If you’ve ever suffered through the snowy season with a car you love, the concept of a winter beater will likely be familiar. In the Rust Belt, many car lovers put away their cherished steads during the frosty months to save them from corrosive road salt and the general misery of driving through slop. The winter beater, then, takes over transportation duties from about November to March, sacrificing itself to Old Man Winter in order to spare a better car.
This Window Shop episode came about by request of senior editor Joey Capparella, whose recent purchase of a minty Lexus GS300 has him thinking that perhaps his ride is too nice to subject to a Michigan winter. So today, we help find him a beater for under $2000—bonus points if it has a manual transmission and if it’s in close proximity to Ann Arbor.
C/D staffers all know that Capparella loves what many of us would consider boring cars, so we tailored our picks to suit his more normcore sensibilities. We dug up a tempting and spacious first-gen Chrysler LH car; a manual Toyota RAV4; and a W126-generation Mercedes-Benz 380SE fit for fictional king, Jaffe Joffer. While these may not be the sportiest cars, they are at least affordable. And given that most of them are near the end of their lives anyway, we wouldn’t feel too guilty about subjecting them to months of road salt. As is our wont, we argue about our choices and spout facts no one should know, but in the end, Capparella judges our picks and selects a winner. Now we just need to make sure he actually buys it.