Good morning! It’s time once again for Shitbox Showdown. Today we’re celebrating the unsung hero of days gone by: the humble pushrod inline six. But first, we need to see which German bad-guy barge you chose yesterday:
The Benz wins it by a hood ornament. That would be my choice as well. However, if I wanted a big German sedan, I’d forego either of these and look for something a couple generations older. They just looked cooler back then, and they were way easier to work on.
There certainly was lots of griping about how unreliable both options were yesterday. I mentioned this on Slack, and threatened to do two identical very-reliable-but-dull cars today, a pair of plain white Corollas or something. You were saved from this terrible boring fate, as we all so often are saved, by the Bishop. His piece on “Gremlinizing” the Tesla Model 3 (an absolutely brilliant idea, in my opinion) made me want to look for AMC Hornets and Gremlins. I found a Hornet, but during my search for a Gremlin I was side-tracked by the ultimate surfer van, and so we have today’s matchup. The common thread between them? Both skip the V8 option and rely instead on a tried-and-true inline six. Let’s check them out.
Engine/drivetrain: 240 or 300 cubic inch inline 6, three-speed manual, RWD
Location: near Napa, CA
Odometer reading: 31,000 miles (probably rolled over at least once)
Ford’s long-running Econoline is no more, at least in van form, replaced by the Transit. It’s arguably a better van, more efficient and all that, but nobody is going to write not one, but two songs about their Ford Transit. Just saying. Ford officially stopped using the Econoline name in 1999, but the rest of us didn’t. Back when this first-year second-generation van was built, the Econoline name was in full swing.
The original Econoline (or actually Falcon Van, initially) was a flat-nosed forward-control design, with the front axle under the seats and the engine between them. For this generation, Ford moved the front wheels and the engine both forward, creating the “doghouse” engine cover protruding from the dash that became the hallmark of all American vans for decades. The stubby hood and wheel well cutouts in the doors make for an appealing shape, especially on a short-wheelbase van like this. The mag wheels and side-exit exhaust are just icing on the cake.
The seller tells us this is a six-cylinder, but not which displacement it is. Ford’s long-serving truck six was available in two displacements back in ’72: the commonly-seen 300 cubic inches, and a smaller 240 cubic inch version. Whichever one this is, it spins those glorious mags through a three-on-the-tree manual.
This one was originally a work van, I imagine, based on the fact that there’s nothing behind the seats. These days, it looks like the perfect way to transport surfboards or other toys. I would say it would make a good band van, except that there are only two seats. Well, it would work for the White Stripes, I suppose.
Engine/drivetrain: 232 or 258 cubic inch inline 6, three-speed automatic, RWD
Location: near Vallejo, CA
Odometer reading: 137,000 miles
Runs/drives? Indeed it does
“Plucky underdog” is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of ’70s AMC. Terminally short on cash, but blessed with a brilliant designer, the legendary Dick Teague, American Motors Corporation managed to do a lot with a little, and in a lot of cases out-cool the Big Three. AMC made its name early on with small cars, and when the Rambler was due for replacement in 1970, Teague penned the sharp-looking Hornet. The name was a callback to the legendary Hudson Hornet from the ’50s, and the styling echoed the Javelin introduced a couple years earlier.
This Hornet is the popular two-door hatchback model, introduced in 1973 and famous for performing what might be the coolest movie car stunt of all time. This one is powered by AMC’s trusty inline-six, though here again, the seller doesn’t tell us whether it’s the 232 or 258 cubic inch version. It’s bolted to a “Torque-Command” automatic – AMC’s branding for the Torqueflite automatic it bought from Chrysler. The car runs and drives, but that’s about all the information we get about its mechanical condition.
Cosmetically it looks pretty good, except for a few bumps and bruises, the most notable of which is a dent in the rear hatch. Honestly, on this car, I don’t even mind the dents. They give it a little character. I also have to give kudos to the seller for taking good photographs; the low angle really shows off this car’s shape well. When you see as many terrible classified photos as I do, you learn to appreciate the good ones.
The inside looks good, with the vinyl upholstery more or less intact, and that nice Jeep-style three spoke steering wheel instead of the more common two spoke wheel that always looks upside-down. It’s also got cool Centerline-style wheels that actually have AMC center caps. It’s an attractive package.
So that’s what I’ve got for you today, a pair of cool inline-six-powered vehicles old enough to not need smog testing. Either one would make a fun drivable project. Which one is your style?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)