By on October 30, 2013

TTAC commentator NoGoYo writes:

Sajeev,

I’m faced with a problem that’s hard to solve: the problem of being 21 years old and stuck with a grandma car. I drive a 1995 Buick Skylark coupe with the GM 60 degree V6 (3.1 liter) and a four speed automatic transmission. It handles rather decently for a pedestrian GM product, but as you would expect from a lower-RPM pushrod V6 hooked to a 4-speed slushbox, it has about as much power as Queen Elizabeth II.

I tried to sell my car and upgrade to something more speed freak 21-year-old friendly, but gave up after not even getting close to a sale. My question is…should I sell the car at a rock bottom price just to get a more lively set of wheels, or invest a couple of bucks trying to make the old Buick a bit less of a snoozer?

Sajeev answers:

Were you expecting a level-headed discussion on the merits of Hot-Rodding a potential Sleeper Skylark versus Not-Rodding a better vehicle? From a TTAC writer with two resto-mod Fox Body Lincoln-Mercury vehicles? Here’s the thing…

You didn’t mention a budget, so I’ll assume you’re a typical broke 21-year-old (no hate, we were all there) with far more time than money. And you own a seriously cool car (stay with me here) with a star crossed history. The 1992+ Skylark was such a radical design that it deserved better, but it was a product of a fundamentally flawed General Motors. And, OMG SON will you peep that interior???

Who wouldn’t want to beat the living snot out of some poor soul in a Civic/GTI/ST Ford/FR-S or get the jump on a careless driver in a Mustang/Corvette/Ferrari in a car this…well, this unbelievably, obscurely radical looking?

You think I’m nuts for saying you could shock a Ferrari?  Hear me out…

Just like my precious Fox Bodies, the GM N-body accepts a host of superior parts from other GM products, some will be easier than others.  Assuming you are good with wrenches and actually want to be a Hot-Rodder, let’s see what we can Google:

  • Suspension: Performance springs, shocks and sway bars (Addco and from an FE3 Oldsmobile) will be easy to find.  This thread has even more fun stuff, and this shows the independent rear suspension available on 1997+ versions.  There’s a good chance the IRS bolts-in with minor modifications, from N-body to N-body. I also really, really like this thread.
  • Brakes: Camaro front calipers sound like a nice upgrade from the forums.  And the IRS swap nets you rear disc brakes too, supposedly.
  • Wheels/Tires: Larger wheels from W-bodies look like a no-brainer.  Who knows, maybe the big, common and cheap 17×8″ wheels from a 1994-present Mustang fit.
  • Powertrain: A manual transmission swap and an upgrade to a better 60-degree V6 (3.4L, 3.5L or the big bore 3.9L, way-hey!) makes perfect sense when the right donor car(s) show up.
  • Education: Learn how to drive your Frankenstein-d machine at a drag strip and a road course. Talent makes up for a premium car badge: believe that!

But wait Sanjeev…how the heck can you get the jump on a Ferrari? You gone crazy?

Maybe this link will inspire you. Or this video:

YouTube Preview Image

You are driving the future, so make YOUR future a better one. Can you do an all-wheel drive, fully independently sprung, turbocharged LS4-FTW in your Skylark?  In time, I think you can.  What are you gonna be driving when you’re thirty…and is it gonna top this?

Ain’t nothing gonna top this, son!  I can see it, and it’s been done before.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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166 Comments on “Piston Slap: What Would Ed Lister Do?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I tell ya, kids today! My first car was an A-body GM product with the might 92 hp Iron Duke. At least you have the V6. My Grandmother had a V6 Skylark and it was pretty easy to spin the tires.

    Having said that the 3.4 or the 3.5 wouldn’t be a bad swap. They are as common as dirt and should be able to be had cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Iron Duke? I hope it wasn’t a Camaro. Driving a muscle car and getting out-accelerated by a school bus can’t be any fun…

      • 0 avatar
        jgcaulder

        Camaros are F-body cars.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Chevy Celebrity 1982 – Iron Duke and TH125 trans. Ran out of breath at 65 mph and could barely get the needle to the top of the speedo at 85 mph. One advantage is that I never got pulled over in THAT car. It just wasn’t fast enough.

          • 0 avatar
            Mr Imperial

            PrincipalDan reminded me of a comedian, part of his routine was his Diesel Chevette.

            One time, he was pulled over by the cops for speeding….

            They wanted to know how he did it!

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Mr. Imperial, my high school gym teacher had a one of the first Hyundais purchased new as a commuter car. His commute was quite long and he wanted a “disposable car” that he could rack up the miles on for a few years and then trash.

            He claimed a cop once pulled him over for 75 in a 55. His retort to the cop: “If you can get the car to go that fast, you can have it.”

          • 0 avatar
            67dodgeman

            Got pulled over one time in a 63 Ford F-100, straight 6, 3-on-the-tree. Cop claimed I was going 80 mph. I said no way. I then asked if I could get a second run at it, since I thought the truck had just a little more power in it and could possibly hit 85 on the downhill section of the highway. He let me go with a laugh and a warning.

