Home » Let’s Do Another Odd Couple: 1984 Ford LTD Wagon vs 1990 Daihatsu Charade

Let’s Do Another Odd Couple: 1984 Ford LTD Wagon vs 1990 Daihatsu Charade

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Good morning! Today we have another pair of cars with nothing in common. (I mean, not nothing; they both have four wheels, and run on gasoline, and all that, but you know.) But first, let’s check in on yesterday’s results:

 

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Close one, as expected. But it looks like the Ford has the edge this time. I’d have trouble making this call, but since the Ford is local to me, I guess it wins by default.

Now, before we get started today, I need to make an announcement: This will be my last Shitbox Showdown for a while. I have some personal family-type stuff I need to take care of, and sometimes there is something more important than bullshitting about old cars on the internet. (No, really; there is.) So I am taking a brief hiatus from writing every day. How long? I don’t know, but probably at least through December. I’m not sure whether the plan is to put the Showdown on hold, or have someone else take over, but either way, I want to thank you all for reading, and assure you that like my fellow UW-Superior alum Ah-nold: I’ll be back.

So, once more, with feeling:

1984 Ford LTD Wagon – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: Doesn’t say, but probably a 3.8 liter OHV V6, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: North Hollywood, CA

Odometer reading: 42,000 miles

Runs/drives? Just fine

Platform-sharing is common practice among automakers, and with good reason: it allows development costs to be spread out over lots of different models. The same underpinnings can be used for sedans, wagons, sporty coupes, and more. In the ’80s, Chrysler caught some flak for the K platform and all its various guises, but Ford had already been doing the same thing with their unibody Fox platform for a couple years by then. The Fox served as the basis for the Fairmont, Granada, Mustang, Thunderbird, and this car, the LTD – not to be confused with the LTD Crown Victoria, which was on the larger, body-on-frame Panther platform – as well as all their Mercury twins.

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The seller doesn’t specify what engine is in this LTD, but the most common would have been a 3.8 liter “Essex” V6. Ford’s 2.3 liter four was also offered, but I’ve never seen a wagon with the four, and I can’t imagine anyone would want one. It’s a sluggish car with the V6; with the 2.3 it probably can’t even get out of its own way, especially with an automatic.

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The ad claims 42,000 miles, and who am I to argue? Plenty of cars end up sitting in garages for years, only being used occasionally. It might be 142,000 but somehow I don’t think it would have held up this well for that many miles. We don’t get any valuable info; the ad only says it “runs and drives fine.” C’mon, folks; it’s not like Craigslist charges by the word.

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Anyway, the nice thing about this being a Fox-body car, and thus sharing a platform with the 1979-93 Mustang, is that all sorts of higher-performance goodies exist, ready to be bolted into this dark blue grocery-getter. You could really build a great sleeper with this car, and in the process, make it run a damn sight better than “fine.”

1990 Daihatsu Charade SX – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.3 liter SOHC inline 4, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Odometer reading: 57,000 miles

Runs/drives? Doesn’t expressly say, but since it’s photographed in a public parking lot…

Do you remember that Daihatsu used to sell cars in the US? They weren’t here for long, only from 1988-1991. Only the Charade subcompact and the Rocky mini-SUV were sold here, and they didn’t do well: this Charade is one of only about 43,000 US models, and I’d imagine there aren’t many of those left.

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Believe it or not, the fuel-injected 1.3 liter four in this Charade is the big engine. The standard Charade engine was a carbureted 993cc three-cylinder. Oddly, the three-banger only propelled the car in reverse: as you backed up, you wound up a big spring, and then when you shifted into a forward gear, the spring powered the car and sent it zooming across the kitchen floor. (Just kidding.) At least this Charade makes up for its lack of power with a manual gearbox. Driving an automatic Charade would be like watching paint dry.

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This car only has 57,000 miles on the clock, and it looks like it’s in good shape, except for some missing clearcoat and a popped seam on the driver’s seat. The ad doesn’t expressly say that it runs, but we have to assume it does.

