BUY LOW, SELL HIGH: The 2020 Carbitrage Bull and Bear List

Bear Bull Market List Header

We love cars here at Carbitrage and, like for most young people today, it’s hard for us to maintain a hobby if you don’t monetize it in some way, or at least monetize it in your head. With that being said, a lot of us have taken to buying and selling cars that we love in hopes that we’re able to catch them before their value explodes. While a lot of us have missed the boat on some of our favorite cars such as the E30 3-series, Mk IV Supra and Integra Type-R, there are still plenty of great cars to get into before their value reaches for the moon.

We have compiled a list of what we will wager will have a bull market and what will have a bear market in 2020. For those of you who are not up to date on your investment lingo, a bull market is a market that is appreciating in value, or rather making money. A bear market is a market that isn’t making money, it is either breaking even or losing money. A bear market is not inherently a bad thing, in fact, a savvy investor can get a great deal in buying during a bear market.

While some outlets do their valuations based entirely off of analytics of market trends for the most accurate look at where the market is headed, they get it right about 80% of the time, which is extremely accurate for predicting trends. We are not doubting that mathematical analysis of the market is the correct way to predict market forecasts. What we are trying to do is attempt to mix in a metric that money cannot account for, our own personal taste.

Our logic being that, between 3 millennial car enthusiasts with completely different backgrounds, we will be able to find a selection of cars that will trend with what the market is actually doing. So we are throwing caution into the wind and there is a very high probability that we will make ourselves look like fools but, this is our Bull and Bear List of 2020.


Description of the mathematics used in pricing:

We are taking the average price of the cars sold on Bring-a-Trailer.com over the course of the last year from November 2018 to November 2019 in hopes that any other posts about Bear Market lists won’t affect our sales data. Only factory appearing cars will be counted for this metric.

Our second metric to compare average prices of non-collector models is an average price of vehicles being sold on the Los Angeles craigslist at the time this article is written. We chose Los Angeles due to the mild climate so we can account for rust free cars being sold for a premium in northern states and for population density so we can account for faster changes in market prices. The search parameters for our craigslist search was limited to non-modified operational cars being sold by owner for over $600 with under 200,000 miles on the odometer. This was an attempt to weed out as many fake ads and non-operational cars as possible. We will denote any statistic abnormalities we find.


The Carbitrage Bull Market List for 2020

Ryan’s Picks:

bmw_328i_sedan_3

1.) 2000-2006 BMW 3-series (non-M3)

2019 BaT Average Price: $10,612.00*

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $3,109.25**

The E46 generation BMW 3-series is my personal first pick for the 2020 Carbitrage Bull Market List, I should specify that I am listing the entire E46 generation. The reason being that this was the last era of the 3-series golden age before the E90 complicated everything. It is similar to the E30 and E36 but has such a massive improvement in interior quality over the E36 that it almost feels like a different car.

The E46 3-series moved the car upmarket in such a way that the higher trim levels felt like the car was designed with them in mind, what this did to the lower trim levels was profound though, suddenly a base model E46 made you feel like you had purchased something significantly more expensive. Often when a car does this, the maintenance costs and reliability take a hit, but not with the E46, it still had the stellar reliability the previous cars were known for but with just a little bit more padding.

In a world where cars such as the Infiniti G35 are replacing the spot that Honda Civics once held for the young car enthusiast, that extra luxury touch without any of the extra maintenance baggage of a modern BMW should prove to become a major boon to the popularity of the vehicle. Let’s not forget that the predecessor to the E46, the E36, has proven itself a very competent and popular platform for a project car. As a quality E36 is becoming increasingly difficult to find, I would wager that 2020 will see the E46 3-Series see a major increase in average pricing. If you’re in the market for an E46 project car, this is a great time to get in when prices are still cheap.

*Price includes ZHP models which sell for a premium compared to standard trim

**No ZHP models for sale at this point in time in marketplace

Red FD RX7

2.) 1992-2002 Mazda RX-7

2019 BaT Average Price: $28,725.97**

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $21,975.00*

My number two pick coming is the final generation of RX7, the FD chassis. This is the most exquisite road car to have ever been produced from Mazda. The car has simple elegant lines that looked great from it’s release in 1992 to it’s final production year in the Japanese market in 2002 and even today, in 2020, it continues to be a looker. The car is more than a pretty face though, unlike previous generation RX7s where you could make the mistake of specifying lower powered engines, the FD only came in one flavor, turbocharged.

Luckily for Mazda, that turbocharged engine was a hit, it’s specific output beat everything produced in the era. If factory power wasn’t enough, then the power you could coax out of these cars was unreal with cars making over 400 HP with close to factory reliability. Of course, being a rotary engine, it was a bit avant garde and reliability could be questionable if not properly maintained, so for many just putting in a V8 engine made more sense for a project car.

Today, the RX7 is already seeing a lot of interest from the collector community. North American models were available new from 1993 to 1995, and Japanese imported models don’t have a significant variance in pricing, which is good for availability. That being said, the cars that will be leading the trend will be the best examples complete with their factory equipped dorito mill. A numbers matching car will generally be worth significantly more than a V8 swapped car with a salvage title. It isn’t likely that the JDM models will be particularly more expensive due to the most sought after trim levels, the Bathurst R and Spirit R models, not being import legal yet but cars from reputable vendors like Top Rank will likely be on the high end of the valuation scale.

** Includes imported RHD models, although at this time there is very little change in value between RHD and LHD

* Two cars currently in market, not enough for accurate sample size

mitsubishi_gto_3000gt

3.) 1990-2004 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4

2019 BaT Average Price: $16,754.95

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $16,630.00

I will likely be wrong this year, like I have been every year with this car, but I’m willing to take that chance because the 3000GT VR-4 will eventually have it’s day. This car ticked every box that a 90’s era Japanese muscle car could hope to tick. It was laden bumper to bumper with computers, had active aerodynamics, functional vents and seemed to have two of everything. I’m being quite literal when I say it two of everything, it had twin turbos, DOHC heads, a dual-exit active exhaust, front and rear active spoilers, and it even had four wheel steering.

I won’t lie and say the 3000GT VR-4 is a perfect car because it’s not; it’s a bear to work on, OEM parts availability is non-existent and finding one that has been properly cared for takes some searching. That being said, if you do manage get a good one, it’s performance is absolutely stellar. For less than half the price you get Supra performance, 0-60 in 4.9 seconds and a 13.5 second 1/4 mile time as tested by Road and Track. I would gladly deal with some annoying maintenance procedures if it means I can get that performance for less than the cost of a fully loaded 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage.

