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Thread: An ode to the shitbox

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    An ode to the shitbox

    Anyone else miss the shitbox?

    They don't make them anymore - not really. Modern "economy" cars are all pretty high-zoot, if you stop to think about it. The least of them can reach 60 mph in about 10 seconds and is capable of triple digit top speed runs. Most have air conditioning, a full set of instruments and a not-half-bad stereo rig - usually with at least a single-slot CD player and four speakers. Every single one of them comes with at least driver and front-seat passenger air bags. Anti-lock brakes and stability/traction control are pretty common.

    Boxy, perhaps - but far from "shitty." At least, not compared with what we used to get in this category of vehicle. You have to be at least in your mid-30s to understand. Old enough to have driven, say, a Datsun B210, Toyota Starlet, Yugo, Chevette or Plymouth Champ. A real-deal shitbox. Something with 14-inch steel wheels and the cheapest, skinniest tires this side of a Moped. So underpowered that top speed runs and 0-60 times were both more or less the same things. No gauges - except for an 85 mph speedo and few idiot lights. The finest Soviet bloc materials on the inside; carpets if you were lucky. And for a "stereo" - if luck was with you there might be an AM/FM tuner with a pair of $10 speakers on either side.

    No air bags, no ABS - and the impact protection of a brightly painted cardboard box. If you hit something, you'd feel it. Anything substantive and solid - like a tree - and it would be the very last thing you'd feel, too.

    But they did have their charms... .

    With perilous handling came an opportunity to hone your skills; anyone who spent some seat time parking brake U-turning a Starlet has one up on a driver who hasn't had the experience. Without ABS and with barely marginal stopping power, one learned all about following distances and planning ahead - one way or the other.

    You learned to keep a can of ether in the glovebox (to hose down the throat of the single barrel carb when the little son-of-bitch wouldn't start on cold mornings), a rag in the glovebox to wipe down the fogged-up windshield. You dressed warmly in winter, too - because either the heat didn't work or the car was so drafty it didn't matter if it did. In summer, you were shirtless - duct tape Band Aids keeping the seat springs from jabbing you in the back too much.

    A friend in high school had an especially shitty Subaru shitbox; a Justy, I think it was. No reverse. So we had to Fred Flintstone it out of the 7-11 parking lot. But as much as we cursed it, it gave us lots of story fodder. And I remember it fondly today, close to two decades after the events in question.

    I can't think of a single postmodern econobox that's memorable in any way. They rarely break down and they're (mostly) not in the least unpleasant. They have AC, adequate stereos. More and more of them either have or offer GPS and satellite radio, too. By old school standards, they are plenty quick. The weakest of them can reach 60 mph in a third of the time it took something like an old VW Beetle to do the same trick. They scoot along quietly, efficiently and remarkably easily.

    But we won't have anything much to say about them 20 years from now - and that tells me we're the poorer for it, somehow. Especially today's kids. The shitbox experience experience has come and gone like real Coke (with cane sugar, kiddies - not the high fructose corn syrup con that is "classic" Coke) and catalytic converter "test pipes."

    They're missing out on something - but they'll never know what it was.

    END

  2. #2
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    It's hard to even find a car with wind-up windows anymore.

  3. #3
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    I'm not too sure that I miss the shitbox, although they provided cheap transportation for millions.

    They were "born" in an automotive period that most of us would like to forget. Remember the 1970's? Disco, loud clothes and long lines at the pump to paraphrase an oil company commercial. I can't say that I miss the era of 85 mph speedometers, 5 mph bumpers and the 55 mph speed limit.

    My favorite periods of automotive history were the 1960's and the period starting with the late 1980s to present.

    I am not a fan of airbags, ABS, stability controls, car alarms or the added weight of today's options and safety features, but I certainly don't miss underpowered wheezy shitbox cars.

    What made that Starlet so good is that compared with other shitboxes made at the time was that it was quieter and handled better than comparable cars (except for the mid-80s Civics). The car was RWD, which added to its durability.

    Here is a list of Shitbox cars that I absolutely hated.

    1971-1977 Toyota Celica
    1971-1979 Toyota Corolla 4 speed
    1976-1980 Ford Pinto
    1971-1979 Chevrolet Vega
    1973-1980 Datsun B210, Datsun F-10 (remember that one?)
    1980-1987 Toyota Tercel
    1976-1987 Chevrolet Chevette
    1981-1995 Dodge K-cars and all their variants
    1986-1988 Yugo
    1986-1990 Hyundai Excel/Mitsubishi Precis
    1987-1994 Geo Storm

    Shit Boxes that were'nt too bad

    1986-1989 Isuzu Imark
    1980-1983 Toyota Corolla (RWD)
    1981-1982 Toyota Starlet
    1978-1981 Toyota Celica
    1974-1977 Dodge Colt
    1982-1988 Nissan Sentra


  4. #4
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    My favorite shitbox was the Fiat 128. What a bloody marvelous little car. When it worked. Which wasn't often.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    I'm not too sure that I miss the shitbox, although they provided cheap transportation for millions.

