Happy Friday to all of you out there in our fair kingdom of Autopia! This week, we’re going back to the old format of taking the last four days’ winners and pitting them against each other. Yes, it’s time to crown another Shitbox of the Week! But of course, before we can do that, we need our fourth shitbox champion, so let’s see who won yesterday’s battle of my young imagination:
As I expected, the Fiat takes a comfortable win. That makes two in the L-column for Chrysler L-bodies this week. I still love Rampages and Shelby Chargers, but I agree with you all: that Rampage and that Shelby Charger were just too, if you’ll pardon the pun, Dodgy.
So that leaves us with four to choose from. Let’s recap quickly, and then you can decide which one is getting your imaginary internet dollars.
Pros: Low miles, four wheel drive, massive support network, it’s a truck
Cons: Catastrophically rusty, has been used for just about the hardest job a truck can do
This truck sparked quite a debate in the comments about how salvageable it actually is. I don’t know Jeep engineering, or metallurgy, but I do know rural Wisconsin, and I will tell you that, come November, you will see this truck parked outside Ernie’s Gas And Bait, with fresh patches welded on the frame rails and rockers and cab corners slathered in Rhino-Liner, and with a tagged and cleaned deer carcass in the bed. Wisconsinites aren’t about to let a good huntin’ truck go until it absolutely won’t run anymore. After all, “With (welding) rod, all things are possible.”
It won’t sell with the plow included. That’s a nice new plow, and someone will grab that and install it on another truck, and then go plow in, and subsequently clear out, his ex-girlfriend’s driveway. Such is life in a northern town. But what about you? Would you rescue this rusty old heap of a Jeep, patch it back up, and send it into battle once more? Or is it best left as a parts donor?
Pros: Economical, reliable, two tons of fun in a one ton package with the potential for more
Cons: Needs a starter, cheap ’90s Ford interior, love-it-or-hate-it styling
This one surprised me a little; that Accord was what most car enthusiasts consider peak-Honda. I figured it would walk away with the vote. But these little ZX2s cast a pretty long shadow of their own. This car has more power than you’d guess, handles better than it has any right to, and holds together for a couple hundred thousand miles wihout complaint. In fact, put that way, it does sound like a hell of a deal.
This is one of two cool underrated little sports coupes that I had a chance to buy and decided not to. The other was a Geo Storm GSi. I don’t regret either decision; the cars I bought instead – a Ford Escort LX and a Mazda Protege – were both good cars, but nowhere near as much fun. ZX2s are still around here and there, but Storms are just gone. Oh well. I think I might be outgrowing cheap-and-cheerful cars like this anyway. I’m either getting old, or spoiled. I’m starting to like my creature comforts.
Pros: Might actually be indestructible by non-magical means, huge support network, big and comfy
Cons: Thirsty, also not treated kindly, cop-car stigma
I can’t say this one surprised me at all. A more interesting comparison might have been a Dodge Charger police car, but I spotted that Taurus before I found one. Ford Panther-chassis cars are still remarkably popular more than a decade after the last one was built, and a huge number of them are still on the road, and likely will be for a long time to come. They’re not perfect – they’re nowhere near as roomy inside as their exterior dimensions would suggest, and the Police Interceptors aren’t as quiet or smooth as the civilian versions – but as the last of the body-on-frame V8-powered sedan breed, you can’t deny that they went out on a high note. These are remarkable cars.
Of course, there is still all the baggage that goes along with driving an ex-cop car: Other drivers avoiding you like the plague, and sometimes holding you up by trying to “behave” around you, and – how do I put this? – the unsavory nature of some of the sorts of people who buy old cop cars. Yeah, I know you’re not one of “those guys,” but they are out there, and you will end up associated with them. Unless, of course, you turn it into a rallycross car or something; nobody is going to think a Crown Vic with big A/T tires on it is pretending to be a cop.
Pros: Classic Italian styling, open-air fun, guaranteed conversation-starter
Cons: Classic Italian reliability, not nearly as fast as it looks, tight squeeze if you’re big & tall
And finally, last but not least (well, least in size, weight, and displacement, but you know what I mean), we have this smart little number. Or rather, two numbers and a letter: X1/9. In case you’re curious, the name comes directly from the car’s prototype designation: eXperimental, category 1 (passenger car), prototype number 9. Fiat developed and improved this little car throughout its long run; these later ones are the cars to get. The engine’s displacement was increased to 1.5 liters, and Bosch fuel injection replaced the two-barrel carburetor. It also gained a fifth gear, and lost the hideous double-decker 5 mph bumpers it gained in ’75 to meet US regulations.
I’ve loved the X1/9 since I was a little kid, but the one I remember best was during my college days. When Archer Brothers Racing had their shop in Canal Park in Duluth, MN, they kept a small showroom of cars for sale, one of which was a Fiat X1/9 in a color that can best be described as “fluorescent dragon-snot green.” I stared through the plate-glass window at that little green Fiat for way too long on way too many occasions, as well as a number of other cars, including one of their legendary race-prepared Eagle Talons. It has since occurred to me that what I should have done, instead of standing outside staring, is walk inside and ask for a job, any job. What might have been…
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you for this week. Quite an interesting foursome here – we’ve actually got all the bases covered pretty well. This would make a decent four-car garage, and all four of them would cost you less than a new Kia Rio. But if you did have to choose just one, and you do, which one will it be?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)