The standard 3000GT is not much of an investment as it’s just a very heavy FWD 90’s GT car, however the VR-4 is such a different beast that it almost deserves a completely different nameplate. Once you get into the Spyder models you get an even more unique vehicle. As Supra, NSX, RX-7 and GT-R prices rocket away from Earth and into the stratosphere, I think people will begin to look at the 3000GT VR-4 as it has always meant to be seen as, an actual investment worth a hell of a lot more than $16,500.

Erik’s Picks:

bmw_m3_coupe_542

1.) 2000-2006 BMW M3 Coupe (Phoenix Yellow, Laguna Seca Blue, Imola Red)

2019 BaT Average Price: $27,378.24

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $27,500.00 **

Interestingly both Erik and I agreed that the E46 market is a powder keg ready to blow at this point. However, while I think that the lower end of the E46 market will be the spark that blows everything up, Erik says his sights are all over the M3 market. While E46 M3s are still exceedingly abundant in the standard-fare greyscales of most teutonic automobiles, Erik says those will likely be the last to appreciate. Erik puts his money on the more vibrant colors of Phoenix Yellow, Laguna Seca Blue and Imola Red to be the choices to lead the E46 wave.

Adding to Erik’s specificity is the prediction that the coupe, in particular, will be the chassis to acquire since it’s sportier form factor will likely play a role in the overall desirability of the car. This makes sense as historically the E30 M3 and E36 M3 coupes lead the market for their respective chassis while the rest of their variants were brought along for the ride. While the E46 coupes did suffer from water intrusion problems that the sedan never had due to their pillarless windows, the more highly sought after cars will have had any leaks cared for well before they became an issue.

We would also be remiss to note that the E46 was also the last chassis of the M3 to be powered by an NA inline-6 instead of a V8 or twin turbo engine. To a sizable portion of BMW enthusiasts the driving experience of the S54 cars outweighs the extra power of the newer M3s. This is increasingly important with the trend of collector cars skewing towards an exciting driving experience over a fancy piece of technology or massive power numbers.

**Only one car for sale in market price

850 rear

2.) 1990-1999 BMW 850i 6-Speed (non-CSI)

2019 BaT Average Price: $24,050.00

2019 Craigslist Average Price: N/A*

Erik’s first choice is the non-CSI E31 chassis BMW 8-series with a manual transmission. We have to be very specific here because while all of the automatic 8-series cars might as well just be an Oldsmobile and all of the 8-cylinder cars have cylinder delamination issues, the 850 with a manual isn’t much of a stretch from an 850CSi.

The 8-series was BMW’s 1990’s halo car, it was a massive Grand Tourer loaded with every piece of tech that BMW had in it’s arsenal. The car was the result of $900 million dollars and a decade of BMW’s R&D time. The modern 8-series really doesn’t do the name justice as it isn’t enough of a departure from the standard BMWs we see today, the E31 was a truly spectacular car.

While the 850CSi is a great car and we are not doubting it, we are certainly doubting if it is really twice the car of an 850i given that they sell for twice the price. That’s no exaggeration, in fact the $50,000 mark is the entry level price for an 850CSi and a well sorted car can easily eclipse $70,000. For what’s effectively a bumper, intake manifold and fancy suspension, that’s quite a premium.

*Only two results found both were automatic cars being sold at an average price of $19,250.00

 

gmc_typhoon_1

3.) 1991-1993 GMC Typhoon/Syclone

2019 BaT Average Price: $15,497.00*

2019 Craigslist Average Price: N/A**

As the Rad era of collector cars gains steam, Erik puts his third bet on a small GMC with an automatic transmission, AWD and a turbocharger. No, it is not a GMC Terrain but rather the much radder GMC Typhoon. The Typhoon, and it’s Syclone pickup truck sibling, came completely out of left field and created the vehicle that nobody asked for but everyone wanted. Taking the 190 HP Vortec V6, that was standard in the GMC Jimmy, and adding 14 PSI of boost from a Borg Warner turbocharger, GMC was able to coax 90 extra horsepower out of the mom-mobile. This allowed the Typhoon to reach 60 MPH in 5.3 seconds and run a 14.1 second quarter mile time.

While, these numbers sound tame to the uninformed, it was all about how the power was delivered. The typical rattliness of a GM interior of the era with all the turbolag of early 90’s turbocharging made it quite an event to get one of these up to speed. Today, those who grew up in the era of minitrucking and muscle cars have fond memories of the Typhoon and the Syclone while the younger generation love the looks and story of these ridiculous little trucks.

Between these two trucks, there is more interest in them than in a subprime auto loan, and the total number of people interested in them vastly outweighs the total production numbers. That market scarcity will likely drive the value of the truck up, much like the Porsche market had a few years ago and if you are looking to get onboard before the Typhoon ship leaves port, 2020 might be the last year that they’re affordable.

*Pricing is average of Typhoon as not enough Syclones were sold in the last year to create average.
**Only one vehicle for sale in marketplace at this time at $12,500, not enough vehicles for average price.

Jana’s Picks:

mercedes-benz_g_500_us-spec_1

1.) Mercedes Gelandewagen

2019 BaT Average Price: $35,242.00

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $35,400.00

There are few people living a more tragic life right now than the offroad enthusiast. While sedans and wagons are being axed in favor of various trucks, it’s not XJ Cherokees and Mercedes G-Wagens leading the wave rather its Ford Escapes and Hyundai Santa Fes, its a wave of crossovers with open differentials, extra tall springs and compact car suspension. While this is a nuisance, it is also watering down the crop real-deal off-roaders. Luckily, until 2019, the Mercedes Gelandewagen was a rare holdout.

The G-Wagen represented Mercedes at it’s best, it was bulletproof reliable, comfortable, could be driven literally anywhere and, most importantly, relied on perfecting technology instead of packing the vehicle full of widgets. The truck was originally the replacement of the Volkswagen Iltis for the German military but has extended far beyond that role proving itself as much of a capable off-roader as it is a civilized daily driver.  The truck began it’s cult following during the 1980’s and 1990’s in America as a grey market import before Mercedes had even begun to import them directly in 1997.

The G-wagen lies in that sweet spot between the CJ Jeep and the Range Rover, both luxurious and reliable but still capable of winning the Paris-Dakar rally. In an era where families default to crossovers as their family cars, actual solid axle off-roaders are quickly becoming the collector car of choice for many people as they begin to wonder what they’re missing. While the vast quantities of existing G-Wagens does hurt it’s collectability, the trucks that are at the top of the auction totem pole right now are the cabriolet models and AMG models, however the grey market 3-door models are proving to be very desirable as well. If you want to get in on the Gelandwagen before the weenies do, the time is nigh!

