QotW: Take the JNC Challenge, Part 06

We have $3800 for a new JNC purchase. The sky’s the limit.

What should we buy next? Still need it to be a daily driver and be able to survive the summer heat (and some winter chills!).

What JNC should we buy for $3800 as a daily driver?

To find out why we have $3800, hit the jump!

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Take the JNC Challenge, Part 05”

Disaster!! Last week we asked you how to prepare the Shuttle for a road trip and Randy gave some solid advice for preparing a JNC for the road ahead. Although it was excellent advice, nothing can prepare us for a distracted driver. Cruising on I-5 aka “the five” with three other friends, we run into a bit of traffic slowdown. Ironically, an accident up ahead. While everyone was moving at a slow clip, traffic came to a near crawl as we approached the accident.

Unfortunately, the Suburban behind us wasn’t so aware and proceeded to turn the rear end of the Shuttle into a crumpled soda can. Once more, because we were moving at a slow roll, the Honda Shuttle dove head-first into the car in front of us; a ’97 Maxima.

The good news is, everyone came away without injury. The bad news is, the Shuttle, doing what its namesake was made for–moving some friends around– is no more. After exchanging insurance info., talking to the police and adding to the carnage on the side of the road; we are now car less.

We’ve been in contact with the insurance adjuster with the final verdict being: totaled. Makes sense with rear AND front end damage. There is a silver lining in all of this, though. Because we had so much pride and joy from this excellent JNC example, we have TONS of pictures that show the pre-accident condition. The blue book value is sitting at a dismal $800-ish (obviously with no consideration of the rising cost of JNCs) but, because we have the bill  of sale, and excellent photos on our side, we compelled the insurance company to instead look at replacement value.

With all the above considered, we were able to get $1800 for our trusty Shuttle. Add in the mint interior that we stripped beforehand AND the cash we planned on using for the week-long road trip; we are sitting around 3200-ish for a new ride. Payday is in a week’s time so we can add a bit more (if needed) for a car-shopping kitty of about $3800.

Sorry Randy, your Shuttle is toast…

Your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop, if that helps…

JNC Decal smash

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24 Responses to QotW: Take the JNC Challenge, Part 06

  1. Scotty G says:

    I just happen to know someone with a 1986 Nissan Stanza 4WD 5-speed wagon for sale… It’s a bit too close to the Honda Shuttle, though.

    I would grab a 1968 Toyota Corona, preferably with a manual transmission if it can be found. They’re not fast or sexy, but they’re super nerdy-cool, not to mention being relatively inexpensive in four-door sedan configuration. And, with those four doors you can haul several of your friends. Just watch out for giant, coal-burning, SUVs with texting drivers in your rearview mirror.

  2. Mike says:

    Glad you guys are all ok. Last Wednesday my wife was also rear-ended by an SUV on her commute home. Low speed like yours so everybody is fine. But even with just rear-end damage the old Camry is probably a total loss.

    How about a 91/92 Galant VR4? Easy to find really good ones in your price range. Don’t let mileage scare you, these EVO-zeros are made of iron (or at least the block is) and like Ironman, they keep bouncing back from whatever is thrown at them. Interiors are lined with rhinoceros hide and are still comfy and looking good after a couple hundred thousand miles. Just make sure the timing belt and water pump are on schedule. Enjoy the turbo-goodness and all wheel drive that will let you take on whatever Mother Nature throws your way. Plus, every one sold new in the U.S. was a five speed manual.

    Oh, yeah. It’s also a four door so everybody gets shotgun.

  3. Cesariojpn says:

    Wait, no lawsuit against the Suburban Driver? Come one, we should at least shake him for $5K or more.

  4. Ant says:

    I’m doing as ever and converting to GBP, where $3800 comes out as almost exactly £3000.

    That’s reasonable pickings for a JNC, particularly of around 1980s vintage if you’re not too bothered about performance. The call of an AW11 MR2 is strong and at the upper limit of our budget it may even be possible to find one without too much rust, though the chances of it making it through another winter may be slim.

