaching the bearing. Once a rod starts knocking, an engine isn’t long for this world without some major work. (I did once drive a Chevy Cavalier with a spun bearing for a week, out of necessity, but that’s a story for another day.)

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I can’t say for certain that this Chevy’s oddball inline five is suffering from a rod knock; there are other causes of loud engine noises, and not all of them fatal. But used car dealers, for all their faults, usually know exactly what they have, and a quick perusal of owner forums shows quite a few mentions of rod bearing noise with these engines. And it does have a lot of miles on it.


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Apart from the engine noise, this looks like a garden-variety well-used work truck, all rubber floors and gray plastic. It’s filthy, scuffed-up, and the ghosts of lunch breaks past litter the footwells. (Seriously, they couldn’t clean out the trash before taking photos?) It has air conditioning, but little else; even the radio is just your basic AM/FM unit. It has the rear-opening access doors for the extended cab, but no back seats. I have no idea if it didn’t come with them, or someone took them out.

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It’s white, of course, like most work trucks, and it looks straight and clean outside. It’s four-wheel-drive, and the seller says that works, at least. If you can find a replacement engine for a reasonable price, this truck might be worth it.

I know, fixer-uppers aren’t for everyone. But variety is the spice of life, right? Tomorrow I’ll look for runners, and – if you’re really good and finish all your vegetables – stickshifts. For today, this is what you’ve got. WIll it be the sedan with a bad transmission, or the truck with a rod knock?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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2 months ago

Man, finally a showdown in my backyard and boy howdy did you deliver on some shitboxes!

I would have to pick the Accord if only because it looks like they kept the interior a little cleaner. That truck is just as nasty as it comes. Those bottles on the floor are spit bottles and there’s no way they haven’t missed or spilled over the years.

Lastly, there is zero, and I mean absolutely zero safety checks on vehicles here. That Accord could be down to the structural carpet and you can drive it all you want.

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