 

mercedes-benz_200_d_1

2.) Mercedes W110/W111 Fintails

2019 BaT Average Price: $14,891.67

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $5,950**

The big body W111 Fintails are already gaining a lot of attention within the Mercedes collector community. While they’re a shoe in for collectability and are rather undervalued currently, we think that the often forgotten W110 little fintail will see its day as well. We aren’t just taking a shot in the dark by including the little fintail models, we’re including it because with millennial interest in everything vintage and European 60s era cars being the bedrock of the collector world right now, the odds are in the W110’s favor.

The W110 was the entry level of Mercedes in the mid-1960s and were all examples bulletproof Mercedes engineering from their peak of reliability. Utilizing the best technology in the world at the time to create a car that drove every bit as well as it looked. The W111 however, was something to behold, timeless 1960’s styling coupled with the drivability of Mercedes at their peak made for something truly special. Add the 3.5L V8 option in the 280SE Coupe and you have a sleeper of a bavarian autobahn missle.

One of the biggest items of note in the fintail market is the price disparity between the Fintail sedans and the W111 coupe. While the sedans all sell for around the same prices under $20,000, a decent example of a W111 coupe starts in the $50,000 range with prices ranging well over $100,000 for a V8 car. That being said, the fintail is one of the few cars that appeals to both millennials who can barely afford to eat and the pebble beach-type baby boomers.

** Not enough vehicles in marketplace for accurate average price

Citroen+2CV+Front1

3.) Citroen 2CV

2019 BaT Average Price: $13,380.50

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $15,750.00*

What isn’t to love about the 2CV, it is a bizarre little French peoples car with Bauhaus styling, an aircooled 2 cylinder engine and suspension that moves front to back in lieu of up to down. This car has won the hearts of everyone from The Greatest Generation to Generation Z in a typical avant garde French fashion and it even became a Bond car. Why do we think it will appreciate in value though?

The 2CV lies in a sweet spot for millennial buyers, it is cheap, quirky and retro. Millennials are collectively reaching a point of financial stability where they can make small luxury purchases and at $13-15k average price, the 2CV has a price point that is just within reach of the average 30 year old car enthusiast. While other cars exist in that price range, the 2CV is able to attract more attention per dollar than anything else in its price range. It is more unique than an aircooled Beetle, more usable than a Fiat 500 and most importantly, with the 1920’s officially 100 years behind us, the Bauhaus styling of the 2CV allows the pre-war look but without the pre-war price point.

While there are literally millions of 2CVs in the world, there are also no shortage of special editions. The Cocorico, Perrier, SPOT, OO7 Edition, Bamboo and Charleston are just a handful of the special edition options. These special editions will likely lead the pack, as those with more money can likely spend a bit more to get a more unique 2CV. So far the trend is holding true with the top 3 prices on Bring-a-Trailer being held by a Bamboo edition and two Charlestons respectively. We may be wrong on the 2CV for 2020 but it will certainly see its day soon, so why not get it while it’s hot?

*Only 2 cars for sale in marketplace, not enough for average price

Carbitrage Choice:

Tonys EF

1.) 1988-2000 Honda Civic and variants

2019 BaT Average Price: $10,813.52

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $2,383.90

This is it, the one car that every one of us here at Carbitrage concurred about, this is the car that we will bet the farm on, the Golden Age Honda Civic.

The 1988 through 2000 Honda Civic and its variants are actually 3 different bodystyles known as the EF, EG and EK chassis as denoted by the VIN designation of the top trim levels. Together they account for what is often referred to as Honda’s golden age, where instead of producing automatic CUVs with questionable styling, Honda was busy making some of the best FWD cars in history.

These cars crept their way into the car enthusiast lexicon in the late 1990s where street racers began to take notice of their enormous potential as a racer. The lightweight chassis combined with indisputably the best 4 cylinder engine in the world at that time gave the car an enormous leg up in motorsport. The Civics of this era were the most successful FWD cars in quite some time and properly captured the ethos of both the hot hatch craze and, later, the sport compact movement.

The trouble in finding a golden age Civic is not in finding one but in finding one that hasn’t been robbed a dozen times, engine swapped with a hammer and slathered in bondo. The highest priced USDM models are easily the EM1 Si and CRX Si with prices well into the $30k range, however across the board they are all getting hot. A smart buy might be to get an ’88-’91 Civic Si hatchback or EX sedan, ’88-’91 RT4WD Wagovan, a ’92-’95 EH3 Civic Si hatchback or a Midori Green EJ6 Civic hatchback, as those particular cars all have their own cult followings. Average price for a collector model will be much higher than that of the average Craigslist find but that is due to the poor quality examples bringing down the average price.


The Carbitrage Bear Market List for 2020

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Ryan: 1997-2006 Porsche 911 996 (non-GT3)

Ryan: Porsche 996 non-gt3

BaT Average Price: $24,896.90

Craigslist Average Price: $20,015.78

If you want to get into a Porsche 911 for as little as possible, you’re in luck because the standard 996 Porsche 911 shows no sign of going anywhere at all. This is not a bad thing by any means because the 996 is a very good car but it gets a bad wrap as it was the first generation of watercooled Porsches. It’s price point and performance are exactly why this is the default entry-level track car for many and why most cars and coffee European sections are seas of endless 996s.

bmw_m3_coupe_us-spec_42

Erik: 1992-1999 BMW M3 E36 (USDM-spec only)

BaT Average Price: $14,322.00

Craigslist Average Price: $11,616.67

Much like the 996, the American market E36 M3 is a perfectly fine car that is bookended by two significantly better variants. On one end the E30 M3 is beloved by all and affordable to few, on the other end the E46 M3 exists and by existing it suppresses the value of its older sibling to a price point permanently within it’s shadows. As the E46 wave starts in 2020, we bet that there will be plenty of examples for sale making you ask if an E36 is really worth $20,000 when you can just get into an E46 for the same price.

honda_accord_4

Jana: 1986-1989 Honda Accord CA Chassis

BaT Average Price: $1,900*

Craigslist Average Price:$2,450

These cars are the secret of the Honda community, it is a bargain cheap version of the golden age Hondas that doesn’t get stolen as much. That being said, it seems that even to Honda people, the CA chassis Accord is a sleeper. These are quite fun cars with just a little more space than a Civic without significantly higher curb weight. That being said, parts availability is atrocious, the aftermarket is almost entirely hand-me-downs adapted from other chassis and may god help you if you are unfortunate enough to have one of the PGM-carb models. Our advice, buy the CA Accord to love it but not to make money off it.

