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Understeer

Shitbox Seance: The Gift and Curse of Loving Turds

A consideration of why we are the way we are (and some cars)

Lexus GS 300. Infiniti M30. Crown Victoria. Old mail trucks. When I pull back and take a macro view of my vehicular habits, a clear trend emerges. It’s undeniable: I fall in love with shitboxes. This is not how God or father intended, but since my teens, I have only had eyes for the shitty.

A large part of my obsession with ugly ducklings is rooted in my unshakable pragmatism: cars are depreciating assets (and on top of that, I’ve never had an excess of assets myself). So while I can appreciate the intricate mechanical workings of a Ferrari, I’ll never spiritually connect with one like I have with my former turd chariots.

I’ve been driving a Crown Vic too long; these are starting to make sense -Ed.

This all started leading up to getting my learners permit. I would grab an Auto Trader and pore over every listing, checking the price first. At the time I had a few hundred dollars to my name, and based on my upcoming employment options, I estimated my 15-year-old net worth to top out around $1500.
With my given financial limitation, the Auto Trader became a much smaller publication. Only a few vehicles lived in my price point, many of them foreign, front wheel drive sedans; while this would be acceptable transportation for the working man, I abhorred the idea of pulling up to school in one.
When all seemed lost, I flipped to the back of the rag, and jumping off the page like a pin-up girl was my first crush: a decommissioned DJ postal jeep, 1973 vintage, running and driving for the low low price of $800. That jeep stared up at me with hope and wonder like the second prettiest girl at the trailer park.

Now we’re talking

This is the key to falling in love with the unlovable: you need to bend reality with obsession. Any problem was just an opportunity in disguise. No A/C? I’m just gonna open up that side door. 2WD instead of 4WD? Well, technically, it will be more reliable. Maximum speed 60 mph? I love back roads, who needs highways anyway.
For the year leading up to my 16th birthday, I inhaled every bit of information available on the postal jeep and by infatuating myself with the mail jeep through print advertising, then the internet, then celebrating them upon seeing them in the wild, I was teaching myself a pattern that I would follow into adulthood: the deep connection with the different. I never ended up getting the jeep (my father stepped in at the last moment with a nice 16-year-old stimulus package), but the shitbox seance had been completed, and there was no going back. I was drawn to the inexpensive and forgotten forever.

As I grew up, I came to learn that I needed my transportation to be reliable. While I love turning wrenches, at the end of the day I’m below average at it. Those front wheel drive foreign sedans were suddenly looking a whole lot sexier.
Around this time, I was driving a 1994 Toyota Camry station wagon on its last legs. This was a hand me down car, and while grateful, I didn’t love it like I would have my own. So when it finally wouldn’t pass emissions anymore, I went hunting for my next love.
Like an oak barrel to wine, age had refined my shitty palette, and I now viewed amenities like reliability and air conditioning as mandatory. After a few weeks of browsing craigslist I found myself gazing at my next long term relationship: a 2000 Toyota Echo coupe with a 5 speed. If I squinted just right it kinda looked sporty, a trick Tercel and Paseo owners perfected before me. One owner, 62,000 miles, and $3200 dollars. While the jeep showed me the power of delusion, the Echo helped me master it.

I learned patience with the Toyota early on. My twenties were turbulent times, and through it all I loved the Echo like it was an AC Shelby Cobra. Given there weren’t a plethora of modification options, I would study each one for months.
When I found Toyota made a factory trunk spoiler, I debated for a full year about it, savoring every thought. When an old man rear ended me and offered to pay cash for the damages, I knew it was my time. I purchased the decklid spoiler and had the body shop paint it with the rest. I had marked the beast: it was no longer an Echo, it was my Echo. And in the end, she was a masterpiece: meticulously cleaned and detailed, filled with premium fluids, and topped off with a service record that looked like a military flight log. This turd reliably took me to work for seven years and was polished to a mirror sheen the entire time.
When I finally went to let the old girl go, I saw in the buyer’s eyes what I knew to reside in my own. He loved the shitboxes too. He asked all the right questions of someone who had the bug. He had twenty-five $100 bills and big plans for how he was going to love this car and make it his own.
It was nice to know that another person like me was out there,
This love has never left me, and manifests now, every morning, in the form of browsing Facebook, eBay, BaT, or this site, looking for the sub-$4000 forgotten girl. I fantasize about a Buick Lesabre’s 3800 V6 purring, picture myself restoring a junkyard GS 300, or finding the right box Caprice Classic to mob around in. I could probably do better, but I’m reminded of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons crooning:

Little rag doll…
I’d change her sad rags into glad rags
If I could (if I could)
My folks won’t let me
‘Cause they say that she’s no good
She’s a rag doll, such a rag doll
Though I love her so
I can’t let her know

There’s space in my driveway for a third car, so when I see that 1993 base model Del Sol, I linger on the listing and wonder what that little rag doll would look like if I gave her glad rags and all of my heart.