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Even though it appears to be fully functional, I can’t imagine this car being used for its intended purpose. Parts must be tough to come by these days, and one good fender-bender would spell disaster. It’s an interesting historical curiosity, and it would be a hit at Radwood (and probably the only Charade there), but commuting in it probably isn’t a brilliant idea.

Welp, that’ll do it, I guess. I hope to be back soon, but until then, take care of yourselves, and go do fun stuff with cars whenever you can. Thanks so much for reading!

 

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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53 Responses

  1. I spent years looking for a Charade with the four-banger, but now I have no space for it. They should be quite peppy, with a 50% increase in power over the already acceptable three-banger.
    But then again, now that they are eligible for import I will wait for a five-door with four-wheel drive to pop up somewhere.

  2. Hope you can get things settled and sorted, good sir. It has been a blast, and I hope to see you here again as life allows.

    Now for the task at hand: the LTD seems like a no-brainer here.

  3. Good luck on the family stuff. Definitely have enjoyed these daily Showdowns, but duty calls.

    Now…this one was tough for me. The LTD should be a no-brainer here, but I absolutely, positively *loathe* the Essex V6. Like, hate it. So if I were to buy the LTD it would be a mandatory 5.0 swap.

    The Daihatsu is weird. I think they made them overseas til very recently, so logically I would think replacement parts may not be so hard to get? Idk. Still probably would go with the LTD, but maybe the Charade would be fun.

  4. I’ll go for the Charade… but I’m heavily biased by the name.

    Pick the one you prefer :
    – It’s the French for a type of riddle
    – it’s a French Formula 1 racetrack

  5. The Daihatsu for me.

    I can tell you from direct experience that the LTD will be shit to drive and get lousy fuel economy… with an underlying design from the 1970s. And the Ford OHV 3.8L V6 is rough, noisy, gutless and not known for being particularly durable

    The Charade, on the other hand, is a much newer design. Also note that particular Charade is a top-trim SX model with the 4 cyl. And given the sub-2000lb curb weight, the performance should be decent… way better that what you’ll experience with that old LTD.

    And there will also be a night and day difference in fuel economy.

    And because the Charade sold in low numbers, it has a higher novelty factor to me.

    So… that’s why the Diahatsu Charade is the *correct* choice in this case… which is also to say the majority here made the wrong choice.

  6. Also I forgot to say in my last comment… I hope your personal family stuff works out for the best and hope to see you back soon! Take care… we will miss you while you’re away.

  7. The Fox body wagon is an easy choice, the sleeper idea really appeals to me.

    Get things sorted for the best at home.
    Family things get priority for no other reason than they can affect one’s automotive perspectives and choices.

    Once it is all sorted out, get back here with a fistful of virtual dollars for making more cheap choices.
    In the mean time my morning web browsing is going to have a void until they hire a temp.

  8. I’m definitely in the minority with the Daihatsu but I’m more in the mood for small and manual plus the Garbage Time YouTube video reviving an old one

  9. Where to go with this one…

    Manual > Automatic
    RWD > FWD

    Hmmmmm…

    Ford all the way. The reason the Daihatsu only has 57,000 miles is that’s all the farther that 1.3 has been able to drive since 1990.

  10. Mark, thank you for an excellent series. You’ll be missed, but family comes first. I hope everything works out as painlessly as possible.

    As far as the shitboxes go, it’s the Daihatsu for me, but only because I’d get rid of the 1.3 and swap in the CL70 1.0 L turbodiesel for maximum memes.

  11. Having owned a Charade -the only car i ever bought new- i’m leaning heavily that way.
    BTW the 3 cyl engine was great.Such a cool sound!
    But 2000 bucks? Hell no. There are far newer cars available for not much more.

    And screw the LTD too.Those american 80’s styles were terrible.

  12. I can see that LTD with a twin turbo 5.0 and a 5 or 6 speed manual. Maybe widen the rear wheels for some drag radials, but keep the hubcaps.

  13. The heart says Daihatsu but the Ford is as close to being a “head” choice as any going-on-40-year-old car can be. I’m reminded of Torch having wanted to write “PARTS FOR ME ARE EASY TO GET” on the dash of his F-150.

    Take care of your family, Mark, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.

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