*only one car sold in 2018, outside of date ranges, 7/2018 sales price was $5,800.

z8 alpina

Carbitrage Pick: 2000-2003 BMW Z8

BaT Average Price: $161,678.57

Craigslist Average Price: N/A

The BMW Z8 is another car that we all love but is still being placed on the bear market list. With the exception of a couple of very expensive sales in the last year, the Z8 has been very stagnant in recent years when viewed on Bring-a-Trailer. While this would normally pique our interests, it’s six figure price range is holding the car back with economic uncertainty becoming a factor at such lofty prices. In the long run we do expect to see the Z8 grow in price so it might not be a bad buy as a long term investment if you suddenly found yourself with $150,000 burning a hole in your pocket.

What cars do you think would be on the Bear or Bull list for 2020? Let us know and tell us why and we may talk about your answers on the Carbitrage podcast.

EVENT: Modest – Premium Automotive Showcase

Drive Cartel hosted their second Modest Premium Automotive Showcase at the end of June in St. Paul. Honestly this is one of my favorite import car shows because of the quality of cars in show. It allows me to reaffirm my belief that car culture is still alive and definitely not dying. For a grassroots show that doesn’t have national recognition, it’s quality is quite a feat.

Modest Lineup.jpg

Drive Cartel hosted their second Modest Premium Automotive Showcase at the end of June in St. Paul. Honestly this is one of my favorite import car shows because of the quality of cars in show. It allows me to reaffirm my belief that car culture is still alive and definitely not dying. For a grassroots show that doesn’t have national recognition, it’s quality is quite a feat.

Lineup with GTR

This might have been the physically hottest show I’ve been to in a while, it was over 90 degrees with a dew point of over 70. That doesn’t sound that bad if you don’t know what a dew point is but take my word for it, it was steamy. If the dew point is in the 70’s, that’s more humid than it is in the Lacondon Jungle in Central America this time of year. Like Ricardo Tubbs from Miami Vice said “I can dig tropical, but this is out of bounds.”

BRZ Front

Regardless of how hot it was, Drive Cartel was able to keep things comfortable. The show was in the same location but moved to underneath the Highway 52 bridge and they bumped the show time back a few hours, so it started once the heat began to die down and we could avoid the worst of it. Another thoughtful gesture was that they had free Monster energy drinks and water available. I truly appreciated the pre-planning on behalf of Drive Cartel, they had planned the details of the show months before it was held. A lot of other shows overlook thinking of those details, or try to monetize keeping people comfortable, Drive Cartel though, they just want you to enjoy their efforts.

E30 Coupe

This year I was invited back as a judge for the show, which I was proud to do, and I have seen improvements in most of the builds. Unfortunately, judging took up all of my time at the show so we have a guest photographer, Tyson Noel. If you’re a regular to Carbitrage, you likely recognize his name because we always are talking about his Subaru. We will begin to host more guest photographers as we grow because I am limited by my corporeal shell to only exist in one place at one time and, more importantly, I want to show off the talents of other photographers in the state.

B Series EG

When I was judging last year I spent a lot more time docking points for people who had fairly major issues such as poor quality vinyl wraps, exposed zipties and generally a lot of corner cutting. This year, I saw far less of that, instead the most common thing I docked points for was poor quality preparation. If I’m nitpicking down to that level, it’s a pretty good thing. Some cars, like this white EG Civic, were prepped perfectly w

Mazdaspeed 3.jpg

If you’re not familiar with the show, Modest is limited to about 100 spots and is billed as the 100 best import cars in the state of Minnesota. While it might not be the absolute 100 best cars because I can rattle off a handful that should have been in the show but weren’t able to come for one reason or another, it was still a very good cross section of the best that Minnesota has to offer.

AE110 Corolla

While some cars are clad with huge widebody kits, other cars, like Toumoua’s AE110 Corolla are so creative that they’re in a class of their own. We’ve talked about this car before but this is likely one of the coolest builds of this chassis in the country. It blends several different styles with a few little JDM twists to make something that flows together on a car that just doesn’t show up at shows like this. Fun fact, that JDM license plate is actually accurate for the vehicle tax bracket this Corolla would qualify for in Japan.

Jetta Brown

Other cars like this Jetta didn’t try to blend styles on an obscure chassis, instead they tried to accent the factory bodywork for a clean OEM+ look. I really like the color matched tint on the tail lights. It’s not pictured but the air tank setup used a distressed wood floor that matched the wheels and really tied the whole look together, there were a half dozen other cars with distressed wood floors in the rear that didn’t pull it off nearly as well. I can appreciate how the VAG community seems to be able to make anything that Volkswagen throws onto a showfloor into something unique.

Hieps S13

Hiep’s S13 Silvia ate a wall at a track day last year, which was a major bummer and yanked the entire front end off of the car. Instead of sulking and letting the car fall into ruin, Hiep took his lemons and made a very good batch of lemonade. The front end getting knocked off allowed him to go a little crazy with a massive light bar and a body kit. Having just finished wet sanding the body of the car literally an hour before the show, Hiep tossed the bodykit on and drove it there. You can’t see it very well in the photo but Hiep’s carbon fiber hood has a thin layer of candy red paint on it, color matching it to the rest of the car.

Lexus Widebody

This Lexus IS took home trophies at both Modest and MNCEC’s Minneapolis Mile. I think that the hydrodip under the hood is a bit much but overall, it is a really great build. If you get a chance to see it, it’s very well put together. All of the bodywork flows together with even panel gaps and the paint matching is second to none.

Rocket Bunny S13

The low quality duplicate bodykits and ridiculous no name oversized kits that you could get for a fraction of the price of the real thing was what killed the big bodykit trend. Hopefully our widebody craze doesn’t have to worry about that since the vast majority of us are more interested in build quality over build quantity than we were 20 years ago. Having the most ridiculous car isn’t a necessary win these days and that’s a good thing.

Supra

The key to trends not getting stale is not over-saturating the world with it. One trend that won’t ever go out of style is speed because unlike the look of a car, you can always find a new way to go fast or just make a bigger number. This Mk.4 Supra is a great example of a car where power comes first. It is sporting a single large turbo, front mount intercooler, a bevy of supporting modifications and a very clean execution. Its nice to see that, while these cars creep up to $200,000, that people are still tinkering with them.