    Instead, I’d be putting our $3800 towards the tidiest Honda Prelude I can find. Yeah, another Honda after the Shuttle, but it’s hard to see how the money could be better spent.

    A third-gen Prelude would probably offer the best mix of favourable criteria (retro looks, handling, performance, reliability, usability) and $3800 may still be enough to bag a 5-speed to help bump up the fun factor.

    Best of all, you’d be unlikely to lose any money on the deal, since prices for old Preludes are beginning to firm up.

    • Jayrdee says:

      I second the AW11 MR2 … Only crappy part is finding one in solid shape within our budget.

      All the ones I’ve seen for sale here are one of two categories.

      1. Rusty parts cars
      2. Fully restored in mint condition

      There’s not really any “in-between”

  5. Jayrdee says:

    3800? I’d definitely try and snag any 93-00 Honda Civic or Integra

    Find a solid one for 2000-2500, use the remaining 1800 to change the water pump, timing belt, fresh fluids, etc. (which honestly shouldn’t cost very much at all), and anything else that needs repaired. If you ball on a budget carefully, you can spend the left overs on wheels and suspension. EM1 Civic wheels, or LS Integra mesh wheels can be found for like 150-200$ on craigslist easily, and they look awesome on any Honda.

    It will most likely be a victim of the typical rust in the rear quarters, and have its fair share of scratches and dings, but mechanically with how reliable the single-jingle d-series or the b-series motors are, combined with the HUGE aftermarket support, these Honda’s will literally run forever.

  6. CobaltFire says:

    Honestly, on that budget, I’d be looking HARD at manual, 2+2, non-turbo z31’s. They are priced very low for what they are, since they aren’t the hot model they tend to be more gently treated if they’ve survived this long, and with a (small) backseat they at least give a nod to being practical. The VG30E motors are reliable (and have a few hot parts available even without going turbo; cams, headers, ECU, etc.), the suspension is simple and easy to refresh, the manual transmission is bulletproof, and parts are reasonably easy to come by.

    Alternatively you could buy it’s more luxurious brother, the infiniti M30. No manual, but otherwise all the same stuff applies. There’s even a convertible if you want a wet noodle.

    • CobaltFire says:

      Completely forgot an almost stupidly rare car that’d be great, and the last one I saw sell went for $3200: Mazda 323GTX. IF you can find one, that’d be a hoot. BP Turbo motor with a turbo strapped to it, driving a 5 speed and AWD in a hatchback.

  7. Yuri says:

    With the shuttle, you’ve done small, agile, slow, and spacious. How about something else entirely, and nearly unobtanium at that?
    A 1991 (Kouki) MA70 turbo manual for $3300. The wheels are pretty dub-tastic, but with a 5×114.3 bolt pattern, it shouldn’t be too hard to ditch them for something else, and sell those chrome abominations. The Supra will bring you speed, comfort, and rarity. There were very few kouki’s brought to the US, and having a manual turbo is icing on the cake. There’s even wiggle room in the budget to pre-emptively replace the head gaskets and bolts with a HKS and ARP pieces. Returning it to 100% stock with the rare kouki 5-spokes will be difficult to source, but something period might look nice on it. like some 16×8 Advan 3-spokes.

  8. Ben Hsu says:

    Damn, Brandon, you killed the Civic? Harsh!

  9. Banpei says:

    Since the civic shuttle showed us how important crumple zones are, the only sensible thing to do is to immediately buy an early Lexus LS400 from Craigslist.
    The choice is either a cheap one with lots of defects and ripped seats but enough cash to spare to feed the thirsty 1uzfe, or a more expensive one that has been taken care of by an elderly couple for the past 25 years. Personally I would go for the latter.

