Welcome to Used Car Face Off, where we find two similar or similarly priced used cars and ask you which one you would buy. Choose wisely!
I look at used car listings a lot, but sometimes it's with seriousness. This week's search started with lightly used VW GTIs to replace my daily driver. But GTIs are so common around here that, and as good as the MkV and MkVI are, I have trouble getting excited about them.
So by the time I started browsing Audis and Volvos, all seriousness was gone. And I found coupes from those manufacturers that all but the devotees have long forgotten.
This 1979 Volvo 242 GT has a lot of period lunatic decorations over what is an otherwise unremarkable two-door 240. This, of course, was the sports model for Volvo before the Turbo Bricks came along in the early 1980s. It certainly looks sporty with its handsome alloy wheels and orange stripes. But with a naturally aspirated four-cylinder and only a four-speed manual, something tells me I'll be left at the lights by even my neighbor's Geo Prizm.
Inside, the orange stripe theme carries over, making it look like the Lamborghini Gallardo Balboni Edition – if you squint really, really hard. The odometer reads 95,000 miles, but this being a '70s Volvo, I'd bet the odometer has failed at least once in its life. I must say, though, it's a surprisingly handsome car with the mechanical simplicity of a hammer, even if the exterior could use some cleaning up. For $3,600, it intrigues me a lot more than most 240s.
While the Volvo has some good-looking decorations, it is not what I call a good-looking car. Now this Audi Coupe GT? Hot. Based on a humdrum Audi 4000 (Audi 80 to the rest of the world), Ingolstadt made the two-door car quite handsome with its fastback styling and big (ish) wheels. This particular 1986 example is a California car and is shockingly original, with its factory cassette stereo and a relatively low 123,000 miles. This is one of the best examples of this car I've seen in a long time and its relative obscurity really piques my interest.
Downsides? Well, it was dumped on a charity so the mechanical history is a bit hazy. This being an Audi, that's not good news. And the parts availability on these things is notoriously flaky. If a power window stops working, will I be able to get a new motor in this lifetime? And this model doesn't have a manual, but instead a three-speed automatic (remember those?), sucking all of the life out of the 2.2-liter five-pot.
While it's a poor man's Quattro, the Audi is just a little too German serious for me. It's handsome, but like most Audis of the period, there's not a lot about it that's particularly interesting. That three-speed auto really hurts, too.
The 242 GT is such an uncommon beast that it somehow strikes me just a little more. It's probably the stripes which are so out of character for a Volvo, even a '70s one, that make it look somewhat bonkers. Sure, it needs more exterior work. And I bet it's so slow that it's comical. Is there a way to squeeze the engine out of an S60R in it?
What would you guys go for, the stripy Volvo or the buttoned-down Audi? Am I too distracted by striped things? Sound off in the comments.