Tonys EF

Also creeping up in price, but not nearly on the level of the blue chip Japanese muscle cars of the 90s, are the 1988-2000 Honda Civics. Tony’s EF sedan is likely the best example of its chassis in the state of Minnesota. These Civics hold a soft spot in my heart, especially the EF generation, and its really awesome to see them built on such a high level.

R35 Carbon Fiber

Also on the topic of high end builds, I have never seen this much carbon fiber on a car, nearly this whole R35 GTR is covered in Carbon Fiber. I love it’s afterburner style exhaust tips. This isn’t a wrap either, it is all actual carbon fiber. While Carbon Fiber everything isn’t really my thing, I can still appreciate the effort that it took to do this conversion.

G37S Front.jpg

Overall it’s really nice to see how much Minnesota is improving. 4 years ago, if you had told me that the car culture would be as great as it is here, I would have thought you were crazy because we were doing good but it was all rather stagnant. We have advanced so much in even that short of a period of time.

Audi and wheels

I keep hearing all of these rumors that car culture is waning around the country but I don’t see that happening, not here, not in Chicago or even in California. Yes it has its ebbs and flows, a decade ago the recession was crippling, but I don’t think that car enthusiasts are going anywhere. Things just change, new generations bring new ideas and you just have to be open to it. Pre-war preservationists thought the world was ending when kustoms and hot rods came around in the 50s, then the muscle car purists thought that in the 70s when Toyota dominated everything and it still happens today.

kids cars

People are still making great cars, hosting great shows and advancing the culture. The kids are still excited by cool cars and I think that we’re in a great spot as a community. To the people who think that car culture is dying, that’s just not true. In 50 years, there will still be cool stuff being built, you just have to keep an open mind. Here’s to a great Modest 2019 and to the future of not only Drive Cartel but the Minnesota car community as a whole.

 

EVENT: Cars and Crafts June 2019

Cars and Crafts has been one of our favorite shows since they started the monthly summer series. Their June 2019 show was no different, the quality of cars, the quality of the crowd and the location, were all batting 100. It seems all too often that an excellent show series exists for maybe a season or two then disappears, either they grow too big or the crew dissolves. It’s clear to see that Drive Cartel has no plans to go anywhere but up and their crew has the talent to take their shows as far as a show can go.

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Cars and Crafts has been one of our favorite shows since they started the monthly summer series. Their June 2019 show was no different, the quality of cars, the quality of the crowd and the location, were all batting 100. It seems all too often that an excellent show series exists for maybe a season or two then disappears, either they grow too big or the crew dissolves. It’s clear to see that Drive Cartel has no plans to go anywhere but up and their crew has the talent to take their shows as far as a show can go.

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The only issue is that as the show went on, people began to taper off and Drive Cartel had to scramble to fill holes in the lot. Of course this wasn’t something that Drive Cartel could have planned for and they handled it really well. If this show was held at a massive location, like Canterbury, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue because 5-10 cars leaving out of 200 cars really isn’t a big deal, at a show of 40 cars or so, then it is suddenly 25% of the show that has left. Drive Cartel does a wonderful job of replenishing cars but they can only plan for so much. There ends up being half a dozen spots open in the show while cars like this S13 are still rolling into spectator parking.

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There were tons of cars that could have used those spots and many of them did. In a brief stroll to get my tripod, I spotted a really well built TRD kitted T230 Celica, Wa Lee’s unbelievable CE1 Accord, just about every Evo 8-9 in the state and probably the coolest E110 Corolla I’ve ever seen in my life. Most of these cars weren’t perfect but some were totally worthy of sitting in the main show and, although Drive Cartel was able to track down a few of the owners, most of these just sat in spectator parking until the end of the show.

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With the exception of people leaving so early, the show was excellent. Somehow Drive Cartel is able to get unique cars to come out of the woodwork, the regulars were there but there were also some builds I had never even seen. Those regulars to the Cars and Craft series had some pretty noticeable improvements as well. That’s the unique thing about the midwest versus places like the west coast, we get these massive changes to cars where as in California, you might see a different lip, then a different set of wheels and it just seems like watching paint dry.

Tony Yang EF1

A perfect example of this is Tony Yang, one of the admins over at the MNEF club, who has one of my favorite cars in Minnesota. His EF sedan build has been a slow build over the last few seasons, but I honestly prefer that over these cars that are assembled over a winter, come out and kill it for one or maybe two seasons before disappearing off the face of the Earth. For 2019 Tony has added clear tails, a paint matched center garnish and some really mean Work Meister S1 2-piece wheels that really set his car over the top. Maybe a 5 speed swap with a B17, or something goofy like that, will be next.

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Brian Jannusch of Top Rank, another Drive Cartel regular, brought out his latest R32 GT-R for sale. A rare halogen headlamp equipped model with an R34 engine swap. The R34 RB26DETT may put out the same amount of power as the R32’s original RB26DETT did, but it does so in a much more reliable and consistent manner. More importantly, it was equipped with a set of hyper rare TE37 wheels with a rose gold finish, naturally Jana lost her mind when she saw this. With what seems like half of the R32 GTRs ever made already in the United States, unique variants like this are what is needed to set the cars apart.

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This EG Civic was one of my favorite builds on this chassis in Minnesota in a while. It’s a simple build as it takes the standard Honda formula with a gutted interior, JDM bits and an engine swap but it puts them together into an excellent package. EGs used to be swarm meets like mosquitoes in Minnesota but after 30 years of rust and theft, what were once thought disposable are now fetching nearly the price they were sold for when new. It is good to see them at shows though, there hasn’t been a subcompact that nailed it this well since the 96-00 generation Civic was discontinued.

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Speaking of cool subcompacts, this Leyland Mini Clubman was a great example of one of the rarest Mini variants. Complete with Lucas electronics and the 1969 facelifted front end, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the little car. These cars are a rabbit hole of interesting variants, maybe we will talk about them in a future article.

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There were a lot more American cars in show this time than usual, a couple of donk Camaros and Mustangs were in the show for its entirety. The coolest American car, and likely coolest car outright, wasn’t even a car, rather it was this Dodge Lil’ Red Express truck. Fun fact, this was actually the fastest American vehicle from 0-100 MPH when it was for sale in 1978. Dodge took the muscle car formula and put it into a truck since there was an emissions loophole that didn’t force catalytic converters and EGR systems onto trucks back then.

