Home » The Gifts That Keep On Giving Us Problems: Fiat 850 vs Nissan 300ZX vs Peugeot 604 vs Avanti

The Gifts That Keep On Giving Us Problems: Fiat 850 vs Nissan 300ZX vs Peugeot 604 vs Avanti

Sbsd 12 22 2023
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‘Twas the day before the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the shop,
The warning lights were blinking, and they just wouldn’t stop.
The Autopians were gathered, wishing they were in their beds,
While visions of repair bills danced through their heads.

Or something like that. Welcome to another Shitbox Showdown! Today, we’re having a four-way shootout as we often do at the end of the week, but this time there’s a twist: instead of choosing which car you want, you’ll be deciding which car you would want to bestow (or foist) upon one of us writers. I’ll explain in just a sec.

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First, let’s see which Studebaker refugee you chose yesterday. It was a really close vote, and I would have a hard time deciding between these two myself, actually. But in the end, the Avanti squeaked out a narrow win, and I think this would be my choice as well. That Packard is just too intimidating. I’d feel a lot more at ease, and have a lot more fun, tinkering around with an Avanti II.

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All right. So here is the scenario I’ve come up with for you today: You have the power to give one of these cars to one Autopian writer as a gift. That writer must accept the car, and must write about it throughout the coming year. You don’t get any say in what they do with it, except that they must keep it and use it as a source of inspiration for content. So you’ll be voting for a car, and then commenting on who gets it, and why. Let’s recap our choices:

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1982 Avanti II

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I have to say, I take some issue with those who would label this a “kit car.” First, they were never available as such; Avanti IIs were sold only as complete cars, smog-legal and everything. Second, this is an Avanti, through and through. It’s just not a Studebaker Avanti. If this is a kit car, then so are fifty years’ worth of Caterham Sevens, except those actually are available as kits. As with Caterham, the Avanti Motor Company bought the rights to a model that went out of production, resumed building it with some small modifications, and sourced alternate existing powertrains for it. Think of it as its own thing, a continuation of what started under Studebaker, not a replica of it.

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I mean, call it what you will, I guess, but I call it cool. I’d paint it charcoal-gray, or maybe navy blue, to let the red interior pop, and ditch the Daytons for some Magnum 500s or something. I never much liked wire wheels. I probably wouldn’t even worry about messing with the 305; it’s likely fast enough for me. Just show up to Cars & Coffee or local cruise nights and piss off all the Corvette owners by taking the wind out of their sails.

1982 Peugeot 604 Turbodiesel

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This old French tank really appeals to me as well. It’s exotic, but not like a Lamborghini or anything as flashy or gauche as that; this is a humble car that brings to mind exotic locales. You get the feeling that if you flew to Tunisia or someplace and hired a “limo” to take you from the airport to your hotel, they’d show up in a 604 diesel. It feels worldly in a way that far more exciting cars don’t.

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And there is that legendary French comfort at work here. I’ve ridden in a Peugeot 504 diesel before, and I was very impressed by the ride and the comfort of the seats. I get the feeling that this 604 is just the same, only more so. No, it won’t be quick, even once you fix its current drivability issues. But I bet it sails along down the highway at 80 just fine.

1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo

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This bright red GT is probably the quickest and fastest car here, and likely by a wide margin. The VG30ET turbocharged V6 under its hood puts out near-enough 200 horsepower, small potatoes today, but a healthy number for the Reagan era. Even better, it’s equipped with the proper gearbox for the job, with five speeds and three pedals, as the sports car gods intended.

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And if by chance you get bored with shifting gears, you have a whole bunch of buttons you can push. Most of them probably still even work, knowing how well bubble-economy-era Japanese cars were built. And I just noticed the equalizer below the stereo! Man, I miss playing with those things.

