Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! It’s another Two-Door Tuesday here as we take a look at a pair of sporty Japanese numbers that you don’t see too often any more. But first, let’s see who won yesterday’s reader-inspired battle:
The Saab wins. Of course. Has that particular defunct Swedish brand lost one yet? I’d have to look, but I don’t think so. Not that the Camry gave it much of a fight; I would be curious to see how bad a car it would take to hand that thing a win. Probably any K-car would do it, actually, knowing you lot.
I didn’t see any new suggestions on Discord; some really good conversations, but no viable car listings. So I went poking around southern California and found two manual Japanese sports coupes. You guys like those, right? Let’s dive right in.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Palmdale, CA
Odometer reading: 173,000 miles
It’s a simple formula: Take the platform and running gear of a common small car, wrap it in pretty two-door bodywork, and sell it for more money. It’s not something you see very often any more, but for a long time, every automaker had a version of it. Ford’s Mustang popularized the idea (though as a Mopar fan I’m honor-bound to remind you that the Plymouth Barracuda was first, by a whole two weeks), but every other maker jumped on board in short order. This car is really just a Mustang-ized Nissan Sentra – in fact, you could call it a pony car, I suppose.
Like the Pulsar that came before it, the NX features T-tops. Sadly, it did away with the removable/interchangeable rear hatch, but you can still get plenty of fresh air into the cabin. The NX came in two flavors: the NX2000, with all the performance goodies of Nissan’s brilliant Sentra SE-R, and this car, the NX1600, with the standard Sentra’s underpinnings. It’s not as quick or as sharp-handling, but it probably gets better mileage.
This NX runs and drives well, according to the seller. They don’t give us much else to go on, so we’ll have to rely on the pictures. Inside it looks decent, if a little sun-faded (to be expected with so much glass). Outside it isn’t quite as nice; the plastic nose piece doesn’t quite match the rest of the car, and the rear bumper has a pretty good ding in it. I’m not sure where you’d find another bumper either; these aren’t exactly common cars, even in sunny California.
So it’s not the more desirable version, and it’s kind of banged up. But it’s cheap, it’s rare, and it’s based on a good reliable little car. You could do a lot worse for under two grand.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: West Covina, CA
Odometer reading: 175,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does!
Honda’s Prelude sports coupe lasted for five generations over a span of twenty-three years. This is the final iteration, and as such, maybe it shouldn’t be called the Prelude. Honda Finale, maybe? Denouement? Anyway. It’s a car that didn’t sell nearly as well as its predecessors, so it’s not a common sight, especially these days.
This fifth-generation Prelude is clearly no longer stock. It has been lowered, the wheels are not stock, the steering wheel has been replaced by a non-airbag wheel, and although we don’t get an underhood shot, the stock air box and intake runner sitting on the passenger’s seat tells me that it likely has a cold-air intake setup at the very least. And of course, out back, there is the requisite fart cannon. The seller says the front tires are shot, and I, for one, am not surprised.
Oh, and on top of that, it has a salvage title for some undisclosed reason. As we’ve discussed before, this isn’t all that uncommon in California, nor is it a huge deal there, unless your insurance agent says it is. But it would be nice to know what happened to it.
It does look all right, and the sticker from an owner’s forum is probably a good sign. You don’t join a forum for your car, and send them money for a sticker, unless you care about it to some degree. It’s no guarantee that it hasn’t been abused, or that the modifications were done correctly; anyone who has spent time on any of those forums know how rife they are with misinformation and bad ideas. But it does show the seller at least cares about it a little.
I really miss cars like these. Sporty two-door coupes based on small sedans were a brilliant idea, and I doubt we’ll ever see their like again. But at least we have a couple of survivors here to choose from. So what’ll it be – the jumped-up Sentra, or the amateur-tuner Honda?
And remember: You can join our Discord and drop links to cars for me to check out any time!
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)