By on May 26, 2014


One dollar of depreciation in four years.

Fifty-five miles per gallon.

Forty-eight thousand miles.

I may have very well owned the cheapest car in America a few years ago. Back in 2009, I bought a 2001 Honda Insight with 145,000 miles for all of $4001 at an auction. After four years and with 193,000 miles, I sold it last year for exactly $4000.

That’s all well and good, but let’s face it folks. I’m in the car business. Plus, a first generation Honda Insight is pretty much a cheat when it comes to cheap cars. It was designed with stingy bastards like me in mind who use the edge of the technological envelope instead of individual ingenuity and improvisation.

That Insight was a cheap car… but definitely not a beater. Why? Too much money and too few stories about personal travels and other unique mayhem. To me, a beater is a concept that has far more to do with the owners than the actual car.

Three qualities define the beater.

Personalization: Murilee’s 1992 Honda Civic may outlast the Crown Vic dinosaurs that find their way to government auctions and taxicab companies.  But his 1965 Chevrolet Impala was a rolling embodiment of the glories that come from a beater that has true inner beauty. He made that car whole in every sense of the word.

Parsimony: Beaters must always remain cheap when it comes to cosmetics. A 1983 Lincoln Mark VI that drools out liquids on a daily basis and has duct tape on every seat and door is more of a beater than a Metro bought new and maintained with someone’s obsessive compulsive disorder.

Stories: Rolling sewing machines that spend their days droning around on traffic-laden roads are not what beaters are about. To me at least, I want the really out there stuff. The Volvo wagon whose ten foot headliner meticulously chronicled the unique exploits of two young female lovers who traveled the country. The other Volvo wagon that was bought cheap and proceeded to financially emasculate one of our writers. The other, other Volvo wagon that was rescued from the crusher and brought back to the loving hands of a brick enthusiast.

An ability to outlast other cars to the point where it contradicts all known levels of applied physics should be spiritually welded with the stories that inevitably come with a good personalized car.

So what about your story? Did you one day find a lonely old 1980’s Subaru wagon that was used as an official beer car for your local hash events?   Did an old family car help you more fully understand the pharmacological events that come with attending Grateful Dead concerts? Heck, did you take a Renault LeCar in the woods and chase wild animals with it?

We all have our moments of high weirdness with a beater. So feel free to share yours.


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35 Comments on “Hammer Time: Not All Cheap Cars Are Beaters...”

  • avatar

    82 Ford Escort. 100K miles. Stick shift. No Air. Dented passenger’s door and cheap seat covers on both front seats. Crappy radio. Saw it in the parking lot at work one day with a $400 for sale sign in the window. The owner sat three desks away, so I jokingly asked him if he’d take $100. NO, I WANT $400. So I dropped it. Three weeks later, he came up to me and said “The wife wants it gone, if you give me $100 it’s yours.” OK I said, I’ll pick it up next week. “No, I’ll deliver it tomorrow to your house” said the owner. Two days later, my wife’s car was totaled so I needed the new acquisition as she took my good car. Talk about timing. It was the only car I’ve owned where my wife refused to ride in it and that co-workers would ask me why I had such a crappy ride. No one ever parked near it.

    So after new rear brakes, valve stem seals, rear wheel bearings, radio, new hatch struts, and battery, the car lasted me six months until the new car arrived. Put it in the local paper for $400 when it was time to sell.

    Went on a business trip right after and left the car at the airport parking lot. When I came home on a Friday night, my wife said she had good news and bad news. The good news was that she sold the car when I was gone for $400. The bad news was that they were coming on Saturday to pick it up. The funniest thing about the whole event was that the girl raced up to the house while her father and friend looked the car over on the street. She said “Please don’t tell my dad I never saw this car or he’ll kill me.” She couldn’t drive a stick either, that’s why the friend was with her.

  • avatar

    Orig Insight. Still looks like “things to come”. A genuine grinmobile.