          • 0 avatar
            Mr Imperial

            @ PD-

            “He claimed a cop once pulled him over for 75 in a 55. His retort to the cop: “If you can get the car to go that fast, you can have it.”

            I can picture: “Uhhhhh, have a good day sir, drive safe”

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I once saw a Iron Duke Camaro when I was at a shop waiting to have my car inspected. It was a bare bones base model in blue with a 4 speed and dog dish bow ties on steelies. Not much else. The hood was up and I took a peak inside to see what a lethargic 85 hp, Iron Duke powered Camaro was like. Lots of room under the hood, so much so it was just crying for a bolt on supercharger or a turbo with room to spare. Even a Quad 4 HO would be an interesting swap. I wonder if anyone has built one or have they been converted to V8 power.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    At least from looking at that photo, that is indeed a nicely designed interior.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Don’t give the car away. I’m not sure of your budget either. However if you want to sell it,price it right, and have some patience.

    Why is it so slow? Is the 3.1 old and tired? If that’s the case go with “PrincipleDan’s” advice. replace it with a 3.4. Does the engine, still have good compression, and no gasket issues, and under 100 K miles. Maybe the old 3.1 could use a real good going over, injectors,plugs wires, etc.

    Good Luck

  • avatar
    Waterview

    I’d maintain it as best as you can and drive it ’til it drops. If it will last you five more years, you will have saved enough money to buy the car you really want. There’s no question it’s one of the ugliest cars ever made, but its incredibly cheap to keep and at 21, cheap to operate is good.

  • avatar
    Tinker

    Re: QE2

    You should be so lucky! The diesel electric system in the QE2 produces 130,000 hp, which is the most powerful propulsion plant of any merchant ship in the world. That big tub of lard can keep up with destroyers.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I took that comparison to be with the actual queen, not the ship.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, considering the impressive low end grunt of the 3.1L compared to any V6 or four-banger in its class…

      • 0 avatar
        kkt

        The actual queen may not have official power to throw people in the Tower or refuse to sign legislation, but she knows where all the bodies have been buried in every political scandal back to Winston Churchill, and she continues to have weekly meetings with every prime minister regardless of which party is in power. They don’t have to do what she says, but they have to answer questions and listen to her advice.

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      Tinker, you beat me to it.

      It’s technically classified as a passenger ship, not merchant, btw.

      And can cruise all day at its max speed of near-as-makes-no-difference 55 knots.

      While the US decommissioned its last Spruance class destroyer almost a decade ago, the upcoming, futuristic Zumwalt class of destroyers have a classified top speed. Ironically, the speed bandied about most commonly is “at least 56 knots.” It could be somewhat to considerably more, but we can’t know for sure.

      So the Old Girl QE2 is indeed no slouch.

      Welcome to The Truth About Ships (TTAS) everyone.

      • 0 avatar
        CompWizrd

        … wikipedia and the QE website says 32-34 knots, which does put it in Destroyer territory, rather than speedboat territory.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Wikipedia says the same thing about the nuclear carrier Enterprise but in service, it regularly outran its escort destroyers that were doing 35 knots. With that much shaft horsepower, the limit for the QEII is the screws (propellers). Its first refit installed Royal Navy screws that change shape at higher revs. As big as that ship is, mid-40s is easily possible, and that’s knots, not MPH.

          BTW, I was on the Enterprise when we were ordered from Spain to Mayport, ASAP. We didn’t have escorts, there was a picket line of escorts strung across the Atlantic. We’d run alongside and past one after the other, passing 400 foot destroyers that were running flat out. We weren’t allowed on the fantail, the open deck in the stern under the flight deck: The screws were putting up a rooster tail that reached 20-30 feet above the flight deck. I doubt the QEII could do that.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I was going to say, the QE2 has SEVERAL THOUSAND

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Young’n – Just keep the damn thing and run it as is. Wasting money on upgrades and attempts to enhance the performance will make you a bitter old man before your time. Save your money for something worth buying and “enhancing”.. this car ain’t it. Gains will be sub-par at best and you will never get a return on the effort..

    I am tellin’ ya.. been there done that..

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      This.

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      + 1

      You can polish a turd, and when you’re done, it’s still a turd.

      Enjoy the car for what it is: Cheap, payment-free transportation.

      Take the money you’d spend on turd polish, bank it for the day your situation allows you to buy a car with more performance potential. Better yet, begin doing what took us gray-beards decades to learn – invest the turd polish funds in something other than a depreciating asset. Grow the turd polish fund to the point you can take a portion of it out, years down the road, and buy yourself a track car and some driving lessons from TTAC’s tame racing driver.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Additional advice-from-an-elder-that-you-don’t-really-want: Little secret of life, you earn your street cred by driving or riding low end crap. You learn how to drive on something that won’t kill you, won’t make you cry too much when you inevitably prang it, and will keep running so you can save your money for something that lives up to your self-image.

      There are few things in life that give me more pleasure than humiliating some young punk driving a way-too-cool car or motorcycle that they bought before they knew what they’re doing. Motorcycles, especially.

