This 1991 Spartan Fire Pumper Will Make Your Pre-school Fireman Career Dreams Come True
My four-year-old grandson Aryeh wants to be a firefighter when he grows up. He’s got a full fire chief’s outfit and his ears perk up whenever he hears a siren. That’s probably due to the influence of Fireman Sam cartoons and the fact there was a fire in one of the buildings in the apartment complex where he lived until just recently.
There are worse things he could do when he gets older. For example, scouring auction listings of oddball vehicles he can’t really afford — like his grandfather.
Digestible Collectible: 1989 Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth
An alternate title I briefly considered: Digestible Collectible: Brexitopia!
I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about the state of international politics beyond what I’ve read here on TTAC, or a few brief articles around the web. While I have my doubts that the world will end because of the “Leave” vote, I’m happy to remain relatively ignorant.
That said, I’m happy to take advantage of the sudden, favorable exchange rate drop, and of course hit the web to see what interesting stuff might be imported.
Digestible Collectible: 1984 Volkswagen GTI
Once again, I’m dazzled by those wheels, just like the Quantum we looked at last week. I’m a sucker for clean, well-styled factory wheels: Oldsmobile Rally wheels, Fuchs found on Porsches, Rostyles worn by so many British cars. The Volkswagen “Snowflake” wheel is another that is difficult to improve upon by the aftermarket.
For some reason, that hasn’t stopped VW enthusiasts from “improving” their cars with incongruous tire and wheel widths and double-digit camber settings. “Stance” culture isn’t exclusive to the Wolfsburg faithful, but it has infected too many good cars.
Digestible Collectible: 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe
While I certainly love roadsters, there is something special about the coupes derived from those roadsters. The MGB GT was a stunning Pininfarina tiptop riff on the classic MGB Tourer, and the BMW M Coupe was a flared Z3 styled like a ‘roided Reebok Pump. Both of them were iconic in their own way.
Considering how few small convertibles are actually sold, it’s surprising that General Motors decided to enter the market a mere 15 years after the Miata, and ten after the BMW Z3.
Well, perhaps not that surprising, considering GM launched the Kappa platform on not one, but two dying brands.
Digestible Collectible: 1980 Triumph TR8
As I was born in late 1978, I’m a bit young to recall the Malaise era. One of my earliest memories in life is of John Hinckley’s assassination attempt on President Reagan, so most recollections I have of the cars of the time were on used car lots and, just as often, with the hood up roadside.
Of course, the British car industry was imploding around this time. Very few new models were introduced; most cars were rehashed, smogged versions of the cars British Leyland had been building for many years.
In the Triumph TR7 and later TR8, they did manage to bring a clean-sheet design to U.S. showrooms.
Digestible Collectible: 2009 Suzuki SX4
At least in the U.S., Suzuki always operated on the fringes of the auto industry. Save for those vehicles it rebadged for General Motors, Suzuki never seemed to match up well against the competition. The cars were either a half-size smaller than the competition — see Kizashi — or had no discernable competition whatsoever, like the inexplicable X-90.
Likewise, the dealers never had the best real estate, at least from my experience. Here in Columbus, for example, the local Suzuki dealers were set up in corners of Budget Car Rental locations. Hardly a recipe for success.
Shame, really, because Suzuki built some wonderfully interesting cars.
Digestible Collectible: 1988 Mitsubishi Starion ESi-R
I try not to repeat manufacturers too quickly in this series of digestible crapwagons, save for last September’s Wolfsburg Week. I know I get bored writing about the same OEM, as I’m sure you like the variety. However, when I finally find a clean example of a car that has been on my wish list, I can’t help but feature it, no matter how recently we’ve seen the badge.
I never expected Mitsubishi to be the quickly-repeated marque.
Digestible Collectible: 1994 Dodge Viper
As a classic car fanatic, I should be fundamentally opposed to the idea of the Dodge Viper. After all, the Viper was Chrysler’s attempt at co-opting the heritage of the Shelby Cobra. The later coupe was even worse in this respect, aping the legendary Cobra Daytona Coupes.
It’s blasphemous, I tell you. Imagine the uproar should Mazda, for example, try to recreate an MGB or Lotus Elan.