  • avatar

    And here I thought /my/ car was a beater. Not a single piece of sheet metal that doesn’t have some minor damage, chips I’ve painstakingly disregarded, dings from parking mishaps that I laughed at, rear-ended at least three times, neglected entirely by two former owners (not a single drop of fluid changed for 30-40k miles at a time), sat for 2 years until the timing belt was so set in that the engine vibrated like crazy… Clearly, earlier owners couldn’t actually drive a stick because the clutch died about 7k miles after I bought it. It even has interior damage that I have never quite figured out (but it has nothing on the baffling mess that is my GF’s car) and the rear bumper cover was about to fall off.

    I actually bought it wholly expecting to send it to the junkyard within 6 months. It was simply a stopgap until I could build up a down payment for another car. The only maintenance the previous owners did was an oil change before selling it to me (driving it 40k miles). They were asking 2200 for it (6 years old) and I talked them down to 1800. 200-ish more for taxes and registration. All told, before repairs, I think I was into it about 2k. All I did was reviewed the engine state and decided I needed to change the plugs, wires (randomly missing with all the shaking from the timing belt taking a shape from sitting), and radiator fluid so it’d limp the 5 mile round trip to work for the next 6 months… I also zip-tied the bumper to the car. I’m pretty sure this was less than $100.

    Before you say this is a lot for a beater, note the age (6 years old) and the fact this was in CA where you can’t get anything that won’t pass smog, so there’s a much higher base than in some other places. Here I fully expect I could get a workable $500 truck that burns a quart of oil a week, but nothing like that can be sold in CA. Also note that this car gets great gas mileage, is pretty fast, and has always passed smog checks with flying colors.

    6 months went by and this little car just kept going so I decided I’d save more for a down payment and just buy when it finally gave up. I started looking at options regularly.

    6 more months went by and the clutch finally goes. I hadn’t even changed the oil. I’m ready to get rid of it for the scrap value when my manager intervenes. I lived in a condo at this point so I explained that there was no way I was repairing it myself, the cost to get the work done was more than the car was worth, and I shouldn’t throw money at it. He says it’s not a big deal and sends me to this /really sketchy/ shop in a bad part of town to talk to what he described as, I quote, “the scariest looking woman you’ll ever see” (completely accurate), and to mention that he sent me since he’s been using them for years and they always give him a deal. They offered to do the clutch and timing belt for $750 if I did both at once. I have no clue how they did it so cheap, but that car ran great afterward. I even got it an oil change and treated it like, well, /my car/.

    Recently it got rear-ended yet again and the insurance company of the other driver insisted on replacing the bumper cover.

    I have driven it over 55k miles since I bought it. It got a fresh set of used wheels from a junkyard last winter after a pothole took out two of the originals. I had it aligned when I got the new tires. Aside from that, services I decided I wanted to do (even though mechanics told me I didn’t need them because I can’t accept doing so incredibly little maintenance on a car), and dried out rubber pads on the clutch and brake pedals (jury rigged a fix because Ford doesn’t sell parts for it anymore), it has had nothing but gas, oil changes, tires, and a battery. It even towed a ton worth of trailer (the car itself is something like 2500lbs) 1200 miles at highway speeds over mountains when I moved. My former car was easily 2k a year in maintenance alone, not counting tires (on top of the car payment), so I conservatively estimate that this car has paid me to drive it.

    The fact it has paid me to own it is what has kept me from getting rid of it. I have tasted cheap transportation and I’m an addict. I want something nice, but I just can’t justify it.

    Three weeks ago an acquaintance asked me to move my car somewhere safe because he was worried his kid was going to run into it and scratch it. I dismissed the necessity, calling it a “beater”, but he looked again and insisted. Later, when we were all discussing cars he pointed out that mine was the nicest one there. I laughed, pointing out two newer cars, saying, “those must be in better shape”. They debated for a bit and agreed that mine was still nicer and they were all surprised when I told them the model year.

    Out of curiosity, I checked to see what people were selling them for and my jaw dropped. Mine /is/ nicer than most of those offered and has less miles than others by a large margin. I could probably sell it for over double what I paid for it 7 years ago.