    They were "born" in an automotive period that most of us would like to forget. Remember the 1970's? Disco, loud clothes and long lines at the pump to paraphrase an oil company commercial. I can't say that I miss the era of 85 mph speedometers, 5 mph bumpers and the 55 mph speed limit.

    My favorite periods of automotive history were the 1960's and the period starting with the late 1980s to present.

    I am not a fan of airbags, ABS, stability controls, car alarms or the added weight of today's options and safety features, but I certainly don't miss underpowered wheezy shitbox cars.

    What made that Starlet so good is that compared with other shitboxes made at the time was that it was quieter and handled better than comparable cars (except for the mid-80s Civics). The car was RWD, which added to its durability.

    Here is a list of Shitbox cars that I absolutely hated.

    1971-1977 Toyota Celica
    1971-1979 Toyota Corolla 4 speed
    1976-1980 Ford Pinto
    1971-1979 Chevrolet Vega
    1973-1980 Datsun B210, Datsun F-10 (remember that one?)
    1980-1987 Toyota Tercel
    1976-1987 Chevrolet Chevette
    1981-1995 Dodge K-cars and all their variants
    1986-1988 Yugo
    1986-1990 Hyundai Excel/Mitsubishi Precis
    1987-1994 Geo Storm

    Shit Boxes that were'nt too bad

    1986-1989 Isuzu Imark
    1980-1983 Toyota Corolla (RWD)
    1981-1982 Toyota Starlet
    1978-1981 Toyota Celica
    1974-1977 Dodge Colt
    1982-1988 Nissan Sentra


    I ran the miles up to 100,000 on my 1972 Celica with no major problems. It had the 4-speed stick.
    A man's greatest mistake is to think he is working for somebody else.

  6. #6
    mrblanche
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    It's hard to even find a car with wind-up windows anymore.
    My Cobalt has manual crank windows, and no ABS.

  7. #7
    D_E_Davis
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by Mase
    I ran the miles up to 100,000 on my 1972 Celica with no major problems. It had the 4-speed stick.
    You must remember that even crapbox makes had a good one every now and then.


  8. #8
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    My Saturn L100 has no power windows nor ABS as well. I hate power windows.

  9. #9
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    It's hard to even find a car with wind-up windows anymore.
    Ford and GM still do that down here on base models, or did a year-or-two ago when I last looked.

    To make up for the slow old clunky cars of 20-30 yrs ago we now have legions of old 4WDs of SUV box-like size which meander along our two-lanes at way below the speed limit or form moving blockades on motorways ... being driven by 'safe' drivers... and taking 500 yards to accelerate from 40 to 50mph on clear road posted at 60mph.... [sigh] These are the drivers who want to be 'safe', I guess.

    I suppose it's a fact of life, that cars have become anodyne and drivers sleepy and dumb. I blame the USA. No question about it.


  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    My Saturn L100 has no power windows nor ABS as well. I hate power windows.
    Me too - especially when they have the "one touch" function - which makes it hugely aggravating to partially open/partially close them!

  11. #11
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Those "one touch" windows are a major pain in the posterior.

  12. #12
    mrblanche
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat
    Those "one touch" windows are a major pain in the posterior.
    That's because you don't have to use them while shifting 13 gears coming up to a toll booth.

  13. #13
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Either the one-touch function on my car works better than most, or it's something you just get used to, but it doesn't bother me anymore.

  14. #14
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    Either the one-touch function on my car works better than most, or it's something you just get used to, but it doesn't bother me anymore.
    My 2001 GM sedan has very poor 'one touch' operation for the driver's window, and doesn't have 'one touch' at all on other windows... someone at GM thought they could save 0.3c per car with cheaper switches? Reminds me of Britcars of the 60s... if you want Japanese reliability and quality control, forget it. Or be prepared to rebuild the car yourself.

    Time we socialised everything, taxed soft drinks like tobacco, and banned guns.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: An ode to the shitbox

    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel
    My favorite shitbox was the Fiat 128. What a bloody marvelous little car. When it worked. Which wasn't often.
    We had them on the rental fleet in SOuth Africa......they seemed reliable enough and got a fair thrashing
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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