Digestible Collectible: 1988 Toyota Corolla FX16 GTS
It was the summer of 1990, and my mom was getting tired of her old Sentra. With barely 70 horsepower, it was lethargic on any grade. To be fair, we live in Ohio, so steep hills are not frequently encountered, but the car was not meeting her needs. I encouraged her to start shopping, and we ended up at a Toyota dealer.
While I drooled over the Celica and Corolla GT-S, mom found a light blue Corolla sedan that she fell in love with. Save for an AM/FM-cassette, it was stripped — we even had to buy an aftermarket clock! — but it had more power and room than the old Nissan. Good thing, too, as that was the summer I went from five-foot-five to six-foot-two-inches tall.
She’s on Corolla number five or six now. It may not inspire enthusiasts, but the Corolla inspires loyalty.
Digestible Collectible: 1990 Eagle Talon TSi
For me, certain car brands evoke strong emotions. Nissan is certainly one that will always get the benefit of great memories, even if some of their current products are less than memorable. Conversely, I have reservations with Ford. As much as I enjoyed the Fusion I drove last month, the Focus I owned at the turn of the century had so many failures and recalls that I struggle to consider the Blue Oval without shivers.
Mitsubishi, on the other hand, doesn’t really register with me. There were at least two of them in the household as I was growing up — a 3000GT and an Eclipse Spyder — but I never drove them, and never bonded with them like the other sports cars to grace our garage. Perhaps the cheap prices and seemingly-disposable nature of the cars effectively blocked them from my memories.
Digestible Collectible: 1997 Honda Prelude SH
It’s time for everybody’s favorite parlor game, “Remember When?” where the good old days are magnified and revered.
Today’s subject: Remember when Honda made fun, affordable cars? Nowadays, the Civic Si all the H-brand has to offer, though the Type R might restore some mojo. Back in the day, one could buy a CRX, a Civic Si, a del Sol, a Prelude, or an S2000 from your friendly Honda store — and the Integra across the street from Acura. They’re all gone, replaced by crossovers.
Yes, I left the CR-Z out, as my arbitrary criteria for this list requires actual fun.
Digestible Collectible: 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS
Few people get dressed up for a test drive, but I had to be convincing and look respectable. I was an occasional college student at the time, somewhere between my freshman and sophomore years on the 10-year plan. I walked into the local Subaru dealer and waited to be approached.
I can’t tell you how I did it, but I ended up taking a new Impreza for a test drive, solo. Thank goodness, as my early-20s self had long dreamt of sliding a Subie around some gravel, with a handbrake pull to get the car to rotate. The polyester-clad salesman would have stopped the fun entirely too early.
If you bought a slushbox-equipped Impreza wagon sometime in 1998 from a dealer in Columbus, I’m sorry.
Digestible Collectible: 2003 Acura CL Type S
Yes, dear readers, I do read the comments. I try and chime in when I can, but I have a day job that doesn’t always allow me to monitor, refute, or verbally flog every remark, even when warranted.
Wednesday, prolific commenter CoreyDL noticed a blurple Acura CL lurking behind my beloved Gallic pile of rust. Somehow, I’d forgotten about these, even though a former neighbor had a beautiful metallic orange CL Type S that always caught my eye.
In other words, I’m running out of ideas. Keep up the comments and suggestions!
Digestible Collectible: 1991 Honda Civic Si
The “Si” badge has always denoted something special from Honda, from the ’85 Civic and CRX that flaunted the new-fangled fuel injection on the sport model to the not-quite-a-Type R that will hopefully be gracing our roads later this year. Honda fanatics will continue to debate the best, but my favorite Civic generation has to be its fourth, popularly known as the “EF” Civic.
Honda apparently didn’t like the U.S. at the time, as other markets were blessed with hotter engines, some with VTEC to boost high-end power. It took enterprising enthusiasts, some with more energy than money, to develop a trend to swap these powerplants into American-market Civics.
I recall test-driving one such swapped Civic, put together so poorly that the shift lever — not the knob, mind you, but the entire lever — came out in my hand on a 3-2 downshift.
No, I didn’t buy that car.
