QotW: Take the JNC Challenge, Part 01

Welcome to a new segment, “JNC Challenge,” that will be sprinkled in throughout the year. After stellar responses in previous QotW, we decided to put your creativity to the test.

The premise is simple, we will ask a situational question with parameters such as money, goals, repairs, etc. Based on the question and details, we will ask you to give your best response. Based on the best response, we will continue the story line until it plays out.

So, the first question is this: What JNC would you buy as a daily driver with a budget of $2,000 USD? Do you buy something that runs and drives fine with the full budget? Or, do you buy a cheaper project and fix it up with the left over money? Whatever you decide, it just has to run and drive. Must be rooted in reality, though. No father’s giving out old Toyota’s with Formula Atlantic engines installed…

The best answer is the one with the most thoughtful response. Remember, we will continue with the challenge based on this week’s response so choose wisely.

What JNC would you buy as a daily driver with a budget of $2000 USD?

As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize.  Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW: What JNC should be in the Blade Runner universe?

Boy oh boy, we had some excellent answers. Right out the gate, Nigel came up with the Dome Zero, a magnificent prototype that was shown in 1975! Many of you agreed with this choice. Then, Lupus came up with the Subaru XT Alcyone, a vehicle rooted in the 80’s and quite possibly may have been influenced by the 1982 movie Blade Runner. In the end, I had to flip a coin and let lady luck tell us the winner with Lupus coming up heads! Congrats Lupus!

Subaru XT Alcyone and/or SVX Alcyone.
These where space ships at the time.

Nissan MID-4 would also be fine. Prototypes count too, doo they?

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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36 Responses to QotW: Take the JNC Challenge, Part 01

  1. Mercilessmings says:

    The first HONDA product you see in that price range…….Not too difficult.

    • juppe says:

      Like this one?
      (’91 Honda Concerto, technically a Civic EF sedan in Rover skin for €950,-)
      In good condition, nice fuel injected D16 engine barely run in, spend some of the remaining cash on new oil, tires and a timing belt and it will go on forever.
      I would put the rest of the money and saved time (as this one won’t ever need repairs) in my TA22 project. It also has a big boot with fold down rear seats to swallow TA22 parts. Bob’s your auntie.
      It could be a manual though, and a tow hitch would be handy.

  2. BlitzPig says:

    A $2000 daily driver?

    I’m out.

    Not interested in old rust buckets, I need something where everything works, and can be driven at a moment’s notice to anywhere on the continent.

    Double the dollar amount and get back to me.

  3. J.A.C.K says:

    hmmm, tough one since $2000 ain’t a whole lot of money any more apparently. lol. i’d vote for the AE95 Corolla Alltrac wagon SR5. my reasoning: while it’s kinda rare, they can be had for less than $1000 (there’s one on CL in WA state for $650 right now! probably cause it’s a little weird looking). it’s functional for me in the pacific northwest with fulltime awd and locking center diff. it had a fuel injected 4AFE (that may or may not make it easier to swap in a 4AG of some sort?).

    also, when (if?) you had more time and money, you could spend some time finding out if parts from AE86/AE92/AE101/AE111 orany of the FWD 4AG variations fit in. cause lets be honest, i don’t think a whole lot of peeps on JNC are content in leaving well enough alone. lol!

  4. Keith Measures says:

    I would buy the in pieces starlet on craiglist right now for 850 usd. I just finished restoring a yellow one that I bought for resale but I enjoyed the process so much that I would like to do it over again. I am pretty confident I could do it all for less than 2000 including initial purchase… if I was going to keep it stock that is. The real goal would be to get a dual dellorto down draft setup

  5. speedie says:

    I would buy this 2004 Acura TL since it has “Third row seats!”. Seriously though, almost any Acura at that price would be a a fun and, if well maintained, reliable ride. http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/cto/5960932354.html

  6. Lupus says:

    DAT HardTop Laurel in the lead pic! I want it soo much… Every thing else is irrelevant now…


    I’m back now. All fine. Soo.. $2k? Od course we can ad currency exchange to the game?
    If so i would have around 8300,- PLN (polish zloty). And that’s quite a lot for a “old japanese junk” here, in Poland.
    I will stay true to my belives and choose a Nissan (Datsun here) Laurel C31 that is currently listed for sale in my country. The only one for sale in my country. Price is ~3,5k PLN (~$850).
    It’s a 2,8 diesel with manual tranny. Tired silver paint, velour interior in good shape. The car is described as running, but neglected. Buying the the essential parts for “starter service packege” (brakes, belts, fluids) shouldn’t cost more than 600 PLN (~$145). Since i’m a sesoned DIY’er i wouldn’t spend any money on mechanics labor. The car is simple in construction and i could easly maintain it by myself.