    Is it a beater? I’m not sure anymore. It feels more like cheating.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      And all along I’m thinking, “What type of car is this?”

      • 0 avatar

        It’s a small 2500 lb Ford, with a stick shift… I think

      • 0 avatar

        An automotive cockroach. Seriously. I can’t believe it’s still running.

        It’s a 2001 Ford ZX2 (after dropping “Escort” from the name). It didn’t matter what it was to me at the time, hence my vagueness.

        This was the cheapest, lowest-mileage, and newest car I could find in the area at the time (craigslist, no less). A few other people had looked at it and rejected it before I went to see it. At least one or two others had looked at it but were offering under $1000 (the owner vaguely eluded to this), which was all they could scrounge up. The owner emailed me to tell me I could have it for $2000 if I could actually come up with that much, since everyone was trying to offer him less than half of what he was asking. I’ll never forget my initial visceral reaction when I saw it. The pictures were uncannily-flattering, like those weird-angle shots morbidly-obese women use online. It was also filthy, had dings and small dents everywhere, the rear bumper cover was destroyed, and it had signs of neglect throughout that would make a Kia owner blush. To this day it has a weird pattern on the headliner on the driver’s side from one of the former female owners using aerosol hairspray while behind the wheel. In comparison to my existing car at the time, this thing was horrendous looking. It got worse when you looked under the hood, too – everything except the oil filter was OEM and all the fluids (except oil) were filthy or breaking down. I almost walked away on this car, telling the owner, quite honestly, that with zero visible maintenance under the hood it was a time bomb. The owner admitted he’d never done any maintenance and offered to take $1800, pointing out that I clearly knew enough to maintain/fix it. I contemplated it, made a mental list of what I knew it needed, and I was still not sure. Too many potential problems. I finally thought, “screw it”, and took a chance.

        My suspicions on why it keeps going is that everything mechanical from the transmission to the wheels is from a Mazda Protege (which were way too nice to be in my price range). The engine is the part that baffles me, though, because I genuinely expected some catastrophic failure by now.

        The car is also surprisingly good on gas mileage and fun to drive. I regularly see 32mpg in spite of my habit of driving it pretty hard and it has 130hp. It also weighs so little that I can push-start it myself effortlessly when the battery dies.

        I’m pretty sure I’ll never find another ICE vehicle that will ever be as cheap to own/operate as this car.

        She now has a trailer hitch and I estimate she moved a total combined weight 5500-6000 lbs between her contents, passengers, and the U-Haul trailer. She averaged a mind-boggling 26mpg in spite of all the mountains, too. Even that was a dice roll. I was prepared to junk her and rent a one-way truck the rest of the way if she broke down doing this, but she didn’t miss a beat and just keeps on going.

  • avatar

    As an exchange student visiting the USA in the late 1990s, I ended up with a $350 1986 Pontiac 6000 station wagon. It had 260,000 miles, or rather that was when the odo had stopped working. Back window was smashed, it had 6 inches of water in the footwell of the rear-facing third row seat. Paint and interior looked exactly like what you might imagine a 14 year old, 260k+ south Florida car looks like, plus a little funky smell from all the water that had been in the back for weeks.

    Still, the 2.8 V6 always started and ran well enough, and it actually passed emissions (with a little help from a foot on the gas, not to mention that most of the exhaust gas didn’t make it all the way to the tailpipe) Transmission worked okay as long as I added a quart every week.

    Rough and smelly as it was, it did a fine job transporting me to and from college for 8 months, as well regularly carrying up to 8 people to and from Miami’s night life.

    When it was time to go back home, I put it up for sale by the side of the road for $450, sold it the same afternoon for $400 to some spanish speaking people. Think I did okay considering it owed me nothing except $40 for a rear window from the junkyard.

    It’s strange how some of the cheapest, nastiest cars you’ve ever owned give you the fondest memories.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      That’s when you know you have a successful beater Lambourne: When people who don’t speak English make unsolicited offers to buy your car.