Digestible Collectible: 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo
Based on pageviews, you guys didn’t particularly love Wednesday’s Ferrari. So, let us consider something at twenty percent of the price, but with maybe 85 percent of the performance:
Toyota MR2 Turbo: 94.5 inch wheelbase, 2,700 lbs, 200 hp
Ferrari 308 GTSi QV: 92 inch wheelbase, 2,800 lbs, 240 hp
No, I’m not kidding. I don’t have proper instrumented test data at my fingertips, but the generally-close-enough accuracy of Wikipedia for both cars tells me that the performance probably isn’t too far apart.
Digestible Collectible: 1985 Ferrari 308 GTSi QV
As a proud member of the Brown Car Appreciation Society, I had to share this magnificent example of Italian history. Sure, Ferrari may call the color “Prugna Metallica” — or metallic purple for us Anglos — but it’s brown to my eyes (and that of the dealers’ camera).
This is perhaps the only way to fly under the radar in a Ferrari.
Digestible Collectible: 2007 Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG
As boring as they are to drive, I still think minivans are marvelous. With much more space than a comparably-sized CUV, I can easily take my Town & Country just as far offroad as most folks ever consider treading with their RX350.
Still, the big box on wheels isn’t the most luxurious commuter. Even considering the leather seating, three-zone climate control and built-in video entertainment on my T&C, a well-equipped Sonata can feel much more plush than my van. For example, Mercedes-Benz products generally have nailed the opulent feel missing from my Chrysler.
So, what if M-B built a minivan? After all, they owned Chrysler for a time.
Digestible Collectible: 2001 Chrysler Prowler
I’ve a little confession to make: I’m not really a big fan of hot rods. Some of that may be my age, as I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, when imported sports cars were generally a preferred means of automotive expression.
Alternatively, the overall “ People of Walmart” vibe I get when attending any sort of hot rod event has, by juxtaposition, possibly soured the entire genre for me.
So, count me among those who didn’t drool over the Prowler when it was released in 1997. An overstyled modern interpretation of a ’32 Ford roadster, powered by a Chrysler V-6? In the immortal words of Lisa Simpson, meh.
Digestible Collectible: 1996 Buick Roadmaster
It’s an election year. In theory, media outlets should be doing everything in their power to ensure equal time for all candidates, lest a bias influence voters on the public airwaves.
Well, I’ve come to expose a bias here at TTAC, and to demand equal time for a car not getting equal airtime to a beloved competitor. That candidate is the General Motors B-Body. TTAC certainly loves the Panther, but to completely ignore the big GM platform simply isn’t fair.
I certainly could have tracked down an Impala SS for this feature, but I love wagons and so do you. I’m also planning an autumn road trip to visit a mouse, so the extra cargo room would be welcome.
Digestible Importables: 25-Year-Old Import Law Edition
Earlier this week, we celebrated the new year by looking at a couple cars that are eligible for private import under the NHTSA’s “25 Year Rule” and I figured there were many more possibilities out there warranting a mention. Some of these have become eligible over the last couple years, where some won’t be ready for a year or so.
I’m sure I’ll miss some, either via simple forgetfulness or willful ignorance. (I doubt there are many people chopping at the bit to import a Zastava Florida.)
Digestible Collectible: 1992 Suzuki Cappuccino
I’m a glutton, and a glutton for punishment. I’m larger than most men, at around six-feet-four-inches tall and weighing between 260 and 280 pounds depending on the time of day, moon phase, and proximity to the nearest good buffet.
And yet, I love small cars.
I own, and once daily-drove, an early Miata. Mind you, I carved foam out of the seat and equipped it with a smaller steering wheel so I could steer without removal of my legs or other sensitive bits — but I do fit. My win-the-lottery wish list has just as many four-cylinder cars as bigger-engined vehicles combined.
So, when looking at models that are becoming eligible for import under the 25-year-rule, naturally, I looked East.
Digestible Collectible: 1987 Peugeot 205 GTi
As I wrapped up 2015 last week, I was reminded of my lust for French cars. My look at an inexplicably imported Citroen was the most popular piece I wrote last year, so it’s quite likely there are a few more of you masochists out there.
I also love me some hot hatches. The French know what they are doing with these cars, too, though most would think of the R5 Turbo or perhaps the 205 T16 rally replica rather than a proper front-engine, front drive commuter.
As we’ve reached another arbitrary point in our laps around the sun, we can look at importing a new batch of otherwise-unavailable cars under the 25-year rule.
