Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Today I’m dragging you all along on another trip down memory lane; I hope you don’t mind. But before we get into all that, let’s see how our cop cars did yesterday:
That’s what I expected. The Taurus is a cool idea, but a good ol’ V8 Panther is hard to deny. Personally, I might hold out for a livery-spec Town Car instead of a cop-spec Crown Vic, for the cushy interior.
Remember the cars you loved as a kid? How many of them have you since realized are kind of lame? Happens to all of us. But the thing I’ve been noticing is that as I get older, the “kind of lame” cars are the ones I actually crave. Maybe it’s just a natural result of aging to the point where I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of what I drive, or maybe it’s because most new cars are just so damn boring that a silly throwback is an enticing alternative. These two were both cars I thought were the coolest things on the road when I was in junior high. Thirty-year-old me wouldn’t have been caught dead in them, but fifty-year-old me thinks maybe twelve-year-old me was on to something. Let’s check them out and see if you agree.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.5 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Portland, OR
Odometer reading: 61,000 miles
Runs/drives? Starts and runs, but needs old gas cleaned out
I mean, come on. How can you not love a mid-engined Italian sports car, even a tiny one? Fiat’s little X1/9 is the real deal, too. It was designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, who also designed the Lamborghini Miura and Countach and several other cars you’ve had posters of. Its little 1.5 liter four-cylinder engine was designed by Aurelio Lampredi, famed Ferrari engine designer. Heavy hitters, both. But instead of the stratospheric asking prices of their other creations, this gold X1/9 can be had for comparative pocket change.
The X1/9’s basic layout is a formula that would later be copied wholesale by Pontiac engineers for the Fiero: Take the engine, drivetrain, and suspension from a front-wheel-drive economy car and relocate it all to just behind the seats of a small doorstop-shaped sports coupe. The X1/9 takes its engine and drivetrain from the Fiat 128, a charming, boxy little sedan that’s another personal favorite of mine. The seller says this car’s engine will run, but has some old bad gas that needs to be cleaned out of the tank (and pump, and filter, and lines, and injectors). If the rest of the car checks out mechanically, the best solution might be the famed “Italian tuneup.”
The X1/9 has a removable targa roof, which stores in the frunk when removed. Unlike some other targa-top cars I could mention (C4 Corvette, I’m looking at you), the X1/9 doesn’t turn into a shaky, floppy mess with its roof off. Fiat designed this car to meet safety standards that never came to be, and as a result, it’s a rigid platform.
The natural enemy of all Fiats from this era is rust, of course, and despite being a west coast car, this one has not escaped its wrath. The back edge of the trunk lid and the bottoms of the doors are getting a bit bubbly. It also has a little wrinkle on the right front corner below the headlight; hopefully the headlight still pops up all right. But overall, it’s exactly the condition I like for a car like this: just a little scruffy around the edges, but still looks good when you turn and look back at it in the parking lot.
Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 2.2 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: El Cerrito, CA
Odometer reading: listed as 111,111 (probably means unknown)
Runs/drives? Doesn’t say, but I’m going to assume it does
When I visited my dad in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, we took a tour of the Shelby American factory. There was a smallish museum attached to the factory with a lot of cool cars in it, but I was dismayed that not a single one of them was a product of Shelby’s involvement with Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s. There was a wall mural, but no cars. Not even this one, the most obvious choice, the one that started it all: the Dodge Shelby Charger.
It’s a simple formula, and one that Carroll Shelby knew well: Stick the biggest engine in the smallest car, and go tear shit up. For mid-1980s Chrysler, there was no “biggest engine;” the overhead-cam 2.2 liter four was pretty much it. But starting in 1984, it gained a turbocharger, and it woke up the little L-body Omni and Charger nicely. The four-door Omni version was called the GLH, which stood for “Goes Like Hell,” and for an econobox at that time, it most certainly did.
This car has had its original turbocharged 2.2 replaced by a later “Turbo II” engine. I know there are differences, and I know it means a bump in power, but I don’t know the specifics. I do know we have at least one commenter who will happily explain it; I’ll leave it to them to do so. The seller doesn’t say whether this car runs and drives or not, but I am operating under the assumption that it is able to leave this driveway under its own power.
The engine isn’t the only part of this car that came from a different car. Shelby Chargers were pretty thoroughly color-coordinated; the paint color (blue with silver stripes, silver with blue stripes, burgundy with silver stripes, or black with silver stripes) matched the interior. This car’s seats appear to have come from a silver and blue Shelby. The partial blue stripes visible on the roof are also suspect; I wonder if this might be the by-product of two wrecks. A smattering of “spare parts” of various color schemes are also included.
So there they are: A pair of cars that a younger version of myself would have gone nuts over. They’re in a bit rougher shape than they were back then, but then, so am I. And I have to admit, nostalgic as I feel towards them both, I’d probably be better off with model kits of them than the real thing. Still, it’s cool to know that they’re still out there, still broadly viable, and still more or less affordable. I’d have a hard time choosing, but I don’t have to – you do.
Oh, and by the way, a quick programming note: due to some discussions on Discord, I’m going to try going back to the original Friday formula tomorrow, and have a run-off between the week’s four winners. So choose wisely today – whatever wins, you’re gonna see it again.
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)