Wild Wacky Wagons: 2005 Dodge Magnum vs 2001 Ford Focus

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Good morning! Today for your viewing pleasure, I have two station wagons. One is a garage ornament, and the other is, well, you’ll see.

But first, let’s see which scooter you chose on Friday:

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Yep, I suspected as much. And I agree. But to the commenter who voted for the Honda and invoked The Legend of Billie Jean in doing so, bravo. Fair is, indeed, fair.

Now, to new business. You all like station wagons, right? How about broken ones? How about, um, colorful ones? Well, you’re in luck, because that’s what we’ve got today.

2005 Dodge Magnum R/T – $2,100

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.7 liter OHV V8, 5 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Milwaukee, WI

Odometer reading: 110,000 miles

Runs/drives? Nope, blown head gasket, and has been sitting for years

The Dodge Magnum seems so good on paper. A rear-wheel-drive station wagon with a Hemi V8, and Mercedes-derived suspension? Where do I sign up, right? But the styling is weird. It always looked sort of squashed, like the front is too big for the rear, and the roofline is too low.

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While lesser Magnums had either 2.7 or 3.5 liter V6s, this R/T model features eight hemispherical combustion chambers under its oddly-shaped hood. Unfortunately, this Hemi isn’t going to be lighting up any tires anytime soon; it has an unspecified leak in a head gasket, and has been parked in that state for a couple of years. I can’t imagine what leaving a car to sit with water in the oil for “a year or two” does to it, but I can’t imagine it’s anything good.

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This car is also filthy inside, and the exposed speaker wires (or whatever they are) don’t speak too highly of its condition either. It’s all fixable, I imagine, but is it worth it? You decide.

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But first you’ll have to extricate it from a garage full of crap.

[Ed note: A V8 wagon for $2,100. Hot damn. I’d almost be willing to deal with cave-wall-hard interior plastics. -DT]. 

2001 Ford Focus Wagon – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0 liter inline 4, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Decatur, GA

Odometer reading: 138,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep, great!

You don’t see too many Focus wagons. And it’s kind of a shame, because they’re a good useful size: not too big and not too small. The Focus’s styling isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it doesn’t look nearly as weird today as it did when it first came out.

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At least, most Focus wagons don’t look weird. This one? Well, as you can see, it features an interesting custom paint job. Someone attacked it with three cans of Krylon, and the results are not attractive. I thought maybe the colors were meant to represent some country’s flag, but to what end I can’t be sure. Food delivery, perhaps? But is it likely there is a Guinean restaurant in Georgia that delivers? In any event, you’re not likely to lose it in a parking lot.

Okay, you’re thinking: Yes, it’s painted in three different colors, including the rear windows. I can live with that. You can’t see the crazy colors from the inside, right?

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Guess again. Whoever painted this thing was dedicated.

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The good news is that it runs well, has low miles, and is a just-right-sized wagon. You just have to accept a little spray paint in your life. But hey, at least it isn’t beige, right?

One of them could be fun to drive, but doesn’t run. The other runs great and is very practical, but hurts to look at. Sorry, you gotta choose one. What will it be?


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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88 Responses

  1. Oooof! If only there were a third option for “Or use that wad of cash to wipe your own Shitbox”. That not being available, I’ll take the Ford. At least I can get it to the bottom of the lake without needing a tow truck or a tetanus shot (maybe).

  2. I had a 2001 Focus SE Wagon…. Long story but it got scrapped without my knowledge, and I’m still upset about it. If I could get it delivered for a reasonable amount to PA, I would already be calling to buy it now.
    It was my first “real” car, and that little shitbox could do 140+ mph… I kept up with my friends fake mustang “Cobra” (the cheapest v8 model they could find, with “real” cobra badges super glued to it) even with it’s constantly overheating 4 banger and “meh”-class auto transmission. I loved it.

  3. Firstly, Ford vehicles sold in the United States have the shittiest headlamps. They barely function in the darkest of dark rural roads, even with the high beam. Additionally, Ford vehicles have the shortest seat tracks: real terrible for the tall drivers or drivers with long legs.

    So, I would definitely choose Magnum over Focus.

  4. The Magnum looks good but is likely shit everywhere underneath, poorly maintained except for washing and hooned like hell. The Focus is the opposite and I’m going with that.

  5. This is definitely a “none of the above” Shitbox Showdown. And as opposed to some of the pretty darn fine rides that come up, these are both real, honest-to-Yahweh shitboxes. Both seem nasty to just sit in, much less drive.

    But we gotta choose. And one actually runs, which pretty much does it. Plus most Magnums have been used to kill a guy.

    Also, I owned a Focus wagon, and it was wonderful. Way more personality than you would think. Mine had a manual, which goes a long way, but still. I’ve still never encountered anything that’s not a van with more useable cargo space. Electrical gremlins popped up and forced a sale, but that thing was a goddamn smile-mobile. Miss it.

  6. My vote goes to the Magnum. If the Focus was a manual, then I’d be inclined to choose that. But since it has the slushbox, I’d rather put money into fixing the Magnum.
    And for US$2000 or less, you can get a good used 5.7L Hemi plus installation cost if the one in there isn’t fixable.

    And at the end of the day, you’ll have a much more enjoyable vehicle than the Focus Wagon. And I say that as someone who previously owned a Focus Wagon.

    The Focus Wagon is a decent practical car… but the Chrysler LX cars are way nicer in every way. The only downside is you’ll spend more on fuel.

  7. That poor Focus has a loose front bumper cover at the least, and it will need (a) right front rotor soon!
    But it “run and drive great” “fresh new oil change” …. Yikes!
    I like this generation focus, i saw one this weekend and thought about how decent it looked. … But not this one!

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