Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Today’s contestants are a pair of well-used sporty liftback coupes – a category of cars that doesn’t even exist anymore, and I miss them. Even better, they’re both stickshifts, and they both run! Don’t get too excited until you see them, though. And before I show them to you, we need to finish up yesterday’s kei battle:
Well, that’s a surprise. From the comments, I expected the Life to win it, and that’s the one I’d rather have. But the little Acty pickup found enough silent fans to give it the win.
I’ve expressed my fondness for small sporty front-wheel-drive coupes before, and lamented their disappearance from the market more than once. But every time I find one for sale, their absence from new car lots stings a little more. Used examples are still around, of course, but usually they’re overpriced, or completely hammered. Since a lot of our showdowns have been on the high-priced side recently, I thought it would be fun to aim low for a change, and see what I could find for under a grand. I’m pleasantly surprised, and I think you all will be too. Let’s take a look.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Shoreline, WA
Odometer reading: 260,000 miles
This is a car I know quite well. I owned an ’89 Probe for a couple of years when my wife and I first moved to Oregon, a non-turbo manual like this one. It was a great car to drive, very reliable, surprisingly comfy, and it managed about 35 mpg on the highway. I even drove it to Los Angeles and back once. In fact, the only reason I sold it was that I found a dirt-cheap Miata, and you don’t pass up a dirt-cheap Miata. But our parking situation was limited, so I reluctantly put the Probe up for sale. To my surprise, a buyer flew in from Florida, because it was exactly like the car he had in high school and he just had to have it, and drove it all the way back.
The Probe, of course, was supposed to be the next Ford Mustang, but after AutoWeek infamously spilled those particular beans in 1987 and the Mustang faithful bombarded Ford with letters of protest, Ford relented and the Mustang continued its Fox-body bloodline. The Probe is a mechanical twin to Mazda’s MX-6 coupe, itself a derivative of the 626 sedan. As such, it’s powered by a 2.2 liter Mazda engine driving the front wheels, both cardinal sins among Mustang traditionalists. But honestly, I’ve driven more than one four-cylinder Fox-body Mustang, and the base-model Probe is a better car in every way.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of information to go on when it comes to this particular Probe. All we know is that it has 260,000 miles on it, fewer miles on the engine, and that it runs and drives well. But that last part is the important part – a running $950 car that’s actually a pretty nice car to drive? Hell, I’d be tempted to pick this one up for myself, if I had a place to park it.
It’s straight, it’s rust-free, and it isn’t sinking into the mud in someone’s side yard. I have no idea if the registration is current, because the license plate is covered up, and we only get the four exterior photos and none of the inside or under the hood, but again, $950. You can forgive a lot for that price.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: San Marcos, CA
Odometer reading: 300,000 miles
Runs/drives? Indeed it does!
For only $45 more, if you’re down in the San Diego region, you could pick up this absolutely beat-to-hell Acura Integra, Honda’s defining sporty coupe of the ’90s that is ironically far more of a legend than an Acura Legend. Once the darling of the tuner crowd, many of these cars met untimely demises through stupid modifications, or stupid driving, or both. This one escaped the modifications, and it only has one sign of stupid driving, but it has seen some things, it looks like.
It’s the best color Acura ever put on one of these, that wonderful deep emerald green, but it’s missing nearly all its clearcoat, and someone did something terrible to the left rear corner. The damage looks superficial, and was partially pounded out, but best to check that the rear hatch opens and closes properly. Remarkably, it still wears its original steel wheels and plastic hubcaps. The hubcaps aren’t a surprise – Honda hubcaps are held on by retaining rings on the lug nuts so they don’t fall off – but the fact that no one has swapped them for aftermarket wheels is.
This ad is as terse as the one for the Probe, but at least we get an interior shot. It looks as tired inside as it does outside, but it’s all there. Clean, low-mileage examples of Integras this age have sold for some really idiotic prices in recent years, but personally, I like this one better. It has lived a full life and it has the scars to show for it, and it wears them with dignity.
Come to think of it, we had an Integra for a while as well. It wasn’t a bad little car, but it had some electrical shenanigans from a previous owner that caused problems, we paid too much for it from a fly-by-night ripoff artist used car lot, and it was an automatic. Actually, I like this Integra better than that one, too.
My cheap old beater days are probably behind me now, but cars like these remain near and dear to my heart. It’s nice to see you can still find something that is at least serviceable in theory for less than a thousand dollars. Either of these cars would be worth a look, in my mind. Which one is the better deal? You tell me.
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)