      As far as the memories? That’s a function of youth, not the car, I’m afraid. Take an ingenue for a few dates in a ten year old Suzuki at age 22 and you’ll remember that car for the rest of your life.

  • avatar

    I was driving an older Chrysler Intrepid when the water pump seized and snapped the timing belt – non-interference engine, but it ended up being the last in a series of repairs that were more than I wanted to spend on the thing. But a friend of mine had a parts car sitting in his back yard that he hadn’t pillaged it yet.

    A ’93 Ford Escort, less than 100k miles, but it spent several years in Newfoundland, and had the severe tin worm to prove it. He bought it from a coworker for $100, and that was all he wanted for it (he got an aftermarket CD player from it in exchange for a pair of slightly defective stock radios, one with a buzzy cassette player, and one that would randomly short out, so the deal worked out fine for him). With copious duct-tape and cardboard, covered with terrible Bondo and slightly matching spray paint, followed by a few hundred in mechanical repairs, it passed safety. Getting it through emissions was a little trickier, as the catalytic converter had been cut out and replaced with a straight pipe (that said, it only failed one portion of the test, and just barely).

    And like that, I drove that little thing all over. It showed me that small cars are a good thing (the Mazda chassis helped), it held far more stuff than it had any right to (I shoved a bicycle in the back seat a couple times), and it was generally problem free for the time I owned it. I mean, the heater fan stopped working, which meant I had no defroster and no visibility when I was trying to help one of my roommates learn to drive (that wasn’t one of our best ideas). On the other hand, the automatic seatbelts were a fun little touch.

    But I was also working erratic hours at the time – I fell asleep behind the wheel, ran a red light, and got t-boned by a Chrysler 300. I walked away with no injuries (just a little sore from having two tonnes of Chrysler enter my space), but the Escort gave its life (and roof) protecting me.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My cheap car that was not a beater was a 73 Chevelle DeLuxe that I bought on a used car lot for $1,400 before graduating from college. It had been a company car and the owner of the used car lot said it was the best running car he had on the lot which was the truth. One of the best running cars I ever had and it had very quick acceleration (350 2b V-8).It was a 4 door with no trim and had been repainted light yellow and it had a dark green interior with hub caps.

  • avatar

    I always wanted a 911 beater.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    1967 VW Beetle, with the landmower-class 1200 cc boxer engine.

    The battery was BELOW the rear seat cushion, so jump starting it was very cumbersome.

    No problem if the battery went flat, though. The car was so light that one could push it on a level street, and once it had gained a little speed, one would jump into the driver’s seat and drop second gear (this being a manual). If you had pumped the gas pedal a couple of times prior tho this, the car would immediately start every time.

  • avatar

    I was a grad student in Boulder CO during the mid-1980’s and bought a Dastun 510 sedan for $75.00. It was my poor man’s BMW 2002. The trunk was slightly bashed in, but the lid opened, closed and locked. Everything else worked OK. After finishing school two years later, I sold it for $400. Wish I still had it.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    In the 80s when I was in university I had a 66 Buick LeSabre that I bought for $300. I was always so jealous of my friend who drove a new Toyota Corolla hatchback. My Buick had a different color hood and fender and I had to put in a manual choke so that I could start it. One late December 26th night my girlfriend and I where returning from a party. It was -30C and the car just died while cruising down a dark and deserted highway and she thought we were up a creek. I got out, opened the hood and diagnosed the problem in less than a minute. A wire from the coil to the distributor had broken because the the bracket that held the coil which was held by the fuel pump bolts had moved when the bolts had worked loose. To my girlfriend’s chagrin I lay on my back under the car on the icy ground to tighten the bolts ( you always had a tool box with a car like this). Then with a knife and with my fingers freezing I peeled the insulation from the wire and reconnected it to the distributor. You should have seen the look on her face when the Buick fired right up and we were on her way. We were married shortly after that.

