Len Peters COAL piece yesterday has me in a beater frame of mind. We all know what a beater is – a car for the sole purpose of getting (usually) from point A to point B. Looks, of course, don’t matter. In fact, the best beaters are the ones that look the worst. After Len’s piece, I started reflecting on my own beaters (or near beaters) and wondering what a good beater would be in this day and age.
As I think about it, my last real beater was a 1963 Ford F-100 Flairside shortbed. A 6 with the four speed stick, it was certainly not a car for polite society. The park-bench-green paint had long since retired from covering the horizontal surfaces, giving way to that combination of primer and surface rust. The front cab corners were softening, so that the cab was starting to lower onto the frame. This gave the nose of the truck a slight upward tilt, and also thrust the steering column out just a touch so that the turn signals would no longer self-cancel.
Something had broken in the shifting mechanism so that the long shifter would swing in about a two foot arc from side to side, giving a new dimension to the concept of a long-throw shifter. The steering also displayed that Ford-patented center dead space so that six inches from center in either direction were only for looks rather than actually accomplishing any change in direction. But it always started, and it always ran. It never broke down on me, although it would wear me out every time I drove it.
Beaters were easy in the 1970s and 80s. Most old cars of that time were not festooned with pesky things like air conditioning or power windows. There were lots of of rugged Detroit sleds that were no longer part of acceptible automotive society, but still had a few miles left for the less discerning among us. Whether your tastes ran towards a slant 6/Torqueflite or a Lima 460/C6 or a SBC/THM, there were loads of choices out there for the picking.
Today? I’m not as sure. It seems to me that most of the front wheel drive stuff of the last twenty or more years have not been as stout (or as easily fixed) as the older stuff, although there are exceptions. So, what about it, Curbside Commentators? Let’s hear about your ideas for the best choice for a beater today.