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MetroMPG 07-07-2014 10:45 PM

Project "Save the Flea!" Winter beater: 2007 Civic 1.8L, 5-speed
2 Attachment(s)
(Actual recent pics of the soon to be hermetically sealed specimen.)

After temporarily de-modifying and spending more than a day cleaning up the Firefly (first proper clean-up in about 3 years), I've decided its low miles, advancing years and decent condition have earned it some pampering.

Translation: I am going to stop subjecting it to the salt-soaking automotive rust party that constitutes eastern Ontario wintertimes.

(It has hardly any rust on it at the moment owing to the fact it has only been winter driven about 5/17 years. Also, it's had 3 anti-rust treatments/sprays.)

I'm under no illusion that this car will ever be a collectible. That's not the motivation. But with just 34,000 km on the clock, why ruin it?

So... the hunt is on for a winter beater!

Ideal Candidate: Twinsies!

I think another non-terminally rusted 96-00 Metro-zoid would be perfect, as I could swap ecomods between cars.

Also, I have lots of spare parts! Winter tires on wheels, 3.52 final drive transmissions and the like.

Also, also... I could be more aggressive with the beater's various panels for attaching mods, and then swap them over to the trailer-queen Flea for the other 2/3 of the year. Like the hatchback, with welded-on boat tail mounting mounts, or hacking the bumper covers to make them more aero.

I saw a sweet, sweet $850 Metro last week which I would have bought in a heartbeat if it hadn't been so far away.

I've also been trying for a couple of weeks to get a response on another reasonably priced super-low-miles doppelganger about 2 hours away, but the owner is frustratingly not responding to messages.

War_Wagon even offered up a free "ran when parked!" rust-free '96 Metro from his extensive eco car collection on the west coast! And I seriously (although briefly) considered an epic cross-country road trip to fetch it. mechman600 even sweetened the offer with a reminder he owes me a case of tasty home-brewed beer, but sanity (yawn, boring sanity) prevailed.

More Likely Candidate:

Almost anything cheap, somewhat efficient, with a manual transmission and a 4-cylinder engine.

Define cheap, you say? Around $1500 on the road would be considered cheap here in Ontario where used cars have to pass emissions testing plus a mechanical/safety inspection before you get your plates.

I envy those of you who live in lawless paradises where rusted out, smoking, $450 beaters can be bought and driven, exempt from such troublesome gubmint meddling!

Over $1500 if...

I'm not averse to spending double that amount or more that if I thought I could re-sell next year and break even and/or make a couple of bucks. But I don't really want to get into the fixing-up-and-flipping-cars business. I've got enough projects!

The Candidates So Far ...

To give you an idea what I've been looking at... all 5MT, and prices are "asking prices", nobody's offering mechanically inspected "certified" cars, though some have current valid e-tests:

  • 1998 Neon, 150k kms / 93k mi., $1500 - clean daily driver with good winter tires; female owner decided she needed an AWD car; a few dents & small rust spots. (Sold before I contacted her).
  • 2002 Honda Civic LX sedan, 200k kms / 120k mi., $1500 - another clean daily driver, set of winter & summer tires; female owner says she's tired of driving manual; cracked windshield, busted A/C, a bit of Honda rust. She says the price is firm; I told her get back to me if she changes her mind on that.
  • 2002 Mazda Protege 5, 230k kms / 142k mi., $1200 - rough around the edges (really dirty inside and rustier than the previous two); includes set of winter tires; needs complete brake job, says seller

The 50 km / 30 Mile Beater Rule ...

I'm also not going to drive all over hell's half acre looking at rusted out cars, so I'm limiting myself to somewhat local vehicles. Exceptions may be made for, well, exceptional specimens.

I almost considered going beyond that distance for a...
  • 2001 Pontiac Sunfire, 160k kms / 100k mi, $500 - rusty & banged up exterior, one-female-owner car with new clutch, working A/C and "runs well".
But it's not currently on the road (no plates), so no go (getting it home would be a bigger problem).

The Hunt Continues

Car shopping online is fun. I'll update when I have more news.

backpacker3 07-08-2014 08:38 AM

Have you considered any older (95-02) subarus? For example an older impreza can usually be had for pretty cheap, lot of people get around 30 mpg from them so you could probably get decent FE and, they're usually pretty easy to find a manual in.

