Good morning! Today’s Shitbox Showdown takes us to the southernmost cross-country interstate in the country: Interstate 10, from Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California. We’re looking at two sleek black stickshift V8s, one from each end. But first, let’s finish up with yesterday’s Subarus:
Yeah, I figured. That would be my choice too. Also, I see by the low comment count and voting total that you all shared my lack of enthusiasm for these two. Point taken, lesson learned. If I don’t care about the cars, you won’t either. So let’s move on to something more interesting, shall we?
Interstate 10 runs along the south of the country, from the Sunshine State to the Golden State. There is no chance of running into a snowstorm along this route, so it seems the perfect place to look for rear-wheel-drive V8-powered cars with manual transmissions. And lo and behold, I found a couple. Let’s check them out.
Engine/drivetrain: 4.4 liter dual overhead cam V8, six-speed manual, RWD
Location: Orlando, FL
Odometer reading: 242,000 miles
The E39-chassis BMW 5 Series is a popular car around here. Matt has one. So does Mercedes. Both of theirs, however, have BMW’s admittedly excellent inline six under the hood. This one does not. The 540i is powered instead by a 4.4 liter V8, which I’ve heard turns it into a completely different animal. I’ve never had the chance to drive one myself, but as good as a six-cylinder E39 is, I can only imagine that more horsepower makes it even better.
It also, however, makes it a hell of a lot more complex. These cars can be reliable, more or less, if the maintenance is kept up – but “maintenance” is a broad term that can include preventive replacement of the timing chains and the entire cooling system. With as many miles as this one has on it, we can assume it has received all that and more, or it wouldn’t still be running, but a thorough inspection is the only prudent course of action.
Overall, though, this car is in beautiful condition for its age and mileage. The paint is still shiny, the interior is intact and clean, and it looks completely stock, which itself is rare for an old fast BMW. There are a lot of electric and electronic gadgets in this car, and one can assume that at least some of it no longer works. But finding stuff like that is just part of the initiation ritual when purchasing a car like this; the first day, you push all the buttons and see which ones don’t do anything, and you start making your list of things to fix.
I don’t know that I would trust this car as a daily driver, at least without a backup, but it would be a fun weekend toy. The E39 is a fantastic handling car; it’s still the standard by which other cars are measured. This V8-powered one is an order of magnitude more complicated than the six-cylinder variants, but it’s still just nuts and bolts – if you have the knowledge and the patience, you can keep it going.
Engine/drivetrain: 4.6 liter overhead cam V8, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Los Feliz, CA
Odometer reading: 200,000 miles
When it comes to three-pedal V8 fun, however, you can’t go too far wrong with a good old Ford Mustang. This simple, working-class hero has been available with a V8 and a stick since before Dylan went electric. (Well, if you don’t count 1974, that is.) For 2005, the Mustang was redesigned with a retro shape reminiscent of the first generation, joining the retro-styling movement alongside Volkswagen and Mini. Personally, I’ve never been too fond of this style Mustang, at least as a coupe, but I think it works as a convertible.
This Mustang is a GT model, and as such, has a 4.6 liter version of Ford’s “Modular” V8 under the hood. This one has three valves per cylinder, and sends a nice even 300 horsepower to the rear wheels through a five-speed stick. This one runs “excellent,” the seller says, even with 200,000 miles on the odometer. It isn’t quite stock; it breathes through a Roush cold-air intake that may or may not actually add any horsepower, but I bet it makes it sound faster anyway.
Compared to the BMW, this car is a bit crude inside, but when you consider their original price points and intended markets, that isn’t surprising. It’s in good shape at least, except for the carpet, and that can be solved with a set of floor mats. A black leather interior isn’t ideal for a convertible, though – those seats can get awfully hot in the sun. Here’s hoping the air conditioner works.
Outside, it looks good in basic black, except for some scorched clearcoat on the hood. It looks like the top is in good condition, but most of the photos show the top down, so it’s hard to say. At least the Mustang has a glass rear window, so you don’t have to worry about a plastic window going all opaque.
These cars weren’t competitors when they were new, but time is the great equalizer, and twenty years after the fact, they have more in common than it may seem at first glance. They’re similar in price, not too far apart in performance, both manuals, and both fun to drive in their own way. So the choice is yours: refined sports sedan, or rowdy pony car?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)