      You’re 21. You haven’t earned the right to be cool, yet. And a grandma car suits you just fine.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        “Additional advice-from-an-elder-that-you-don’t-really-want: Little secret of life, you earn your street cred by driving or riding low end crap. You learn how to drive on something that won’t kill you, won’t make you cry too much when you inevitably prang it, and will keep running so you can save your money for something that lives up to your self-image.”

        Well said, I salute you sir.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Dues got to get paid, son.

        (When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”)

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      And that ain’t no half-truth, Halftruth!

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Don’t upgrade anything. Just regular upkeep and maintenance (brakes, tires, fluid changes) and drive it until it dies.

    Remember, whatever money you put into it, you won’t get back. I’m sure you could sell it if you sold it for a reasonable price, like the $800 it’s really worth.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      +1. That six is nothing special, but it will keep up with traffic. How fast do you need to go? Save your money, unless you have a burning need to blow it on something.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Vince,

    I trust you’re familiar with the Tokyo Breakfast Youth Orientation Lecture?

    You have way bigger fish to fry at 21 than finding a hot car. Unless you want to be in the same social circumstance at 41.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    How about not whining about a car THAT WAS GIVEN TO YOU!

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      Because you didn’t do any whining when you were 21. Lighten’ up guy.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        I don’t know about that. Even at 21, I would’ve had little respect for anyone who got a free car and then whined about how it wasn’t cool enough.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          This. I was on my own to buy ALL my cars, starting at 16. Never got handed anything, much less free wheels.

          Parents, circa 2002. “You’re going to want a car in a couple years, so you had better start working now.”

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Nice.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            Lucky. Me in 2002 (at 18): “Mom and Dad, I’ve saved up some money from working 18 hours per week since I was 15, and want to buy an old car, cash, which I will pay to insure and repair myself.”

            Dad: “You spoiled brat. What do you need a car for?”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Hey that was your money, and you’re a legal adult at 18. How can they stop you from spending it?!

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            They couldn’t, but when Mom and Dad are still providing a roof over your head, both common courtesy and common sense dictate that their opinions matter.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            So what happened in the end to your resolve to buy a car? And what did you buy? And how much was it?

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            In the end, I did wind up buying a car. At the time, Dad had a crap-pile of a ’92 Cutlass Supreme, which finally gave up the ghost and left us with one car in our family of five. At the time, Dad was between jobs (the mortgage had been paid off more than a decade earlier and we kids were no longer in private school), so it was decided that rather than replace the Olds, he would allow me to buy my own car under the proviso that he could borrow it when needed. He even loaned me a bit of money (which I paid back, naturally), so that I could buy a better car, sooner.

            I looked at a couple of Preludes, a Probe GT, among others, but realistically I decided that at my budget, a car like that would cost me too much to own. After looking at a lot of crap, a dealer showed me a white ’92 Jetta Coupe with 110k miles on it. It had begun life out West, so was rust-free and was all-around clean. I overpaid at $3,700, and spent a lot keeping it in mechanically good shape. My only upgrades were decent shocks and performance all season tires. I kept it for 5 years and over 50k miles. I shed a tear the day I sold it for near-scrap value at 160k miles the day before I headed to Europe for five months. It served me well, I have many great memories in it, and it was a surprisingly satisfying driver’s car for what it was. In Germanic fashion, it cruised all day at 85-90, and though it rolled a fair bit in curves, once it took a set, it would stick its inside rear wheel up in the air and grip way harder than you’d think. Oversteer was just a lift of the throttle away.

            It wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to me had I not worked and paid for it myself.

            At 20, I also supplemented it with an ’89 Ninja 600 (this one I didn’t ask parental consent for). When you can go 0-60 in under four seconds for less than a couple grand, it distracts you from wasting money on fancy wheels for an old economy car.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks for filling me in on the story. A two-door Jetta, don’t see those often!

            Though couple weeks ago I saw a 2 door Fox wagon, in brown.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Agreed!

        It’s easy to forget how angsty my 20s were, now that I’m working my way into being comfortable.

        Car-angst is overrated. I was worried about finding love in my 20s, and once I met my wife I realized I was mostly wrong about what it takes to find love. Hint: the car isn’t part of it, unless she also happens to be exactly the same kind of car enthusiast that the OP happens to be.

        I have a lot of advice that I’d give my younger self, but it’s offtopic and my younger self wouldn’t believe me anyway…

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    ….but as a counterpoint to Halftruth’s post, I say go ahead and ‘supe it up.

    This would be a great car to learn on. Go the cheapie route-freshen up the motor. Plugs, plug wires, fuel filter, clean the throttle body. Air filter-drop the stock air box and install a conical filter, use the existing rubber duct to connect to the intake plenum. Will this make a night/day difference? No. If the engine is struggling because of neglect, basic maintenance can improve its performance.

    But if you are more wrenching-inclined, go pull a used 3.4. Give it a good thorough inspection, as some of those motors were ran hard at the end of their lives.

