Project Renault update: It runs!

A few days after dragging the Renault home, I ordered all of the parts for a timing belt refresh from a Renault guru who rebuilds the tensioners himself, and went nuts on spares from RockAuto. Since RockAuto was having a closeout on Renault parts, I stocked up on everything I could; I snagged a $5 water pump and some $25 struts among other dirt-cheap parts. eBay provided a Haynes service manual for 75 cents, while I also ordered a period factory service manual for $30. When the weekend hit and I had everything in hand, I started tearing into the car.

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Today’s Bad Idea: 1988 Citroen BX 16 TS

Automotive Francophiles like me are an uncommon group in the United States, as is pretty much anything manufactured by Citroen; they gave up on the American market back in the 1970’s, a good 20 years before its relatively plebeian competitors Renault and Peugeot. Citroen earned its place in the history books with the iconic 2CV, beautiful DS and exotic SM models, which were very sophisticated but characteristically lacking in build quality and reliability. After owner Michelin left Citroen on the brink of death in 1974, Peugeot came to the brand’s rescue, offering a much-needed influx of cash along with a parts bin and platforms Citroen could borrow to slash development costs. By the 1990’s, the quirkiness that once made Citroen so special had all but disappeared, but transitional models like this BX and the later XM managed to wonderfully mix Citroen oddity with Peugeot’s improved build quality and parts support. Basically, these models are perfect for French car enthusiasts who like to drive their vehicles more than work on them. So why is this rather nice 1988 BX 16 TS a Bad Idea?

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Today’s Bad Idea: 1981 Lancia Beta Zagato Spyder

How many Italian car companies can you name? To the average American, Lancia probably doesn’t come to mind, despite their presence in the U.S. market until the early 1980’s. Enthusiasts know and cherish the brand’s famous models; the charming Fulvia, exotic Stratos and rally-dominating Delta Integrale are oft-cited high points for the marque (although the downright bizarre Thema 8.32 deserves some recognition as well). Like most manufacturers though, their bread-and-butter offerings don’t command the same zealotry. Enter the Lancia Beta, offered in a number of configurations: a basic coupe, the racy mid-engine Montecarlo (known as the Scorpion in the U.S. thanks to General Motors), the bizarre HPE (for High Performance Estate, an odd Lotus Éclat-like mishmash of ideas) and finally the Zagato Spyder, one of which is offered here on AutoTrader for an exorbitant $2999.

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Today’s Bad Idea: Three 1970’s Lotus orphans

Most Lotus purists bemoan the early 1990’s Elan model as a travesty, unworthy of the Lotus namesake. I think that’s a little harsh; while they are the only front-wheel-drive Lotus ever made, they were still excellent handling little roadsters with neat styling, a robust and sprightly Isuzu turbo drivetrain and a bit of obscurity thrown in for good measure. Sure, they couldn’t match the revered Esprit supercar, but then again they weren’t supposed to. What really puzzles me is that the modern Elan is so derided, yet the 1970’s Elite and Eclat get a free pass! These hideous monstrosities are probably the worst vehicles Lotus ever churned out, as evidenced by the fact that three of them are for sale here on Craigslist for $1500 each.

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Nordic Thunder: 1987 Saab 900 turbo

Late in my high school career, I found a Saab 900 turbo sedan for sale on eBay. The bidding was only up to a couple hundred dollars; I had some cash from my first job and Target and decided to put a bid in. I won it for $350. My father told me to get rid of it as soon as I brought it home, so I hid it at the school auto shop and eventually sold it to a classmate after barely driving it. That felt like a missed opportunity, but a few years later I found another one on Craigslist for $500 that seemed to have few issues. Of course, I bought it, and finally got to experience one of these weird and wonderful cars for quite some time.

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