Today’s Shitbox Showdown is not for the faint-of-heart. We’re going to dive into a pair of rough, but completely viable, project cars, neither of which has moved under its own power in decades. But fear not: One of them includes a parts car, and the other has broad aftermarket support. But before we get dusty and risk spider bites checking them out, let’s see what you made of yesterday’s red-white-and-blah coupes:
Ooh, close one! The Ford wins it by a slight margin. But I have to side with the minority here; the Cosmo is just the more interesting car.
Now then: I know not everyone here is a fan of project cars. You’re not alone; plenty of serious gearheads aren’t enthusiastic about doing their own work, or just never learned how, so they stick to completely functional cars, and pay someone else to get their hands dirty. And that’s cool. But some of us are drawn to the junkers, the barn-finds, the cars that have languished unloved for years in garages and fields, and we love the idea of bringing them back from the dead. The reality of doing so doesn’t always line up with the fantasy, of course. But that makes the daydreaming even more fun; if you can look at these rusty old heaps and see them not for what they are now, but for what they might be, then you’re One Of Us. Let me show you what I’ve found.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.2 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD
Location: Bellingham, WA
Odometer reading: unknown
In case you’re not familiar with this car: This is the Triumph Herald, introduced in 1959 as a replacement for the Standard Eight and Standard Ten, two frumpy little sedans that didn’t fit well with Triumph’s successful TR series of sports cars. The Herald was a clean-sheet design except for the engine, a typical little over-square British pushrod four. Hey, they worked. The Herald’s chassis, including its independent swing-arm rear suspension, later became the basis for the Spitfire, GT6, and Vitesse models. It’s a body-on-frame design, with body panels that bolt onto a central tub.
This design is important for our purposes, because there are two Heralds here. The more-complete red one is a British-spec right-hand-drive 1962 model with a clean title in the seller’s name. The blue car is a Canadian-spec model, with no title. But it has a lot less rust. The Erector set nature of the car’s assembly means you can transfer good sheetmetal to the car with the good title without cutting and welding. Both cars have complete drivetrains, so you can pick the best bits there as well. And the commonality of mechanical parts with the Spitfire means that the oily bits aren’t hard to find.
Once you do get it running, don’t expect a miracle when it comes to performance. The Herald’s 1147 cc engine put out 63 horsepower when fitted with twin SU carbs as this one is; it’s enough, but not what you’d call pulse-raising. Later Spitfire engines with more power will drop right in, and I’ve even seen a Herald with an inline six from a Triumph GT6 installed, if you want even more.
The interior of the red car is shot, but complete; there are no photos of the inside of the blue car, but it’s described as having “some interior.” But this isn’t the sort of car you do a 100-point concours restoration on anyway. Get some nice seats out of a Corolla or something and stick them in there, use the old wooden dash as a template for a new one, and don’t worry too much.
Engine/drivetrain: 5.0 liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Rochester, NY
Odometer reading: 71,000 kilometers (Canadian-spec car)
Runs/drives? Not for years
Looking for something a little more red-blooded American? Well, we can come close – how about a Canadian version of the final rear-wheel-drive Monte Carlo? It’s even the coveted SS model, powered by a “High Output” 305 cubic inch version of Chevy’s legendary small-block V8. It’s pretty tame by modern standards at only 180 horses, but even a weak-sauce V8 makes the right kind of internal combustion noises. The SS package also includes brake and suspension upgrades, a more aerodynamic nose, a rear spoiler, and the all-important stripes.
This Monte has been dormant for at least eight years, and has been parked for longer than that. The odometer reads 71,000 kilometers–about 44,000 miles–and the seller implies, though doesn’t expressly say, that it’s accurate. I’ll never understand why people buy a high-performance version of a car and then not drive it. The worst offender is this car’s sister model, the Buick Grand National, none of which ever seem to get any exercise. Drive them. Use them up. It’s what they’re for.
This car has suffered from its slumber in a damp barn, or possibly from the Great Lakes climate. Rust has crept in along almost every edge, though the seller claims it’s solid underneath. What we can see of the rocker panels and door sills from the lousy photos is encouraging, but the doors and rear quarter panels are ugly. If it really is solid structurally, I suppose you could just leave it and claim it’s “patina.” The alternative is a complete teardown and lots of welding.
The interior looks pretty good, if a little dirty. It has a split bench seat and a column shift, which apparently was not available on US-spec SS models. It’s a little incongruous with the stripes and the spoilers, but this isn’t really much of a performance car anyway, so it’s fine.
Neither of these cars is a lost cause. The Herald includes enough parts to make one good car out of two, and the Monte Carlo shares enough components with less-special GM products that finding parts isn’t a problem. It won’t be easy in either case, but if you really like working on cars, either one could be very rewarding. Which one are you towing home?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)