1970 Fiat 850 Sport Spider

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But just in case you consider a Japanese car too reliable, here’s a nice cantankerous Italian car to even things out. This little green Fiat has the sort of face you can’t stay mad at when it gives you fits, though, like a puppy who chews up your slippers, but then hits you with “that look” that gets them out of trouble every time. And it doesn’t currently run anyway, so really, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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Once you get it running, you put it on (this is a car you more or less wear, not ride in) and buzz through the gears with an angry weed-eater engine pushing you along. It’s like acting out your rally fantasies at one-third speed. Tremendous fun – until some dude in a bro-dozer fills your rearview mirror and reminds you just how tiny and vulnerable you really are.

So there they are. Now it’s time for you to choose one of them, and tell us in the comments who you’re giving it to. We’ve all been very good this year (well, except Adrian, who takes pride in being on the “naughty” list), but you can only bestow one imaginary gift upon one of us. Which one will it be?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good … Friday morning!

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Shane Australasian
Shane Australasian
3 months ago

The Nissan has Gossin written all over it. If it needs anything he will likely sort it with a great story to tell.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

Jason gets the Fiat because he likes war time design German cars and Italians were their bffs. Also it’s green and cute and it doesn’t work.

Gossin gets the Peugeot. Not sure why, but he does. BTW those aren’t “humble cars”–they were Peugeot’s flagship car at the time.

The Avanti goes to Bishop or Adrian. A bottomless fount of design content.

The ZX goes to nobody on the staff because is actually a good car and y’all don’t do that kind of self indulgent stuff.

TheNewt
TheNewt
3 months ago

I chose the Peugeot for Thomas. His investigative skills would be great for something like finding parts and suppliers for this car and I think he would produce some great reference articles to look back on.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
3 months ago

I would give the Peugeot to Adrian so he could use it and write about the design and those horrible bumpers. Maybe he could also return it to euro spec like it was intended. Should be simpler for him to find parts as well. Merry Christmas you cranky bell-end..

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
3 months ago

I’m gifting the Peugeot to Torch. A perfect jumping-off point for a deep dive into European sedan tail light arcana, and how American models are different.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
3 months ago

I want to gift the Peugeot to…
Stephen Walter Gossin!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Last edited 3 months ago by Freelivin1327
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

Right? It’s inexplicably self evident.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
3 months ago

I voted for the Avanti, which I would bestow upon Mercedes.
And since the car requires a full repaint, this would be the perfect opportunity for Mercedes to commission a killer pink paint job!

Happy motoring Mercedes!

Last edited 3 months ago by Shooting Brake
David Kieras
David Kieras
3 months ago

To be a good car for an Autopian staff writer, I think definitely it needs to be a project car. And what better project car than one where a lot of different parts, mods, etc. are available? My goodness, there could be SCORES of articles not only about the Avanti, but featuring different Avanti owner mods in search of what to do.

Heck, I think it could be an entire Autopian team effort. Each writer takes a crack at one project for the car. Suspension. Brake upgrades. Engine upgrades. Paint. Aftermarket taillights (Torch). Conversion to a three-pedal.

Truly a gift to the entire team at the Autopian.

SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
3 months ago

I’m going to gift Mercedes the Avanti, because Raymond Loewry also designed the beautiful Pennsylvania Railroad S1 and T1 locomotives.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

Well…
Adrian already has a hot red car. There’s no Parsh here for Stef. Many people have already suggested the Pug for Mercedes…

I vote for the Turbo Z. Send it Down Under to Laurence so he & Bek can have a flashy red wrong-hand-steering goin’ ta town rig. He’s already dipped into the turbo world in the past—still has one as I recall—and reading about getting this car certified down there, and the ensuing mods, then shenanigans would be great entertainment for me.

Merry Christmas, Laurence & Bek!

Lokki
Lokki
3 months ago

I voted for the fiat, and planned to give it to David on the argument that it’s a very distant cousin to a Jeep via the Stellantis connection. Something later occurred to me though: first David already has an abandoned tiny car project in the form of his forgotten Metropolitan, not to mention several other infested project cars…. it would be a shame for the Fiat to end its days abandoned and acting as a kitten/raccoon/what-ya-got? nest.