We attempted to capture the spirit of the Auto Trader bargain bin with the following selections. If you like this kind of thing, you really should consider subscribing to our mailing list.

 

Acura Legend Chevrolet Caprice Datsun 510
Dodge Daytona Ford Focus Ford Taurus
Geo Storm Honda Civic Isuzu Vehicross
Lexus GS Porsche 944 Subaru BRAT
Subaru SVX Suzuki X-90 Toyota Cressida
Toyota MR2 Toyota Sera
Acura Legend
1995 Legend L Coupe 2D…
200000 miles
$800
 
Chevrolet Caprice
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
146000 miles
$3150
1994 Caprice
180000 miles
$3500
1994 Caprice Wagon 4D
167000 miles
$3500
1994 Caprice Wagon 4D
149000 miles
$3700
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
160000 miles
$4500
1994 Caprice
10000 miles
$1234
1994 Caprice 9C1
999000 miles
$1850
1994 Caprice Wagon 4D
125000 miles
$5500
1994 Caprice
217000 miles
$3200
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
148000 miles
$3000
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
100000 miles
$6500
1994 Caprice
100000 miles
$1234
1994 Caprice Sedan 4D
168000 miles
$4800
1994 Caprice Sedan 4D
70000 miles
$4200
1994 Caprice Sedan 4D
17000 miles
$2300
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
89000 miles
$2900
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
100000 miles
$2000
1994 Caprice Sedan 4D
10000 miles
$2500
1994 Caprice
40000 miles
$7000
1994 Caprice…
400000 miles
$3500
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D…
55000 miles
$2500
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
200000 miles
$2500
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
149000 miles
$5500
1994 Caprice LS Sedan 4D
200000 miles
$1234
1994 Caprice
190000 miles
$4500
1994 Caprice
231000 miles
$5000
1995 Caprice
147000 miles
$4500
1995 Caprice
111000 miles
$1200
1995 Caprice
200000 miles
$5000
1995 Caprice
170000 miles
$1800
1995 Caprice
270000 miles
$2000
1995 Caprice
200000 miles
$1234
1995 Caprice
133000 miles
$2600
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
38000 miles
$1800
1995 Caprice
148000 miles
$7500
1995 Caprice Wagon 4D
260000 miles
$800
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
74000 miles
$3500
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
54000 miles
$7500
1995 Caprice
137000 miles
$3000
1995 Caprice
103000 miles
$7000
1995 Caprice
44000 miles
$5000
1995 Caprice Wagon 4D
100000 miles
$2500
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
150000 miles
$1800
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
250000 miles
$2000
1995 Caprice SS Sedan 4D
140000 miles
$9000
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D…
87000 miles
$3500
1995 Caprice Wagon 4D
132000 miles
$1234
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
50000 miles
$4000
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
12000 miles
$4800
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
121000 miles
$1234
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
96000 miles
$1234
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
150000 miles
$1800
1995 Caprice Wagon 4D…
131000 miles
$3800
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
150000 miles
$5000
1995 Caprice Sedan 4D
148000 miles
$4500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
90000 miles
$5000
1996 Caprice
137000 miles
$3800
1996 Caprice
210000 miles
$3000
1996 Caprice
80000 miles
$3000
1996 Caprice
130000 miles
$3000
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
10000 miles
$7000
1996 Caprice
125000 miles
$3500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
85000 miles
$5500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
500 miles
$1000
1996 Caprice
89000 miles
$2500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
123000 miles
$950
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
87000 miles
$7500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
100000 miles
$1234
1996 Caprice
133000 miles
$5000
1996 Caprice
167000 miles
$3150
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
89000 miles
$4500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
108000 miles
$2000
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
112000 miles
$7900
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
270000 miles
$2700
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
110000 miles
$6000
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
160000 miles
$3500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D…
100000 miles
$2500
1996 Caprice Sedan 4D
82000 miles
$4000
1996 Caprice Wagon 4D
100000 miles
$3500
 