    If you don’t know the basics, start small. We all did.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I shouldn’t pile on here, since the last thing a 21 year old asking such a question is going to do but listen to reason (no offense; been there, done that), but if the car isn’t costing you money in terms of unscheduled maintenance, just keep driving it. You’ll never get back what you put into it in terms of upgrades, but at the same time these cars are pretty simple and relatively bulletproof.

    My nephew (who posts here occasionally) probably wishes he had your situation. His car is a rather worn out ’92 Lumina coupe that we just completed replacing the brakes over the weekend. The car still needs struts all around and rear sway bar brackets, and that is just to get it to a minimum level of safe. Good money is pretty much being thrown away at this point but he’s kind of stuck; he needs the car to get to work and to school, but due to his age and his own stupidity (multiple insurance claims, destroying the free car he was given, etc.) most of his paycheck goes to gas and insurance.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Problem is that it IS costing me money in terms of unscheduled maintenance…I just had to drop 175 dollars (pretty big money when you make minimum wage part-time) because my engine was trying to cook itself.

      Also, despite getting repaired already, the front brakes are sorta wonky. Hope they don’t let me down at the worst possible time.

      • 0 avatar

        If the body, engine and transmission are decent, you aren’t gonna do any better in your budget. Especially if you want a performance car.

        That said, you don’t want a performance car. You’ll regret it, unless you hate saving money for bigger and better things.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Let me tell you about a Corvette I just had to have at your age…

        …dumbest thing I ever did. Kenmore’s right @ 21 you’ve got more important things to do and if you do them correctly @ 28 you can buy a new BMW, which will be more fun then a barrel of Buicks

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          At 28 you can buy a small, FWD new BMW on lease.

          You won’t be “buying” anything larger than that in this economy and wages, unless you’re a doctor. I would add in lawyer too, but they aren’t hitting it big at young ages these days. So this statement about 28 is a bit off. You’re lucky to find people who’ve finished their education at 28.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            Not so. Because I drove the same POS for 13 years, at age 29 I bought a brand new stupid big truck cash money. It’s not exactly 28, but had I not paid for a divorce with cash, I could have done it at age 27.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I bought a house instead at 25, so I have a used car :).

          • 0 avatar
            tooloud10

            Please, there are plenty more ways to afford a nice car at 28 than to be a doctor or lawyer, even in “this economy”. Hell, I’d take my chances being a plumber or electrician at 28 before trying to be a 28-year-old lawyer.

            FWIW, I bought and paid for the fancy cars and much of the house before many of my friends even finished college. No fancy school required.:)

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        If $175 is “big money” to you, you definitely can’t afford to be looking for a hot car. You’re lucky to be driving any car at all; be realistic about your priorities.

        It wasn’t that long ago that I was a student working part-time for minimum wage (as opposed to now, where I’m a student part-time and thankfully no longer make minimum wage), and I bought my car cash, as well as my old motorcycle, and kept them both running. $175 in the scheme of vehicle ownership is nothing. Keep driving the car as long as it only needs basic maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I’m with the rest of these guys. If minimum wage part time is your current gig, you have no means to be thinking about hot rodding.

        With your budget, what could we possibly tell you to do besides save up for a dry nitrous kit and gas it into to the stratosphere?

      • 0 avatar
        JREwing

        A voice of experience here….

        If $175 on maintenance is a major difficulty (as one would expect working part-time minimum wage), what do you need “faster” for?

        Any investment you put into this car should be to keep it working properly. That’s going to be hard enough to do without any misguided attempts at making it “faster”.

        Put the rest of your time, energy, and funding into getting a job that’s full-time and pays you a wage that lets you get out of mommy’s house.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    These cars are as cute as a button, especially in coupe form. The Skylark and the Alero are the only models that work well in this body style, and you have one of them! I hope yours is that green-and-silver color scheme, too, as these look gorgeous painted that way!

    You need to keep this car for all the reasons Sajeev and others mentioned. Yes, there’s a lot you can do to make this car worthy of a 21-year-old’s expectations, but don’t hot-rod the guts out of it – remember – you’re basically broke, and you need a nice, reliable car. You have one, so appreciate what you have and enjoy responsibly. You and your wallet can thank me later!

    I had my hot-rod when I was your age, but I built mine on USAF money, and all my basics were cared for, so I had money burning a hole in my pocket, but times were different over 40 years ago. Now you know where I’m coming from!

    Always look to the future, for it will arrive ridiculously fast! I didn’t at the time, but I got smart after a couple of years and recovered… but as I said, times were different.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Believe me, if this was 1983 and not 2013, I’d probably own like a 318 Dart or something, because V8 cars used to be cheap. Now a 3rd gen Camaro or Fox body Mustang that hasn’t had the sh*t kicked out of it will run you 4 to 5 grand!

      I wanted a 1990 Firebird Formula, but my mom, extremely lame person that she is, was against it. And I needed a car in a week, so I ended up with a Skylark.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “…so I ended up with a Skylark.”

        I think all of us hoped for better things, auto-speaking, when we were young. Often, it doesn’t happen and you make do with what you have. Just don’t let the stars in your eyes get too bright!

