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.


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: Back to the 80’s 2019

The abundance of interesting things at BTT80’s is one of the show’s strong suits. It brings out a lot of the obscure cars around the state that you just don’t see anywhere else. The show isn’t just a bunch of Fieros, C4 Corvettes and dudes walking around in tube socks with jorts. While yes, those things exist at BTT80’s, there were also some of the weirdest things you just don’t see at other shows.

BTT80s 944 Trans Am Checkin.jpg

I went to the first Back to the 80’s back when they were hosting it up in Blaine. It was pretty cool to see the show happen but, good lord, you don’t realize how far away Blaine is from Minneapolis until you sit in traffic for an hour and a half in a CRX without AC just to go walk around in a hot parking lot for the rest of the day. It was a sign of things to come though, the organizers had more passion for that show than I’ve seen in most other shows.

Fiero Joey Clean.jpg

Fast forward to 2019, the show is now in Burnsville, still a third ring suburb but much easier to reach. The word has gotten out and the sponsors have been coming out of the woodwork, the organization has improved drastically and the show itself has exploded in size.

Shane's Celica.jpg

Going to the show for the first time in years, I was worried about it being another parking lot show. That being said, it didn’t feel like it was in a parking lot. Of course, it was cloudy, which did help but I didn’t feel like I was walking across the entire Earth to get from one end to the other end. I could walk from Shane’s Celica to the food trucks, effectively across the show, and I wasn’t looking off into the horizon to find something worth looking at.

Ford Exp.jpg

The abundance of interesting things at BTT80’s is one of the show’s strong suits. It brings out a lot of the obscure cars around the state that you just don’t see anywhere else. The show isn’t just a bunch of Fieros, C4 Corvettes and dudes walking around in tube socks with jorts. While yes, those things exist at BTT80’s, there were also some of the weirdest things you just don’t see at other shows. This Ford EXP is a prefect example, I had never seen one in the flesh until this show. Apparently the owner owns a dozen of these, the majority are parts cars to support the runners, and as the owner of an obscure 80’s car, I feel his pain.

Pontiac Tojan Front.jpg

Cars like this Pontiac Tojan were there, speaking of weird things that you just don’t see. The Tojan was supposed to be a Ferrari fighter based off of the F-Body platform with a heavily modified TPI V8, vastly improved handling and Gotti wheels. Unfortunately given that the Pontiac name didn’t have the cachet of the Ferrari name, less than 150 were produced. There might be a day when the Tojan just explodes in value, remember Duesenbergs were once totally forgotten too.

v20 Wagon.jpg

Next to the Tojan was my personal favorite car of the show. The world’s cleanest V20 generation Toyota Camry. This car was never intended to be preserved, it’s shocking to see one in this good of condition. The V20 Camry holds a place in my heart, not only was it the first car I learned to do spark plugs on but its actually a really cool car when you start to look into them. I actually did an in depth history of this car for Japanese Nostalgic Car a couple of years ago, you can find the link here.

Camry Interior.jpg

Talking to the owner of it, he said that it was actually an eBay buy. The car had an insane reserve price, so the current owner PM’ed the seller to drop the price a bit, after some back and forth it became his and for a much more reasonable price. While I still am confused as to why this was preserved to such a level, I couldn’t be any happier about the results and his buying process was totally within the spirit of Carbitrage. Our friend of the show that I was walking aroung with, Darren Brooke, described the car as “profoundly beige” and that it was the “essence of the color beige.”

Sprint Turbo.jpg

One more insanely rare car goes back to GM, or rather Suzuki, for one of the coolest cars I’ve known about but never expected to actually see in real life, The Chevrolet Sprint Turbo. This is a 3 cylinder captive imported Suzuki Cultus featured a turbocharger and possibly the smallest intercooler I’ve ever seen in my life.

Sprint Intercooler.jpg

Here is a picture of said intercooler with Josh Stowell’s hand for scale, like I said, comically small. With the 8 psi of additional boost and a large dollop of torque steer, the Sprint Turbo reached 70 HP and a shockingly fast 8.1 second 0-60 time. For reference, thats faster than the last years of the C3 Corvette, the AW11 MR2 non-supercharged and even an E30 325i.

Sprint Turbo Interior.jpg

Anyway, this car went through a complete engine out restoration and is likely the best Chevrolet Sprint in existence. If I recall correctly, the owner’s efforts resulted in a first place finish for the Captive Import category of the show.

Grand National Stage 2

Outside of the weird stuff floating around the show, there were so many C4 Corvettes, 3rd generation Trans-maro-birds and G-bodies that it would make your head spin. They likely accounted for at least 10% of the show but what felt good about it is that they appeared in smaller clumps and it made it a bit easier to take in. With so many cars, some were easy to walk past while others were rather unique. This Regal T-Type was a great example, judging by the chrome trim, I don’t think it was actually a Grand National or GNX but with the drag radials in the back and massive exhaust, it looked like it could boogie.

I do have to mention the C4 for a moment because there were a lot of them. Some of them looked slapped together with coathanger exhausts but, cars like this Lingenfelter ZR1, were in amazing condition. We forget how important the ZR1 was for the Corvette when it came out, it brought the Corvette back into the limelight after people had written it off for the better part of a decade. The ZR1 sported an aluminum V8 with DOHC 32 Valve head and 375 HP from the factory. The Lingenfelter version even expanded that an extra 100 HP, making it one of the most powerful cars you could purchase in the early 1990’s.

