Good morning, and welcome to another Shitbox Showdown! For your Monday morning reading pleasure, I have a couple of convertible versions of General Motors cars more commonly seen with their roofs intact. But before we get to those, let’s finish up with Friday’s sandbox toys:
Baja Bug takes it, but not by much. Either one would make a fun toy, but I think I agree with the majority here; a lower price and more “car” left make the Baja the winner here.
It used to be that almost every car was available as a convertible. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, a droptop was just another body style on the option form. But when the regulatory shit hit the fan in the 1970s, American automakers believed that convertibles would no longer pass impending safety requirements (which never came to pass), and phased the soft-top option out. From 1976 until 1982, the closest thing to an open-air driving experience to be had from American cars was T-tops, and as cool as they are, they’re just not the same. It’s no wonder Chrysler’s LeBaron and Dodge 400 convertibles sold well. They were literally the only game in town in ’82.
Ford and GM wasted no time beheading their own cars, of course; in 1983 you could get a convertible Mustang, Chevy Cavalier, or Pontiac Sunbird. Even AMC got in on the act with a soft-top version of the Renault Alliance. And from that point, it was game on; convertibles were back. Not on every car, just select models, and sometimes the models selected made little sense. Like these two, for instance.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.0-liter overhead cam inline 3, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Odometer reading: 118,000 miles
I’m pleasantly surprised that the Geo Metro is still somehow relevant. This little three-cylinder cookie tin on wheels has hung around longer than I ever would have expected. People still love them, and still drive the hell out of them; there’s a dark red one with a mismatched door that I see quite often on my morning commute, being driving at suicidally reckless speeds, weaving in and out of traffic, and still somehow holding together. I’m making a prediction: If you want to see what the future holds for the Mitsubishi Mirage, take a look at Geo Metros now. I only hope the Mirages stay as reliable as Metros have.
This LSi convertible is just about the fanciest Metro you could get in 1991, I think. It even has a driver’s side airbag (only because the door posts to which the shoulder belts attach in Metro hatchbacks don’t exist in the convertible) and factory air conditioning (which unfortunately doesn’t work). It does, however, have the same little fifty-horsepower engine and five-speed stick as other Metros, so its fuel economy is somewhere between “wow, that’s really good” and “is there even an engine under there?”
There is indeed, and I’ve read that you and a strong friend can pull it for a rebuild without needing to use a hoist. This one is far from needing a rebuild, at only 118,000 miles, but the seller says it is due for a timing belt and water pump. All the parts are included to do that job, though. It also has a newer top, exhaust, fuel tank, fuel lines, and brake lines. And what do all those parts, besides the top, have in common? They’re all under the car, right where all that Michigan road salt does the most damage.
One look at the rocker panels on this car will send Southern and Western readers running for the hills. But this is life in snowy climates; cars get holes in the underside. The fact that a mechanic was willing (and able) to replace all that other stuff tells me that this car is still structurally sound; if they can’t safely put it on a lift to replace the brake lines, it goes to the junkyard. Believe me, I know. So this car must have at least a little life left in its structure. Maybe you could get under there and weld in some patches to shore it up.
Engine/drivetrain: 3.1-liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, FWD
Location: San Antonio, TX
Odometer reading: 131,000 miles
Runs/drives? Nope, sitting for years, and key is lost
GM’s W platform has become such a part of the automotive landscape in the US that it’s hard to remember how controversial it was. Replacing the traditional RWD G-platform with a front-wheel-drive car made a lot of purists mad – and marked the first time that NASCAR stock cars were driven by different wheels than their production counterparts – but it turned out to be a wise move; the W-body stuck around for nineteen years and sold in the millions. They were sold by all four mainstream GM marques, powered by no fewer than nine different four, six, and eight cylinder engines backed by both manual and automatic transmissions, and in both two- and four-door versions, but only one marque ever got a convertible: Oldsmobile.
This 1992 Cutlass Supreme convertible is one of only about 25,000 ever made, out of almost a million total W-body Cutlasses. And if you really want to get granular, it’s one of 746 in this color combination from this year. (It never ceases to amaze me how this kind of information is so widely available these days.) Apart from its unusual roof configuration, which retains the B-pillars and a “basket handle” roll bar, it’s your basic Cutlass, with a 3.1 liter V6 and a four-speed automatic.
Unfortunately, we have no idea how well, or even whether, this one runs. It’s being sold as part of an estate sale, and apparently, they couldn’t find the keys. It has been garaged, but all the seller was able to do is tow it out and hose off the dust for photos. A locksmith should be able to make keys for it easily; this is before the era of Passlock, so there’s no chip in the key. I’m not sure why they’re trying to get almost $4,000 for a car with no keys when keys are so easy to obtain.
That’s not the only off-putting thing about this car’s listing, either. The odometer is in plain sight in one of the photos, but they still listed it as “11111.” Couldn’t be bothered to actually go out and read it when writing the ad, I guess. It’s listed as being in “like new” condition, and it does indeed look awfully nice outside, but the “perfect” leather interior looks a little shabby to me. The best I’d give it is “still pretty good for an early ’90s Oldsmobile.”
The maddening thing about both of these cars, as I’m sure you’ll all agree, is that better examples of both of them turn up for the same price or less with some regularity. These are uncommon cars, but not unheard of. But you have to be in the right place at the right time to snag one, and these are what’s for sale right now. One needs a little mechanical attention and some rust repair; the other needs a locksmith and a reality check. Which one strikes your fancy?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)