The Most Digestible Crapwagons of 2015
A new year has arrived, and with it the “celebration” of eight months with The Truth About Cars. As is custom, I’m looking back over the most popular pieces of the last year for easy clicks on a hangover day.
Digestible Collectible: 2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged
Imagine if Lucas, Prince of Darkness were still supplying electrics to the British car industry. A Lucas navigation system would make Apple Maps look like a good choice. Lucas telematics would require a Whitworth wrench to access.
I kid because I love. I’ve spent more hours under the hood of British sports cars than just about anything else in my life, though not at all in the last decade or so. Even then, I still have MG shop manuals under my bathroom sink, ready for the restoration of the car I don’t yet own.
Digestible Collectible: 2003 Mercury Marauder
Panther Love will never die.
Plenty of TTAC writers and readers have shared their affection for the big Ford sedans and wagons. I have but one brief tale of Panther Love of my own — that of unrequited lust.
For many years, my dad was a traveling salesman. Company cars were the big perk, and dad went through a few A-bodies before landing a Crown Victoria, painted the same shade of dark grey as the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s cruisers. This came in handy throughout the Great Lakes region he covered. Unfortunately, his time with the big Vic ended before I turned 16, to be replaced by a second-generation Taurus wagon in which I took my drivers’ test.
I’ve yet to drive a Panther.
Digestible Collectible: 2003 Audi RS6
Cue the “CEL” jokes.
The collective “wisdom” of scores of forums have decreed that Volkswagen and Audi products are invariably cursed by permanently lit Check Engine Lights. Some have joked that the CEL is by far, the most reliable component on any VAG vehicle, and that Meatloaf was 20 years early with his “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.”
So, with some hesitation considering the comments on the last Audi to grace this column, I press forward in pursuit of the four rings and eight pistons.
Digestible Collectible: 2005 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
I’m not entirely sure why, but most products from Mercedes-Benz have never appealed to me. Perhaps the buttoned-down, staid appearance of the cars and their owners didn’t match my own self-image? Anyhow, I recall walking through various car shows as a kid, completely ignoring gorgeous vintage Pagodas and Fintails to admire leaking British roadsters.
The lack of manual transmissions is likely a factor. Even the spectacular SLS, SLR and AMG GT are missing a third pedal, a turn-off for me. And the one Mercedes that really appeals to me, the 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth, is not a realistic family ride.
And it’s with this attitude toward the Tri-Star that I turned on Netflix for some inspiration from three English buffoons who loved the AMG sedans for the massive, tire shredding power.
Digestible Collectible: 2004 Cadillac CTS-V
The response to yesterday’s Digestible Collectible was perhaps the most one-sided I’ve seen since I started this series. It’s been made quite clear that an older BMW is not a good idea, even though I’d be likely to do my own work on the car.
Still, I love the idea of a performance car that I can use to haul the family through the week and head out for a long road trip or a track day on the weekend.
Sadly, my kids are getting too tall to ride in the back seat of a 911, and I doubt I could fit four mounted Hoosiers inside either.
Digestible Collectible: 2000 BMW 540i
The kids have been getting on my nerves lately, with all of their, “Santa, please bring me this toy I’ll lose by Sunday” and “Daddy, don’t forget me at soccer practice again” and all that. I’ve decided to spite them, and that I need to spend their college fund on vehicle maintenance. So I’m looking at used, high performance, family sedans this week.
If I were so inclined to spend a public-school semester tuition every year on car repairs and general upkeep, an older BMW would be at the top of my list.
(For the nice folks at child protective services that may be reading, I never forget my children anywhere. I keep them safely chained in the basement at all times.)
I’ve always admired the styling of the E39 5-series; restrained, with just the slightest hint of aggression in the wheel arches and wide alloys. The M5 certainly appeals to me, but the asking price just seems a bit much. However, I’ve been told that the 540i with the M-Sport package is a great budget alternative to the M5, so I went shopping.
Reality Check: The Acura Integra GS-R
Chris Tonn’s find of a stock, low-mileage 1998 Acura Integra GS-R is definitely a rare one. It certainly had me feeling giddy as a past and present Integra GS-R owner. And then I saw the asking price — $11,800 — and nearly fainted.