So I want to add my vote to the crew wanting to give Jason the Pug. A Peugeot with a turbo diesel is a wonderful, comfortable, and reliable car. He deserves something from Autopia after arguing with David about Pop Culture references daily interaction with the rest of the staff gave him a freaking heart attack.

Please get well soon Jason. We all misses you much. We worried when your taillights flickered there.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Lokki

Well said: that last sentence got me a bit.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

I am giving the Avanti to DT. HE has gotten a little fancy of late. I think a 2 toned mostly primer Avanti puts him in his place without worrying about tetanus or midtrip breakdowns with his lady

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
3 months ago

Peugeot to Mercedes since it’s a diesel

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  PresterJohn

Dang, that was exactly my thinking! Great minds think alike!

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago

The Avanti interior isn’t as nice as the original , but isn’t bad. I wonder how hard it would be to backdate the headlights to the original round style. The rectangular ones look so wrong.

Same thoughts about the Fiat. The earlier headlights were better.

Question:
Has there ever been a car model where later updates had esthetically superior headlights?

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

KL Cherokee. The refresh in 2019 (I think) was a huge improvement over the original headlight design.

Rafael
Rafael
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

LX Dodge Charger. Saw the piece here on the Autopian, and the originals were weird…

DDayJ
DDayJ
3 months ago

Mark, I gift you the Pug. That’s too cool of a car to let go. Keep us posted on parts sourcing.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago

Happy little green Fiat to Jason. I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to get running and would bring our fearless leader some joy when he’s back on his feet. I can just imagine him giving us the walk around of this thing, gushing over all the little details.

Flatisflat
Flatisflat
3 months ago

Fiat to David. He must be reminded of something that isn’t silicon valley. Even if the reminder is terrible and doesn’t work.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
3 months ago

Nissan to Thomas. He already has a love for problematic sporty cars. Therefore he needs an absurdly complicated Japanese bubble car that will do sporty car things. Eventually. Once enough demons have been exorcised. And still has a good chance of needing to call CAA on any given trip.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
4 months ago

I choose the Peugeot as it is odd and I don’t care what happens to it. The others are too nice to chop up.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
4 months ago

I chose the Fiat and will now bequethe it to David Tracy simply to give him a challenge. I personally can’t think of anything worth writing about on this little green turd. I want to see what David can make of it.

I want to score that Pug for me before anyone else can get their hands on it.

Last edited 4 months ago by Opa Carriker
SegaF355Fan
SegaF355Fan
4 months ago

I chose the Fiat and thought about giving it to Torch. But I think he’s got enough on his hands right now. So it goes to Adrian instead for another retro review, like the one he recently did on the Escort.

Gubbin
Gubbin
4 months ago
Reply to  SegaF355Fan

“Lovely, if you’d like to sit in a mouse-befouled Miata seat and make brrrm noises.”

Gubbin
Gubbin
4 months ago

OK, so an unfinished project is about as nice a gift as a free puppy or a vacuum cleaner. That cute li’l Fiat would “the gift that keeps on giving” for someone who finds joy in endless tinkering or covering their mechanics boat payments but that calls on resources that none of y’all can afford to part with. Even with a LEAF drivetrain dropped in the back it would somehow find a way to strand you somewhere.

As lovely as the Avanti might be some bright day, it’s not something to put a bow on day after tomorrow.

The Peugeot is stately and sensible but I’ll bet parts availability stateside is insensible.

So I voted for the RED TURBO SPORTSCAR because any one of y’all would enjoy the zooming and could probably haul parts or tow motorcycles with it.

Last edited 4 months ago by Gubbin
Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
4 months ago

I honestly feel like Mercedes would enjoy the Peugeot since it’s a European diesel. I would love to see the content she could come up with from it.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

I voted Fiat. I’m a terrible human being who wants to see Mercedes take it on a Gambler 500.

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