        NoGoYo, you could have done a lot worse, that’s for sure, but don’t take my “fatherly” advice too harshly, for I, along with many others, speak from experience.

        I’m thinking about the state of the economy, and for young people especially, it’s not good, so you were given a pretty good car. Take good care of it and do the work it needs and enjoy the daylights out of it!

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        When your financial decisions still include the phrase “but my mom…” you’re not in a position to be a snob about what kind of car you drive. Become financially independent, then worry about spending your money on fun stuff. You’ll have more of both that way.

        Don’t forget that those cheap V-8s were slower than your Buick, and drank at least twice as much fuel. Look up the horsepower rating of the ’72-’76 Dart with the 318 and get back to us about “the good old days.” A lot of those “powerful V-8s” just seem that way in hindsight because of the switch from gross to net horsepower ratings in ~1971 – the 318 lost 80 hp from 1971 to 1972, not because the engine changed; the rating system did. You could hop them up, but you’re kidding yourself if you think that carbs, cams and exhausts were cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @NoGoYo

        When my father came home from Vietnam in late 1970 at age 20 his grandfather bought him a cherry ’68 Camaro because he was the cherished grandson. When I was 17 my father’s powers of cheapness and douchebaggery combined and he presented me with an ’87 Dodge Shadow in awful condition. I was quick to point out the hypocrisy, when he took a deep breath and said something to effect of “Son I should have been dead four times in my life, twice in Vietnam, and twice in that car”. Your mother was wise to keep you out of that Firebird, you have a greater propensity to do stupid things when your younger. If you really must be out of the Skylark I suggest a Park Ave, I would have loved to have driven one when I was 21 and would drive it proudly today.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Additional: If I was ten or fifteen years older and you were my child, you’d be driving a s*** brown 300K Volvo 850 with “My child is a honor student” stickers purposely on the back, which is still a thousand times better than the junkyard grade Shadow I got but much dorkier than what you could do with that Skylark.

      • 0 avatar
        Mud

        “…but my mom, extremely lame person that she is, was against it. And I needed a car in a week, so I ended up with a Skylark.”

        Nice.
        I say dump the car and take the bus.

      • 0 avatar
        Aleister Crowley

        At least you have good taste is cars. One of my early cars was a 318 Dart with disc brakes. I loved blowing away BMWs in that thing.

        Your Mom is just trying to keep you safe, at 21 a Firebird Formula is much more dangerous than a Skylark. She’s just hoping you live to enjoy a Firebird in a few years.
        Good Luck.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Was it free? Yes. Are you poor? Yes.

        No complain.

      • 0 avatar
        CompWizrd

        I bought my ’96 Trans Am in 1999 at the age of 22. Still own it.

        Between me and the warranty company we’ve put at least $20k into it since then in repairs. You do not want an F-Body unless you are proficient at wrenching. The build quality is pathetic, the transmission is undersized for the engine, and the engine has many known failure points.

        Want to buy mine? :)

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          What went wrong with it besides everything?

          • 0 avatar
            CompWizrd

            Bought in 99, in 2002 seized engine, rebuilt. 3? years later, oil pump croaked, replaced engine. couple years later, transmission lost overdrive, replaced with GM rebuild. 4 years later transmission lost clutch pack, rebuilt. I’m a bit fuzzy on the years, but that’s roughly the progression.

            Small stuff: water pump every year or so for the first couple years before i finally got a good one. optispark unit once. spark plugs+wires twice. intake gaskets about 3-4 times now. air pump(emissions), which was actually under recall but since Pontiac doesn’t send out recall notices for Firebirds, didn’t hear about it till after. Headlight motor twice. Brake lines this year. ABS wiring at least once. ABS sensor a couple times. At least 2 power window motors. Rear defroster switch twice. Hatch lock once. Rear differential.

            Brakes every year but that’s a wear and tear item, along with the tires every 3 years and the synth oil every 3 months.

            I pulled the service history via GM on the first rebuild, and the head gaskets were both replaced at 3000 miles under warranty. Suspect that’s related to the later problems.

            TL;DR: Everything.

            TL;DR2: Pontiac build in Quebec.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I’ve owned and worked on quite a few of these cars and have never heard of the level of trouble you’re speaking of.

            The LT1 was generally pretty reliable. Quality water pumps are a must. Leaking ones are a common source of opti spark failure.

            I’ve replaced exactly 1 set of head gaskets that actually blew, but I knew that owner well and he was rough on the car, firing it up stone cold in the middle of winter and flooring it down the street daily.

            It’s a bummer about your car. I would never call them top quality vehicles, but I’ve never heard of one that went through as many parts as yours that wasn’t a nitrous huffing 10 second drag machine.

          • 0 avatar
            CompWizrd

            I wish mine was anything but stock. Well, I did go up one level on the rear diff replacement since it was only a few bucks more.

            Never raced(by me anyways!), though most of the driving was city. I got it at 68,xxx km, it’s at 212k now after 15 years.

