I’ve been surfing Craigslist pretty much nonstop over the past decade, and in that time, there’s been one group of vehicles that has tempted me more than any other: “boring cars” in beautiful condition. Vehicles like the spotless, affordable Ford LTD you see above.
I don’t know what to think about the LTD, or this nice Toyota 1981 Toyota Starlet or sale in Virginia, or even the two-owner, original-paint Dodge Omni shown below. They’re fairly undesirable, unremarkable vehicles that 90 percent of folks on the street wouldn’t bat an eye at. Yet I have a strange desire to own them, despite never having even a fleeting interest in an LTD, Starlet, let alone an Omni.
This is one of my biggest Craigslist/Facebook Marketplace weaknesses. I always set out with an aim to find a specific vehicle or vehicle type, only to be sidetracked by an often-one-owner, often-Malaise-Era car in perfect shape. They’re often garage-kept by an elderly person, usually with a burgundy interior that may not have been cool at any point in the last 30 years, but is now possibly just different enough to sway me to spend a few grand on a machine I never actually wanted.
I have no defenses against these boring-but-also-not-boring time capsules. Usually my friends have to remind me: “David, it’s a damn Buick Regal. You’re not into Regals. Let it go.” After many struggles, I have thus far found ways to forget about these temptations. But only just.
The closest I came to caving was in college, when I nearly bought a late 1960s Chrysler New Yorker—one not too dissimilar to this one:
Before then, I had absolutely no interest in Chrysler New Yorkers. But that long body was in incredible shape, and even the paint was serviceable, as was the interior. All I had to do was figure out how to fire up its V8 engine (a 304 that had been swapped in, if I recall correctly), and I’d have been cruising in a stylish old car that most people wouldn’t have recognized as anything other than “an old sedan.”
Key to the allure of these mundane machines is the fact that they’re just so dirt cheap. Obviously, it’s hard to snag a desirable car in good shape for cheap, so you’re left with a choice: Do you buy a desirable car in bad shape, or do you snag a car that nobody cares about in borderline mint condition for a song? In my eyes, option two wins by a longshot, which is why Dodge Colts, Plymouth Sundances, and Mercury Lynxes have been tempting me to no end for many years.
That Chrysler New Yorker I nearly bought was only two grand, but as a college student, I think that was pushing it, so I let it go. But I don’t know how long I can continue resisting. That 351M V8-powered 1975 Ford LTD at the top of this article allegedly has only 58,012 original miles on the odometer. It’s only $2,700 and it looks incredible! Just check out the bench seat above!
And look at this: Only $3,500 for a ~45,000 mile 1977 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe:
Oh, and check out this 1987 Ford Tempo GL with only 63,000 original miles. Asking price? $720! It’s obviously got a few issues that need attention, but it appears to be, for the most part, in great shape.
These cars were once considered “boring,” and some may still consider them that, but I think they’ve got enough soul to warrant a new name, so my coworker Jason Torchinsky has dubbed them “filler cars.” These are vehicles that fill the space between cars on our roadways that are traditionally considered “interesting.”
All of this filler car discussion was spurred by a Facebook post by Matthew Christian, who says he will likely be managing an estate sale which will include this 1980 Chevy Chevette that hasn’t been registered since 2000:
Sure, not a lot of people really want a damn 1980 Chevy Chevette, 1987 Ford Tempo, 1977 Chrysler LeBaron, 1975 Ford LTD, or 1967 Chrysler New Yorker, but they look to be in great shape and they’re dirt cheap (I’m not sure how much the Chevette will cost, but I doubt it’ll be much), and by now, they’ve built up just enough soul to be borderline irresistible.
A Jalopnik reader named Adam recently showed me one of his newest acquisitions: the 1981 Chrysler Imperial you see above. And I must say: As much as I’ve never wanted a 1980s-era Imperial, that thing’s swanky, mood lighting-equipped interior alone makes it worth the $1,000 Adam paid for it.
At some point, I will follow Adam’s lead. The cheap, well-maintained filler car is what I need in my life. It’s what all of us need, really.