By on October 9, 2015

1990 Plymouth Voyager

Earlier this week, several friends separately sent me this eBay Motors article, highlighting this relatively obscure performance machine sold at Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth dealers back in the late Eighties.

No, it never carried the vaunted Shelby badges, nor was it an R/T — though one could (and I almost did) buy such a vehicle these days. However, with proper application of a well-stocked junkyard or two (or eBay, naturally), one could easily build a family hauler that could haul down the quarter mile in around twelve seconds.

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By on October 5, 2015

Nissan Sentra SE-R

The Nissan Sentra SE-R was often compared to Nissan’s OG hot sedan — the 510. With decent power and handling in a three-box profile, I can see the resemblance. The factory limited-slip differential helped put all those whopping 140 horsepower to the ground better than most other front drivers.

And that SR20DE engine also pulls a premium the week before Race Wars.

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By on October 2, 2015

1981 Fiat X19

I like the unusual when it comes to cars — as must be quite clear from the pieces I’ve written over the last few months. However, my current fleet is quite mainstream, consisting of a Chrysler minivan, the wife’s Chevy Trailblazer, and a first-generation Miata. Perhaps that explains my wandering eye.

Over the last couple years, I’ve developed an appreciation for Fiats that is nearly inexplicable, and potentially unhealthy. I’ve even caught myself ogling Yugos in junkyards. I’ve said it before; I’m a sucker for a great exhaust note, and somehow even this single-cam four cylinder sounds amazing.

Rust, of course, is always an issue with anything built in the Seventies. This 1981 Fiat X1/9 isn’t immune, and it appears to have some of the typical surface rot in the sills. The seller claims that the paint is mostly original, so it shouldn’t be hiding anything.

He also says it’s unmolested. I hate that term.

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By on September 24, 2015

1978 VW Rabbit Diesel

I recall a few years ago when gearheads and tinkerers happened upon waste vegetable oil as the answer to the high fuel prices of the day. In theory, recycling used fryer grease seems like an elegant solution. In practice, however, restaurants quickly realized there was gold at the bottom of the vat, and the price advantage diminished.

Back in those days, the hot car for WVO conversion was the Volkswagen Rabbit. Cheap, reasonable reliability, and light weight meant a 45-50 mpg package for a few grand out of pocket. I knew of a few people who converted and, for a while, the cost savings was tangible.

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By on September 9, 2015

$_57

Here’s a fun game for those of us with petrol-addled minds: Go to eBay Motors, and type in “Project” in the search field. Marvel at the sea of rust. When I’m feeling forlorn about the enormity of the project I have on jackstands, seeing the guy who exploded his Ferrari V8 on the way home from buying it tends to cheer me up in a perverse way.

This sobering look at the bottom end of the classic-car spectrum also reminds me that I’m not exactly swimming in cash. Yet, there are automotive desires that must be met someday. My wife, for example, has only two cars that she has dreamed of owning: A lifted, large-tired, full-sized pickup (a remnant of her childhood in Appalachia, I’m sure) and a Corvette convertible.

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By on August 13, 2015

03

The internet hivemind is a funny thing. Considering nearly everyone on the earth has an easy way to broadcast their opinions worldwide, one would think there would be a wide variety in those opinions. Often, though, through groupthink or whatever, a solid consensus emerges as an overwhelming favorite.

See bacon. Or cat videos. Or Bernie Sanders (I promise, that is the last political statement I’ll make on these pages).

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By on July 16, 2015

01
Imagine, if you will, that the beancounters in Dearborn had won the late-80’s battle over the enthusiasts and killed off the V8 Mustang in favor of what became the Probe. Forget the impact on racers and gearheads nationwide; no, the lyrical poet Van Winkle would have spun such different rhymes:

Rollin
in my SVO
with the sunroof popped
so my hair can blow
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By on July 10, 2015

2002 Jaguar XK8

Anyone over 30 years of age reminisces about “the one that got away.” The high school sweetheart. The big fish on the lake. The chance to buy AAPL at $3/share. My dad always talked about the E-Type he let slip through his fingers.