            My first car I got to drive was my mothers 29 second 0-60mph ’84 Aries K-Car that stalled on left turns and needed 10-15 minutes to warm up even in the summer. Figured out years later the cat had to have been plugged. Learned following distance and how to recover from stalls.

            Other learning truck was a ’84 dodge ram with a full cap on the back.. Learned blind spot avoidance and more following distances. Learned you can get them up on two wheels but your father in the passenger seat will disapprove.

            My first car of my own when I was 19 was a leased ’97 Neon. Learned FWD with a bit of power.

            ’96 Trans am. Did learn RWD winter driving, it’s an art! Learned how to do 60mph right hand turns. Learned how much it costs to keep a somewhat powerful car running…

            Now driving a ’10 Fit Sport.. Learned the value of good visibility, and lots of storage space. Can still do the 50mph turns, but generally avoid doing so now. I must be getting old.

            I have to decide if I’m going to buy out the Fit, or go something new. Been looking at hot hatches this time around.. the MB B250 is nice, but I don’t know if I’m enough of an asshole to drive a Mercedes. Will they test me at the dealership?

        • 0 avatar
          silverkris

          And, as a 21 year old, you will pay through the nose for insurance, with annual premiums that may approach or even exceed the market value of the car.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “(no offense; been there, done that)”

    Yes, I think most of us have fallen prey to the twisted passions of youth. No offense intended by any means.

    My obsession was with old Euro sedans as new ones were entirely out of my reach. You can waste an awesome amount of time and money with those, too. But, goddamn, they were marvelous.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Keep driving it as is. Learn to do maintenance on it, maybe replace the (likely) worn shocks and struts. Do a brake job, change the fluids, etc. But I wouldn’t bother with hot rodding it, nor would I sell it. The utility you extract from having this running, driving car is much more than the $1500 you’d get from selling it. Keep saving up and buy..

    a 3rd generation Honda prelude! The 1986-1991 cars, specifically the Si, are nothing short of incredible driver’s cars. Yeah yeah it isn’t a fire breathing rwd monster. But I like to think of it as a commuter/budget friendly fwd NSX/ferrari. The seating position and view forward is much the same as one of those supercars, you have popup headlights, a fantastic revvy engine and sweet gearbox, and incredibly wide/stable track with 4 wheel wishbone suspension. Maybe I’m biased, but one of these preludes was the car I schemed for hours to buy when I was in high school, driving a 1990 Civic Wagon (brown, automatic). Our mechanic had a very clean ’87 Si that he turbocharged himself with a home made log exhaust manifold and a turbo out of a turbo dodge 2.2. At 5psi of boost, that car was more fun than much faster and newer cars that I’ve driven since.

    • 0 avatar
      Spartan

      I had an 88 Prelude Si as my first car for many 5 years and while I agree it’s a great car, finding a good one is impossible now. Not to mention they have a bastard Honda motor (B20a5 / B21) that isn’t exactly parts friendly besides junkyard hunting and the B21′s had issues.

      Great driver’s car, but it’ll be a money pit. I can guarantee you that.

      • 0 avatar
        Preludacris

        There are good ones, but not in the rust belt – and you can’t be too picky about the numbers on the odo.

        Not a money pit if you resolve to leave it stock, but when the upgrade bug bites, sorry! Everything’s rare and priced accordingly. I bought my (used) suspension setup from a guy in Indiana. My shock tower bars came from a guy in Nebraska, and my rear sway bar is currently on the slow boat from Australia. It’ll be hooked up to adjustable end links built by a guy in Minnesota… you get the idea.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I wanted desperately to have a third-gen Prelude Si as my first car, 11 years ago. Even then, clean ones in the rust belt were rare and expensive. I remember looking at one with 160k miles and the beginnings of rust around the wheel arches that was still going for nearly 4 grand in 2002.

      But man, was that a sweet ride. 140 hp has no right being that much fun.

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    My car in high school was a beat up 77 Skylark coupe with a 100-ish horsepower 231 and a the evil “metric” THM200 (which I never had any problems with other than adding fluid weekly) that an aunt of mine in Houston had bought new. Brown with the tan landau rust magnet top and an interior that almost 2 decades of Texas summers had progressively turned into a fine plastic, vinyl and foam based powder.

    When this new generation of dirty bird came out I thought that the only Skylark lineage this thing had was a pointy bumper. I referred to the giant pointy chrome one on my 77 as the Geo plow.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I wonder if the Buick 3.8L supercharged V6 (L67) from the Riviera (and some other cars) will fit under there. Probably not, but it would definitely give you a sleeper….

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Hot Rod that Skylark! Do it! While I like the LS4 swap idea, I’m not convinced you have the will or the means at this point.

    After spending many years at the drag strip, I’ve seen many actually fast GM N bodies. While the performance aftermarket isn’t as splentiful for these thigns, it doesn’t mean they have to be a slouch.

