Home » The Folly Of Youth: Slip-Slidin’ Corvette or Greasy-Kid’s-Stuff 300ZX?

The Folly Of Youth: Slip-Slidin’ Corvette or Greasy-Kid’s-Stuff 300ZX?

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Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a good weekend. Time for more cheap-car foolishness, but this week we’re going to make a little change: instead of the weekly roundup on Friday, which is getting to feel a little bit like reruns, we’ll have five matchups, but Friday will be something a little special. So here are the results from last week‘s roundup, which might be the last one for a while:

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And it’s the VW Quantum by a nose. You’d think that AMC’s giant schnoz would put it in front, but the Quantum’s long front overhang from that Audi five-cylinder was too much for it.

Now then: Raise your hand if you ruined a good car when you were young by doing something stupid to it.

I’m betting there are a lot of hands up out there, and mine is certainly one of them. I did more than my fair share of dumb kid tricks to cars, both in the form of idiotic driving and pointless modifications. Sometimes such dumb-kid damage can be mitigated, sometimes it can’t, and sometimes it’s just not worth trying.

Today, we’re going to look at two cars that have suffered at the hands of young owners in two different ways: One was mightily abused, and the other was taken apart to “modify” and then abandoned. Let’s see which one is more worth saving.

1991 Chevrolet Corvette – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.7 liter V8, 4 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Odometer reading: 141,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes, but transmission is on the way out

I’m showing my age a little, but until the C8 debuted, I still thought of the C4 Corvette as the “new Corvette,” and everything that came after as just refreshes of it. I think the reason is that I was 11 years old when the C4 debuted, and it was such a radical departure from the previous generation in both styling and ethos. None of the generational changes that came after it felt quite as revolutionary, at least until they moved the engine behind the seats.

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I was an enormous fan of this era of Corvette when it arrived on the scene, and it’s still the generation I’d be most inclined to buy, if I ever decided I needed a Corvette. These are the “cheap” Corvettes now, but rarely do you see one quite as cheap as this. But there’s a reason for that, and it goes beyond the trahsed leather seats and worn-out weatherstripping.

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No sentence that begins with “after last night’s burnouts” ends with any sort of good news. It seems the seller of this ‘Vette (or someone in possession of its keys) had a bit too much fun lighting up those big rear tires and cooked the 700R4 (or 4L60, if you prefer the newer nomenclature) automatic. The seller says it won’t go into “4th or 5th” gear, but I presume they mean 4th (overdrive) gear and lockup. Presumably this would mean you could put the transmission in “D” instead of “OD” and at least get it home. But further burnout attempts are not advised.

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Apart from the transmission issues, if you want a cheap scruffy ‘Vette, it looks like this might be a good candidate. It’s from GM’s tiny-button era of interior design, which at night looks like it might have been inspired by George Bush’s “thousand points of light” speech. But if it all (or mostly) still works, then it might be worth junkyard-diving for a new Turbo Hydra-Matic to slap in there.

1985 Nissan 300ZX – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 liter V6, 4 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Aberdeen, WA

Odometer reading: 180,000 miles

Runs/drives? Starts, but not drivable as it sits

It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets car, boy ruins car, boy loses interest in car. This hapless Z was apparently left behind when its young owner left for college, and now his folks want it gone. But naturally, Junior wants to save the wheels and the steering wheel for his next victim, so they aren’t included. The stock parts, fortunately, are.

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Luckily, from the sound of it, Junior didn’t get too far in his destructive rampage, so all that’s necessary (allegedly) to put this car back to rights is some reassembly. With a little luck, everything is all still there and useable.

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This particular Z31-chassis 300ZX seems an unlikely candidate for the young tyke’s drifting dreams anyway; with its naturally-aspirated VG30E engine and Jatco automatic, it’s better suited to a cool cruiser than a tire-smoking monster. But 49-year-old eyes see cars differently than 18-year-old eyes (and require more corrective lenses to see them at all), so where I see a nice example of a classic Japanese GT, perfect for popping the T-tops out and cruising the twisty roads around wine country on a sunny day, this car’s former steward envisioned it being a bit faster. And more furious.

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In any event, even if you have to change out the wheels before you tow it home and undo the indignities, when you’re done you’d have a really nice car. I always liked the shape of these angular 300ZXs, and the engine and transmission are rock-solid reliable if you just leave them alone and keep up the maintenance. Maybe this car was saved just in the nick of time.

Neither of these cars is likely to be worth a fortune, though both are old enough to be considered classics now. Base-model automatic sports cars just aren’t as desirable as manual or higher-spec versions. But that makes them cheap to buy. I think either of these cars is worth consideration as a cheap weekend cruiser with a little work. Which one would you rather put the effort into?



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57 Responses

  1. IF the ‘vette isn’t rusty it’s the winner. Probably just needs fluid.

    But that’s a big IF. The pictures only show parts that can’t rust. A little rust in the wrong spots is the difference between “sweet deal!” and “I just spent $1500 on a thrashed $200 SBC that needs a rebuild”

  2. My vote goes to the Corvette. My guess is that it needs new transmission fluid and a filter since it still drives and still shifts through gears 1-3.

    And I would take an automatic Corvette any day over an automatic 300zx

  3. Corvettes might be a bit unrefined and cheap-feeling, but they are at least relatively cheap to buy and decently simple to repair. An old high-tech Japanese GT from a brand that was notorious for putting as many computers and gimmicks in their cars as they could get away with(nearly all of which have probably gone wrong on this car) sound like a bitter pill to swallow. If it was a manual and/or turbo, I might be more tempted to take the plunge, but seeing how this is far from the high points of the Z-car line(automatic, an engine that does not cash the checks the body is advertising, suspension tuning and interior design that make it into a fat, lazy GT rather than a sports car, etc), a Corvette is definitely the safer bet.

  4. I haven’t really liked the looks of Zs since they stopped being called Datsuns. But to be fair, though I’ve never loved Vettes, this was the era I found the ugliest. But what the hell, they’re shitboxes, and I might as well pick the one I dislike the least. In this case, I’ll go with the devil I know, even if I only know it slightly better. I’ll take the Chevy. It’s a year older than the Caprice drivetrain I swapped into an ’87 XJ6 a few years back and probably isn’t all that comparable, but at least I know I already have all the tools I’ll need.

  5. This was a very hard choice but I want to rescue that Nissan. I almost clawed at my screen to remove the wheels, spoiler, and headlights.

  6. Buy them both and Frankenstein it. End up with a V8 (manual hopefully) monster Z. The old Vette interior and controls and dash and wiring and …. no. That initially anemic 6 with a slush box and half the horses done ran away by now? not that either. But some smash up between the two? Now that’s the business. Then hoon away, replacing whatever isn’t good enough and everything that breaks. It keeps you busy that way.

  7. I was torn until I saw the Z ad with the “every car we could think of” paragraph at the end. Anyone using that listing strategy can get fucked by a syphilitic donkey.

    1. I nixed ome that was way worse than that. Can’t efen remember what car it was (an Integra maybe?), but it had a list of bullshit “keywords” that scrolled on for days.

  8. I like both cars, but I’d want to do the Corvette with a modern E-Rod set up, but with a built PowerGlide. Yeah, I said it. It’s an amazing shift at about 90mph when you get into it.
    Now get off my lawn!

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