Home » Not Even Sixty Thousand Miles: 1992 Chevy Lumina vs 1993 Dodge Spirit

Not Even Sixty Thousand Miles: 1992 Chevy Lumina vs 1993 Dodge Spirit

Sbsd 1 31 2024
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Welcome to another Shitbox Showdown! Our mid-week selections come to us once again courtesy of the Underappreciated Survivors group on Facebook, and never have two cars been better examples. Neither one of them has any sort of enthusiast following, neither one of them has hit 60,000 miles yet, and neither one costs more than three grand out the door.

Yesterday, we looked at two other survivors, but from the sounds of it, most of you definitely appreciated them. Accords and Camrys have both been part of the American car landscape for so long that everybody has a story about one or the other. And they’re pretty similar and interchangeable cars, when you get right down to it, which is reflected in the vote: basically a dead heat.

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The choice for most of you seems to have come down to the Toyota’s better condition versus the Honda’s conventional seatbelts. Me, I’d take the Honda, but in truth I’d probably keep shopping before buying either.

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And that brings me to today’s choices. I’ve long thought that the best choice for an inexpensive used car is a non-enthusiast vehicle with low miles, the so-called “Grandma-mobile.” No, you can’t get them with a stick; don’t even ask. Yes, that howl from the tires around corners is normal; it means slow down. No, you shouldn’t eat that petrified hard candy you found in the glovebox; good grief, do they even still make that stuff anymore?

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If you are only going to have one car, I could see why maybe you wouldn’t want it to be something like these. But if you plan to have a fun car in sketchy condition, and need a reliable daily driver, you could do a lot worse. Let’s check them out.

1992 Chevrolet Lumina – $2,600

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.1 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Bristol, PA

Odometer reading: 58,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs and drives great

Believe it or not, the Chevy Lumina was, once upon a time, sleek and futuristic. It replaced the brutally rectilinear A-body Celebrity in Chevy’s lineup, a couple years after the rest of the W-body cars came out, and not everyone was a fan. I remember one old-timer when I worked at the service station who clung to a rusty ’83 Malibu rather than replace it because he couldn’t stand “those new blobby Chevys.”

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Really, the Lumina was pretty conservative. It still had a bench seat and a column-mounted shifter, it carried over the same 60-degree V6 and overdrive automatic from the Celebrity, and just look at all that fake woodgrain. Yes, you could get a sportier Lumina, but the vast majority of them looked like this one. This is a one-owner car for sale by a dealership; I get the feeling it came from someone’s estate. The only info we get is that it runs and drives great, and that it includes the original owner’s manual and window sticker, which is kind of cool.

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I do applaud the dealership for resisting the urge to steam-clean the engine. Grimy engines tell a story, and this one is telling me that it has the typical 3.1 valve cover leaks, and probably some more as well. That intake plenum is supposed to be shiny machined aluminum, not covered in gray-brown gunk. “Only driving to church on Sundays” has its drawbacks; fix the oil leaks, and then go give it a nice Italian tuneup.

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The rest of it looks good. The inside is a little grubby, but it should clean up all right. With the low miles, you’d be wise to check the date codes on the tires; they could be ten years old and desperately in need of replacement.

1993 Dodge Spirit ES – $2,700

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter overhead cam inline 4, three-speed automatic, FWD

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Location: Tonica, IL

Odometer reading: 59,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

The Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim were replacements for square cars, too: the original Aries and Reliant K-cars. Designated the AA-body, the Spirit and Acclaim were still pretty boxy, but a lot more handsome than the K-cars. Mechanically, the AA was largely an improved K-car, but that’s not a bad thing. Keep making the same car for a decade or so, and you’re bound to iron out the kinks.

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The Spirit is powered by a 2.5 liter version of the K-engine, with balance shafts to smooth it out and throttle-body fuel injection for reliability and drivability. It uses the same tried-and-true Torqueflite three-speed automatic that Chrysler used for decades. It runs great, according to the seller, and needs nothing – but again, check the dates on the tires.

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Sadly, we don’t get any interior or underhood photos with this one, except for this shot of the dash. It’s as dull and old-fashioned as the Lumina inside, probably with a split-bench seat as well. The Spirit was also available in a high-performance version, and it put the Lumina Z34 to shame, but just try finding one of those for sale. This plain-Jane Spirit is scarce enough.

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If it’s as clean inside as it looks on the outside, I’d say this car is in fine shape. I always liked the looks of the Spirit and Acclaim, even if they look like the generic cars used in advertising. They look simple and honest, without a hint of pretense about their mission or status, and that is to be admired.

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Don’t get me wrong; no one is claiming that these cars are even remotely exciting. But I still maintain that a big part of the excitement of a car comes not from what it is, but from where it goes. Boring cars become interesting when they play a part in good stories. With that in mind, I want you to not only choose a car, but comment on where you would road-trip it to. Both of these cars are begging for exercise. Which one, and where to?