MA61 Celica Supra White Front.jpg

Of all the manufacturers from Asia, one brand in particular was able to create more consistently great cars than any other, Toyota. The Toyotas in show were excellent, a handful of trucks were there, a few Mk2 Supras and every variant Celica sold in the 80s. Getting a good look at the white MA61 Celica Supra at the DJ booth was entirely worth experience all of the 110 decibels of Huey Lewis coming out of those speakers behind it.

Red A40 Celica Coupe.jpg

Outside of the Supras, the 80’s Celicas were all pretty great, albeit not the fastest thing in the world but they’re 80’s cars, it likely never will be the fastest thing around. Instead, for very little money a Celica can get you into something that is fun, bulletproof reliable and easy on the eyes. This red A40 Celica falls deeply into the podium of best A40s I’ve ever seen, not just in Minnesota but have seen at all.

ST185 Celica GT Four.jpg

The first car I saw when I pulled into the show was this ST185 Celica. At first, I saw it and thought that it was a nifty little GT Four clone, it had the right bumpers, hood and even graphics. Then the owner got out and I saw that it was RHD, it was a real ST185 GT Four and further more was a GT Four RC, the highest trim level with the widebody and AWD. The owner and his girlfriend were wonderful people, extremely friendly and were thrilled to show off their car in the show.

Hello Kitty Suzuki.jpg

Robert Correll brought out his Hello Kitty Itasha Suzuki Alto Works. Fun fact, me and Jana have almost bought this car on several accounts but the logistics never worked out, it was either posted for sale when we were out of town or right after we had just bought a car. I am really happy to see it went to a good home and Robert has done a great job expanding on it’s theme. When we were at the show this little girl came up to Jana and poked her on the butt asking if she owned the car, the girl was rather shocked when a tall mustachioed man turned out to be it’s owner.

Alto Hood.jpg

If you’re not familiar with a Suzuki Alto Works, it is a kei hot hatch. It was government limited to 60 HP but you can easily double the stock output with bolt on parts. The car came in either FWD or AWD and was manual only. If you want a more in depth description of the Alto Works, I have an article here at Japanese Nostalgic Car. The Alto Works is most definitely a Carbitrage Top Buy.

Tommykaira R32R.jpg

Speaking of imported cars, we should probably mention the R32 Skyline. To stand out with an R32 GTR today, you have to have something really special, I found the coolest and most special GTR I’ve seen yet. This is an actual Tommykaira R32R, one of 400 ever made. These were $76,000 when new back in 1992, that was double what the standard GT-R retailed for. For those who are unfamiliar with the brand, this is to the GT-R what RUF is to Porsche.

Tommykaira R32R Interior.jpg

It came with a bespoke bodykit, wheels, interior accents and was tuned to make more power while still being just as driveable as a standard GT-R. Unfortunately the owner didn’t have the Tommykaira wheels on the car. Apparently, the night before the show he discovered a loose wheel face bolt. With dozens of bolts holding the wheel face on, he didn’t have the time to make sure every bolt was torqued correctly and didn’t want to damage the car so he threw on his spare wheels.


Naturally with a show featuring 80’s cars, we were bound to see a lot of the first wave of modified trucks, sky high Toyota pickups, the last clean Bronco II, both generations of Subaru BRAT and some wild paint jobs were to be seen.

C1500 Diesel

Without any doubt, the one that caught our eye was this slammed C1500 with a choptop, a FedEx truck Detroit Diesel engine coming out of the hood and in the bed, not only smokestacks but two fog horns out of an old supertanker that was scuttled in Duluth. This truck is every bit as ridiculous as it is awesome.

Calloway Cabrio.jpg

So not only is this arguably the best Cabriolet in existence but it also has a cool story to it. Chad Erickson, the owner of SCI, originally built this with his dad back in the 90’s and it’s still in the family. It still has the Calloway turbo kit on it that they installed over 20 years ago and it is still going strong. Chad posts regularly about cruising around in it with his mom, his kids and, fun fact, he can even fit his BMX bike in the back.


Back to the 80’s has grown massively since it’s inception. I am really happy to see what it has done, it’s a testament to the commitment of the hosts. Growing from a small show put on by the local Minnesota Fiero club to something that can take up nearly a quarter of the parking available at one of the largest malls in Minnesota is nothing to scoff at. It is a unique show in of itself too, kind of a combination of Concours of Lemons and Radwood. I really have to say, if you didn’t go this year then you have to go next year. Even if you don’t particularly care for 80’s cars, there is still something there for everyone.


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.


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.


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:


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


On this episode of MotorCult we get the pre-war bell off to an early start, talk about Woodchucks and Serbia continues battling in the World Cup of Cars



On this episode of MotorCult we get the pre-war bell off to an early start with an auction update on Gary Cooper’s Dusenberg SSJ. 400 HP made this one of the most powerful non-aerocars made prior to WWII, and even today it’s technology holds up.


Speaking of cars worthy of restoration we talk about what cars we would want to restore if cost was no object at all. On the topic of purchasing decisions our Patreon question asks if fuel prices change extensively how would that affect our travel decisions and would we purchase different cars.


In news we talk about Paul Ryan’s Suburban being attacked by woodchucks, yes, woodchucks. BMW is getting a battery size increase for their i3 and the Subaru Forester is having the XT nixed. Finally in news, Berger shops for a winter beater and explains his purchasing decisions.


Finally in the World Cup of Cars, Croatia’s Remac battles the heart and soul of Argentina and Serbia, representing the former Yugoslavia, campaigns it’s Yugo GVX against the Brazilian Puma GTI.

To listen to MotorCult Episode 33 click on the link below.

MotorCult Episode 33

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