At first glance this next car might seem out of place on these pages dedicated to automotive ebullience. But believe me, when I assure you it does belong between a Fiberfab Aztec and a Double-Double-Ranchero-Ranchero. A vast plurality of the eighth generation E110 (1995-2000) Toyota Corollas were sold with a penalty box autotragic transmission and subsequently ridden hard and put away bloody by their owners…but not this one. This one has a 5 speed shift-it-yourself manual gearbox, decent cloth seats, a not-too-shabby exterior, and roll-it-yourself manual windows. It shockingly meets 8 of the 10 things i need in a car in 2020, and a Canadian spec speedo/odometer in kilometers. I love it. Find this 2000 Toyota Corolla offered for $2800 in Campbell, CA via craigslist.
Living in southern California has its pluses and minuses as car lover. One of the positives is that cars do not rust away. The big negative is the smog rules making imported vehicles nearly impossible to legally drive. So this Japanese import with a clean California title is a unicorn. Find this 1986 Mazda Bongo Brawny offered for $14,500 in Santa Barbara, CA via Craigslist.
If you are not old enough to remember the sport compact car crazy of the early 1990s, let me tell you something funny. There was actually a time when front-drive compact imports were faster than domestic rear-drive pony cars. It was a strange time because on paper they shouldn’t have been fast…but the American cars were so terrible at traction and power per cubic inch that a stock ’96 Prelude SI with a 2.0 liter 4-banger could beat a ’94 Mustang with a 5.0 V8 to 60mph by 0.1 seconds. That didn’t last long as domestic car manufacturers figured out how to push more air through their gigantic air pumps, but if you want to re-live the 90s sport compact car scene, do it with this 1996 Honda Prelude SI offered for $5000 in Scottsdale, AZ via craigslist.
We’re gonna take a quick trip down the rabbit hole of internet history here…way back to 2001…when Ford was trying to push their 1st generation Focus on Gen Xers. Naturally, they collaborated with MTV and renowned Detroit Techno artist DJ Bone and launched the (long defunct) website Focus247.com where you could mix your own techno beats…How could Ford have let this site fall into the digital abyss? You can see a little bit of what was archived by the Wayback machine here….but don’t expect to be able to mix your own beats because I couldn’t get any of the archived shockwave flash apps to work (arggg..I wanted to play DJ FU!). Anyway if you want a cheap 5-speed equipped car that was once marketed via MTV to a bunch of pimply faced Gen Xers around Y2K, you can drive this 2002 Ford Focus ZTS offered for $1990 in Santa Clara, CA via craigslist.
The E39 generation BMW 5-series was one of the last designs from BMW to not be Banglized and overly complicated. Complicated…yes…but not overly..not many issues will need to be solved with a fancy computer talking to other computers…and most things will require a wrench and some RTV. Today’s example doesn’t have the screaming V8 you get in a 540i, but it does have the usability of a wagon and the silky smooth M52 inline-6 good for 190 horsepower and 207 ft-lbs of torque pushed through a 5-speed manual gearbox to the rear wheels. Find this 2000 BMW 528iT Wagon E39 offered for $4200 in San Francisco, CA via craigslist.
This next car isn’t going to win any beauty contests, or any drag races…but it could get you a trophy for fuel economy. The first generation Insight is one of the only hybrid vehicles to get a manual gearbox and today’s example is offered for dirt cheap (and no, it is not the same red Insight we featured a few weeks ago) Grab this 2001 Honda Insight offered for $2000 in San Jose, CA via craigslist.
The Lincoln Mark VII 1986-1992 (originally called the Continental Mark VII from 1984-1985) rode on the Fox platform shared with the Mustang, Thunderbird, and Cougar. It was powered by Ford’s legendary 5.0 V8…but saddled with a basic 4-speed slushbox but this next owner has fixed that with a few parts from a used Mustang. Find […]
The Passat has been Volkswagen’s large family sedan option for many years and it is typically been based on a platform shared with the Golf and built in Mexico, but the B5 generation Volkswagen Passat was built on a Germany built platform shared with the Audi A4/A6 from 1997 through 2005. This means that it […]
The biggest complaint I have about this next car is the name. Say it out loud: I drive a Contour. An SVT Contour. Yuck. Contour. Blech. SVT Contour sounds like something you’d lookup in a medical encyclopedia and recoil in horror at the associated illustration. Ford should have kept the global name and called it […]
Few cars elicit the same degree of guffawed snickers as a French built car sold in AMC dealers with the Spanish name for fire. Yeah. The one car that is more Rodney Dangerfield than even Pontiac’s Fiero…the Renault Fuego. It is a car that was loved by a few, misunderstood by many, and is all […]