PCH, Japanese AWD Edition: Subaru SVX or Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD?

Welcome to Project Car Hell, where you choose your eternity by selecting the project that's the coolest... and the most hellish! Remember the Late Reagan/Early Bush I Era, when you had a huge selection of fragile, nervous AWD Japanese machinery?

Well, we think it's a shame that these late-80s/early-90s rally-inspired, transmission-blowin', differential-fryin', head-gasket-nukin', science-fiction-y Japanese sports cars don't get much respect these days. With a couple of decades under their belts, they've become genuine classics! Totally worth restoring to their original glory, right down to the MC Hammer cassette in the factory deck, and it turns out that you can find plenty of beat-to-hell basket cases solid restoration candidates for a thin wad-o-yen.

Subaru has managed to build up a pretty solid rep for reliability in the last decade or so, but Fuji Heavy Industries had to drop a lot of engine and transmission components on the bumpy road that got them to this point. Back in the early 90s, buyers of the SVX were showing the squares that they didn't give a squirt of stale cat piss about boring-ass words like "sensible" or "depreciation." No, all they cared about was frying all four tires… right before flat-spotting them in a long, smoky panic slide into a freeway offramp guardrail. You got a 230 horsepower, 3.3 liter DOHC boxer six, some crazy-looking "half-windows," and a deep and lasting bond with your local transmission shop. Not very shockingly, you can pick up a reasonably intact SVX for cheap, and we've found you this '92 SVX (go here if the listing disappears) for a paltry 500 bucks. Whoa! We're talking about a state-of-the-art machine that listed at $29,250 (about 45 grand in '10 bucks), which means damn close to 99% depreciation! Such a deal! This one seems quite solid, and the seller reassures us that "EVERYTHING WORKS EXCEPT THE MOTOR ON THE DRIVERS SEAT." Oh, wait- one little detail pops up a little later in the description: "IT HAS NO TRANNY." Since every SVX you find in the junkyard likely got there due to transmission trouble, you might have to do endless, fruitless some searching, but we're sure you'll give up in despair persevere!

We've only seen one SVX in the 24 Hours Of LeMons, and it has managed to run a total of maybe five hours in four races. While generations of Italian car fanatics have proven that complex, finicky cars deserve love in direct proportion to how difficult it is to keep them running, you might be looking for a project that could, you know, take you to the store for the occasional six-pack without leaving a trail of busted drivetrain parts in its wake. How about a Toyota? Yes, even though every single one of the Celica All-Tracs we've seen in LeMons has failed spectacularly, we still think that the Toyota badge on the hood imparts a sense of solidity to a vehicle, and that you'll need some powerful hallucinogens to be entitled to expect this $1,200 1988 Toyota Celica Turbo All-Trac (go here if the listing disappears) to hold together every bit as well as any warlord's Hilux pickup. Of course, for this price you've got to count on doing some work; the seller says "Engine runs but needs a head gasket. Also car is needs a new clutch." Actually, the person doing the Craigslist ad isn't the seller, apparently: "Seller is welling to part car out. So if you anything just hit him up on his cell." Hit him up! Buy that car! You'll have it back to 1988 quality when the next geological epoch rolls around in no time at all!


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