  • avatar

    1974. A ’65 Rambler American with a bashed-in passenger door is parked next to my dad’s bar, owned by a vacuum cleaner salesman who works next door. Salesman runs up a tab, gives Dad the car in exchange on his way out of town. The tab is $30 and there’s a Kirby in the trunk that my dad sells for $25. Dad gives the car to my brother who is between wheels. My brother puts in a battery and drives it for two years, saves his money and buys a ’68 427 Corvette. I come home from Europe with no money, drive the Rambler for a year, buy a motorcycle. The Rambler dies. We pull the battery, take off the one good tire, put on the spare and call the boneyard. They pay us $85 to haul it away. I wish I had a picture of it. Rex Rambler deserved better.

  • avatar

    I have never actually owned a beater or cheap car myself, but about 12 years ago, I borrowed a 5th Generation (1967-1972) Ford F-150 from a friend who owned a landscaping company and had a massive fleet of trucks like that for a week.

    In the beginning, I thought it would be some old slow lump. At the end, I didn’t want to give it back.

    • 0 avatar

      That reminds me of my dad’s coworker/friend that had a small fleet of $200-400 trucks back in the early 00s. They were all from the 70s and each one had some quirks, but if you needed to haul something, he’d loan one to you depending on how far you were going and what you were doing with it. The $200 ones were for around town. $350-400 ones were suitable for longer drives where reliability mattered.

      Crap mileage, but does any truck get good mileage? Does it need to be shiny to move a refrigerator or go camping?

  • avatar

    My best beater was a 1950 Ford pickup, V8, 4-speed granny box, red once but faded to pinkish, with about two hundred pounds of steel plate welded into a back bumper/trailer hitch/bed reinforcement. Its seat had been reuphostered with chartreuse vinyl. It didn’t have a good piece of glass or a straight body panel on it. It had a ratcheting locking rear end, and would climb anything the tires would stick to. I once pulled a 3-ton truck loaded with scrap metal off a railroad crossing when a train was coming – had a couple of guys jump into the box for weight. I was still driving it when the new 1965 Barracuda I’d ordered came in to the dealership, and I’m pretty sure they were scared I would want to trade the truck on it, but I kept it for a while and instead traded a 53 Cadillac I’d had for a couple of weeks.

  • avatar
    Dave in Toronto

    1987 Toyota Tercel Wagon 4×4, given to me by my father with 350 000 km’s, after he used it for years commuting from well outside Toronto to well inside Toronto. Red.

    You can imagine what old Toyota un-garaged red paint looked like.

    None of the door locks worked. Rusty.

    The hatch and one rear door didn’t open. Rusty handles. No, penetrating oil did not work.

    I suppose I have mentioned the car was rusty, but can I please underscore that point once more now.

    Horn – nope.

    Muffler – nope Short shift when cops about son.

    Speaking of cops, one told me I would have to get a new rear license plate. Too rusty. The plate was too rusty.

    4×4 – nope. Nothing wrong with it, but that 4×4 system was part-time and sensitive to tire diameter….can you guess what the tires were like. Would not go into 4×4 mode with the (awesome) tiny shifter hiding in the console.

    Rear view mirror – off glass, wedged into passenger visor.

    Brakes? I nursed them for a long time but finally one of the front pads *cracked while I was driving* and so I had to learn to do my first brake job.

    Eventually I TIRED OF IT and crushed it, it never died not even once.

    If I thought I could get a truly clean one I’d Krown it and drive it through the winter…. it was a great car.

  • avatar

    My old Corsa had dents on both sides, exactly at the same position – work of an automatic garage door that closed faster than I was expecting.

    I was really proud of that. The one symetrical damage I could ever produce.

    Sold the thing for about 5k dollars. Yep, that’s beater money in Brazil. Mr. Lang could make a fortune smuggling used cars into Brazil.

  • avatar

    My beaters go way back to the 1960s. 1936 Ford pickup $15.00 ( no title card) install a chev V8 anyhow. 1947 chev Fleetline 100K miles $100. It ran good, it had a throttle control knob coming out of the dash which I used as a cruise control. 1949 Plymouth, bought just for frozen lake ice racing.

