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Thread: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

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    Default recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    We recently traded in our manual crosstrek for am outback, and I want something a little more light and fun to cruise around the dirt roads in VT. I also want to learn a lot more about working on cars, so something more approachable will be fun for that i'm thinking. I don't want anything precious. I would like RWD I think, a GTI or something could be neat too, but i've never owned a RWD car. Here's my current short list of search terms, anything I should add / remove or be aware of? I'm hoping to spend less than 2,000 on the car, and dont really care about the exterior / interior condition.

    1. Volvo 240 - Ideally I would be looking for a 2dr, manual turbo, but these seem rare, fine with 4dr or wagon though. They seem the most abundant of the options i'm thinking, can be had cheap, and I have friends with tons of experience. They seem reasonably tough and light. I wouldn't feel bad about screwing one of these up. I also am a fan of the look. Found plenty in the price range, but not enough manual transmissions yet.

    2. Datsun 510 - Long shot I know, but this would be the dream. Maybe too precious. There seems to be quite a few 240's sitting around in barns around here for some reason, might be cool with that too.

    3. BMW - e30, or I'm sure there are plenty of other models. Seem popular / expensive, and im while the look is cool, it might be "too cool" for me.

    4. Porcshe 944 - surprisingly cheap ones out there, might be fun, not my favorite thing to look at but fun in its strange way.
    --------------------
    another jaunt
    REBAR

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    I grew up on a dirt road and live on a dirt road, in Massachusetts not Vermont but it's the same biome. And I've owned some beaters that I've worked on myself.

    My best most condensed advice is, 1. be willing to travel, and 2. cast a broad net and buy on the condition of the specific vehicle, not the make and model. Old Vermont cars are rusty, and working on rusty cars sucks. When it takes you all day to drill out the bolts that hold the front seats in, just so you can get behind the dash and deal with some salt-induced electrical problem, you really start questioning your choices.

    Don't buy anything complicated or expensive when new - rattling around on dirt roads is tough on 30-=year old electronics, 30-year-old wires get brittle and start rubbing around and getting weird voltage drops. You want something where you can get your head around the electrical system. Also you will find yourself relying on online forums for information and how-to so make sure there's a healthy one for whatever you buy. On the specific cars you mention, 240s are getting rare but Volvo 7 and 9 series are still around, cheap and robust. A 944 really isn't a good starter car for this kind of thing. I kind of want a car like this but where I live, I want a Pinto or a Squareback.

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    buy something with fuel injection

    save yourself some trouble
    Jay Dwight

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Early 90's Miatas are tough as nails, plentiful, lightweight, and reasonably priced. Stock ground clearance would need work, and dirt roading will show you that a ragtop chassis lacks torsional stiffness. But it's a car that starts moving the grin needle at really low speeds. Especially in snow.
    Trod Harland, Physical Educator

    Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. — James Baldwin

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes


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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    A 1981 Honda Accord hatchback with snow tires and a ski pole handle for a shift knob.

    At least, that's what used to work for me. Be ready to catch the aftermarket stereo when you get it airborne.
    Dan Fuller, local bicycle enthusiast

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    1989 Honda Civic 4 wheel drive wagon. The perfect car for those roads.

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by Diablo de Acero View Post
    1989 Honda Civic 4 wheel drive wagon. The perfect car for those roads.
    Yeppppp, very much into that, adding that to the list.
    --------------------
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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by thollandpe View Post
    Early 90's Miatas are tough as nails, plentiful, lightweight, and reasonably priced. Stock ground clearance would need work, and dirt roading will show you that a ragtop chassis lacks torsional stiffness. But it's a car that starts moving the grin needle at really low speeds. Especially in snow.
    you know, thats actually a pretty good idea, into it. I think the way you described it is best, "a car that starts moving the grin needle at really low speeds" is really what im looking for. I'm not out pretending im a rally racer on the roads around here, but it theres a corner where everything is visible and low risk its nice to have a little "extra fun".

    bb014.jpg
    --------------------
    another jaunt
    REBAR

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by lumpy View Post
    I grew up on a dirt road and live on a dirt road, in Massachusetts not Vermont but it's the same biome. And I've owned some beaters that I've worked on myself.