Datsun 510
1972 510
140000 miles
$19999
1981 510
150000 miles
$2500
Dodge Daytona
1988 Daytona
123000 miles
$1234
 
Ford Focus
2002 Focus SVT Hatchback 2D
180000 miles
$4499
2002 Focus SVT Hatchback 2D
208000 miles
$1350
2002 Focus SVT Hatchback 2D
130000 miles
$3000
2003 Focus ZX3 SVT Hatchback 2D
79000 miles
$2400
2003 Focus ZX5 SVT Hatchback 4D
150000 miles
$3600
2003 Focus ZX3 SVT Hatchback 2D
212000 miles
$1500
Ford Taurus
1992 Taurus SHO Sedan 4D
136000 miles
$2500
1995 Taurus SHO Sedan 4D
139000 miles
$2500
1995 Taurus SHO Sedan 4D
71000 miles
$6500
Geo Storm
1990 Storm Hatchback Coupe 2D
127000 miles
$900
1990 Storm GSi 2+2 Coupe 2D
213000 miles
$6000
1991 Storm Hatchback Coupe 2D
22000 miles
$1350
1991 Storm GSi 2+2 Coupe 2D
161000 miles
$1000
1992 Storm
111000 miles
$2000
1993 Storm
75000 miles
$2700
1993 Storm
100000 miles
$2800
 
Honda Civic
1988 Civic LX Sedan 4D
400000 miles
$2500
1988 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
11000 miles
$1000
1988 Civic
120000 miles
$3500
1988 Civic
200000 miles
$1000
1988 Civic CX Hatchback 2D…
150000 miles
$1234
1989 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
160000 miles
$1234
1989 Civic
170000 miles
$1500
1989 Civic C
150000 miles
$2800
1989 Civic
190000 miles
$2500
1989 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
200000 miles
$3500
1989 Civic
190000 miles
$650
1989 Civic
140000 miles
$1234
1989 Civic DX Sedan 4D
1000 miles
$2850
1989 Civic
228000 miles
$3300
1990 Civic
11000 miles
$3000
1990 Civic DX Sedan 4D
48000 miles
$1234
1990 Civic EX Sedan 4D
52000 miles
$3000
1990 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
154000 miles
$3000
1990 Civic Crx hf
165000 miles
$1111
1990 Civic
12000 miles
$1234
1990 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
10000 miles
$1110
1990 Civic
140000 miles
$1500
1990 Civic
150000 miles
$2000
1990 Civic
123000 miles
$1300
1990 Civic
300000 miles
$500
1990 Civic
100000 miles
$500
1990 Civic DX Sedan 4D
220000 miles
$1000
1990 Civic DX Sedan 4D
178000 miles
$3000
1990 Civic DX Sedan 4D
300000 miles
$1700
1990 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
127000 miles
$2800
1990 Civic LX Sedan 4D
332000 miles
$2000
1990 Civic CX Hatchback 2D
23000 miles
$500
1990 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
160000 miles
$1600
1990 Civic EX-L Sedan 4D
183000 miles
$1500
1990 Civic
300000 miles
$1234
1990 Civic LX Sedan 4D
200000 miles
$450
1990 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
167000 miles
$1500
1990 Civic
222000 miles
$2450
1990 Civic DX Sedan 4D
200000 miles
$1200
1991 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
225000 miles
$1111
1991 Civic
13000 miles
$3000
1991 Civic
8000 miles
$2500
1991 Civic CX Hatchback 2D
185000 miles
$360
1991 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
201000 miles
$2500
1991 Civic Si Hatchback 2D
162000 miles
$3200
1991 Civic Si Coupe 2D
180000 miles
$2222
1991 Civic DX Sedan 4D
128000 miles
$4000
1991 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
142000 miles
$2600
1991 Civic CX Hatchback 2D
200000 miles
$1600
1991 Civic
12000 miles
$500
1991 Civic
167000 miles
$3500
1991 Civic
189000 miles
$600
1991 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
260000 miles
$2800
1991 Civic Si Hatchback 2D
141000 miles
$600
1991 Civic CX Hatchback 2D
168000 miles
$500
1991 Civic
117000 miles
$1800
1991 Civic DX Coupe 2D
160000 miles
$1600
1991 Civic DX Coupe 2D
278000 miles
$1500
1991 Civic CX Hatchback 2D
350000 miles
$2300
1991 Civic
76000 miles
$7500
1991 Civic LX Hatchback 4D
220000 miles
$2500
1991 Civic
80000 miles
$3000
1991 Civic DX Hatchback 2D
200000 miles
$1500
1991 Civic
300 miles
$1000
1991 Civic
159000 miles
$2900
1991 Civic CX Hatchback 2D
155000 miles
$1500
1991 Civic
160000 miles
$2000
1991 Civic HF Sedan 4D
200000 miles
$2300
1991 Civic HF…
300000 miles
$3000
1991 Civic DX Hatchback 2D…
123000 miles
$1000
 
