Mile Post 370

Mile Post 370
Mile Post 370

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Project Geezer Rocket

My daughter turned 18 in May, 2016 and  graduated high school a couple of weeks later.  She will soon start her Engineering Degree at the local Community College.  She needed a car and the Toyota Camry I was driving is the right size for her.  

That left me needing a car.  While my brain has been saying Miata (which, according to some, is the automotive answer for every question) my wallet said to get something that was priced "frugally."

I'm not a GM fan (I'm a MOPAR man).  GM gave up on cars at the end of the 1960s, when car insurance started to sky-rocket, exhaust emissions and fuel economy became important and the Muscle Car era was ending.  However, I've learned to appreciate many things about them.  
  1.  First on that list was that because so many GM cars were built, most mechanics understand how to work on them.  This becomes important in maintaining the car or repairing it is a small town, say like in "Resume Speed, Iowa."  
  2. Also, while many of the cars GM built in the 1970s - today, were poorly built or had engineering that wasn't "proven" (think about the Aluminum blocked Chevrolet Vega and badge engineered Pontiac Astre twin), some GM ideas are pure genius (e.g. the GM Displacement on Demand version of the LS engine is a direct descendant of the Cadillac V-8-6-4 debacle.  It was the right idea, but the technology available at the time didn't allow it to be successful.).  
  3. Third on that list is the amount of GM dealerships and therefore parts support that is available for their cars.  
  4. Finally, even though GM had fallen into making "purely pedestrian vehicles," designed to get people from point A to point B (without style, panache or enthusiasm - just the way the nanny state would want it).  If these vehicles were maintained at the minimum factory requirements, they would run damn near forever (witness my 1989 Buick Century sedan with GM Tech-4, 2.5 liter TBI engine and THM-125 transmission, that has about 290,000 miles on the original drivetrain (with at least 150,000 miles of commuting into the major city of which I'm on the fringes, of 30 mile commutes each way, 5 days a week, every other week.  Simply changing the oil at the latest, every 7500 miles and transmission fluid once a year, not letting the engine over heat, not letting it spark knock and not over revving it and it's still got the same drivetrain with which it was built.  Yes, it's had the flex plate replaced (a job that cost more than the value of the car), the timing gear set replaced before my Father-in-Law gave the car to my wife, and the high gear clutch pack is and has been worn past the point of needing to be replaced since we got the car. But by not abusing it (and I tell my 19 year old son who is currently driving the car, 'If you drive it like it's on its last legs, you'll be surprised just how much further it will go!') and driving it in a normal manner, compensating for things that are worn out ('let the transmission complete the 2-3 shift, count 1, 2 and get back into the throttle.'), it will last a lot longer than you expect."  GM CARS CAN BE ANVIL RELIABLE IF MAINTAINED.

The one nice thing about being the "young people" when you move into a neighborhood (27 years ago, this August) of people who were my current age (55), is that when they die off, they leave their children well maintained old "luxury type" cars, that they don't want.  Take this example; a 1996 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite.  

It's as big as a Lincoln Town Car (Panther Body) or a Cadillac Sedan deVille, and powered by a 3800 Gen II V-6, with 4T60E transmission.  Optional luxuries are a Sunroof, Leather Interior, Cruise Control, Premium Sound with steering wheel controls, Power windows, seats (with 2 driver memory settings), Locks, Trunk Closure (motor) and Trunk Release, Fuel Door release, Automatic, Dual Climate Control (also with steering wheel controls), Factory 15" x 6" Alloy Rims, Automatic Headlights "Tokyo by Night" (no slur Intended - that was a quote about 80s Chrysler Digital Dashes from an old Car & Driver) Digital Dash with Information Center and a Trunk that would hold more than a few bodies - or all of the luggage 6 people would need on a vacation and still have plenty of room for many cases of beer.  

Granted, most of that stuff comes standard on newer cars now (my wife's 2001 Buick Century "Estate Car - are you noticing a pattern here?" - has most of them, but lacks basic noise insulation and feels "cheap" because of it) , but these were all optional luxury items 20 years ago.  

Formerly owned by Mrs. E. Blaney, whose husband worked for GM, it was special ordered as an Employee Car.  I have the special order sheet, window sticker and many other documents that tell of the car's life.  Well maintained by her mechanic son (who works at the local DOT maintenance shed), it has new struts (rear air leveling struts were replaced by conventional struts), decent tires (Discount Tire store brand P-205/70-R15s that were purchased in May of 2014 and had only 3000 miles on them), replaced intake gasket (due to the GM Dex-Cool intake gasket coolant leak), brakes and transmission fluid were changed 30K miles ago.  

The only down side to owning the car is that it has a "Salvage Title," due to an accident where a neighbor, from across the street backed into it.  While I can only find small damage on the leading edge of the driver's side of the hood, due to the cost of headlight lenses, the grill and a paint job.  C'est la vie!

Normally, I'd never be drawn to a car like this, but it's in too good shape to abuse with a daily commute into a "top 20 city (population)" in America.  However the salvage title makes the car less attractive to a collector, so I'll be its curator and love it; at least for the time being.

And yes, that's a wing from an Olds Touring Sedan or Toronado Tréfo that she  had installed on the trunk.  With 146,388 miles on the odometer, it was  bargain.  I paid $1500 for it.

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