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Keeping on the topic of fast American cars, this Grand National was at the show. It looks like just about every Grand National ever made but this one used to be one of the quicker street cars back in the day, I’m glad to see that it’s still around. Of course here at Carbitrage we would never condone street racing, but if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

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Last year I spotted this S30 at Cars and Crafts but I wasn’t able to get any reasonable pictures of it due to a consistent 14 person mob around it. I usually hate V8 swapped S30s but the Mad Max bug catcher, twin carb setup and HUGE old school roots supercharger make this look like something that could have been in that first Mad Max movie, which is shorthand for absolutely positively rad. It also has that 70s muscle car rake to it with raised letter tires on some steel oval track wheels which really drive the whole look of the build home.

Blakes NA Miata BRG2

Blake Hummelgard’s Miata came out with a few small improvements this year, it didn’t really need anything except he finally got a color matched hardtop. This car is a great example of how to build a Miata. It’s purposeful but with enough flare that it doesn’t blend in with the other 1,000,000 Miatas on the road.

BMW2002

This SR20 swapped BMW 2002 has been around for a few years now, it’s cool to see it shows catering more to the import community. It seems like for the first few years, the only place that I would see it was at muscle car shows like Street Nationals at the State Fair Grounds. The 2002 is up there for one of my favorite European chassis of all time.

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John Krueger and his husband Patrick now have twin Miatas, while Patrick has a Rocket Bunny widebody on his, John is rocking a seriously cool old school Bomex kit. John and Patrick have always built some really cool cars and I’m excited to see this Miata as John builds it. Part of me wishes we could fast forward like 5 years until early 2000s bodykits make a full comeback but I also want to start perusing Craigslist to find still intact kits and start hording them for when they go up in value.

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This VIP Lexus GS400 doesn’t have the best picture ever taken, I have to apologize for that, but when I first saw it during the daytime I didn’t think it had anything fresh done to it. Then at night, I took a closer look and noticed that I was sorely mistaken.

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Look at that headliner! LED lights embedded in the headliner to look like a night sky. Usually I think VIP cars are a bit much and yet all too cookie cutter at the same time, then I see something like this and have to throw my hands in the air and say that I was wrong. I wonder if this is based off any actual night sky star map, where is Neil DeGrasse Tyson when I need him?

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Drive Cartel continues to have the best shows in the state of Minnesota, everything they manage to produce is world class quality and could compete with anything you find in California, Chicago or down south. If you haven’t had a chance to go to Cars and Crafts, you’re missing out, check out the next show July 6th at Saint Paul Brewing.

 

 

EVENT: InterMarque 2019 Part 1

Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. I find myself having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Meanwhile I’m trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma.

InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

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Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. All too often I find myself standing in a boiling hot parking lot while some mouthbreather babbles on about some grievance they have with the show. Meanwhile I’m having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Honestly, some shows could be nothing but vintage Japanese cars and Group B rally cars, yet I still find myself trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma. InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

Citroen DS and Traction Avant

In fact, I have to say that my first visit to an InterMarque show was the farthest thing from the scenario I mentioned above. It was a perfect combination of factors that all came together in just the right way. A car show like a real estate investment, while the house itself is important, you can always improve that, you can also improve the yard but the hardest part to improve is the location. If you nail all of those aspects, it is a perfect house, and InterMarque certainly nailed it. It really wouldn’t be out of place at Monterey Car Week, not only are the cars on caliber of some of the crop that you see at Car Week, but the character of the show and it’s location would fit in just as well.

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Every spring, InterMarque car club and the City of Osseo shut down 4 blocks of the quaint downtown area of the city for an annual spring car show. The cars range from RHD Honda BEATs to European rarities like a Borgward Isabella. The true beauty of the show however is the location. You have the cars lining down 4 blocks of the city, allowing for easy foot traffic and lots of space to take pictures and gawk. There is a plaza in the middle of the show where small businesses sell their wares and, more importantly, there is plenty of shade and places to sit. You really feel comfortable at this show and that’s something that a lot of shows miss the boat on.

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It’s the small businesses along the street make the show feel like something magical. If you tire of constantly walking and baking in the sun, you can just pop into an antique shop or stop for a gyro. It makes you feel like you’re actually benefiting the community rather than being a nuisance, the constant anxiety of having to cut the show short because someone decided to flex their rev limiter skills is non-existent. When you leave the show, you feel happy, rather than drained. On the way home we were actually remarking about how much we loved the show, rather than complain about who did what.

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There is a sense of camaraderie amongst fans of the show. These are the people who represent what Carbitrage is all about, it’s for people who love the automobile in all of it’s forms. It’s a place where you find a Triumph 2000 owner talking to the owner of an S2000 and instead of belittling each other or talking at each other, they are just enjoying each others company. I even had deeply enlightening conversations about the various coachbuilt variants of the Citroen DS and about the Bosch Jetronic fuel injection system.

Triumph TR3As

It isn’t just the Carbitrage staff and a group of our fans that love the meet. You’re just as likely to see a 17 year old kid losing their mind over a Honda BEAT as you are to find a white haired man with a beard doing the same thing over these Triumph TR3s. It reminds me of when I was a kid going to Hot Import Nights for the first time and getting jacked up on all of the free cups of NOS energy drink. Every car is something special, you feel like you need to look at every single thing.

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That is another piece of the of the mosaic that makes this show so good, everything pays off to look at. Some cars that are obviously cool, like this Volkswagen Type 3. They immediately draw your attention and reward you when you get to the details. You go in expecting something excellent and you aren’t disappointed.

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Other cars in the show pay off once you get up close to them. To be entirely honest, I was even thrown off by this car and I pride myself on knowledge of the most obscure cars I can fathom. Richard Halkyard spotted it from half a block away, it is a Humbler Super Snipe. While it looks like an upscale Checker Marathon from the outside, under the hood it gets really interesting.

Humbler Engine

It sports an overhead valve inline six, which on it’s own doesn’t sound like much to write home about, but if you consider that it has hemispherical combustion chambers and a crossflow head design, it suddenly becomes very interesting. Now add that this was designed in the UK in 1958 and was put into a slightly upscale but still largely affordable car, it becomes even more noteworthy.

Super Snipe Badge

In 1958, outside of Chrysler’s Firepower V8 engine, a hemispherical OHV cylinder head could only really be found in upscale marques such as Jaguar, Porsche or the incredibly rare MG MGA Twin Cam. The crossflow design, where the intake is opposite of the exhaust on the head, is something we take for granted today but it wasn’t a common design on six cylinder engines until the 1980s, and it was still usually only seen on high performance vehicles for another decade.

