Hooniverse Asks: What’s the Most Unworthy Car You’ve Ever Seen Restored?

For April Fools this week I had a Chrysler LeBaron on Nice Price or Crack Pipe over on Jalopnik. It was an early K-car edition, that had been lovingly restored – and more. Clean new paint, a seemingly spotless color-matched top, and a Continental kit gave evidence that the present owner really, really liked K-car LeBarons. That’s… well, not a passion to which many would admit.
Every kind of car has their fans. I’m sure somewhere out there a Ford EXP lover is currently parsing eBay for the right TRX wheel. That of course brings up the subject of today’s rumination which is when fandom devolves into idolatry. Like that LeBaron lover, there are those who don’t just like a car, they do everything in their power – and wallet – to perpetuate the model in as pristine a condition as possible.
That’s what I want to know about today: what are the examples that you have seen of cars unworthy of such life support. Have you seen a restored Fiat Strada? How about a cherry Pontiac Aztek? What are some of the most unworthy reservations you have ever seen?
Image: Hemmings

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  1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    I can’t find the pages now, but there was a guy who restored a mid-90s Civic Hatch to a ridiculous degree of accuracy and attention to detail. I think it wound up in Teal when he was done. It was a crazy project on a car that you can buy for $1500 and in perfect condition ~$7500. So there was absolutely 0 financial upside to the hours, labor and parts this guy put into it.
    I wish I could find the pages about it because his work was impeccable.

      1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

        Looks like it! There is a forum chat that he lays out all of his build on. It was stupidly overdone. I’m not saying a Civic Hatchback shouldn’t be loved, but what he did in man-hours is more than what a new car costs. It was insane.

    1. wunno sev Avatar
      wunno sev

      i know what you’re talking about. fenders totally swiss cheesed, and he rebuilt the things from raw sheet steel over a couple of months in his driveway?

  2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    1. Drives Dead Marques Avatar
      Drives Dead Marques

      “Who hot rods a Yugo?”
      “Well, nobody.”

  3. Lokki Avatar

    A Renault Alliance? True, it’s a convertible, and also true that it might be a barn-find car, but I assure you that a 1985 Renaut Alliance that runs has had enough work done on it to be considered a restoration.

    1. karonetwentyc Avatar

      My Francophile automotive tendencies aside, there’s a pretty good argument from the perspective of historic significance for preservation of the Renault Alliance and Encore: they represent the first full-scale manufacturing effort by a French manufacturer of a French car in America. And with over 600,000 cars sold in a model run that only lasted for not quite five years, they were a successful effort if a short-lived one.
      That said, the reality is that these just aren’t particularly desirable cars for enthusiasts or collectors, at least not on a large scale. Part of that comes down to their reputation for unreliability, part of it comes down to lack of parts availability, and part of it comes down to very few economy cars being viewed as anything other than disposable. But does that make them or any other car unworthy of restoration?
      In the context of the global R9/R11 lineup that the Alliance and Encore were based on, there’s substantial uniqueness in how the the Alliance and Encore ranges were adapted for North American tastes and conditions, and show that Renault was serious about being a major player in North America. Convertibles were built in the US and exported to Europe, though sales numbers were small. Fuel injection on the 1.4- and 1.7-litre engines was unheard of in Europe at the time, though it did come later; ditto air conditioning. The GTA received a 2.0-litre engine that was not (to the best of my knowledge) offered in any other Renault globally. But for all of this, they were very much directly identifiable as R9s and R11s not just in form but also the underpinnings.
      So while restoration of a beige, base-model 1984 Alliance 1.4 automatic with power nothing and clear evidence of an engine fire may not make sense to an outside observer, to someone interested in preserving the legacy of French cars in North America – and one that in particular represents a very unique facet of that history – it’s simply what you do to be able to preserve that history. And if it’s what someone chooses to do simply because it’s what they want to do, who are we to argue against that?

      1. Lokki Avatar

        Preservation of anything can be justified on the ‘Platypus Principle’. Certainly a nice example of the Alliance would be a worthy addition to either of the rooms of the ‘French Cars Sold In America’ museum. However, restoration, using one’s own money and effort is a different matter. History has already ruled against that for these cars. You point out that 600,000 were sold in five years. Yes, but the fourth year’s sales were down to about 65,000 as the car’s reputation became known…. One of the unfortunate consequences of being old is that you remember (some) thing-
        I remember the Renault Alliance Heater Core disaster. Legend has it that Renault had people who they paid to try and track every one of these cars down – even in the junkyards, where they would leave a new heater core in the box on the passenger’s side floor. Why, you ask? See the recall information below.
        However, while I’m sure that this Alliance had the fix done, I don’t think that even those replacement heater cores were built to last 25 additional years.
        Used 1986 Renault Alliance Recalls
        Recall Date: 1992-04-10
        Cars Affected: 540,000
        Recall Date: 1988-05-31
        Of course, if someone wants to restore an Alliance, I would not try to stop them… But the fact that some old newspapers contained significant news doesn’t make every old newspaper worthy of restoration, and the Renault Alliance is an old newspaper with one mildly interesting story in it.