(Image credits: Facebook Marketplace sellers)

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Yuriy Khramov
Yuriy Khramov
21 days ago

I had a Lumina and tried to drive a Spirit. Spirit has a much softer suspension and smooth drive, then a Lumina, because Lumina has a torsion in the back suspension instead of coil springs)))

Lhn91
Lhn91
23 days ago

My grandparents had a silver 1991 Dodge Spirit, with the same 2.5, automatic, and the same chrome faux luggage rack on the truck.

Personally I think the 1993 refresh was less classy looking than the ’91, but I’d still pick the Spirit on nostalgia alone – except my grandparent’s one made it to like 400000 kms (my grandfather worked like 90+ minutes from home and drove it daily for years through the 90’s) and lasted until 2006 in heavy use so I actually think they were pretty reliable too.

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
23 days ago

Part of me says “You can’t go right with either of them!”

But, I’m going to go with the Lumina, only because it is a six.

Both would be entertaining, but when these came out, I thought that the Lumina was trying just a bit too hard to be cool, and as a result came across as a little bit sleazy. The Dodge came off as being the Church Lady’s new car. Decadent for her, but still a sackcloth shirt for the rest of us…

Xpumpx
Xpumpx
23 days ago

I’d take the lumina, it’s an honest car that I recall being slightly better put together than the Spirit. Then I would take it on a mystical and romantic daily road trip to work and back

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
24 days ago

I had a church-and-Kroger grandma mobile once and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them. Low miles means they haven’t really been looked at very frequently. Small problems have likely been allowed to simmer and are ready to blow up in your face. Soft rubbery bits like exercise. And you never know if this particular low-mileage car is the kind that will easily hit 125k or die tomorrow, because it hasn’t proven itself past the 60-80k mile trough of incompetence that fells so many vehicles, especially domestic.

I’d rather buy a 10-y-o Honda with 150k miles than a 30-y-o Chevy with 50k.

But youve seen it run
But youve seen it run
19 days ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

I refuse to agree with this. (looks around and backs away)

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
18 days ago

Resistance is futile

Robert Stanley McLaughlin
Robert Stanley McLaughlin
24 days ago

Lumina vs K-car is no contest. Lumina was Quality and nice, k-car .

CTSVmkeLS6
CTSVmkeLS6
24 days ago

1st gen Luminas are the FWD demo derby kings! W-body beast mode. Change intake gasket (not hard) and enjoy boring trouble free motoring. K car is close second cause that dope notchback

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
24 days ago

Spirit…NEVER Lumina…they suck so bad…I’ll road trip the Spirit along Route 66…get your kicks on Route 66!

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
24 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

My driver’s ed instructor threw us in Luminas back in the 90’s with a big ass bilboard on the roof. Learning to drive in that bastard with an unprotected 40mph crosswing was less than confidence instilling. Never again would be way too soon.

Oldskool
Oldskool
24 days ago

Lumina for me. That 3.1 is barely broke in yet! Keep that body clean and it will run for the rest of my life.

At first I thought the plenum and covers were spray painted gray by some tuner type kid.

But if it’s oil…I’ve spent a lot of time with these, and yeah there’s the occasional valve cover and oil pan leak by gravity. But the only thing I’ve experienced would cause that much oil, spread that evenly, that high up, would be the distributor O ring. That’s what it’s called, for the same oil pump drive shaft that ran the distributor on the older engines. Every one I’ve had has gone once, and oil sprays everywhere. But the part is like a couple bucks, and it’s pretty easy to change, right from the top.

Still not totally sure, as there are still clean(ish) parts under there too.

Last edited 24 days ago by Oldskool
Master P
Master P
24 days ago

I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that the Lumina actually has the listed mileage (59k), the seats and the carpets are far too worn, and the engine bay looks like it has 159k.

Mike F.
Mike F.
24 days ago

As wheeled cures for insomnia go, these both look pretty good. I ended up going with the Chevy because there are pics of the interior. Road trip (after checking belts, tires, A/C, etc.) would be from Norcal out Highway 50 through Nevada, then down to Bryce and Zion, then over to Vegas, and then back via Hwy 395.

Myk El
Myk El
24 days ago

With the Dodge, you could get what is close to a nice, reliant automobile and you don’t even have to have $1,000,000 to do it.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
24 days ago

I went with the Chevy because it has a bench seat and I hate Dodge.

NC_Motorist
NC_Motorist
24 days ago

Caveat: I have never driven either of these, but the first truck and car I remember my Granny and Grandad having were a 1990 D150 with a mile long hood and a 1993 Spirit. I would drive that spirt all the way to Blanco, Texas just to have that feeling of being a big 6 year old and riding in to the pharmacy with Granny. Now whether I would enjoy the 24+ hours getting down there would be a different story…

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