Three GMs And A Ford Vie For Shitbox Of The Week: Which Is Your Favorite?

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Happy Friday! It’s been an odd week for me, and a week of some surprising Shitbox Showdown results. I never expected that “some assembly required” Chevy Sprint to win. Yesterday’s result was no surprise, however:

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You have no idea how much I wanted to find a decent, worthy Camaro to make this a fair fight. This is the best I could do on a truncated timetable. Mustangs in this condition and price aren’t hard to come by, but it’s getting hard to find any Camaros between “Mecum-ready” and “Daddy’s shootin’ car.” Maybe someday I’ll do a re-match, with ’70s models. That should be a fairer fight.

(Oh, and “Camero” was all David; he keeps having to re-do the polls because my laptop doesn’t want to save them correctly for some unknown reason. Gotta love technical glitches).

So with that, we have our four finalists. Let’s go through them again, and then you can vote for your favorite.

[Editor’s Note: Holy crap. Mark this day in your calendars folks, because it appears that our beloved Mr. Tucker — a man in touch with pop culture in a way that I could never dream to be, a man who wins every trivia night at his local bar and even sometimes corrects the moderators when their answers aren’t “technically correct” — appears to have missed a pop culture reference! “Camero,” of course, is not a spelling error. Well, it is. But I made it intentionally, because of the widespread joke that Camaro owners are a bit “dim” and therefore unable to properly spell Camaro. -DT]

[Second Editor’s Note: You will notice that today’s Shitbox Showdown is not on time. This, of course, is not the fault of the infallible (well, almost) Mark Tucker. But we can explain! You see, a 1973 Saab Sonett just came up for sale on the Troy, Michigan Facebook Marketplace, and Jason and I had to call the owner immediately to get more details. That led us both down deep Saab Sonett rabbit-holes (you may have noticed that today’s Cold Start was a Sonet), and before we knew it, Torch and I forgot about Shitbox Showdown because we were marveling at the Sonet’s incredible cross-brace that doubles as a coolant overflow bottle. We’re sorry; this won’t happen aga — actually, let’s just leave it at “we’re sorry.” -DT]

2004 Pontiac Aztek – $1,500

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Several commenters pointed out a connection between the Aztek and the TV show Breaking Bad. I confess I only saw the first few episodes of that one; I just couldn’t get into it. But an Aztek with hand controls will to me always be the car of Logan Cale, AKA “Eyes Only,” in Dark Angel. Different fandoms for different folks, I guess.

I found it funny that the Citation was so fantastically undesirable that an Aztek with a mysteriously stained interior and a failing transmission beat it handily. The X-cars get no love at all. But then, to know them is to loathe them.

Personally, I’d rather have a pre-refresh Aztek, and I’d look for one with a fully functional gearbox, but I think you all made the right choice. Out of these three, as they sit, this is number 3 for me.

1995 GMC Safari – $1,500

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Everybody seems to love the Astro and Safari, even if those folks don’t always love servicing them. That doghouse is a real pain in the ass to open up, if I recall. But even back in the ’90s when I was servicing them, we’d frequently see these things with a 2 or 3 as the first digit in the odometer. They’re good durable vehicles.

I do really worry about the level of rust on this one, though. That hole behind the sliding door and the brown stains on the running boards hint at some serious rot in the sills and rocker panels. But if you just use it as a sacrificial vehicle for snow days, you could spend $1,500 in a lot worse ways. This, as it sits, is probably my last choice, but a less-rusty 2WD Astro or Safari for a good low price would catch my attention.

One and three-quarters 1988 Chevrolet Sprint Turbos – $1,500

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As soon as I saw this listing, I thought it would make a really fun project and be a hoot to drive when finished, but I honestly didn’t expect anyone else to go along on this ride. I thought a running driving limo, even with fire damage, would be too tempting. But gearheads love a good pocket rocket, and this tiny turbo terror could be a lot of fun.

(As a quick aside, I was talking to my dad on the phone, and he came up with a really interesting use-case for the limo: turn it into a crew-cab pickup, with the bed in the middle. Keep the front and rear passenger compartments, add bulkheads, and turn the entire center section into a load bed. Add a fold-down gate on the passenger side like a Corvair Rampside pickup for loading. It’d look goofy as hell, and I’m not sure what the advantage would be, but I’d love to see it.)

This little Sprint would be my second choice, assuming I didn’t already have a hungry MG to feed, and had space to put two dead hatchbacks, and time to work on them.