    I’m no expert on GM 60* swaps, but the 3.9L was a 60 degree motor, and it made some healthy power. A quick search reveals complete take-outs available at junkyards around the country for about $500. Do eeet.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    When I was 21 (1999) my 87 626 Turbo gave up the ghost. In need of cheap wheels and a little desperate I picked up an immaculate 89 Buick Regal 2 door, 2.8 V-6. It was a TMU but was in really, really nice shape. It was a nice blue and had that thick chrome trim all around it. Bench seat, shifter on the column. Total gramma car. So I’ve been in his shoes.

    I invested in a nice-nothing crazy-set of wheels, put white letter tires on it. Put a nice stereo system in it. Didn’t see the point in doing much tuning, but did put a K&N air filter in it. Changed the plugs and wires. New suspension parts. Kept it clean.

    Funny thing was it actually looked nice, and my friends actually liked riding in it because it was so comfortable. Girls just saw the chrome trim, white letter tires and liked the bass from the subs. Some of the dumber ones I fooled into thinking it was fast because I’d switch the digital speedo into KPH instead of MPH haha.

    Oh to be 21 again!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Woah VERY dumb girls not to be able to sense the speed of a car, 60/100 and all that.

      • 0 avatar
        Tim_Turbo

        Well it worked best at night when you couldn’t tell by looking around as easy. Not to mention that around 80mph or so the car shook bad enough where you might think we were really going 130 if you were not paying attention.

        Best story, and I couldn’t make this up-on way home from a date did this trick going 65mph, so speedo was over 100 in kmh. We kept getting passed by other cars. Girl looked at me and said holy crap, everybody is driving fast tonight!

  • avatar
    sparhawk

    I bought my first car when I graduated from university – a 1999 Toyota Corolla with manual transmission. As a car nut, I then proceeded to dump money into upgrading it. Aftermarket wheels, TRD suspension, TRD exhaust, carbon fiber hood, plug wires, etc.

    In the end, I still had a Corolla and the exhaust drone on the highway and steering wobble from the larger wheels drove me nuts.

    After finishing my MBA, I decided I wanted something more grown up and less likely to encourage hoonage and bought a new 2006 Honda CR-V which I still have today. I got $2000 for the Corolla from the dealer on trade in – less than the rims were worth. While I lost thousands of dollars, I learned a few very important lessons.

    1) Almost every upgrade has a downside; many forum denizens will only talk about the upsides.
    2) When you can only afford to do something once, you’re taking a big risk. Fine-tuning something like suspension or an exhaust takes experimentation and it’s very subjective as to what is ‘best’. So if you can only afford to buy one part and you’re not an automotive engineer you are taking a risk to try ‘upgrading’ your car.
    3) Trying to upgrade your daily driver is hugely stressful. As per the previous point, modifications can easily go awry and that’s not a happy place when the car has to get you to work the next day.

    Five years later, when I had saved up a little cash and the CR-V was paid off, I bought a 1990 Miata. It’s purpose-built for driving fun, so while it needed some refreshing, I’m not trying to change Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde. It’s also a second car, so I don’t have to stress over getting a job finished.

    So my recommendation for you is to leave the car as is. Maintain it well and keep it until you’ve saved up to buy what you really want. Maybe keep it even after that, so you don’t have to drive your baby on winter/rainy days.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    “grandma car”? I actually like these in coupe form. To me, for it to be a grandma car it would be a 4 door, 4 cyclinder model.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Agreed, it looks more interesting and sportier than the Cruze/Verano sedan. Certainly it will attract more looks.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/latest-reviews/2013-buick-verano-review-pricier-chevrolet-cruze-article-1.1370673

  • avatar
    noxioux

    The idea that you can’t get affordable, easy fun out of this car is just silly. Plumb a turbo up to this 3100, run it until it explodes.

    While that’s happening, troll around craigslist until you can find a FWD LS engine/tranny from a late Monte Carlo SS or Grand Prix GXP. Bolt/weld/hammer that thing under the hood of your Skylark. Magic will happen.

    Or, go easy on yourself and get a 3800, and plumb a turbo up to that. There’s a turbo 3800 Sunbird on youtube that is stupid fast, and pretty solid. And I doubt that guy has a ton of money into it.

    Anyone who tells you that you can’t have stupid fun with this car for cheap is WRONG.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Honest question: have you done this?

      I know that different cars take to turbocharging differently and have different levels of aftermarket support, but I’ve researched putting a turbo on a Miata, and to do it right costs around $3,000 before considering supporting mods. And that’s on an accessible, sporty car with a simple 4-cyl economy car engine that even existed from the factory in turbocharged guise.

      The “run it until it explodes” mentality generally isn’t exactly budget-friendly. None of your ideas sound like they’re in the realm of possibility for a kid who thinks that $175 is an expensive engine repair. It’s easy to say, “just bolt/weld hammer that thing under the hood,” but the reality is that doing stuff like this requires parts, and parts cost money, to say nothing of the space, tools, time and knowledge that are required to make an engine swap happen.

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    3.1L V6? Go check your oil/coolant, your gaskets are shot.

    If they’re fine, drive it for a few more months. Check again.