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As great as cars like the Humbler Super Snipe were, going through a completely esoteric show full of things most car enthusiasts have never heard of can feel like it isn’t relatable sometimes. InterMarque wasn’t just completely bizarre European classics, cars like this Mk2 Celica Supra and NA Miata were in show as well. The Japanese representation is still small at InterMarque but it has been growing year over year. What is lost in quantity is made up for with quality though because not only were the cars like these two cars mere examples of great Japanese cars, but they were among two of the best examples I’ve seen yet in Minnesota. This Supra on it’s own could contend at Japanese Classic Car Show out in California and the Miata was no slouch either. Lining the block you could still find the occasional Datsun or Mazda tucked away in other spots as well and they were welcome just as much as the British roadsters were, it honestly felt really good seeing a show that didn’t discriminate one brand over another.

2CV Spitfire Rear

There was so much to see at this show, it could have not been any better, we will be updating with a second part that is more focused on the cars in show. It was just pertinent that we talk about what really made InterMarque great. The location, the attitude, the community, it isn’t just one aspect that makes a show great but everything put together. Like our real estate reference in the beginning said, the house, the yard and the location all make for perfection.  If you’ve never been to InterMarque, you’re missing out on one of the best shows of the year and you owe it to yourself to check it out next year.

TOP 5: BEST 4X4S FOR UNDER $7,000

Winter has arrived in Minnesota. I myself was made aware after my half hour commute became a three hour snow blind odyssey last week. This makes it a rather pertinent time to start our new reader poll series where we ask you, the reader, to help us determine what you view as your favorite cars for various topics.

Winter has arrived in Minnesota. I myself was made aware after my half hour commute became a three hour snow blind odyssey last week. This makes it a rather pertinent time to start our new reader poll series where we ask you, the reader, to help us determine what you view as your favorite cars for various topics.

Let’s start with what your favorite cheap 4×4 and AWD vehicles are. While 4 wheel power is not a prerequisite of a Minnesota winter, it often gives us an excuse to buy some sort of awesome 4 wheel drive vehicle we otherwise couldn’t justify. Our rules for this were simple, it has to be 4WD or AWD and has to be under $7,000. That price point was chosen because you aren’t forced to find a zombie of a car but it’s a price that can still be feasibly bought by most people as a daily driver. We will list our staff picks, honorable mentions and then finally the Top 5. In this list we are also including pricing. While this is not exact, this is the expected price for an example in reasonable condition but you can certainly find a deal for less than we’ve listed.

Staff Picks

We will start off with some staff picks for what would be a good option, these are cars we personally would choose but might be a bit out of other people’s wheelhouse.

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Ryan: 1985-1994 EA82 Subaru GL/Loyale ($200-$6,600)

I chose this car from personal experience with my EA82 Subaru GL-10 Turbo at home. That car is dreadfully unreliable, a simple trip down the road is a question of if you will even arrive or not, all to often resulting in the latter option. That being said, if you get one of the non-turbo models, you have one of the most capable AWD cars around. There are times in the dead of winter where, if my GL-10 is running, it can get through snow that nothing else in my stable can handle. The standard drive mode is FWD but it has a push-button 4WD for low speeds, when an EA82 is in 4WD you can get through anything your tires can grip. With any of the EA82 cars, they will be very slow, making at most 90 HP or 110 HP on a turbo model at a high cost of reliability. However, performance can be had since the car only weighs 2200 lbs and it has engine mounts and an ECU location that fit a more modern EJ series engine without issue.

The EA82 can either be an avant-garde sleeper or a mountain goat that can get anywhere at it’s own leisure. With the rarest variant in concours condition being worth $6,600 on a good day and driving examples being literally given away, it’s great value for money. The major killer of these cars is rust, the bodywork on this car is about as thick as aluminum foil and can rust very quickly. Mechanically, almost every EA engine left in existence has cracking between the valves on the head, in the majority of cases this is no issue but if they’re overheated too much, the cracks can enter coolant galleys and it’s game over for that engine. If maintained though, an EA82 can drive indefinitely and through anything.

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Erik: 2003-2010 E83 BMW X3 ($2,500-$7,000+)

For Erik’s pick, the first generation of the BMW X3 is hard to beat. I will admit, at first glance, hearing Erik say a crossover is his winter warrior weapon of choice made me question his mental health, but after some research I see what he is getting at. These cars, to the average person, are just old luxury crossovers and have the danger of being a depreciating maintenance nightmare but there’s more to them than that. The depreciation of this truck is it’s greatest ally, while it’s hard to justify $10,000 for a crossover of any sort, when you’re comparing something like this in price to a mid-2000’s Accord, it looks really good.

Mechanically the E83 X3 is just a lifted up E46 325/330Xi, with how good the E46 was, suddenly, the E83 X3 looks really appealing. Better yet, there was a manual version of the X3 available which is a huge boon to the allure of this truck. When you look even further it actually has a beefier transfer case than the standard E46 and, with that inline-6, it has some decent grunt to it. The creature comforts like heated leather seats and all the fixings you’d expect from BMW really beat out what most other manufacturers offer and it honestly looks really good, especially for a crossover. One of the most overlooked parts of a truck like the X3 is that it has parts availability, while my pick would leave you in your driveway while you search for the world’s last EA82 distributor, these trucks are a dime-a-dozen. This truck is actually a really good idea if you’re looking for something German.


Audience Picks

Honorable Mention:

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There were a number of interesting picks that I would have loved to have make the cut but unfortunately only got one or two votes. The first honorable mention comes from Ben Hsu at Japanese Nostalgic Car with his vote for the Isuzu Trooper/Acura SLX noting that they’re hovering around $2,000 so you have $5,000 left over for repairs you will indelibly have. Suzuki seems to have had more votes than any other brand other than Subaru but no single chassis got over two votes, cars like the Kizashi and the SX4 are great buys for cheap.

There was a strong argument for the Audi Quattro AWD system and it was in 6th place for total votes. American offerings like the Jeep Cherokee XJ, Chevy Tahoe and Ford Bronco II were mentioned as well. The most interesting car that didn’t make the cut however was the Camry Alltrac, which was made from 1988-1991 and has an interesting story in-of itself that you can read here. Finally, you can’t name the Camry Alltrac without also mentioning the Previa Alltrac, so it is worth name dropping that van too.

Top 5 4×4 Vehicles Under $7,000:

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5.) Mitsubishi Montero ($800-$7,000+)

If you looked at almost any Mitsubishi from the 1980’s and 1990’s, you would never imagine how they could have put themselves in the position they’re in today. The first two generations of Montero particularly stand out among Mitsubishi’s products. Known internationally as a Pajero or as the Dodge Raider, the Montero quickly gained a name for itself on par with the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Nissan Patrol during the SUV boom. The mechanical stoutness of the Montero can be seen with it’s rally victories at Paris-Dakar, Australasian Safari and Northern Forest during the 1980s.

