Happy Friday! It’s the last day of the month, and the last day of The Autopian’s first year. (Can you believe it has been a year already?) Today, we’re looking for cars in an unlikely spot along our Route 66 tour, but it’s in the song, so we have to stop. But first, which convertible are you driving out of St Louis?
Narrow-but-decisive Mustang victory, it looks like. I think that would be my choice, too, four-cylinder and automatic be damned.
Today’s search takes us to Joplin, Missouri, on the far western edge of the state, right where Interstate 44 (which used to be Route 66) barely misses the southeastern corner of Kansas and drops into Oklahoma. It’s not the first place you think of when you think car culture, but if there is one thing I’ve found in my meager travels it’s that everywhere has a car culture, if you look hard enough. A beat-up Volkswagen and a Chevy minivan with a zillion miles on them may not be enthusiast dream machines, but they’re in our price range, so let’s take a look.
Engine/drivetrain: 1.9 liter turbodiesel overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Milo, MO
Odometer reading: 275,000 miles
Runs/drives? You bet!
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for VW’s diesels. My mother owned a Dasher diesel hatchback that she drove everywhere, and I have very fond memories of it. I came close to buying a VW diesel of my own a few times (including that same Dasher, years later), but never pulled the trigger.
Part of the reason is that the affordable ones all seem to have a metric shit-ton of miles on them, like this Jetta. That’s a good thing, in one way: it speaks to their durability, but once you get north of a quarter million miles, any vehicle starts feeling less “nice.” It may still run fine, everything may still work, but it just starts to feel, and look, tired.
Worse, this Jetta had an altercation with something, and it was apparently a bad enough hit to require replacement of the rear twist-beam axle. The seller made the mechanical repairs, but left the cosmetic damage alone, possibly to ward off further collisions. It’s not too bad, but it might eventually start to rust.
Inside, it’s grubby and worn, and I imagine the characteristic VW crayon smell has long since been replaced by stale sweat, old food, and diesel exhaust. But even with the wear and the damage, this car probably has a lot more miles in it.
Engine/drivetrain: 3.9 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, FWD
Location: Joplin, MO
Odometer reading: 295,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does!
Everyone expects a Volkswagen diesel to be able to rack up the miles, but what about a Chevy minivan? This Uplander, the replacement for the Venture van, which in turn replaced the old “Dustbuster”-shaped Lumina APV, is closing in on 300,000 miles, and apparently still goes down the road just fine. Yeah, there’s the old line about “GM cars run like crap longer than most cars run at all,” but how do you explain this nearly-new-looking minivan with that many miles? It makes me wonder if there’s a picture of it somewhere, covered in rust and dents.
This Uplander is powered by a 3.9 liter version of GM’s 60-degree V6, an engine that traces its roots to the Middle Ages. Here, as in most applications, it powers the front wheels through a 4T65-E four-speed automatic. Chances are, with this many miles, this is not the original transmission, either.
The seller says this was a “school van,” but doesn’t elaborate. Whatever it was used for, the kiddos should count themselves lucky; these vans don’t have a stellar safety rating when it comes to crash-testing. But it does all the things a good van should: haul people and stuff around in some degree of comfort without causing much fuss while doing it.
The third row of seats appears to be missing; they may be in the garage, or they may be lost to time. As it stands, this is set up perfectly for a band van: four captain’s chairs, tons of space in the back for amps and a drum kit, and white paint that’s just a big blank canvas for a badass logo. (Every band has to have a badass logo.)
That’s it for the week! Have a great weekend, everyone, and if you’re in the LA area, stop by Porsche Santa Clarita tomorrow for the big anniversary shindig! I wish I could make it; there’s sure to be no shortage of cool cars and great conversation. On Monday, we’ll be continuing our virtual trip down Route 66 with a stop in Oklahoma. See you then!
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)