CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 1 – Vehicle Selection


I am always looking for interesting things to do with what I perceive to be interesting cars. I enjoy oddball vehicles as well as extracting the most from something that others would rather throw away. Given this, the first annual The Great Beater Challenge looked tailor made for me. The basic premise is this: buy a vehicle and fix it up all for less than $700Cdn, then drive into the Rocky Mountains with a scavenger hunt along the way. So follow along as I start look for my ride.



Here is the route the rally will be taking; roughly a six to seven hour drive each way. The plan is to camp at the end of the first day. This might prove to be a little cool temperature-wise given it will be in the middle of September.


The beater challenge starts on flat prairie but quickly heads into the mountains for the majority of it. The route consists of a mix of single and dual lane highway with a sprinkling of towns in between. I am sure the bends in the road and elevation changes will challenge the mechanical fortitude of our convoy of clunkers.


There is plenty of scenery along the way as well as spots of interest. For example there is an area known as Frank’s Slide where in 1903 the side of Turtle mountain collapsed and partially covered the coal mining town of Frank in Alberta. The already unstable mountain had been mined for coal and in a minute and a half 82 million tonnes rock poured down the mountain in Canada’s most deadly rock slide with 90 people losing their lives. The massive slide is still clearly visible today.


As far as car selection goes the easy button would have been something like a rusty late eighties or early nineties Honda Civic. Or perhaps a GMC pickup with enough body damage to lower the asking price close enough to scrap value. Easy but perhaps lacking in character. If you are going to do a beater challenge it may as well be in a real clunker. As an added bonus in the challenge points are awarded for unlikely and creative vehicles.

Age of vehicle:
+50 for 1980s
+100 for 1970s
+150 for 1960s
+200 for 1950s
+250 for pre-1950

Make of Vehicle:
-50 for Japanese, American, German
+- 0 for Swedish
+50 for Korean
+100 for Italian
+125 for English
+150 for French
+250 for Eastern Block
+100 for a defunct automaker, and +50 for every decade past 1990 the automaker has been out of business



I was hoping to the run something really off the wall like a Vauxhall or a Lada station wagon but given the rally starts in only a couple weeks those options would not be practical. When dealing with an orphan or obscure vehicle lots of lead time on sourcing or adapting parts is required. Maybe I can plan a bit better next year and allocate some more fettle time. For now something more mainstream with a dash of interesting is called for.


I am unsure of why but cheap runner pickings are very slim this summer. In my initial search I went and looked at this Cadillac Fleetwood. With it being a 1985 model I knew up front it had the undesirable HT-4100 engine rather than the still slow but at least more reliable Oldsmobile 307. Checking out the car in person uncovered a few more stumbling blocks. It had been sitting for over two years and off the road for a decade meaning a dead battery and tires that could not hold air to get it loaded onto a trailer. That little aluminum V8 was covered in thick layer dust and grime. On the flip side the body was extremely solid, the interior was serviceable, and the whole car did exude great character. If it had been equipped with a Olds 307 or Chevy 305 I likely would have taken the plunge but not with the HT-4100.


This Chevette based float car would have been a sure fire points winner but I had a few concerns holding me back. First was a lack of a stated asking price on the listing. My experience tells me nine times out of ten when there is no price listed the seller has a massively inflated sense of the item’s worth. Also it was located in Calgary which is a couple hours drive away and I would really need to rent a trailer to retrieve it. Not a huge deal but I would much rather drive my purchase home as my long suffering wife has seen too many vehicles arrive on a trailer. I also a had a niggling doubt that I would be able to drive it 1200+ kms without the police declaring it non-roadworthy at some point along the way.


There was also a Chrysler LeBaron convertible which caught my eye but it would have used up my full budget to purchase. It seemed prudent and reasonable to hold back a little bit for repairs. A remote location stopped me from seeing it right away so it slipped away. Being committed to the rally but without a car I shared my dilemma to an automotive forum I am a member of. Many members shared links to cars for sale but one offered to sell me one out of his collection of Eighties and Nineties cars. It is even labelled as a “Special Edition” so I should get some bonus points for that. To be revealed in the next installment but in the meantime what vehicle would you choose for this adventure? Maybe you can find links to actual cars for sale?

The whole series:
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 1 – Vehicle Selection
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 2 – 1983 Dodge Aries Purchased
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 3 – Vehicle Preparation
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 1 – Off To A Slow Start
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 2 – Rain, Rain, and a Hotel with Character
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 1 – The Big Climb
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 2– Finale