    My best most condensed advice is, 1. be willing to travel, and 2. cast a broad net and buy on the condition of the specific vehicle, not the make and model. Old Vermont cars are rusty, and working on rusty cars sucks. When it takes you all day to drill out the bolts that hold the front seats in, just so you can get behind the dash and deal with some salt-induced electrical problem, you really start questioning your choices.

    Don't buy anything complicated or expensive when new - rattling around on dirt roads is tough on 30-=year old electronics, 30-year-old wires get brittle and start rubbing around and getting weird voltage drops. You want something where you can get your head around the electrical system. Also you will find yourself relying on online forums for information and how-to so make sure there's a healthy one for whatever you buy. On the specific cars you mention, 240s are getting rare but Volvo 7 and 9 series are still around, cheap and robust. A 944 really isn't a good starter car for this kind of thing. I kind of want a car like this but where I live, I want a Pinto or a Squareback.
    All really good points, bad electronics is one of the things I'm worried about. I ran into some issues with our crosstrek and dipped my toes in and messed around with a multimeter enough to know that I know nothing. In reality, the only thing I know with cars is the brake system and oil changes, so I've got a lot to learn.
    --------------------
    another jaunt
    REBAR

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by Diablo de Acero View Post
    1989 Honda Civic 4 wheel drive wagon. The perfect car for those roads.
    Great car. Good idea,

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Outside of the box suggestion:

    buy someone else's cast off or unused already built rally car! Or course then every drive in it requires a helmet.

    Generally used race cars are cheap.

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by rmplum View Post
    Outside of the box suggestion:

    buy someone else's cast off or unused already built rally car! Or course then every drive in it requires a helmet.

    Generally used race cars are cheap.
    maybe theres some used versions from these folks kicking around? https://vtcar.com/

    in all seriousness though, that might be a good idea. Im poking around a bit and found a new england based rally cross, which might be a start.

    this looks amazing. I want in.
    --------------------
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    REBAR

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    I gotta get me one of those shirts.
    Jay Dwight

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    I've got some friends who do rallycross locally. It looks like a hoot.

    Also, that Pinto wagon at 1 minute would fill the bill for me.

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by lumpy View Post
    I've got some friends who do rallycross locally. It looks like a hoot.

    Also, that Pinto wagon at 1 minute would fill the bill for me.
    do you know if its normally like the video shown, as a timed trial esque thing? or is it on a wide head to head course. I always pictured rally cross as a 4 or 5 car thing, but the TT type seems a bit more fun to a new comer. Sure seems like the cyclocross of motorsports, which is great to me,
    --------------------
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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by lumpy View Post
    Great car. Good idea,
    Jay...we had the 2WD (1987 Civic wagon)version of that car for 15 years and it was an urban assault vehicle and trustworthy for sure...probably ventured its way to Portland.
    Last edited by rwsaunders; 01-08-2021 at 12:26 PM.
    rw saunders
    hey, how lucky can one man get.

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by lumpy View Post
    Also, that Pinto wagon at 1 minute would fill the bill for me.
    That performance tailpipe extension!

    I loved the boxy Quattro sedan that I used to own, but at least in my memory it's heavier and bigger than I would want for dedicated dirt road silliness. I also think it would be more interesting/drifty/sketchy to have only two driven wheels.
    Dan Fuller, local bicycle enthusiast

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by s_curran View Post
    do you know if its normally like the video shown, as a timed trial esque thing? or is it on a wide head to head course. I always pictured rally cross as a 4 or 5 car thing, but the TT type seems a bit more fun to a new comer. Sure seems like the cyclocross of motorsports, which is great to me,
    I think it's always timed - it's basically autocross on a loose surface.

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    Default Re: recommendations for an 80's/90's dirt road cruiser with rally vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by 72gmc View Post
    That performance tailpipe extension!
    And the slight lift from the oversized wheels. Perfect!

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