When looking for a Montero, the 5-door models are the most common however some digging can source a significantly more aesthetically pleasing 3-door model. At a price point where you can find a just-shy-of-concours model within our range, this truck gives you the ability to go anywhere in 1980s style. The vast majority of Monteros have been beaten back into the earth however, so be diligent looking for any signs of rust or poor maintenance. Some of the most common issues include cracked cylinder heads, head gasket failure and damaged valve seals. As great of a truck as it is, the endangered nature of the Montero is one of the causes it ranked so low on our list.

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4.) Jeep Wrangler ($1,500-$7,000+)

Birthed from a need for basic wheeled transportation for the military in the 1930s, what we know as the Jeep Wrangler originally was sold as the CJ which stood for Civilian Jeep. The original designs for the CJ date back to 1944 but it’s first production was July 17, 1945 and it continued under the CJ moniker until Chrysler acquired production rights in 1986 and gave it the new name “Wrangler.” Although it has gained creature comforts and evolved immensely in the last 70+ years, the Wrangler still does offer a very good off road vehicle and you can even get the original CJ-2A design as the Mahindra Roxor ATV today. With the vast quantities on the road today, the Wrangler might be the most attainable single vehicle on this list. A flawless or heavily modified Wrangler can run you north of $20,000 but a drivable example can be found for as little as $1,500.

That being said it can get through most snowy situations with very little trouble but that comes at a cost. The short wheelbase and tall center of gravity of the 2-door Wrangler makes the truck unstable in some situations. When you combine that with amateur drivers, it explains the vast quantities that you see stuck on the side of the road. Another issue in older Wranglers is that they are notoriously drafty with a canvas top that isn’t the best at keeping in heat. With Minnesota winters being colder than they are snowy, this creates a large issue in our climate. If you don’t get over confident and can keep it sealed up, a Wrangler can be a very good option for winter. The biggest killer of these trucks is rust, especially at the leaf spring shackles. Mechanically, the 4.0L L6 is one of the best American engines ever designed and can run indefinitely assuming it has been properly maintained. For transmission, as always aim for the manual option.

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3.) RD1 Honda CRV ($1,000-$4,500)

The first generation Honda CRV was Honda’s first in-house designed SUV after they had a handful of rebadged Isuzus previously. Powered by a bored and stroked out Integra B-series engine, the RD1 chassis CRV is extremely reliable in stock form but it also has room for additional performance as well. The main failure point of this engine is cracked cylinder walls due to their thin nature, but this is rare outside of aftermarket turbocharged form. While available in FWD, it is not recommended since a manual AWD version was sold stateside. The Real Time AWD system of the CRV is bulletproof with failures resulting only from extreme neglect.

If you can’t leave well enough alone, there are plenty of aftermarket parts available for the RD1. Not only were there different versions available around the world with unique parts but Honda’s factory tuning division, Mugen, had a catalog for the RD1 including bodykits, exhaust and suspension, among other items. With a B-series engine that was evolved from a Non-VTEC Integra, it is common to see the “CRVtec” swap done with B16 or a B18C cylinder head and ECU. There are over the counter conversion kits available for this swap, which takes out all of the guessing work and creates a sizable bump in power. The main detractor that keeps the RD1 out of second place is the worry of theft. With a sought after B20 engine and extensive parts that have cross-platform fitment, the RD1 can attract thieves like most other 1990’s Hondas. That being said, if you keep comprehensive insurance on the truck, it will get you through nearly anything.

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2.) Modern AWD Subaru Platforms ($1,500-$7,000+)

Every Subaru sold in America and made by Fuji Heavy Industries since 1997 has been AWD so it is very hard to exclude them from this list. The WRX is arguably one of the best AWD platforms in history and it’s racing pedigree doesn’t lie. Another positive of the Subaru AWD system is a native 60/40 split, none of that “Active AWD” garbage that goes 100/0 then turns on AWD once you’re already flirting with disaster. You don’t need to look towards the bottom end of Subaru’s performance catalog for a good car in this price range though, nearly every modern Subaru platform will do great in winter. Something as simple as your standard Outback has the potential to be a great car or, if you want something more unique, try something with an H6 like an SVX or an Outback H6. Unfortunately Subaru hasn’t made an manual H6 since the 1980s, so it would require a manual swap for good measure.

When looking for trouble spots, these cars can very easily succumb to rust if not cared for correctly, if possible find one in Colorado or the pacific northwest. Those areas are lousy with FHI products and they don’t salt the roads so it is much easier to find a clean example for pennies on the dollar compared to Minnesota. If you’re mechanically inclined, finding one with a leaking head gasket that is still running could be a chance to save a lot of money if you do the job yourself. Make sure the car has even tire wear as these are fulltime AWD and the transmissions can shred themselves to pieces relatively quickly with mismatch tire sizes and wear. These cars are lego kits, engine swaps and manual swaps are fairly simple and there is an extensive aftermarket for nearly every modern Subaru.

 

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1.) Toyota 4Runner ($2,300-$7,000+)

For our first place pick, choosing anything but this truck would be a crime. The Toyota 4Runner, regardless of what generation you get, has always been an extremely capable off roader. Based off of the Hilux pickup, this truck is endlessly reliable with it’s most common killer being rust. You can also get just about any combination of powertrains you want; manual or automatic, 4 or 6 cylinder, NA or turbo, solid front axle or independent. Diesel variants even existed outside of the United States but procuring one of those would blow us out of the $7,000 budget. The highway driveability of the 4Runner outperforms it’s competitors by leaps and bounds with minimal sacrifice to performance. These reasons firmly put the 4Runner into first place for the best 4×4 under $7,000.

The most sought after 4Runner generation is the original N60 generation. These had a removable fiberglass topper for summer fun and early models had a solid front axle which is sought after by off-roaders. This is the generation built off the Hilux that Top Gear famously tried, and failed, to kill. The second generation is a good pick as well but is slightly more issue prone than the original, not that it’s a low bar by any means. If you do find yourself a second generation as these will be the most common in this price range, watch out for head gasket issues on the 3.0L 3VZ V6 and make sure the rear electric window works otherwise the tailgate won’t work. Regardless of what 4Runner you buy, these come from Toyota’s golden age when they had their finger on the pulse of how to make a good vehicle and it’s hard to go wrong.

If you missed the poll on Facebook and have a vehicle you think would be good for this, feel free to tell us in the comments.