    Then the scenarios vary.
    The worst possibility is some engine or transmission failures. In that case i would need to put the rest of the money (~$1k) into drivetrain rebuild or… search for complete swap from S130Z (2.8 or 2.8 Turbo with 5spd Borg-Warner).
    But if the car would drive fine with it’s current powerplant i would rather buy some nice, vintage rims. With $1k (~4100 PLN) i could even import something stylish from Japan. Or head for some cheaper replicas and the saved money put into dropping the car a bit.

    That’s for starters.

  7. Bob says:

    I’ve actually put some considerable thought into this for awhile, though I think prices have gone up on me… though I see them cheap enough still in distant lands without snow.

    EF Civic wagon. Proven reliability, excellent parts availability, great chassis, and a WAGON that can carry things. I went from an early 90s Escort wagon (itself a Dearborn designed wagon variant of an Australian rebody of a Mazda 323 chassis with a Ford drivetrain) to a newer sedan I’m deeply displeased with, and I’ve decided it’s replacement will be either another Escort wagon or an EF Wagon/wagovan. Roomy, can carry bicycles and assorted junk, carry people when needed, parts everywhere, a design that’s aging well (clearly dated, but without being a joke), great gas mileage… what is there not to like?

    I had actually been saving up money to put this plan into action when my current driver began hemmoraghing oil from the rear main seal, which lead to replacing motor mounts and the entire front suspension, and a whole bunch of other issues that started springing up in very quick succession, rendering me broke, flustered, and now needing to drive it even longer to get my money out of it. :/ Yay cars.

    Now, if prices hadn’t skyrocketed on them/I didn’t live in the land of salt, I’d have said E70 wagon…

  8. Emuman says:

    For 2000 bucks I would get the best Mazda 121 DB (revue) money could buy. My wife and me bought one a couple of years ago with 100,000 miles on the odometer and sold it with 135,000. Purple with original Momo steering wheel and the sliding soft roof, almost no rust and 72 HP.
    I used it as a daily driver to get to work and drove it 100 miles every day. It let me down only once because of a small sealant in the carburetor and I had to pay a fortune to find and fix this issue. Good to have a Mazda RX-8 as backup vehicle but this is different story.

  9. Tom Westmacott says:

    We haven’t had any directions about where in the world to start from; given the J-tin-preserving weather and plentiful imports but english language classifieds, I choose Australia as my starting point for this adventure.

    USD 2000 translates to AUD 2675, so that’s my budget. I was very taken with a ‘complete and running’ 74 Nissan President, http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/gloucester/cars-vans-utes/1974-nissan-president-sedan/1007597524, these cars can look *amazing* with a modest drop. However, the bodywork looks very frilly even in the photos, and something so magnificant and rare doesn’t feel very realistic as a daily driver.

    I then spotted a super-rare Mazda 1800 Luce, http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/greensborough/cars-vans-utes/1971-mazda-1800-deluxe/1127317969, probably the prettiest, most elegant JNC you can get for your $2k. However, the ‘mostly complete’ and ‘ran when parked’ lines give me nightmares of searching for rare parts trying to get it on the road. A great project, perhaps a poor choice of daily driver.

    Unfortunately most cars from the eighties suffer from chunky, blocky styling and relatively unsatisfactory suspension. However, one company went through a purple patch in this period; Honda’s double-wishbones and consequent Ferrari-esque noses, plus good reliability, make them a standout choice for the budget-minded enthusiast.

    Then I spotted it – A 1988 Honda Prelude Si in white, with white wheels. All-original, photos showing not a speck of rust on the outside, with a mint interior too. And, yes, a 5-speed manual to get the best out of that DOHC motor. One family almost since new, serviced every 5,000 miles, always garaged, this Prelude is about a safe a bet as you could ever hope for at this money.


    Behold those impossibly slim, high-strength steel pillars, oh-so-80s white wheels, and pop-up lights. Honda Prelude, I choose you!

    • Brett says:

      That 1800 looks nice. I am Downunder, and its about 2 hours way.

      I bet I could get it for less than $1,000 AUD, which leaves me $1,600 AUD to sort it. I could pop down to Canberra and pick up Jap import 13B / gearbox combination for about $1200 AUD, which gives me $400AUD to get it going. What a cruiser!

