1 2
whiskey_business New Reader
9/19/17 4:48 p.m.

After reading some suggestions that late model Focii rust out pretty badly in the Midwest, what would the hive suggest for a 30 mile commute in Detroit weather and road conditions? Hoping for something reasonably reliable, but possibly disposable; cheaper the better.

Appleseed MegaDork
9/19/17 4:55 p.m.

Rear wheel drive is key. Look at p71s.

John Welsh
John Welsh MegaDork
9/19/17 4:55 p.m.

The answer is dedicated winter tires.  I personally like the General ArticMax tires.  They'll transform any car in a winter handler.  

As for the car, what's the budget?   Edit: I see you said cheaper/better.  

Here's an easy suggestion:  Saturn Ion.  Pretty much a forgotten brand now so no one goes looking for one.  Avoid the 2dr version of '03 &'04 because it has an unreliable cvt automatic trans.  For '05-'07 the 2dr got a regular, good 4 speed auto trans.  All years of sedans got the good, 4 speed auto.  You might be more drawn to the 5 speed manual of all years which is good too.  

If possible, try to get a '05 or newer.  The engine is the same in all years but the earlier years had some issues with the timing chain tensioner which was resolved by '05.  

The reason for suggesting these is that these were one of the last Saturn cars with the plastic body panels.  So, in a rusty climate, though the car may be rusting underneath, it will not appear rusty.   This car ultimatly became the basis for the Chevy Cobalt though the Cobalt did not have the plastic panels.  

You will find tons of Saturn Ions to choose from in Metro DTW. 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
9/19/17 4:56 p.m.

It's probably best to just do a search on your local Craigslist using the upper price limit sort feature, then go for whatever looks interesting PLUS is in the best condition you can find.  When it comes down to it, if you're driving home in a snowstorm on a traffic clogged highway at 15mph, the only fun things you need are a good heater and defroster, a decent stereo, and comfortable seats.  :)

clutchsmoke SuperDork
9/19/17 5:04 p.m.

You can almost make anything fun in winter. RWD Volvo comes to mind. They're comfortable and usually have not been flogged mercilessly. 

whiskey_business New Reader
9/19/17 5:05 p.m.

Budget is fairly loose, hoping for well under 3k. RWD is strongly preferred, as I like to pretend I am Colin Mcrae. P71 seems like an awesome option, as they cannot be killed, make good noises, and will happily enable my sliding fantasies. 

pres589 PowerDork
9/19/17 5:46 p.m.

Something with a manual trans.  Saturn SL2?  Metro?  I rode in an Aveo sedan today with an automatic and I could maybe see that working assuming they can be had with a standard.

Something cheap, small, and you won't feel horrible if it dissolves (so no, say, MR2 or Saab 900).

drainoil HalfDork
9/19/17 6:09 p.m.

I'm probably in the minority here but fwd can also be quite fun in the snow and ice. Especially if it's got the aforementioned great heater, comfy seating, but the swing factor is big block power. Even up here in the land of 10,000 potholes, and with some careful searching, you can still find driveable 500 powered Eldorado's and 455 Toronado's. Saw one ice racing several years ago it was a sight to see. 

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
9/19/17 6:34 p.m.

In reply to whiskey_business :

I had a great time with my '07 Accent hatch and a set of Michelin Xice. I abused that car for ~50kmi and it just kept begging for more.

Trackmouse SuperDork
9/19/17 7:23 p.m.

Fwd, short wheelbase, manual, snows, have fun. 

Now go get em tiger. 

crankwalk Dork
9/19/17 7:32 p.m.

I see Miatas in the winter here. Mismatching hardtop and go.


Festivas, Metros... tiny manual, decent traction.


Also 2nd Gen Toyota 2wd  pickup trucks are the most fun I have had in the snow in a long time.


stanger_missle Dork
9/19/17 7:45 p.m.

I drove this:

1986 CRX on AltiMax Arctics

I preferred to take this to work over my 2012 Jeep Wrangler. I cranked the torsion bars up to get a couple more inches of ground clearance.

I did feel a little guilty driving it because they are getting thin on the ground and I'm trying to preserve it.

But man, that little thing was a BEAST in the deep snow. It put a few bro-trucks to shame who were stuck in the parking lot LOL. RWD may be more fun but FWD will get you there with no bullE36 M3.

stanger_missle Dork
9/19/17 7:47 p.m.
Trackmouse said:

Fwd, short wheelbase, manual, snows, have fun. 