Isuzu Vehicross
1999 VehiCROSS Sport Utility 2D
193000 miles
$2500
2001 VehiCROSS
185000 miles
$5300
2001 VehiCROSS
159000 miles
$1500
Lexus GS
1993 GS 300 Sedan 4D
216000 miles
$3500
1995 GS 300 Sedan 4D
3000 miles
$2000
1998 GS 300 Sedan 4D
160000 miles
$5000
1998 GS 300 Sedan 4D…
170000 miles
$1234
1998 GS 300 Sedan 4D
160000 miles
$1234
1998 GS 300 Sedan 4D
340000 miles
$4000
1998 GS 300 Sedan 4D
240000 miles
$5000
1998 GS 300 Sedan 4D
283000 miles
$1900
Porsche 944
1984 944’s
71000 miles
$4000
1985 944 na
180000 miles
$3500
1985 944 turbo
60000 miles
$28900
1986 944 turbo
137000 miles
$14500
1987 944 n/a
139000 miles
$1500
1987 944s
127000 miles
$5500
1987 944s
37000 miles
$3999
1987 944
89000 miles
$10500
1988 944 turbo Turbo
120000 miles
$13500
1988 944 turbo Turbo
144000 miles
$7500
1988 944s
160000 miles
$2500
1988 944 turbo s Race car
60000 miles
$24000
1988 944
25000 miles
$8500
1988 944 turbo
127000 miles
$14900
1989 944
177000 miles
$6500
1989 944 5 speed NA Non Turbo
168000 miles
$12000
1990 944 s2
70000 miles
$13500
Subaru BRAT
1985 BRAT
100000 miles
$200
 
Subaru SVX
1994 svx l…
230000 miles
$1500
1995 SVX L AWD Coupe 2D…
58000 miles
$2825
Suzuki X-90
1996 X-90 Sport Utility 2D…
97000 miles
$3000
1997 X-90 Sport Utility 2D
84000 miles
$3000
Toyota Cressida
1988 Cressida Luxury Sedan 4D
210000 miles
$3500
1989 Cressida Luxury Sedan 4D
140000 miles
$2500
Toyota MR2
1985 MR2
86000 miles
$1000
1985 MR2 Coupe 2D
120000 miles
$950
1985 MR2
120000 miles
$950
1986 MR2 Coupe 2D
100000 miles
$2000
1989 MR2 Coupe 2D
98000 miles
$2800
1991 MR2 Coupe 2D
160000 miles
$3000
1991 MR2 Turbo Coupe 2D
150000 miles
$6500
1991 MR2 Coupe 2D
111000 miles
$1800
1991 MR2 Coupe 2D
126000 miles
$4000
1991 MR2 Turbo Coupe 2D
130000 miles
$1600
1991 MR2
150000 miles
$1050
1991 MR2 Turbo Coupe 2D
192000 miles
$9800
1991 MR2 Turbo Coupe 2D
220000 miles
$6500
1991 MR2 Coupe 2D
226000 miles
$5000
1991 MR2
180000 miles
$9000
1992 MR2 Picok troca
2000 miles
$1211
1993 MR2 Coupe 2D
72000 miles
$6500
1993 MR2 Coupe 2D
72000 miles
$6500
1993 mr2 gt turbo Revision 3
40000 miles
$16900
1993 Mr2 for parts or whole
128000 miles
$1200
1993 MR2 Turbo Coupe 2D
100000 miles
$4500
1994 MR2 Turbo Coupe 2D
90000 miles
$1234
1994 MR2
184000 miles
$3375
1995 MR2
200000 miles
$5500
Toyota Sera
1994 sera
72000 miles
$10000
 

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