On the magical internet scale of nice price to crack pipe, this is the lovechild of Robert Downey Jr. and Charlie Sheen. Allow me to explain.
Digestible Collectible: 1998 Acura Integra GS-R
I have absolutely no idea how the B&B does it.
WordPress gives me notifications every time someone comments on something I’ve written, and the volume of your posts is overwhelming. Please don’t consider this a criticism — far from it. I appreciate everything the B&B has done to welcome me to these virtual pages over the last eight months, and I try to read and I do appreciate every comment you make.
This week, as I looked at German Hatches of the ’90s, I counted at least ten comments asking why anyone would consider an BMW E36 hatch or a VW Corrado over the contemporary Acura Integra GS-R. Perhaps I’ve been trying to hide my inner Honda/Acura fanboy, but I’ve relented to the wisdom of the TTAC hivemind and went shopping at the temple of VTEC.
Digestible Collectible: 1992 Volkswagen Corrado SLC
It’s been a while since I’ve written about a Volkswagen product in a positive light. They certainly haven’t made it easy. That said, new cars aren’t my thing, and Wolfsburg did make the occasional interesting car back in the day.
I’ve been on a binge lately of looking at hot hatches that are becoming eligible for historic plates. That seems appropriate as I’ve passed the halfway point to my theoretical retirement. The Volkswagen Corrado has always fascinated me, so I fired up my usual searches.
Ugh. Finding an older Volkswagen that isn’t either thrashed or stanced is a challenge.
Digestible Collectible: 1995 BMW 318ti
Last week, we looked at a bunch of hot hatches — or, at least, hatchbacks that were hot back in the day. Those cars lost some luster over the years. Though, if they were clean, they’d clearly still be desirable.
Today, rather than from Japan, we look to the country that brought us the original hot hatch. BMW was never really known in this market, however, as they’d only ever offered rear-wheel-drive cars.
One could argue that after this failed experiment, BMW punted hatch-building duties (at least for North America) over to the MINI division.
Digestible Collectible: 1988 Nissan Pulsar NX SE
Various companies and trade groups have discovered that focusing marketing effort on a short period of time can generate significant buzz, and thus potential increased sales. Discovery Channel has “Shark Week.” Restaurants in various cities have Local Dining weeks. New York hookers have Fleet Week.
TTAC, in the same clickbaity manner, has “Sorta Obscure Twentyish-Year-Old Japanese Hatchback Week.” I’m not sure if I can repeat this next year, but this week has brought very rough examples of oddball Isuzu and Mazda hatches. Today, however, I have a personal favorite that isn’t one busted balljoint from the scrapyard.
Digestible Collectible: 1967 MGB
The familiar, yet disconcerting sound of a medium-duty diesel was our first clue. It was the early ’90s, a time before ubiquitous cell phones, and my dad and I had been waiting for several hours for my stepmom to arrive in her MGB that we were putting away for the winter. She arrived eventually, in the cab of a rollback.
The engine decided to pop about 10 miles from our storage facility, a garage at my stepmother’s childhood home about 90 minutes from our house. The plan had simply been to keep it there until spring, but it would be a couple years before the old MG would see daylight again. Along the way, I learned about engine rebuilding, the importance of a good engine hoist (ours was crap), proper placement of jackstands (my toe still hurts a bit when it rains), and what happens when a Lucas distributor gets installed 180 degrees out of phase.
What sucks the most? I never got to drive it, as it was sold before I turned 16.
Digestible Collectible: 1972 Datsun 240Z
I was turning sixteen the autumn of my junior year in high school, and if I wanted to get a job, I needed a car. Ideally, I’d have begun working at 14 and saved up myself, but I lived several miles from anywhere a teenager could reasonably expect to find gainful employment.
Dad took pity on me and offered to give me a car. Not just any car, mind you, but a pristine 1973 Datsun 240Z that he and I had done a mechanical restoration on. However, the Z had never seen snow, and I told my dad that it would be a crime to subject the Z to an Ohio winter.
So he sold it, and used the proceeds to buy me an ’85 Nissan Maxima. I’m still kicking myself.
Digestible Collectible: 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Off-Road
This isn’t the first SRT product to wear the Digestible Collectible title, but it is certainly the oddest. Ever since our news editor Aaron Cole sent this to me earlier this week, I’ve been looking over the ad in bewilderment.
