Hammer Time: The $16 Car

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time the 16 car

Who the hell wants a Dodge Daytona? It was a question I was forced to ask myself as a 1991 model with an Iacocca inspired trombone red interior passed through the block. The bidding started at $200 and… well… it sold for $200. Then there was the seller fee, the transport cost, a battery, and pretty soon…

We wrote a check to the seller for $16. For reasons that only a cheapskate can fathom I took note of the vehicle before the sale. What if this vehicle had been used for some type of car share program instead? It wasn’t easy on the eyes at all. Thanks to Chrysler’s mandated two coat paint jobs and enough front end bumps to make it the automotive equivalent of Rocky Balboa. It looked like a worn out mop.

But inside everything worked. Really. The interior had nary a crack on it’s dashboard nor any of the excessive wear that comes with using Cracker Jack parts. Seats were in good shape. The engine idled without any hiccups for a half hour, and I later found that the five speed worked perfectly fine. It drove like a bucket of bolts but the price paid easily covered what you would get for it even if it didn’t run at all.

To be blunt, the buyer did his homework. I estimate that with decent maintenance it could very well last another five years. Perhaps it will. Ninety nine times out of a hundred I’m glad to send any cheap sled to a dealer with a cheaper clientele. But as this one left the block I couldn’t help thinking about all the pointless waste this vehicle represented from the very beginning of its life to that very moment. Some models are just crap. Even if you find a good one… and that makes it all the more appealing.

Join the conversation
4 of 38 comments
  • Joeveto3 Joeveto3 on Jun 08, 2010

    I was never crazy about the Daytona/Lancer. When it first came out, it was cool, but by the late 80's it was long in the tooth. My buddy had a Shelby Turbo for 6 mos. The engine blew. Story over. However, there was an honesty about the K-cars, the derivatives, and the Omni/Horizon that a lot of others of that time didn't have. I don't know exactly what it was, maybe the promises they didn't make, but I liked them. One of my favorite cars EVER, was the 88 Dodge Omni I inherited from my parents. When they brought the sky blue box home from the dealer, I made fun of it. I even hated it. 98K miles later, when I took the Omni to my new home, away from Mom and Dad, and began using it for work, to pay my own rent, and try to make my own way...I loved the sky blue Omni. Suddenly, I saw the beauty in its simplicity, the fuel economy, the ergonomics, the utility, and the way it delivered me to work every night, and safely home every morning. Had Chrysler only blessed the cars with decent metal that wouldn't succomb to rust at the slightest hint of moisture...who knows, I might still have that car.

  • Aqua225 Aqua225 on Jun 09, 2010

    Owned a '84 Laser XE Turbo till 2003 (from 1991!). Loved that car, was finally killed by a ice storm (I think it was '03 anyway), when the ice storm put a pine tree on the roof of it. Even in 1998, it would burn the front tires 1st through 3rd if you kept the boost up (not brake torquing here). I never had a serious 2.2L problem. The big failure point for me was the shift cables (and subsequently clutches, for driving it to a dealer to get the cables replaced with only 4th gear available -- thank goodness for the turbo :)). I was able to replace the cables myself (I did one set myself, actually), but I was in the middle of graduating from college, so I roasted a clutch nursing it 15 miles in the city to the dealer. Right now, I own a LS1 V8 powered Chevy coupe from 2002, but sometimes I have that desire to feel the "step function" of the boost coming online. I also miss the gadgetry and the computer telling me that my "door was ajar". The thing even had brake pad monitors and oil level monitoring :)

  • AJR AJR on Jun 09, 2010

    The picture for this story sure brings back memories. If I recall correctly, that is a photo of a 1990 Shelby from the 1990 Daytona brochure. I remember when the Shelby went from the two-tone look of the '89 model to the mono-tone of the '90 model. It made the car look a bit more upscale and performance-oriented. However, I still love my '89 Shelby. Growing up in the 80s, the Daytona was the first car that really caught my attention and brought me into the automotive world. Before that, I knew of some cars, but none that resonated with me like the Daytona. I'll never forget the black Pacifica we had in the showroom back in 1987. I loved that car back then. However, the Shelby Z model blew me away. It was my dream to own one. I never did have a Shelby Z of my own, but my brother does and it is an absolute blast to drive. No, I have an '89 Shelby that I use as my daily driver. It is getting up in years and miles, but I still love driving it. It is such a great feeling cruising down the Interstate with the t-tops off. There is not a car in the current Dodge line-up (except for the Viper) that I would want as a replacement. I hope to one day restore the Daytona to like-new condition, so I plan on holding on to it for a very long time. The Daytonas had their share of faults, but they are pretty neat cars to drive (especially the turbo models). They can't quite compare to today's cars, but I am still glad I was able to pick up a used Shelby when I had the chance. I don't regret it one bit.

  • Nick Nick on Jun 09, 2010

    I seem to recall various family friends also getting great mileage out the K car with the 2.6 Mitsu engine. Anyway, the 2.2 Turbo could be tuned to produce some pretty respectable numbers. Oddly enough a Daytona in that state of trim was for sale recently around these parts for less than the cost of the parts and labour it would take to build the engine up, probably because it was just a Daytona.