  • avatar

    1969 Dodge Dart Custom 2dr. hardtop, 225/904, solid state AM radio (said so right on the dial), power steering but manual 9″ drum brakes all around. Yes, it was green. Daily driver when I got my first real job, sold to a buddy for a few years then bought it back and drove it some more, handed down to younger brother, sold to a girl next door, passed to her brother…….

    Beat that!

    • 0 avatar

      I did almost same with a lime green 73 Dart! (It had the darker green hardtop, so it was sophisticated.) It was my younger brother’s first car, he sold it to my dad, he sold it to me, I sold it my neighbor.

      Great car, actually, except all the many things that broke or that were terrible about it. I loved it.

  • avatar

    Steve! I thought this was going to be about the Insight! I drove a friend’s Insight maybe a year ago for the first time and I was amazed at the wonderful handling. If I weren’t afraid to drive around in something with such low mass, I’d have you find one for me.

  • avatar

    I don’t really do beaters but found myself in a pinch back in 2011. Ordered a new BMW for Euro delivery, which would not be delivered to the states until early September. Sold my daily driver ’08 Saab 9-3 SportCombi in April – got an offer I could not refuse for it. My other cars were a pair of Alfas and a Triumph Spitfire. Not really suitable for daily driving duty. So an eBay Volvo to the rescue! Won an auction for a 201K ’95 945 from a sketchy used car dealer in Rhode Island. Took the train down, picked it up for ~$1000. +$25 for them to pick me up at the train station – I was NOT impressed. Cost me $200 to get it through safety inspection and some basic maintenance. Drove it all summer. Sold it to a friend for $1250 soon after the BMW arrived. He used it to drive from home to shared van lot in NJ for a year or two, then gave it to his Brother in law. Sadly, it met its end when hoodlums stole the stereo out of it, destroying most of the dash wiring harness in the process. Had something like 275K on it and ran fine. I think BIL got $2K from the insurance company for it!

  • avatar

    It was (mostly) a 64 Volvo. The engine had been rescued from someone’s ill fated attempt to Baja a Volvo and had reworked dual side drafts and alleged head work. One trailing arm had a worn to missing bushing that caused the car to pitch right on throttle lift. I used to spin it in the rain, lift two wheels beside cliffs, split lanes and otherwise act like a teen in it. The one time I did more than change its oil I put some long nose plugs in it that killed a piston and the car with a little assist by me; I was chasing buddies with much faster wheels up a super steep road (Marin in Berkeley) and third bogged, second wasn’t fast enough, so I was revving to valve float until it died with a bang. That thing took me to more nights with two young bi ladies I met in high school then I’ll ever remember. Party favor runs, back seat contortions, I woke up in it parked in front of my house with no memories. It had mismatched door colors, missing trim, no hub caps, and mismatched tires. It was a beater, I beat it, and I’m sorry for the abuse I heaped on it. I wasn’t treating myself any better at the time.

  • avatar

    Great question, easy answer. 1953 Chevrolet convertible purchased for $50 in 1963. It had the 6 cyl automatic. This was a rusted Wisconsin salt car purchsed for use my second year of college. The yellow paint was badly oxidized and someone had dented the hood with numerous karate chops it looked like. The best part- a couch for a front seat. Yes, no typo.

    Two friends and I drove it from central Wisconsin to the Indy Time Trials in 1963. We did not have enough money to go to the race itself. On arrival at Indy while in line to park, it overheated, steamed up and the engine froze, shuddering to a stop. We abandoned it by pusing it into a shallow ditch and took off the plates.

    After the amazing Time Trials, thank you A.J Foyt and Jimmy Clark, we talked about hitch hiking back to school, but on a whim, walked to the car and tried to start it. It started right up. The plates went back on, we got some water for the radiator and drove it back to Wisconsin like nothing happened!