Now go get em tiger. 

Agreed laugh

The0retical SuperDork
9/19/17 7:51 p.m.

I bought a Vibe GT for the winter car. With snow tires it's hilarious reving the engine to 8k and screwing around.

Everything except the rear brake backing plates is dirt cheap for them too.

TheRX7Project New Reader
9/19/17 7:59 p.m.

Early to mid 90's Protégé or Escort, bonus if it's a stick, superbonus if it's a stick wagon. Get some Firestone Winterforces on some steelies (~$400 from Tire Rack) and it will go through snow no problem. Best winter beater I ever had.

Patrick MegaDork
9/19/17 9:11 p.m.

I bought the cheapest 5 speed wrx I could find and it's a riot in the snow.  4 wheel drifts are very fun.  It's also clean enough that I feel bad driving it in the salt, but it's too fun and was too cheap to care enough to stop 

ClemSparks PowerDork
9/19/17 10:14 p.m.

I answered this question for myself a few years back:

Purchased non-running (dead battery) from a neighbor for $250 (IIRC).  Pre-crashed, rusted, valueless.

I determined that you can't have more fun driving in the snow than in an AWD car that's already crashed.

Psteav even borrowed it for a while (though I think there was no snow at that time) and it served him well on a long commute.

G_Body_Man SuperDork
9/20/17 12:39 a.m.

Another vote for a P71, or really any Panther Platform car. Really good heaters, tough, and quite good fun.

thestig99 HalfDork
9/20/17 6:42 a.m.

Erich UltraDork
9/20/17 7:04 a.m.

If you want to drive anything through the winter in Michigan for an extended period of time, you're best off finding something that doesn't have a propensity to rust. In my personal experience, that eliminates older Subarus, RWD Volvos, 90s Hondas, and most newer Mazdas.

Snow tires aren't a must but they make things a lot more fun.

My personal favorite has been our Honda Fit with dedicated Snow tires. My wife has beat the heck out of it over 9 winters and 155,000 miles. Left stone chips unpainted. Not washed it. They simply do not rust. With the Altimax Arctics it will get you anywhere, even in feet of snow. 

This was a year ago after a 40 mile trek to the inlaws in wet, heavy snow. I think it was 10" of fresh snow that day. No problem. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
9/20/17 7:07 a.m.

I got on Detroit craigslist to help you but I found this and can't bring myself to look any further:  https://detroit.craigslist.org/okl/cto/d/1974-amc-hornet-2-door-3-speed/6299247712.html

I will echo others here and say that nearly anything with snow tires, a little ground clearance, and some weight over the drive wheels will do a great job.  Right now my snow vehicle is a 318ti with Winterforce tires and a 1" lift, it does great and seems to be relatively rust resistant, and while an LSD would be nice it does fine without one as long as I can get it moving in the first place.

Rusnak_322 Dork
9/20/17 7:21 a.m.

Miata on snows is a blast. I drove my old 99 for a few winters, now I drive my wife's 2010.

i had a MINI with snows that was more fun then you would have thought.


gearheadmb Dork
9/20/17 7:33 a.m.

Im going to be a little more practical here, and go with a chevy blazer. Hear me out. They can be bought for dirt cheap, and so can all the repair parts. Big sidewalls and taller suspension to survive the horrendous Michigan roads. Rwd for fun, but when thats not enough 4wd is a click or lever pull away. And its fun in snow, because everything is fun in snow.

alfadriver MegaDork
9/20/17 7:52 a.m.
whiskey_business said:

After reading some suggestions that late model Focii rust out pretty badly in the Midwest, what would the hive suggest for a 30 mile commute in Detroit weather and road conditions? Hoping for something reasonably reliable, but possibly disposable; cheaper the better.

Between '97 and '14, I commuted from AA to Dearborn in a Miata. Never got stuck in any weather we had over that time. Even with our street not being plowed. 

I had a second set of wheels for as good of snow tires that I could get and a hardtop to keep the salt grains from tearing apart the roof. 

There are a lot of cheap Miata around. 

tuna55 MegaDork
9/20/17 8:00 a.m.

No great pics, but I DD'ed a 81 Camaro on super snow tires for years. It was hilarious fun.


It's just a crime of opportunity. Look in your local CL for something RWD, cheap enough to fix, and not that rusty to start with.

1 2
Our Preferred Partners