1999 Ford Mustang – $2,495

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I’ve actually considered a Mustang of this vintage for a while now. I’ve never had a pony car; the closest I’ve come is a 1984 Chrysler Laser XE turbo. It seems like I should own a Mustang (or Camaro or Firebird) at some point. I’d probably go for an automatic, since I’d be using it as a daily driver and they’re easier to find, and I already have a fun manual car for weekends. But this one, with a stick, would make a decent beater (or first car) car for someone. And it would be my top pick this week.

That’s it for this week. I’ll try to find some less torturous selections next week. Might cut down on the complaining. (You do all realize you don’t actually have to buy or drive the cars you pick, right? This is all purely theoretical). Until then, vote for your favorite, and feel free to rank these four (I know; they’re all pretty rank already) and comment any wild grandiose plans you might have for any or all of them.

Quiz maker

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30 Responses

  1. I’m not sure why you’re surprised the limo didn’t make it. I don’t want to own a limo in any condition. Impossible to park, pain in the ass to drive, slow, guzzles fuel, won’t fit in your garage, boring appearance, tacky, structurally suspect. Who wants a damn limo?

  2. The Mustang for a daily driver.

    The Aztek if you want a weekend car to put a canoe on top of.

    The Sprint Turbo if you want a pile of fun parts to build a twin engine 4×4 safari terror car, or maybe a hovercraft.

    The Safari if you want an impromptu a cabin in the woods to smoke dope and don’t have time to build one.

  3. I’m just going to quote what Mr. Asa said earlier this week because I still pick it over everything else this week. Give me the Sprints!

    “You’re telling me that I have all the components necessary to shove two turbo sprint engines into one body for an AWD monster, or I can buy a fire damaged hulk?

    Man, you must be out of your mind if you think I’m buying the limo.”

    https://www.theautopian.com/1995-town-car-limo-or-1988-chevy-sprint-turbo-which-odbball-basket-case-would-you-save/comment-page-1/#comment-15121

      1. I want all of you who echoed this madcap plan to take a deep breath, put your hand over your heart, look each other straight in the eye, and admit the truth: you’d never in a million years actually go through with that plan. Be honest! Think of what you have in that heap of parts the delivery flatbed just unceremoniously dumped on your driveway. Think of what it would actually take in terms of planning, designing, cutting, fabricating, welding, stretching, massaging, cursing, bleeding, drinking, staring, grumbling, drinking some more, and despairing it would take to cobble those two engines and two drivetrains together into one ridiculous Chevy Sprint-shaped space and make it all actually motorvate under its own power. Having added up all that misery to its towering total, then imagine honestly what you would possess at the end of that lengthy treadmill of tears. And then consider how vanishingly few days we all have left to us on the skin of this world before The End of All.

        On your premature deathbed you’d mutter, “As God is my witness, I should have taken the torched limo and had a slower and much, much longer trip to this hospice bed.”

        So now to atone, having been shewn the folly of your ways, you’ll pick the sensible Mustang. There’s a good chap.

        1. Broseph, this past year I have cut up two GM LSx heads and welded them together to form a head for a Ford 300ci I6. If all goes to plan and nothing stupid happens with the economy (LOL) it should be assembled by the end of the year and it should be running sometime next year.

          As for what I would possess at the end of that, it would be a car that should place in the top five of the Grassroots Motorsports $2000 Challenge

          There’s no limit to the hackery and automotive madness that I can achieve. You have no idea how high I can fly.

        2. Here’s the thing. You don’t know the power of buying things that don’t deserve proper restoration, and not spending more than “don’t give a fuck” money.

          If those Sprints landed on my driveway in midsummer, we’d have a sawzall party on the first weekend, and we’d be grinding spots to bare metal so the welds would stick by the second weekend. I don’t know what we’d end with, maybe a 4×4, maybe a hovercraft, but it wouldn’t be a stock Chevy Sprint Turbo. When you don’t worry about what you’ll end up with or what it’ll look like when you’re done, that’s when shit gets done fastest.

          And it wouldn’t take all the effort you think it would: I’d just cut the fenders off car #2, cut a hole in the rear of #1, shove #2 in the back, weld it up, and then cut off the rest. Lock the steering in the rear, then finish figuring out how to link up the mechanicals. You’re probably looking at a turf toy that never gets out of first gear anyway.

