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Rack and (O)pinion: These Craigslist steals and deals could be your new ride

Posted by Alex Pearlman  February 4, 2012 06:24 PM

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craigslist_cars xkcd.pngBy Janssen McCormick

Craigslist is as bad at selling cars as it is at sex. If you’re searching for a cheap ride or parts, you probably won’t end up the victim of a Lifetime Original Movie -- but you’ll definitely come across some sketchy characters: Bro-dudes who totally want to trade their beater '92 Civic for some “wikked sik sport bikes, khed, or a STI straight up” (which seems incredibly fair). Scummy New Hampshire used car salesmen posting their lemons “on the MA/NH border” when they're an hour north of Manchester. Morons who ignore the auto parts section to spam “----------->@@@@@\\\\\\\\BMW HONDA JDM BUGGGATTI RIMS 18in $600///@@@@//////<-------------” or hideous body kits that went out of style around the time of 2 Fast 2 Furious.

And yet, there are some vehicles -- I can’t really call them “gems,” because that implies that these cars are great, OK verging on good, or at least interesting -- for sale on Craigslist Boston that might be worth your time. These are a few of the pieces of unblemished corn that rose to the top of the septic tank this week.

1995 Acura Integra LS (B20 engine swap) ($3,500). A Craigslist user’s idea of low mileage ranges between a little generous (50,000 miles) to a complete failure to understand what “low” means (100,000 miles). This '95 Integra with a B20Z engine swapped in from a CR-V clocks in at 35,000 miles, which must qualify as negative mileage on Craigslist. The owner claims to have paperwork documenting all the aftermarket parts, and once you get past the spelling errors, it isn't a bad slate of suspension and tranny work. The Enkei 92 wheels look pretty sharp -- low-key accoutrements on a model too often riced out. Integras are famously fun to drive, and Edmunds included them on its list of the 10 best used cars under $5,000, making this low-mileage Integra a nice option.

1998 BMW 750iL ($4,900). Fresh off the lot, BMW's E38 7 Series was the height of cool -- name-dropped in Biggie verses, driven by Clive Owen in BMW's groundbreaking viral film series “The Hire;” James Bond even had a remote-controlled version. This 750iL packs the 1999 International Engine of the Year (4L and up), a massive V12 that also powered the BMW 8 Series supercars and Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, electronics that only recently trickled down to the average car, and the optional Alpina sport suspension. Looking at things (*cough* 339,000 miles *cough*) rationally, the atrocious mileage and massive depreciation make it impossible to recommend buying this car. But being a gearhead and being rational are often mutually exclusive, and it's hard to resist the appeal of the cheapest way to get a V12. Plus, this car has a car phone, which is undeniably hilarious.

1990 buick reatta.jpg1990 Buick Reatta ($3,999). Sweet Christ, it's the Alexandre Daigle of automobiles -- a Buick Reatta. Fewer than 7,000 of these hand-crafted luxury Buicks exist, so seeing one that looks as sweet as this example is a treat. The immaculate red-on-red leather interior is both amazing and sleazier than King Arthur's Lounge. And because this ad is for a 1990 model, there's no need to worry about the horribly executed, two-decades-ahead-of-their-time touch screen control panels that plagued the 1988 and 1989 models -- just a ton of old knobs that make the radio look like a commercial jetliner's cockpit. The car was an utter failure in sales and is a classic example of unrealized potential, but maybe you can convince yourself this Reatta is a collector’s item.

1985 BMW 528e ($1,000). What can you get for $1,000 -- a dumpy, slumlord-owned studio that's two bus transfers away from the T? Screw that: In the world of Craigslist cars, a grand gets you behind the wheel of this feces-colored 1985 BMW 528e and gains you entry into the world of '80s scumbags who refuse to help other motorists. A quick glance at BMW forums will give you plenty of proof of these mid-80s Bimmers’ resilience, softening the blow of 218,000 miles on the excellent “little six” M20 engine in this E28. According to the seller, the car “needs some exhaust and rear brake work to be great,” which in Craigslist-ese often means, “This car's louder than 40 semis synchronizing downshifts, and you probably shouldn't drive it in the rain.”

1970 MCI Challenger Bus ($3,995). There's a nice history lesson in the ad for this 1970 MCI bus, which WGBH used for remote broadcasts from 1984 to 2007 and originally served as a Greyhound package transport. But the most important thing you need to know is that the vehicle is an enormous bus that's had the interior stripped. The seller recommends it for a DIY RV conversion project, but that's too expensive and boring. Whoever buys it should pack a bunch of friends in the back, find a huge parking lot, and pull off some bus donuts -- i.e., create a human pinball machine. It's the only sensible, mature option.

Have you ever searched for cars on Craigslist? How was your experience?

'Rack and (O)pinion' is TNGG Boston's space for all things auto, written by Janssen McCormick.

Photo by xkcd (top) and Rex Gray (bottom; Flickr)

About Janssen -- I'm a public school teacher and music critic. I also teach adult ESL classes through a volunteer organization in Boston's Chinatown. So right off the bat you can guess my progressive bent in areas of education and immigration policy. Beyond the political, I've been attending DIY shows since I was 14 or so, getting heavily involved in Boston's metal scene. I've also been a subject of a 'Village Voice' cover story, which was sort of fun in a "through the looking glass" sort of way.

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