My folks lived in New Jersey at the time, and I was yet to be. Dad spotted an E-Type — I’m guessing BRG, but that’s not important right now. It was the ’70s and the Jag was merely a used car, not the revered classic it is today. The quick loss of power on the test drive followed by the flames from the sidedraft carburetors meant my dad walked back through suburban Cherry Hill without making a deal on the sexy English roadster.

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By on July 3, 2015

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Like most sports cars, the Z got fat as it aged. The one/two combo punch of emissions and safety regulations worked over many a performance car throughout the ’70s, some not surviving the decade. The Z changed from SU-clone carbs, to finicky Hitachi flat-tops, to a Bosch fuel injection system over three years, all the while increasing displacement to handle the extra weight of massive bumpers. Enthusiasts may whine about the changes, but it seems market pressures added the pounds, too. In 1979, the 280ZX was released — a softer, more luxurious car than the predecessor.

Yet, it sold just as well, showing that Nissan were right about the market. New Z owners were pulling up to the valet at the disco, rather than carving canyons.

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By on June 26, 2015

$_57

My wife tells me that I’m not allowed to own an RX-7.

To be fair, there are any number of cars I’ll likely never own due the the varied circumstances of life and wallet, but Mazda’s rotary wonder, generally available for a budget price, is off limits due to the misadventures of relative youth. More details, someday, when I’ve recovered from the tetanus.

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By on June 8, 2015

SyTy

Like I mentioned last week, turbocharging and all wheel drive were big selling points in the early ’90s. GM didn’t want to miss the party and commissioned a limited run of turbo 4.3 V6s, threw some monochrome cladding on their compact pickup and SUV, and created a hotrod sensation for the new decade.

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By on June 5, 2015

1990 Celica AllTrac

In the pre-Playstation days of the early ’90s, most Yanks knew nothing of the glory of an AWD turbocharged powerslide on gravel. I was lucky, as my dad installed a C-band satellite and we watched all kinds of oddball motorsport from around the globe. I especially loved watching Carlos Sainz and his Castrol-liveried Celica ripping up stages.

The homologation special has been around nearly as long as road cars have been built into racers. Nearly every OEM that went racing built street cars that aped the racers, in an effort to make certain parts kosher for the track or stage. Sadly, many of those meant for rally never made it here to the States, as there were few such enthusiasts here.

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By on May 30, 2015

BMW M Coupe

As should be quite clear from my previous Crapwagon ramblings, I like weird cars. My current garage, however, is quite boring, with a domestic minvan and SUV, and a rusty/immobile Miata. For the last four years, my automotive wanderlust has been mostly sated by writing for Bring A Trailer. I’ve been able to stave my funky automotive cravings by writing about the cars rather than inviting a call from a divorce attorney.

There are a few cars that make me consider that tradeoff. Near the top of the list: an E36/8 Clownshoe, otherwise known as the M Coupe. Those massive flares, the short wheelbase, and the MGB GT-aping hatch make me feel all tingly. I followed a trailered, caged M Coupe last weekend for a while (I’m assuming it was headed to a trackday at Mid Ohio) and it gave me rather dirty thoughts.

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By on May 21, 2015

1988 Honda CRX

I needed a car. Any car. My dad and I were limping my dying ’85 Nissan Maxima around town to multiple car dealers, looking for an appropriate replacement. I was 19, I think, and since I commuted thirty miles a day to college (when I went to class) I needed reliable, efficient transport.

A second-generation CRX, much like this one, caught my eye and we climbed in. One problem arose, however, as both my dad and I were well north of 300 pounds each, and the stock springs were sagging a bit. Oh, and the streets near the dealer had rough, rutted cobblestones. We were lucky to return with an intact exhaust, and I reluctantly moved on to a roomier Accord coupe.
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By on May 15, 2015

For decades, compact cars from Dearborn were miserable. Blue Oval enthusiasts in North America looked longingly at the rally-bred Escorts in the UK and Europe, wondering when the promised “world car” would cross the Atlantic.

Improbably, I was one of those guys. I bought a 2000 Focus sedan (ZTS model with the twincam Zetec) with six months and 6000 miles on the odo, and flogged it for seven years and about a dozen recalls. Should have listened to my Dad, who always warned against buying a first-year model. (Read More…)

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