  10. Joey Katigbak says:

    Hey!! If you’re looking for a road trip car, I would consider a ’70s Corolla wagon. Those are pretty cool. I remember restoring one for a friend who sadly passed away from cancer a year after the restoration. The funny story was, after I delivered the car to his home from the shop and dropping the keys in his mailbox, he called me with excitement in his voice. He said that he took his dog for a walk that evening and noticed the nice new wagon parked in front of his house. He thought nothing of it, but his dog kept on sniffing the car like he knew it. He was just telling himself how he wondered if his car would look half as nice as this one. In the meantime, now his dog was really telling him something. Well, he took his dog back home and checked the mail. Lo and behold his keys were in the mail!! He said he looked himself in the mirror, and then at his dog (who was giving him the “I told you so” look) and realized that that nice car outside might be his old Corolla. He excitedly went out to try the key on the car and couldn’t contain himself when he realized it WAS his car!!

    Unfotunately, I lost contact with his wife and don’t know what she did with the car. I would have offered to buy the car had I gotten the opportunity, but I guess fate wasn’t on my side.

    I understand from the many stories I heard that the car even belonged to his brother who also succumbed to cancer a couple of years prior. If only…

  11. Nathan says:

    Let’s be honest: The budget has never been big for these challenges and $3,800 rules out almost anything that doesn’t need some work. Whatever one finds will likely need a decent amount of age-related maintenance, such as new bushings, an O-ring replacement or two, new valve seals, etc. However, there’s clearly a liking for sporty driving, given that the Shuttle survived a gymkhana. Shuttle. Gymkhana. By the way, those two words should never meet in a sentence without a reference to the 24 Hours of Lemons somewhere in there. The Shuttle was nice for what it was – and I don’t mean such a phrase to insult the car, either – but a sporty car it is most certainly not. Our budget most certainly can’t handle a V6 or I6, much less a V8 or rotary, yet we want some fun. Hmm…

    As the saying goes, the answer is always Miata. We need something cheap but that could handle a return trip to the gymkhana or whatever new sporting event calls? Let’s break down the major expenses.

    Cost of parts: The MX-5 is easy to get parts for and these are fairly cheap. Ever sneezed while surfing the Internet? You probably accidentally hit a site that has Miata parts for sale, from eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist to Moss Miata, Flyin’ Miata, RSpeed, or some other such business. The local junkyard and local car community are also friends when it comes to this.

    Cost of maintenance: As with any car purchased in this price range, age-related components will be needed, but if it’s not been beat within an inch of its life, these should be quite low. Just change the fluids and filters regularly and remember to do spark plugs and the like when the time rolls around.

    Reliability: It’s a simple Mazda with a 4-banger. Further explanation is unnecessary.

    Insurance: It’s a Miata, so it’s cheap. ‘Nough said.

    Fuel costs: If insurance and cost of maintenance didn’t rule out a car with more than four cylinders, this should. The Miata has a small 4-banger and sips petrol if one doesn’t have a lead foot.

    Fun: For the price, what is more fun than a Miata? Nothing! That’s what.

    Given that the MX-5 is prone to rust in all the usual places, but especially the rear sills, it would be best to look for, if possible, a one-owner car. Look for something not touched by the potentially-irresponsible, hard-revving, maintenance-neglecting hands of a teenager. (True, this is not all teens, but with only $3,800 in hand, it’s not worth the risk!) A car owned by the figurative little old lady or old man, but not one that has been sitting for some while, would also be good. (Nothing is worse for cars than sitting!) A Miata that gets driven a few handfuls of miles every week and garaged when not would be ideal. There are also plenty of couples nearing retirement or who have recently retired who have garaged, well-maintained Miatas for sale, so that’s another potential “type” of seller to look for.

  12. robin says:

    Thanks for killing the Shuttle, made me feel older than I actually am.

    Now I can buy a decent Ke70 and if I get one for cheap enough can use the rest to fit some Japanese domestic parts to it.

  13. Randy says:

    Hey, Thanks! Would prefer to not have lost the Shuttle, though…

    Distracted driver, huh? Moron texting at 60?

    I guess the best thing is that “we” didn’t dump all “our” money into this thing…

    How about this: Mazda 626 GT five-door. Since y’all’s in CA, there should be a few around without rust. If it weren’t for the need to regularly carry other people around, I’d say 626 2-door / MX-6, though the hatch can be a definite plus if you’re daily-driving it.