        1. karonetwentyc Avatar

          Really, I agree with the points that you raise – and it’s worth mentioning that the arguments we’ve both put forward can be applied to any vehicle.
          The reality is that while I neither own nor am planning on owning an Alliance or Encore (though I did drive an R11 diesel van for a time), that car wasn’t chosen as my example so that it could be defended or justified: having been mentioned in passing and used as the banner graphic for the article made it an easy choice. And while they certainly had their faults, they also carried some interesting if minor historic significance as well as mechanical and dynamic qualities that tend to be glossed over – which, to the right type of enthusiast, is enough to make restoration worth it even knowing that others may not understand.
          Which is really the point that I was driving at with the final sentence of my original post: “…if it’s what someone chooses to do simply because it’s what they want to do, who are we to argue against that?” There are plenty of cars out there that people have restored that, frankly, I may not care for or about, but as an enthusiast I can’t argue against someone’s desire to preserve them. If nothing else, it would be incredibly hypocritical of me to do so as I’ve made plenty of automotive choices that others would (and have) rolled their eyes at, one of which we currently own and drive.

      2. Guillaume Séguin Avatar
        Guillaume Séguin

        I will back you up on this one.
        My first car was a Renault 9 and a couple of years back I found a bit by chance an Alliance convertible (in Spain). Bought it. These 2 cars look alike but so different from each other, it’s pretty impressive how much effort they put into adapting these to the USDM. I don’t know many cars that were that much adapted to a particular market. Basically even for the body, there is nothing in common besides the front wings. Having a 86, the dashboard and swtiches are specific, the interior colour is of course different. Gear stick is the same though 🙂 Mechanically suspension setup is different, injection and cat that were not in Europe, brakes are different, etc. Bloc is the same. Let alone all the specific of the convertible. I have to say I was very impressed by the effort made. I know I’ll have a hard time to keep this car in shape but has to be done 🙂

  4. Stephen Avatar

    Any time someone takes the time to really do something right and to a high degree of accuracy, you have to respect it. What IS bizarre though is when someone restores a car that was originally built to a terrible standard, perfectly. I think there’s a case for light resto-modding to improve certain areas.
    The 91 Mazda 626 restoration for Alfred Morris was pretty cool: http://www.autoblog.com/2013/10/15/alfred-morris-redskins-receives-restored-1991-mazda-626/

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      That 626 project is totally awesome. I love it.

    2. William Robinson Avatar
      William Robinson

      Yes that was quite the resto. As soon as I seen it I wanted it. Mine was a 88 626 gt sedan that was very close to this one. Mine had power everything with the sport seats in that deep maroon mouse fur. If I could find one in decent condition I think I would do a totally not worth restoration. My 626 was the car that hooked me on TURBO.

    1. Frank T. Cat Avatar
      Frank T. Cat

      Oh god that soda blasting story still makes me pee myself.

      1. mzszsm Avatar

        I had tears of laughter in the corner of my eyes reading that! He really has a knack for retelling stories, his mom paints some very nice murals too, thanks for sharing T!

    2. Manic_King Avatar

      That factory made also racing bikes which had their own class in RR races in the USSR. It was introduction class to road racing so these were for 16- 20 y. olds or so. So slow that one racer commented that on a long straight he had time to check spectators faces while WOT.
      Directly from the factory, with a metal seat-box:
      After GF parts are were bolted on (first thing to do), sourced from a cottage industry:

    3. mzszsm Avatar

      Well I read that all, it was most excellent, thanks again T!

    4. dead_elvis Avatar


  5. jim Avatar

    As i car enthusiast, i think that every old car should be preserved, ESPECIALLY worthless/too common/unloved models.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      My standard example: there are more 300SL than rust free Morris Marinas on this planet. There literally tens of thousands of over- maintained 911, but how many Fiat Regatas are left?

    2. mdharrell Avatar

      I’m working on it.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        You still need one car of the “too common” category?

  6. Jim Sevin Avatar
    Jim Sevin

    I’ve met a man that collects and restores Honda Rovers.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Sorry, I don’t recall meeting you. Are you in NZ?

      1. Jim Sevin Avatar
        Jim Sevin

        And now I’ve met two.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          I think you might be surprised at how common we are. World-wide there may be five or six of us. 🙂

  7. Jaap Avatar

    We passed a shining 1977 Opel Kadett (chevy chevette) on the highway the other week. Who cares?

  8. JayP Avatar

    If one person wants to put forth the effort to restore whatever car, it’ll be worth it.

  9. ratpatrol66 Avatar

    I totally get the Aztec joke, but I bet somewhere out there there Is real low mile Aztec that somebody thinks will worth some money in the future.

  10. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Once anything is old, people’s memories become rose-tinted.
    Even Edsels have restorers.

  11. faberferrum Avatar

    Well, a lot of people around here seem to think the Skoda I’m currently working on…

  12. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    I think my favorite was a Triumph Accord that I saw when I was a car show back in 2013. The fact that they weren’t imported into the US was the first cool thing. Secondly was that it was bought by a Dad as a first car for his daughter because it was, for all intents and purposes, a Honda Accord. Which is just all kinds of awesome. Now she was was all full of piercings and had a basic idea of what she had but the Dad looked at me weird because he expected no one to know what he owned. So when I showed up and kind of fanboyed at this Brit car show he just looked at me really funny. Come on and lets be serious for a second. There is probably one in the US. I have several pictures but here is the interior.

    1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
      Wayne Moyer

      I really felt the need to post another picture of it. The daughter is on the left. Oh and apparently I don’t know to post images. (shrug)
      <img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-QUlVXoz61mc/UeMX_skv7mI/AAAAAAAActE/9FZmO9umgkI/s720/DSC_0502.JPG&quot;