          If the end product turned out fun, THEN I’d start engineering a tube chassis to hold it all. But for fuck it money, I’m not ashamed of making something David Tracy might find in a scrap yard next year.

          The projects that never get started are generally restorations of things that don’t really deserve the effort to get restored, like that limo that the two Sprints were pitted against. That’s a project that’s never getting started. Used limos are a dime a dozen when they’re not on fire.

        3. I’ll bet the right group of hot rodders and mechanical engineers could have it up and running in a week, given a constant supply of pizza and energy drinks. Film the whole thing, set it to the right music, edit in all the fights and arguments among the cutting and welding, and show the finished car, glorious but borderline-undrivable, take two laps around a track before one or both engines fails spectacularly. Sell it to Discovery Channel as a pilot, and use the proceeds to buy a much better car.

          1. It would also be at least physically possible to weld six Pinto Squire station wagons side-by-side, doorhandle to doorhandle, and gang together their steering, throttle, and braking controls so all 540 hp could be controlled by one madman in the #3 driver’s seat, and blast down Sepulveda Blvd from Saticoy to Roscoe… until he lost control and crashed into Dr Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ and perished in a fireball redolent with the mouthwatering smell of their legendary brisket.

            But nobody’s ever gonna do that either.

  4. …actually, let’s just leave it at “we’re sorry.”

    You know that we readers get it and frankly, no apology is needed. That is exactly the sort of obsessive behavior that we expect, nay, demand! There are priorities!

  5. The kind of driving muscle cars do best are better suited to automatic. Straight line go fast and do it easy, and of course burnouts are much easier with automatic :o)

    The Aztek got votes just for the famous cooler console.

    1. I’m always thankful to Vanilla Ice for making possibly the world’s dumbest movie, “Cold As Ice” so that ten years later I could watch it stoned in a hotel room and laugh until I couldn’t breathe.

      There’s a scene where they do the “Top Gun” horse/motorcycle race except Ice magically jumps the fence on his bike on level ground with no ramp which causes the horse to throw the girl. Instead of helping her Ice just poses on the bike and say “Sup.” It’s fantastic. In a bad way.

  6. I voted Aztec too, knowing that it was a minority position. A rattle can paint job in that glorious shade of lima bean green and a whack with a hammer to the windshield and I’d be on my way to having a Walter White special. Plus, after looking at Yeti coolers at my local farm supply store the other day, that integrated beer cooler between the seats must be worth at least $500, right?

  7. I must be the only person who actively hates the Astro/Safari, but I actually owned and daily drove one for three years. I’ve never owned a crappier vehicle – but then, everything else has either been a Honda or a Toyota.

  8. Hey first I’ll call BS on the misspelled Camero because pop culture has to reference an earlier decade equivalent. If that’s not enough Sonett was misspelled twice in the explanation. Can’t vote the Mustang to me growing up in that era where buy crap for the union label advertising scam it is as boring as a Corolla and as reliable as well an American car of that era that’s decades old.

  9. “…..interesting use-case for the limo: turn it into a crew-cab pickup, with the bed in the middle.” LMAO

    Put in some sort of articulation and rear steering, and you’d have your own unique Gamma Goat.

  10. Loving the “reliable” asstec comments.

    Already failing transmission + one of the worst GM engines since the Vega + worst-of-the-worst of GM’s particularly horrible crop of on-board electronics = reliable? Holy shit. The asstec is quite possibly the worst vehicle made in its era, not even considering its styling.

  11. “Technically correct: the best kind of correct”

    Anyway, the Mustang is the only actual choice, even a chintzy one like this. I had a friend who had one of this vintage, albeit auto, and I don’t recall it being particularly more enjoyable to drive than my parents’ windstar. That said, I always figured the aztek in breaking bad is meant as shorthand for just how pitiful Walter White’s pre-crime life is, I’d be worried the only thing the Astro is good for is tetanus, and a twin-engined sprint sounds like a hilarious opening to your obituary

    1. “That said, I always figured the aztek in breaking bad is meant as shorthand for just how pitiful Walter White’s pre-crime life is,”

      Fairly sure that the person that chose the vehicles for each character has said this to be fact.

  12. I’m going to be deep in the minority here, but I believe…um, well that the Aztek is the least terrible for the money. If semi-reliable transportation for the lowest cost is your #1 goal, that’s the way to go. But if you have other priorities, like fun, then you might want to consider your other options.

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