Perhaps that’s the point. I can’t see any other reason why one would take a limited-production, low-slung, high-powered, long-wheelbase pony car and lift it a couple inches other than to make people point and stare. It certainly isn’t going to be of any use off-road beyond well-groomed trails.
To top things off, this 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT8 has been fitted with an Edelbrock supercharger, making this a proto-Hellcat.
A proto-Hellcat with light truck off-road tires.
Digestible Collectible: 2001 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Welcome, friends, to the latest episode of “Chris grows a mullet, switches to Busch Light, and plays Skynyrd on repeat.” Hashtag ‘Murica.
Like I mentioned Monday, I’ve not yet had the pleasure of enjoying any sort of pony car. I can try and come up with excuses, but there aren’t any. This has to change. So, I opened up eBay and found my second dark blue pony of the week.
I hold no allegiance in the Chevy versus Ford battle, so vendors of Calvin peeing on the other brand’s logo can stop emailing me.
Digestible Collectible: 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt
I’ve stumbled down a deep and dangerous rabbit hole, and it all started with a jerk nearly hitting me. The jerk in question was driving a tuned SN95 Mustang, swerving in and out of lanes on the interstate without signals, and timed his maneuver around my slow van poorly.
It was hard to stay angry, however, as he dropped a gear and the Modular V-8 snarled enticingly. I drove home and opened up some browser tabs. And more. And more still. As I write, I have twenty tabs open, filled with cars for sale, suspension setup tips, and performance parts catalog houses.
I need help. Or winning lottery numbers. That’d be just as good.
Digestible Collectible: 2002 Lexus IS300
Car enthusiasts, to outsiders, are an odd bunch. We refer to cars by their model codes or platform names. We take photos of random, interesting cars just because. We argue on forums about the relative merits of various brands of oil. However, we are useful to those outsiders when it comes to advice. Family, friends and co-workers all come to us for recommendations on cars, tires and service. At times, the volume of requests can be overwhelming, but otherwise we appreciate being appreciated.
For example years ago, a good friend once asked me to help him choose between two late-model used cars, a Lexus IS and a BMW 3-series (E46, I think). He’s a car guy, so the advice differed than that I’d give to a non-enthusiast. Simply because he was a BMW fanatic, I told him to get the 3 over the Lexus, because he’d regret not having the roundel years down the road.
Had it been my money, I’d have picked up the Lexus without thinking twice. Late-model BMWs seem to have so many funky and pricey maintenance needs that even paying Lexus dealer prices might be preferable to DIYing a 3er.
Digestible Collectible: 1983 Alfa Romeo GTV6
The sounds a car makes can elicit strong emotions for enthusiasts. Some love the guttural burble from an American V-8, each marque emitting distinct noises. Others, the fan-dominated sounds of an air-cooled Porsche. A modified straight-six, like that found in a Datsun Z, emits a wail that buckles my knees.
As a gearhead kid, these sounds were the object of my obsession. I still have a copy of “The Sounds of Sebring” in the basement, with no corresponding phonograph with which to enjoy it. While others were trying to find porn, I used my school Compuserve account to try and pirate CDs of Formula One engine notes, unsuccessfully.
Yes, I’m old. I was in high school before Netscape existed.
Digestible Collectible: 1991 BMW 318is
If there isn’t some sort of church-basement support group for unrepentant car shoppers and buyers, there should be, with stale coffee and plenty of doughnuts. I know there are thousands of us nationwide, eyes bleary from constantly refreshing eBay and Craigslist searches.
Those two are gateway drugs, certainly. The layout of eBay and Craigslist easily allow one to browse their listings like an automotive Silk Road until a car catches one’s eye, whereas places like Cars.com and Autotrader are for the hardcore junkie; the one who knows somewhat specifically what machines they choose to lust over.
I guess I’m the methadone user who is also selling the good stuff on the side: Obviously, I write about these classics a few times a week, pushing the product onto screens everywhere, but I barely have enough spare funds to shop the free section of Craigslist.