    I read – somewhere – that the 5-speed trans wasn’t all that great, so IF one shows up with it, I’d say have it and the turbo checked. Given a choice, I’d probably skip the 4-wheel-steering. Added complexity ($$$) for minimal additional handling. I wouldn’t sweat the adjustable-damping struts, either, to be honest.

    Let’s not blow the whole wad o’ cash. Probably going to need the same suspension bushings, tires, brakes, soft lines (brake fluids, emissions stuff, etc.) as any other older car.

    Regardless of the final decision on the vehicle, I’ll be tossing out the LED lights suggestion. Saw a youtube video of the ones sold by West Coast Cougars, and they look AWESOME. If they’re available with the appropriate socket, I’d definitely spring for them. Some good, BRIGHT LEDs for the cyclops light, too.

    Just an afterthought: Are there any OTHER Shuttles around for about the same amount as the last one? Maybe in BRIGHT RED?

  14. speedie says:

    I’m in New England so it might not be a good sampling (and many of these are likely to have rust issues) but I did a basic search on Craigslist for any Japanese model car listed between the years of 1985 through 1992 for a price of between $3,000 and $5,000. Figure you can save some money for repairs of negotiate down. Here is the list of 10 cars found:

    1983 Mazda RX-7 $3,500
    1985 Mazda RX-7 $3,000
    1985 Toyota Celica GTS Convertible $4,000
    1987 Mazda RX-7 $3,000
    1988 Celica All-Trac $4,500
    1990 Nissan 240 SX $3,000
    1990 Nissan 300 ZX (NA) $4,500
    1991 Honda CRX (modified) $4,000
    1991 Mazda Miata $5,000
    1992 Lexus SC400 1992 $3,000

    Surprisingly this seems to be a good price range for RX-7s with a Series 2, 3 and 5 car being represented. There is nothing in the same category as the Shuttle utility wise. For a daily driver with auto cross potential I would pick the Celica All-Trac with the Miata as a good second choice (lots of readily available go fast parts). If you want to do some drifting the sleeper is the SC400, a Supra Chassis with a V8! I know some would go for the 240SX but lets face it, 90% of the remaining ones are already drift cars. Of course the fun of this exercise is the list changes daily.

  15. Randy says:

    Kicking around some ideas…

    Do NOT get me started on what the “Cash for Clunkers” scam did to us, so these may-or-may-not be easy to find, but I was thinking:

    What if we expand the ideas to the badge-engineered vehicles, or those that were designed/built by “Company A,” but sold by “Company B?” The lesser-remembered brethren of the cars might be found for less money, thereby freeing up some coin for repairs, mods, etc.

    Some that come to mind:

    * Mazda 323 -> 2nd-gen Ford Escort; Mercury Tracer; Mercury Capri (note: Capri is effectively 2 seats).

    * Toyota Corolla -> Chevy Nova; GEO Prizm.

    * GEO Storm (Doubt you’re going to find a 2nd-gen. Impulse. Very small rear passenger space, from what I’ve read.).

    * Mazda 626/MX-6 -> Ford Probe

    * Suzuki Swift -> GEO Metro (Don’t laugh; even the 3-cyl. can be a fun little ripper, IF you get the stick shift!). You’re probably not going to find a Chevy Sprint (‘Memba those?).

    * Mitsubish Mirage -> Dodge/Plymouth Colt and Champ, and Eagle Summit; MAYBE Hyundai Excel/Scoupe. (I’ve read it both ways; that the Hyundai came from Mitsu, AND that that generation Mirage came from the Hyundai.)

    * Mitsubishi Eclipse -> Plymouth Laser / Eagle Talon. Might be hard to find one that hasn’t been flogged at that price…

  16. Randy says:

    My last comment didn’t seem to make it up here… Maybe ’cause of the crazy-long link.

    ANYWAY – Auto Trader shows a 1990 Civic Wagon for $3,287. 158K. Light brown outside with that brown interior. Ad contradicts itself on the transmission choice – 5-spd/AT…

    Use 80110 (Englewood, CO) for the zip code.

  17. psyaddict says:

    mazda 929, 3.0, manual
    probably wont find one with a 13bt tho

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