      • Randy says:

        Just hit those ads – the 1800 is gone…

        • Brett says:

          You snooze, you lose!

          • Bob says:

            I owned an 1800 wagon for about 2 years. It is, at least in the US, completely impossible to source any parts for them. Brake parts, suspension parts, basic maintenance stuff is NLA- nevermind that mine needed a windshield and trim pieces to boot. Handsome cars for certain, but I would be hesitant to acquire another if it wasn’t perfect.

  10. Joe Mushashi says:

    After considering the budget of practically nothing for a solid working car, I still managed to a good number of cars. After sifting through a number of junkers and cars with no engines, I found my sub $2000 JNC. A 1982 Toyota SR5 Coupe somewhere across the country in California for $1700.

    There is rust to be found, duct tape holding on to some trim, but it is still the best I can find for a cheap, dependable, simple daily driver.

    Another $1000 onto the budget could do wonders.

  11. Ant says:

    I’m going to join Tom above in assuming that no specified location criteria mean we can choose wherever we like. So I’m going to start from Japan itself, since that seems to make perfect sense.

    My method: Get on Tradecarview, set a $2k budget, set the model year between 1960 and 1992. Lots of kei trucks here, couple of old Crown taxis, a Suzuki Mighty Boy (daily driver?… I’ll pass) and a Eunos Roadster in red that doesn’t look too untidy. But I already own a Eunos Roadster so where’s the fun in that?

    Nope, instead I’m going with this:


    1988 Toyota Mark II. Low miles, two litres of 1G-FE inline six under the hood, automatic, white over red, looks tidy, and seems pretty much original aside from the nondescript 1990s six-spoke alloys. Priced at $1355, and since my plans don’t include removing it from the country, I assume I’ve still got $645 to spend on hidden costs…

  12. Glenn says:

    A 70s-90s Toyota Hilux/Pickup can still be had in great shape and working order for under $2000. You’d have to scour craigslist for one, and it might have a little wear and tear, but you’d be able to buy it, drive it home, and then drive it everyday for the rest of your life.

  13. Randy says:

    Alright – I like y’all, so I’ll play…


    1992 Geo Metro – 2017-25=1992, so model year-wise, we’re good.

    Four-door hatchback; what I SHOULD have bought back then…

    It’s saddled with a 3-speed A/T, but it’s a Metro, which I know mechanically is about bulletproof, and stupid-cheap to run, and you’d be amazed at how much you can pack in. Only have to do multiple trips if you’re hauling concrete blocks.

    They’re asking $895, so offer them for Car+tax+tags: $900 out the door.

    That leaves $1,100.

    (Portland, Oregon., USA, for anyone ACTUALLY looking for one in real life.)

    (Just as an aside, in the search, I tripped over this 1988 Chevy Sprint for “only” $34,995:
    https://www.carsforsale.com/vehicle/details/15769068 )

  14. Sedanlover says:

    Again, I’ll have to agree with Tom Westmacott, and start in AUS. I already live here, so it’s no biggie.

    It’s not the cheapest place to start a search, but I went straight to CarSales and added some filters. I’m a Toyota guy, so I didn’t want to look at anything else. I found this:

    Yes, it needs some engine work, but being an ex-mechanic and knowing a few friends that would love to help out, we could get this beauty back on the road in no time. It’s got a great starting price and you never said we couldn’t bargain with the seller. Get him/her down to $500 and then you’ve got a little extra to spend on it. One big down side, it’s in Tasmania, so it’ll need shipping back to the mainland. A quick look at the “Spirit of Tasmania” fares and its gonna cost $329 one way. That gets me from Davenport to Melbourne. Still plenty of cash to get it fixed.

    Oh man, I’m super keen to do this now. When do we get the money?

  15. robin says:

    Hi All,

    At JNC staff, I love this question/task.

    Firstly let me head on over to Exchange to turn the Dollars into Rands. I now have R27 128, 40c (currency rate as of 9am central African time; 17 Jan 17).

    I will buy R100 data in order for me to search the online ads, this leaves me with R27 028,40c
    With the R28,40c will buy sweets to keep me going while I search the online ads. I now have R27 000.

    That is unfortunately not a lot of money to buy a decent nostalgic, however me being slightly mechanical minded and my Dad owning a workshop I could buy cheap and fix it myself and make some plans to get it running.

    I immediately narrow my search to a 1981- 1985 rwd corolla (commonly know as a ke70), not sure why this has sprung to mine (could be i really want one) and this will also make a great daily if and when it is running perfectly.

    I then come across these few examples, at this point im half way through my packet of sweets urgh.