Digestible Collectible: 1983 Volvo 240 GLT Turbo
It seems we have a theme this week on the Digestible Collectible/Crapwagon Outtake beat. IT’S SWEDEN WEEK! Throw back some akvavit, heat up some meatballs, plug in an ABBA 8-track, and let’s look at another sweet Scandinavian hotrod of the ’80s.
No, I really didn’t plan this. I don’t think I can come up with another Swedish car for Friday anyhow, unless someone can find me a barn-find Koenigsegg, or perhaps a couple BILLY bookcases powered by a Husqvarna chainsaw engine. I have been looking for a clean Volvo wagon to feature for some time, as I have occasional fond memories of the 745 I briefly owned before my wife attempted to set a Great Lakes record in the conrod toss.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s two of my cars my dearest has obliterated via external combustion.
Digestible Collectible: 1988 Saab 900 SPG
The contrast was so stark, it was breathtaking.
Dad was driving his company car, some sort of GM A-Body, as we pulled into the parking lot of a golf course north of Columbus. Golf, of course, is another hobby my dad introduced me to that is as sure as car collecting to drive me into debilitating debt. Anyhow, we were meeting a friend of his for a weekend round, and we parked next to his new Saab.
I was blown away. Of course, I read all of the car magazines, so I knew what a Saab was, but dad’s buddy had a 900 SPG — the high-performance, limited edition hot Swede. Black, with grey three-spoke wheels just like the car shown above. The buff book photos did not do the car justice. It’s such a vivid memory of a not-that-exotic car that is so overwhelming.
Digestible Collectible: 1989 Mazda RX7 GTUs
Mazda just can’t quit the rotary. Magical spinning Doritos are such a significant part of their DNA that, in spite of overwhelming evidence against the Wankel existence thanks to its appetite for fuel, oil, and apex seals, they keep a team of engineers developing it.
In theory, the rotary is the perfect engine for a sportscar. Lightweight, rev-happy, and reasonably powerful — exactly the attributes needed for a lithe corner carver. Back in the late ’80s, just as another enthusiast-focused Mazda was coming on the scene, a special edition RX7 was released. Rather than tape stripes and excess frills, this one came stripped of excess weight, and loaded with performance goodies.
Digestible Collectible: 2000 Ford SVT Lightning
Eleven years ago, I married a remarkably tolerant woman. She’s not particularly into cars, but she humors me when I prattle on about the merits of whatever awesome car caught my eye that day. Or when I decide I need to take an epic, one day, out-and-back trip to Maryland to buy a race car that’s never turned a wheel under it’s own power in the three years I’ve owned it. But she has her own automotive tastes, and for sake of marital harmony, I do my best to listen.
As a country girl, trucks weigh heavily in her list.
One peculiar truck that caught her eye about fifteen years ago was the Ford SVT Lightning. I think the bit-player role it took in the first “The Fast and the Furious” film (as Harry’s shop truck) may have done it for her. That, or she’s conflating her lust for Vin Diesel’s bulging biceps with the sweet melody of whistling supercharger and burbling V-8.
Digestible Collectible: 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT8
As I continue the search for the family hauler that is less emasculating than the minivan I currently drive, my eye wanders to hot wagons. Like the Subaru I featured a few weeks ago, a quick wagon looks a bit more “menacing” on the road than a bloated van. It’s likely much more rewarding to drive to boot.
Besides a better drive, other senses can be engaged; for many enthusiasts, a great engine note can trigger primal urges. The sound of a proper #Murican V8 tops the list for many. Personally, I can’t help but turn my head anytime an uncorked HEMI, Coyote, or LS drives by.
That leads us to today’s subject: the 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT8.
Digestible Collectible: 1999 Honda Civic Si
I can’t think of another small car that has been so consistently good, and occasionally great, as the Honda Civic. The Corolla matches it on the good column, but there really hasn’t been a “great” Corolla for enthusiasts since the FX16 GTS. Each generation of Civic, at least since the second generation’s “S” model, has offered a higher-performance trim level that caters to gearheads.
Elsewhere on these virtual pages today, we look at the most recent iterations of the Civic, but since I’m the guy here with grease under his nails and rust in his eyes, I’m looking back a few years at an iconic Honda.
Digestible Collectible: 2004 MINI Cooper S
Imagine if we’d had the internet back in the ’60s. Ignoring all other differences that fast, easy communication would have had on a pivotal time in our history, I’m most fascinated by the important stuff, like how it would have affected the way we buy cars.
