Good morning, Autopians! It’s Friday once again, and once again I have had a hell of a week. Let’s just say this year has been a little too eventful for my taste so far. I long for a little boredom. Maybe that’s why I picked a lot of mundane cars this week. I’m going to keep it simple this week: just a straight-ahead four-way shootout between the week’s winners. However, the usual rule applies about the comments: You do not get full credit unless you show your work.
So let’s take a quick peek back at yesterday’s wagon battle and crown our fourth champion. I knew the Mopar streak couldn’t last, especially with that charming little green Datsun in the running. And indeed, that poverty-spec Aspen wagon got left in the dust.
You may be surprised to hear it from a die-hard Chrysler fan like me, but I think this is the right call. As cool as a crooked shift lever angled back over a bench seat is, that’s about the only thing the Aspen has going for it. Emissions-era Slant Sixes didn’t run nearly as well as the old “dirty” ones did, and that car is bound to be a nightmare of electrical gremlins eventually, if it isn’t already. Chrysler engineers, for some reason, decided to install an ammeter in the dashboard instead of a voltmeter like everyone else. Every bit of wiring in the car passes through it, so you can imagine what happens when it fails. On a hill. In rush-hour traffic. In the rain. Ask me how I know. No, I’ll stick with the reliable fuel-injected Datsun, thanks.
So that’s our foursome for the week. Let’s quickly recap, so you can make an informed decision.
This old third-generation F-body is one of those “good news/bad news” deals. It’s a Trans Am, with all the suspension and interior perks thereof, and even better, it’s a five-speed manual. However, its high-output Chevy V8 has suffered a broken camshaft, and is currently in pieces, so this is currently not much more than flashy ’80s yard art.
Most of you agreed with my assessment that the old 305 probably isn’t worth fixing, especially since small-block V8s are so easy to come by. Drop in as much or as little power as you like, upgrade the gearbox as needed, and go have some fun.
This old Dodge is the textbook definition of a “beater.” It runs like a top, and isn’t a terrible car to drive – comfortable, though handling isn’t its strong suit – but it looks like absolute hell. You can drive this car anywhere, park it with impunity, and send it off to the great used car lot in the sky with no guilt if something goes catastrophically wrong.
You won’t spend much time in the fast lane in this one. While the majority of Dynastys had either a Mitsubishi 3.0 liter or Chrysler’s own 3.3 liter V6 under the hood, this base model makes do with a 2.5 liter inline four. The good news is that it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to service and repair than the sixes, and it’s paired with a reliable three-speed Torqueflite transmission rather than the finicky and trouble-prone Ultradrive four-speed.
This near-perfect early Dodge Omni seems to have taken the ordinary-car internet communty by storm. (Yes, believe it or not, there now seems to be an ordinary-car internet community now.) I’ve seen this car referenced in at least two or three places since it first came up for sale. Everyone seems to agree that the automatic transmission in it is a bit of a letdown, but I still expect this little car to find a new home before long.
It really is a time capsule: the bright blue vinyl, the simulated woodgrain, the simple AM/FM radio, even the aftermarket cupholder/center console storage, it all brings back memories for those of us of a certain age. Its carbureted 1.7 liter Volkswagen engine only puts out something like 70 horsepower, so it isn’t really up to the task of modern daily use, but it would be a hit at any Saturday morning Cars & Coffee.
Finally this week, we have this delightful little Japanese wagon. Datsun’s 810 was the predecessor to the popular Maxima, Nissan’s big sporty sedan, and even at this early stage the sportiness was there. This car is powered by a fuel-injected version of the same overhead-cam inline six as the 240Z. This is no one’s idea of a sports car, obviously, but it should be a bit snappier than your average ’70s small wagon, especially with a four-speed stick.
Even better, it’s a fairly low-mileage Japanese car, back from when their only natural enemy was rust. Since this one has enjoyed a life in sunny southern California, that isn’t a concern. It’s a classic, mainly because there aren’t many like it left, but it’s a classic you could drive everyday.
Now, very quickly, before we get to the voting: We’ve had a couple of reader-suggested cars this week, and I absolutely love that. Not only do I appreciate the help, but I want you all to feel like you’re a part of all this. But the truth is that not every car listing is suitable for our purposes. So I want to give you all a couple of pointers on what to look for:
- Photos! I typically use four, sometimes five, photos of each car, so obviously there need to be at least that many. Not only that, but they need to be halfway decent images of the car. I’m not one to criticize anyone’s photography skills – just ask my wife – but well-framed and well-lit photos are important. And generally speaking, I like to see a couple of angles of the exterior, one of the interior, and one underhood shot.
- It’s easier for me if the description and information in the ad is as complete as possible. If all it says is “New tires runs good,” that’s not much to go on. Particularly, if a car is available with more than one engine, it helps if the seller mentions which one is in it.
- Personally, I can’t stand trying to browse Facebook Marketplace, but I’m happy to use listings from there. Or Craigslist, or Autotrader, or Hemmings, or anywhere with a listed price, really. I try to stay away from auction listings, because price is sometimes a deciding factor.
As long as those are satisfied, go for it! Send suggestions to our tip line, email@example.com, or post them to the Shitbox Showdown channel on our Discord server. Submit one car, or a pair you think would go well together.
For now, it’s time to choose your favorite of these four. Discuss, debate, and cast your vote.
(Image credits: Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist sellers)