There's also the legacy sedan which is a decent choice but I would avoid anything before 2000 because of the ej25 having pretty bad hg issues in the 90s. Unless you don't mind replacing the head gasket yourself it's not too hard and there are tons of tutorials on that on different subaru sites plus you can get the car for a lot cheaper then.

I do recommend you look into the impreza though they have the ej22 which is a awesome engine and might just be perfect for you. The hatch is also kind of similar to the metro too.

Daox 07-08-2014 09:50 AM

Sounds like a fun project. When I was looking for my $1200 beater, I found a lot of vehicles, but the ones I was most keen on was the Saturn S-series cars (specifically SL1 and SC1). They have the highest highway EPA rating of most cars of their era unless you get a HX or TDI or something fancy. Some cars beat them in the city (provided they were lighter), but not by much.

MetroMPG 07-08-2014 11:15 AM

Boneyard find?
1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by backpacker3 (Post 434271)
Have you considered any older (95-02) subarus?

I'd consider anything manual shift 3-4 cyl in my area! Though to be honest (1) there aren't many Subies locally (no dealership), and (2) as a rule I would probably skip AWD because I don't need it and mileage suffers vs. comparable FWD cars.


Saturn S-series cars (specifically SL1 and SC1). They have the highest highway EPA rating
I have seen a couple of SL1's in the $1k range but they violated the "50 km beater" rule.


BONEYARD browsing...

I dropped by 2 new car dealers to see what they had in their trade-in boneyards (older, rough, or hile miles cars they send to auction or sell "as is" from the back lot).

One interesting prospect falls in the category of "spend more upfront, but resell next year and recoup"...

(The actual car in the boneyard)
  • 2007 Civic LX sedan 5MT (34 EPA hwy), $2900 -- high miles for its age (214k kms / 133k mi.) and cosmetically poor: resprayed front bumper/quarter that's flaking plus a new small dent; pretty dirty interior; needs 4 new tires (at minimum).
Some quick research shows the cheapest '07 manuals in this area (170k kms avg.) are in the low $5k range. The cheapest '06 manuals (220k kms avg.) are in the mid $4k range.

That would theoretically give me a ~$1500 budget for taxes/fees/tires/repairs/inspections and re-sell next year at ~$4500.

PaleMelanesian 07-08-2014 11:30 AM


Project "Save the Flea!" Winter beater search: manual, 3/4 cyl, cheap or resellable
Nothing to add, just a snarky reply. I'd love to see how a 3/4 cylinder engine would work. Would that be halfway between 4-stroke and 2-stroke, or something else entirely?


MetroMPG 07-08-2014 11:34 AM

Ha! Or a 1-banger with variable displacement... that's stuck. :D

backpacker3 07-08-2014 02:11 PM

Around here subies are probably the easiest car to find with a manual which is why I suggested it. But I think subarus are a hit or miss kind of thing either you have plenty of them or none at all

MetroMPG 07-08-2014 02:33 PM

Yeah - good point. That's why Civics are extremely common here - they've been Canada's best-selling car for 15 or 16 years in a row.

Also, I just remembered I've eco-driven this same year & model of Civic before:

I saw ~40 mpg US (5.9 L/100 km) in city driving with basic techniques. It'd be pretty easy to get 50+ (4.7 LHK) around town with a bit of engine-off & pulse and glide. (Which is sort of moot since most of my winter driving will be highway use. Not sure what to expect with 75-80 km/h / 50 mph highway DWL though, which is how I spend the majority of my time.)

I've looked at the numbers a bit better... think I'm going to go have a closer look at this Civic.

backpacker3 07-08-2014 02:38 PM

That seems like a once in a lifetime deal I don't think I could ever find a 07 for that price.

MetroMPG 07-09-2014 10:56 AM

test drove the '07 Civic
Well, it's not quite a screaming deal considering tires, mechanical & emissions inspections, and sales tax will put the car right at the low end of the "high miles" price range.

But I drove it and it felt fine. Everything works - cruise, A/C, etc. Clutch felt good, though the transmission is rev-happy like all recent manual Hondas - 2750 RPM at 100 km/h / 62 mph indicated. No onboard fuel economy display, and I didn't bring my ScanGauge for the test drive.

I made an appointment to have my mechanic do a mechanical/safety inspection. The dealership was nice enough to let me do that before making any sort of deal, so that's good.

If there are no big surprises, it's a go!

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