Back then, one could walk into the dealership and check various boxes on an order form, specifying the exact options desired. Want a manual transmission, big-block wagon with non-assisted drums all the way around? Sure. Under-dash record player? Absolutely. But that wasn’t efficient, and eventually we got a few option packages and some dealer-installed bits.
MINI (gotta make sure we capitalize that) is one of the few mainstream OEMs that lets us relive those checkbox glory days.
Digestible Collectible: 2003 Honda S2000
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Honda could do no wrong in enthusiasts’ eyes. Nearly everything was a hit. The CRX, Civic, Prelude, NSX and Integra all handled beautifully, taking well to both motorsport and unwise modification.
Near the turn of the century, however, some folks decreed that Honda had lost its way. The double-wishbone suspension was phased out in most cars, replaced by the space-saving, less-expensive McPherson strut. Honda enthusiasts decided that this change fundamentally altered the character of the cars.
As it turns out, Honda had one last round in the chamber.
Digestible Collectible: 1988 Pontiac Fiero Formula
As I continue my occasional look at cheap, mid-engine sports cars of the Eighties, one enormously popular car is clearly missing. The Fiero was GM’s attempt at producing an efficient, yet potentially fun car on the cheap.
Unfortunately, GM mostly succeeded at producing a platform for awful Lamborghini replicas.
Digestible Collectible: 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo
I suppose that technically, the first sports car to come to the U.S. from Japan was the Toyota 2000GT, but very few of those were ever sold. The cars that fueled the performance revolution from the East were the Nissan Z-cars. The early 240Z is especially sought after by enthusiasts and collectors due to the good performance brought by light weight and minimal power-robbing emissions crap.
The later cars, like most cars (and people, really) got fat as they aged. The 280ZX gained a bunch of weight as they were geared toward a cruiser rather than a stripped-down, performance machine. In 1984, the 300ZX came along with a new engine and angular styling that was divisive among fans of the older models.
Digestible Collectible: 2005 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited
Two out of four ain’t bad, I guess.
The perfect vehicle, as proclaimed by auto journalists and web commenters alike, is a brown diesel manual wagon. Here, however, the rally-legend Subaru turbo flat-four is a better choice for a hot daddymobile than a nasty oilburner. The low-key blue paint won’t turn heads at the PTA, but will be near invisible to over-zealous traffic enforcement.
The Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon, in other words, is an Impreza WRX STI for grownups.
Digestible Collectible: 2000 Toyota Celica GTS
For our readers under the age of 25, let me tell you a bedtime story. There once was a time when Toyota sold sports cars.
Seriously. The company now best known for beige once offered a fleet of interesting, sporty, high-performance cars. The Celica, Supra, Celica Supra, rear-drive Corollas, FX16 GTS, and MR2 all came from your friendly Toyota dealer. Nowadays, if you want a little pizazz with your “Famous Toyota Reliabilty,” you must wander to the dank corner of the showroom labeled Scion.
Digestible Collectible: 1988 Toyota MR2 Supercharged
Salt is a killer. Any time I travel south, I’m amazed when I see pristine, 30-year-old cars being used as daily transportation. Up here in the Great White North [Don’t you live in Ohio? —Mark], most everything built prior to Y2K has been perforated horrendously.
Considering this, I laugh anytime a distant friend asks me to check out a local car. Invariably, the car in question is more air than metal, and what remains is held loosely together by the sheer adhesion of the paint, duct tape, chewing gum and dreams.
Digestible Collectible: 1978 Jeep Renegade Levi's Edition
One day, two blue Jeep Renegades. I wonder which will be worth more in ten years. To be fair, I’m trying to compare apples to refrigerators here. The modern Renegade is a commuter appliance with some off-road pretense. The vintage truck here could be used for commuting, but is at home on the trails.
I can’t claim to be a Jeep fan. I live in Midwestern suburbia, where the most difficult terrain I’ll encounter is frost-heaved interstate in April. My weekends are spent hauling kids to sporting events, or occasionally, my golf clubs to the nearest cheap course, rather than hauling a big-tired rig to the forest. I’ve driven a Jeep exactly once, for about an hour, and I came away unimpressed with the on-road manners.