  • avatar

    In the mid 1980’s I was in need of a replacement of my first car (1977 Chevette). My brother was in the Air Force and stationed overseas so his first car (1978 Dodge Colt) sat and sat. I purchased it for $400 and the first thing I did was replace two of the tires as the car would violently vibrate at certain speeds (shifted belts). Automatic transmission was the only option so there was no air conditioning to counteract the blistering Oklahoma summer. Car also suffered from cheap vinyl interior syndrome so the foam in the diver seat had gradually disintegrated. I became creative and unbolted the complete seat assembly and moved the front passenger seat into its place. Kept the car for about one year.

  • avatar

    All I even own anymore are beaters.

    My current daily driver is an 2006 4cyl/5spd Accord LX with 202,000 miles on it. I bought it out of a salvage yard after its second total-loss event. I bent the roof back into place, put a new windshield in it, and replaced one headlamp assembly.

    I’m a car guy, but this thing is nothing more than a commuter appliance. I’ll save my car guy feelings for my race cars (which..thanks to the 24 Hours of LeMons…are also beaters)

  • avatar

    That’s a tough question for me, since I have about four right now, but I’ll answer with one I just sold a week ago today.

    91 Dodge Dynasty I bought for $500 eight months ago. I fixed everything that needed to be fixed, kept it very clean, yet hardly used it since I have so many other cars. My thought was to let my two teenage sons use it (good gas mileage, airbag, quite reliable).

    Problem is I started to treat it too well and started caring about it. Two weekends ago, I was buffing it (I figured it was the one to learn how to use my new buffer on) in the driveway and the same two sons walked right by me as they came back from working out at the gym. I suddenly decided it was time to sell the car, since they obviously didn’t care enough about it and it was never going to look better. I took pix, put it on craigslist, and sold it for $900 to the second guy who came. (I probably had about $300 in parts– new radiator, rear brakes, other stuff– so I more or less broke even, not counting insurance.)

    I miss it, but not that much, since in the end it turned out to be an obsessive distraction that kept me from being obsessive about the other beaters I am obsessive about.

    The guy I sold it to got a good deal, since it had just passed emissions and inspection, but I was not inclined to wait for that rare buyer willing to spend over $1000 on a car like that. And the kid who bought it owned a mid-70s Coronet, so he loved his big Dodge sedans and will love the one I sold to him.

    • 0 avatar

      “since in the end it turned out to be an obsessive distraction that kept me from being obsessive about the other beaters I am obsessive about.”

      That’s always the way of it.

  • avatar

    1992 Camry V6 LE. I have 174k as of yesterday. I bought it 2 years ago with 152k. It looked like it should have been taking its final tow truck ride. Faded green paint, filthy interior missing all kinds of trim pieces and a general air of hopelessness all conspired to make her the car of my $1000 dreams.

    It was a labor of love for me, as I have a very soft spot for the gen 3 Camry. They were the only sedan/wagon that I actually wanted and pined away for as a kid reading car mags and growing up in 90s suburban America. The fluid good looks have always looked good to me. I remember a girl I went to school with who lived on my block. in 1998 her mom came home with a red 1994 Camry V6 LE sedan with gold trim, tan interior. That was the one that really hooked me. It was sooooooo quiet at the time. I guess it still is.

    My Camry has had some work done but again: labor of love here. C/V joints early on, rear brakes, tune-up, replaced power steering pump, shocks, all belts including timing, water pump, left front caliper. Honestly, its been worth every dime, not to mention that with the help of pick n pull my interior has been fully rehabbed. The car provides smooth and competent transportation. it has proven to be reliable even for its age. It will be with me until its dead. Its been my favorite of all my cars.

  • avatar

    93 Escort that I inherit from my inlaw.

    This car has broken everything when they toss me the key. The interior fuse is blown, the tires worn funny and 4 mismatch tires, dry rot rubber hoses everywhere, dielectric broken down plug wires and 4 way over worn plugs, leaking radiator, battery acid boiled over and rusted all sorts of stuff, bad interior, missing hub caps, bad wipers, bad wind shield spray nozzle, dirty MAF sensors, etc.

    It is fixed with a grand total of $200 junk yard parts and rockauto closeout. It still has 4 blown struts but for local errant it is great. I’ll probably keep it around instead of crushing it any time soon.

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