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Totally That Stupid: Four Winter Cars for $4000.00

TTS Jaguar

My cohort here at Totally That Stupid and I have a little game we play. It doesn’t have a name, and there are not really any rules to speak of. It goes something like:

“Craigslist. For sale. By owner. $[some random amount]. Go!”

There is nothing in our admittedly thin rulebook about how reasonable the car has to be for any given purpose – or lack thereof – and you don’t have to rationalize it particularly well. It just has to be something you’re kind of into, even if it’s for a very short amount of time, likely less time than it takes you to write a blog about it.

Funny thing, though – most of these cars require significantly less than $4000.00. Apparently, at least in Minneapolis, due to the combined effects of rust and apathy, you don’t actually have to spend four-large on a completely potentially useless, unreasonable car.

Note that pictures and descriptions – or, again, lack thereof – are taken directly from the Craigslist ads with no editing. What you’ll know about these steaming heaps stunning examples of pre-owned automotive engineering is what we know, which is likely more than the seller knows.



BMW 733i

We know this is a 733i because it says so on the trunk, and it’s apparently a US model from before the 1983 facelift given the early interior appointments, the 20-spoke alloy wheels, and the shark nose. It’s been for sale for a long time. Through every ad iteration the price has varied from $2400 to $3500, though the one constant is the “FOR A QUICK SALE” notation.


I’ve thought about calling on it as a possible project but it’s just so damn uninspiring. I understand it has hail damage and rust under its relatively fresh paint, but please clean the poor thing and take some decent pictures. If you won’t clean it up, at least take the water bottle out of the center console.

It could be a nice car, but it isn’t right now.

TTS Cadillac

1962 Cadillac De Ville Sedan

Think of this as the larger, older BMW 733i. It’s a little tatty, probably a little rusty, certainly has needs, and could be a neat car with some vigorous rubbing. Other similarities? Sure! It has four doors, likely has power steering, but doesn’t have antilock brakes. Unlike the 733i, you’d be the king of valet parking when you rolled up in the snow to the Winter Ball.

TTS Cadillac

This Cadillac has something that would be hard to coax out of the 7er: charm and appeal. It has enormous (no pun intended) amounts of personality and presence. Is it too nice to drive all year ‘round? It depends on what it looks like underneath. As it sits, and given the $3500.00 entry fee, I’d bet it’s just about right.

TTS Jaguar

1974 Jaguar XJ12L

This car represents something of a conundrum. It’s a vintage Jag and it looks fabulous in the pictures. The paint looks decent, and somehow Screaming Red looks okay, probably because of the copious amounts of brightwork. The seller states the V12 engine and transmission (autotragic, naturally) have been rebuilt to the tune of $10,000. The interior looks great, minus the wavy dashboard wood. But even that has a charm to it.

TTS Jaguar

And it’s cheap! It’s cheap because it seems to be hiding bodywork best described as dodgy. It needs finishing, whatever that means. I don’t see any air conditioning bits under the hood, and you can only hope the heat works. The Mercedes-Benz “V12” badges on the rocker covers don’t exactly inspire confidence. You probably shouldn’t drive it in the winter, because anything “dodgy” will rapidly become “unraveling” in short order.

TTS Jaguar

TTS Jaguar

Have I mentioned it’s cheap? Under $2000.00. Read that out loud: Under. Two. Thousand. Dollars. It’s practically ATM money for a car that has a lot more going for it than… not. You just have to be brave enough to part it out should anything go wrong, like a light bulb burns out.

TTS Miata

1991 Mazda Miata

Yes, it appears the answer to any and every automotive question is “Miata”. But this one is a better winter candidate than others given the rust, hail damage, and aftermarket seat heaters. The top is newer, and on the second set of wheels you could have winter tires mounted and ready to go. Miatas in general have good cabin heaters, but does this one have AC? A used Miata mirror on eBay is less than $100, and refrigerator white is an easy enough color to match. If it doesn’t have a limited slip for winter duty, that’s easy to source as well.

Part of me wants to try one of these as an all-year car. The other part of me likes the warmth and relative security of my current, modern sedan. Still, a Miata has the benefit of a retractable roof on those rare, 50-degree February days, when the cold has just about driven you insane.

A Final Note

Of these cars, I find the Jaguar the most compelling, with the Cadillac and the Miata tied for a painfully close second. Let that sink in for a second: The best car in the lot is a rusty 12-cylinder British sedan.

Truly the bottom of the barrel, or can we just see it from here?

One thought on “Totally That Stupid: Four Winter Cars for $4000.00 Leave a comment

  1. I’ll bet that BMW was in Eden Prairie. Oddly, I think I’ve dealt with that guy, he was parting out an E34 in his garage…

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