    (above) OPTION 1 -This one seems like a good deal, I could lose those horrible wheels and sell it for R3000 ( $207,65). lets see what else I find online before jumping on this one.

    (above) OPTION 2- Woah perfect colour for me, I love these in white. the ad does say needs diff to be looked at and wiper arms which to me are minor issues…I get worried when it comes to electrical issues. So for now let me keep looking. Also this could have me out of coin in no time.

    (above) OPTION 3- Firstly when someone says its a project and was going to be built for racing, most likely there are no papers for the car and this could be a nightmare to get registered… the R15000 ($1107.32) price tag might seem cheap for a 2 door (rare in South Africa) but it could end up being double to get it registered and who knows what else is wrong with it, nobody just sells a rare car like this. Will ponder on this.

    (above) OPTION 4- Then something amazing popped up, while searching for a ke70 the ad said you might be interested in this… and I opened it up and was greeted by what could be a very nice base to start with and it could get me from a-z without any issues. I love a short advert where they allow the pics and you the potential buyer to make up your mind…

    So I settled for Option 4 the Cressida. Best part is, it’s in my city and no need to spend more money to transport it from the other side of the country. Bonus part it is only R20 000 ( $1476.43) which means i have change.

    I will ask my GF to take me to make the purchase and will give her R100 ($7.38) for fuel and maybe buy her lunch who knows. lunch R100 ($7.38) for a burger from that big M place.

    Current financial situation: R6800 ($501.99)

    Immediately pop over to the AA and get it inspected to see what faults it has, this test will set me back R700 ($51.68). I always fit new tyres and fit the obvious brake parts to any car i buy second hand as well as a new battery, so will do that too…

    Tyres set me back R3000 ($221.46) and I am left with R3100 ($228.85) and Brakes will be R1000 ($73.82) as no labour will be charged as I get to use my Dad’s workshop and my bit of knowledge i would like to think i have. Battery is R700 ($51.68) including your old one

    Current financial situation is R1400 ($103.35)… Need to register and this will cost me R800 ($59.06) plus fuel of approx R200 ($14.76) as i need to go from pillar to post.

    I am left with R400 (29.53), Will buy a screen shade to save the dash from cracking and some polishing products as the paint looks tired.

    Current financial situation… there is no situation. I am one happy owner of a mx73 Toyota. I will now clean up the inside and engine bay etc while saving up. can’t even afford to go cruising as I have no money for fuel

    Thanks for reading…

  16. Zzttops says:

    Datsun 280zx (s130). You can find them pretty often on craigslist for around 2000 usd if not a little less in running condition. I have drove my 83 everyday for the past 2 years and it has been incredibly reliable. The L-28 is a sturdy workhorse and easy to work and maintain. Replacement parts are easy to access and an aftermarket support is there too. They ride great and handle well on the street. Ive joined a local z car club and have been introduced to a great community who are passionate about the z car heritage. Plus the stories you hear will when filling up are great too.

  17. Banpei says:

    I love this challenge already!

    For under 2000 dollars (around 1875 euros) it is quite difficult to find anything interesting. Classic cars (even the JNC) are way overpriced here in the Netherlands. I was still able to find two JNCs in the local classifieds that made me tick: a 1986 Honda Accord Aerodeck and a 1983 Toyota Camry SV10 (without the infamous Camry dent!)

    I could have chosen much cooler cars (1986 Toyota Celica AT160 or the 1980 Mitsubishi Colt with two gearboxes) but it has to be a daily car. As I have two kids and need to haul a stroller as well I chose the more practical route. Both cars have seatbelts in the back and plenty of space.

    The Camry is the best one to choose, if you don’t want to strain your back while securing a MaxiCosi in the back as it has five doors. Roomy interior, a lot of 80s luxury, manual gearbox and the rear bench can be folded in two parts:

    The Accord is the best one to choose, if you want something cool and sporty. Unfortunately it is an automatic, but that’s probably the reason why it survived in the first place. It has some rust, but appeals the eye much more than the boxy Camry. If you squint your eyes you can imagine seeing a Sprinter Trueno shootingbrake on your drive. And the best reason to buy it: popup headlights! 🙂

    Even though the Camry is rust free and probably the sanest one of the two, I’d still take the Accord.

  18. Hazwazza says:

    88-91 civic because of how reliable they are and they can look cool when dropped on a nice set of wheels.

