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Project Car Hell, Junkyard Fixer-Upper Edition: Fiat Spider, VW Beetle, or Shelby Charger?

Illustration for article titled Project Car Hell, Junkyard Fixer-Upper Edition: Fiat Spider, VW Beetle, or Shelby Charger?

Welcome to Project Car Hell, where you choose your eternity by selecting the project that's the coolest... and the most hellish! I walked into an East Bay self-service junkyard a few weeks back, and look what they had for sale!


Project Car Hell, Junkyard Fixer-Upper Edition: Fiat Spider, VW Beetle, or Shelby Charger?

This particular wrecking-yard chain will usually have a handful of running (or at least complete) cars for sale in a cordoned-off "rebuilders" section. Prices are usually fairly low, and I've seen cars ranging from a Lotus Eclat to an AMC Javelin available. It's not often, however, that I run across a perfect Project Car Hell threesome like this in the Junkyard Fixer-Upper Lot: each car has a certain amount of cool going for it, each is priced to move, and each is known for a somewhat relaxed approach to build quality.

We'll start with the car on the left, a Fiat 124 Sport Spider of what appears to be late-70s vintage. It's got some primer patches, which definitely might indicate some backyard ball-peen-and-Bondo bodywork, the top appears to have spent a decade baking in the Death Valley sun seen better days, and the Fiat Twin Cam engine of this era was rated at a no-doubt-optimistic 86 horsepower. Don't be discouraged, though, because this lil' beige devil would wake right up with a vigorous application of ungodly expensive aftermarket engine hop-up components, and the price tag? For you, my friend, Strip-N-Sell™ Auto Wrecking, Inc., will let you tow drive this fine Italian machine away for a mere $890!

Remember when lowered, de-bumperized Beetles with fat tires and Wink mirrors were all the rage? Maybe not, unless you're a grumpy old ex-Beetle-hooning bastid like me, but the ludicrous power-to-weight ratio of a Vocho with big ol' stroker Type 4 engine, coupled with murderously dangerous spirited handling from its mid-1930s-vintage classic chassis design makes for crowded cemetaries plenty of excitement when you take on a project like this one in the Gut-N-Grab™ Auto Wrecking, Inc., Fixer-Upper Lot. How much, you ask, for this fine slab of German steel? Just for today, my friend, Gut-N-Grab™ will send you to your fiery death off the lot with this late-60s VW Type 1 for a cool grand!

Is there any point in even considering those other two projects once you see this genuine Shelby performance machine before your eyes? We know it's genuine, because the market for counterfeit Shelby Chargers has never been quite up there with the prices paid for ersatz Cobras and GT350s. That's right, we're looking at a (probably) numbers-matching, quasi-original Carroll Shelby-ized L-Body Charger, packing 110 or 146 horsepower (depending on whether we're looking at a naturally-aspirated or turbocharged version), ready for you to break your heart and wallet drive straight to torque-steer glory once you start adding boost, more boost, and enough boost! The price tag hadn't been put on this car at the time I photographed it, but— given that the very same Dissect-N-Devour™ Auto Wrecking, Inc., outlet couldn't sell a complete '84 Shelby Charger and had to put it on the yard with the boring Neons and New Yorkers— we can assume that it will be somewhere in the three-figure range. So which one will it be?

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Fred Smith

I would personally purchase the fiat and drop in a modern GM ecotec, but since this is project car hell and not project car moderately frustrating experience, I had to vote for the charger. no matter how well you fix it up, it's still an aweful car.