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 don’t know why I continue on this quest to find odd convertibles. Convertibles are not typically my thing in the first place because I have very little interest in posing and sometimes get self-conscious about what I’m listening to on the radio. But then along comes the odd European droptop and I get smitten and go hunting for something strange. This week, I found two that mostly fit that bill.
What is it about the Fiat 124 Spider that makes it look so clean and tasteful that it comes off as bland? Yes, it’s Pininfarina work and yes, it’s an Italian car but I still don’t turn my head when I see one on the street. Maybe that’s because I still see more than a few parked on the streets. Having said this, it’s a handsome car that’s aged well despite the rubber bumpers. And some of them, like this 1981 Fiat 2000 Spider, actually look quite good.
It looks like it’s in really nice condition to warrant the nearly-8 grand asking price, unlike many others you see on Craigslist and similar sites that appear as though they’ve been sitting under a tarp for a decade. The seller says this Spider is one of only a few hundred to be originally made with a turbocharged version of the four-cylinder, but probably like most of the surviving examples, there's no working turbo here. Still, it ticks many of the right boxes because it's attractive, Italian and red. Say those three things first and people might think you've bought a Ferrari – briefly.
Of course, you could just go completely off the deep end and spring for something like this: a 1966 Renault Caravelle. Nothing says I’ve made a deliberately odd choice quite like a rear-engined French convertible that’s loosely based on a mid-’50s Dauphine. At least this one looks like it’s been well-cared for and the second owner has had some fun with it. Unlike the Fiat, the Caravelle really would stand out on an American street.
OK, it’s slightly rusty. It’s dead slow, thanks to around 55 horsepower coming from the 1.1-liter lump at the back. But I really like the way it looks, with tinges of 1950s styling to please Americans as part of Renault’s ultimately dire quest to lure in buyers here. I love failed attempts. I want it.
I’m standing up for the Caravelle in this contest, mostly because it’s not the safe choice. (Did I just suggest an old Fiat is a safe choice?) If you're going to be seen, it might be worth being seen in something completely offbeat.