  19. Scotty G says:

    I’m guessing that my winter daily-driver is worth $2,000 or less, a 1997 Subaru Outback that we bought new 20 years ago and has 342,000 on it now and literally runs like new. It’s not exactly a JNC, or even close, but it’s as reliable as a 2017-anything..

    For an actual JNC, maybe a Corona (a sedan is a given at that price)(hopefully not, but most likely an automatic, too) if there is such a thing as a sub-$2,000 Corona in any condition. Or, a Subaru Justy, although it would have to be front-wheel drive instead of AWD for that price.

  20. Angelo says:

    I’d go for a B12 Nissan Sentra… Would cost me about $800 for one in running condition, and remaining money would be spent on parts needed to be fixed or replaced(most likely body panels and underchassis parts), which I know, “surplus parts” stores would easily provide…

    Oh yeah, of course gas would be part of the expenses too, whenever you make parts runs…

    My goal would be to have an old, but reliable JNC as my first car.

  21. Dillan says:

    For a fun daily driver under $2000, I would always pick an AW11 MR2. If you can get past the fact that it is a 2-seater with an engine bay that can be difficult to work in at times it is by one of the most entertaining, reliable and gas efficient cars that you can still find for under two grand. With the engine out of an AE86 and many parts sharing with other Toyotas of that age, it is usually pretty easy to find parts for(unless you happen to be looking for C-pillar trim) and easy to find good information on how to work on it yourself.
    The sound of a 4AG hitting redline right behind your ear is like nothing else and with the amount of grip coming out of a corner this car allows it makes you want to drive like a miniature F-1 driver on the streets.
    While they have been going up in price in the last few years you can still find AW11s for under $2000 that might need small things and cosmetics. I have bought two now, an 1986 for $1200 and an 1985 for $800 and while my blue 85 still needs lots of work, my old silver 86 was perfect save for some oxidation in the paint. I have very fond memories in AW11 MR2s and they have never failed to put a huge smile on my face whenever I get in one.
    I couldn’t think of a better JNC daily, though I might be a bit biased.

  22. Kiran says:

    Since I’m in Malaysia my options are pretty limited but you can always find an old oddball on the real cheap side and the best I found was a 910 Bluebird SSS For 2900 ringgits which is around 700 usd and I have to say it’s pretty damn good and I actually want to buy it and apparently all it needs is a little rust repair,road tax renewal and some paint because chalkboard black isn’t exactly a color I like and hey it has 4 doors,a manual trans and glorious rear wheel drive and I think I might have enough for a little bit of mods and that’s pretty much my pick as I can’t find anything much better than that

    • Randy says:

      Sounds like you’re actually buying one…

      You might be able to save the paint, without the expen$e of a repaint…

      If it’s NOT base coat/clear coat, and you have access to some detailing products, a couple days of work can save you money and stun the family/neighbors… May not look “new,” but would be not “chalkboard.” From what I’ve read, black, white and red non-metallic paints were the last to be done in base/clear.

      There’s rust-removal stuff, chemicals, too, so if it’s just surface rust, it can be handled without much money/welding, and all that.

  23. Cho says:

    A solid Datsun 510 or 620. Honda CVCC 5 Speed.

  24. Mattyl says:

    Ok, I’m in. Last night I picked up a 1987 ee80 corolla 5 door hatch. Price was $1000 nzd but I found a dollar under the seat so we can call it $999. It’s by far the dirtiest car I have ever bought(has lived up a gravel road and I don’t think it’s ever been vacuumed), buts it’s straight and almost rust free with 151kms on the clock.

  25. Joamel Gaviola says:

    Picked up a 1978 Datsun 810 for $1200. Spent $800 to ditch the fuel injection an put on a set of triple 40 weber dome carbs. best 2000 ever spent.

    but it didnt end there.
    msa zg flares 200
    rear windshield louver & rear bumper from austrailian 200b 300
    malaysian bluebird 810 tail lights 160
    p79 head 100
    15×8 -40something offset. Real Wheel Corp Crosslace Reverse Wire Wheels 2000
    raceland s13 full coilovers 1000

    don’t think it will end there… it never does..

  26. Justin says:

    I’d go with the classic 1991 Subaru Loyale Wagon 4WD in Bermuda blue. It’s practically indestructible, can withstand high mileage and abuse for $1,700 . The $300 leftover would go toward getting the clock fixed and tracking down an OEM flashlight key and buying Subaru Glass Cleaner and getting OEM Hubcaps for the car and other odds and ends OEM items

  27. SNS Nails says:

    Definitely a Toyota. Due to their maintenance ability. Their parts are also just about everywhere. I would be customizing to taste.

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