    When they finally go, its engine swap time. Labour to have someone do the head work will cost more than the car is worth, and doing it yourself is a pain.

    source: wife had a ’01 Malibu with the 3.1v6

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Totally unrelated, but did Ed Lister design the posters given out at the Detroit Auto show the year the Aurora was introduced? I remember the poster featured the car front and center with a very trippy painted background that looked much like the sample in the Skylark add just in more autumn colors.

    I had that hanging in my freshman college dorm room next to Penthouse Pet October 1995. (Wow that made me feel old.)

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    If you can’t make more power, add lightness.

    Chuck out everything that’s not screwed down. Buy a half decent set of tools, you can do your own work with them, and they’ll come in handy for removing screws and bolts for things anchored down.

  • avatar
    DDayJ

    Someone remind me if 1995 was the 3.1 MPFI or the 3100. I believe a 3400 for 3100 swap is practically bolt in (as far as engine swaps go) as almost everything was compatible.

    I agree with the rest of the comments on just keep it tip top. Although I like the idea of seeing if you can upgrade with better GM junk yard parts as things wear out, like bigger better brakes, similar to Murilee’s Impala stories. I kept a 97 Bonneville running through college that way and the savings helped me get to a nice used Audi after I graduated and started work. Which then promptly ate all of those savings. Should have kept the Bonneville.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      That’s part of my plan to make the car a bit more mine and a bit less dowdy.

      Stiffer shocks, bigger wheels (but not too big, 16s will do), later model 3100 upper and lower manifolds and 3400 throttle body, and ditching the resonator.

      I know I can’t afford a sports car, but I’d like to make my car a tad sportier than its current 14 inch wheeled body-rolling self.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Don’t spend a dime on it aside from scheduled or required maintenance. Save every penny you can until you are 25. Then buy a fun car. Until 25 you won’t be able to afford insurance on anything good anyway. Oh and go to school and get a good job so you can actually afford all this cool stuff we talk about all day long.

  • avatar
    matador

    Call me crazy, but I think the older cars are more fun. Sure, an Audi BiTurbo will lap you in a drag race, but you’ll have way more fun owning the Buick. Old Buicks are some of the best cars for teenagers out there. Parts are almost free, they’re easy to wrench on, and they’re reliable. I owned a 1995 LeSabre with over 200k on it when I was a High School senior. I didn’t have much money at the time, but my truck was in the shop and I needed something to drive. That LeSabre was the best car I’ve ever owned. I put 25k on it for less than $1200 with maintenance and the cost of the car. It did 75 on the interstate, and it could go from Casper, WY to Cheyenne without stopping. What more could you want?

    You need a car that won’t break, and that you can count on. Dynaride and a plush interior are a bonus. Keep the Buick! Your wallet will thank you.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I want to know what happened to this extreme-90s painting. Hopefully it’s hanging in a ritzy and outdated condo or apartment, something like you’ve seen in The Fugitive. Ha.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I remember when this ad came out, it’s possibly the dumbest I’ve ever seen. Why should I care if Buick paid some artist I never heard of to be “inspired” by their product? I actually do like the car though.

      Edit: Kudos to Sajeev for the title!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        He’s still around, and still painting large murals and installed art. And all his stuff still has a 90s flair to it!

      • 0 avatar

        I think using GM marketing cash to promote Ed Lister is an insult to the people that made this uber-progressive design. The designers should be telling us why its so radical and why they want you to buy this totally rad Buick.

        Hell, now I really want to do a Vellum Venom on this car. If I ever find one.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    5 to 10 years from now, when you’re looking to buy your first house, you’ll be thinking, “I wish I kept the free and clear at least easy to work on parts are cheap Buick.”

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Well putting it up on Craigslist for a thousand bucks was a failure and I gave up.

      As for easy to work on, ehhh…some things require some serious dis-assembly to repair, like the thermostat. You have to disconnect the exhaust crossover and get the airbox hose out of the way to pull the thermostat.

      And I don’t have a clue how I would check the transmission fluid without dropping the motor, I don’t see a dipstick for it in there.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Ask your mom if she ever had the tranny fluid changed. If not, just do it. If the tranny on the 3.1 is like the one on my 3.4, it is expensive, takes about 10 quarts at $6+ each, plus a gasket/filter kit. I had a shop do it, figured it would be a pretty messy job. Beats getting a new tranny.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Took me 5 minutes or so of Google searching to find out your car doesn’t have a dipstick. There is a check plug you can use to check the trans fluid level and also to refill it if you do a fluid change.

        Your car has one of the most common engine/trans combinations GM has ever made, it can’t be too hard to find out how to do basic maintenance on it. Trust me, your car is easy to work on. Maybe not 1960s easy but easy for modern cars. You can find parts in stock in almost any auto parts store in the country to do almost any job. You can buy a service manual there for it too. If you didn’t like spending $175 on an overheating issue then you are definitely not ready for a performance car, or even trying to hop up your car now. Learn the basics, learn the troubleshooting, beg for assistance at the auto parts stores and find a decent independent mechanic who will help you when you get in over your head. The older guys working at Auto Zone tend to be pretty helpful around here, but YMMV there. You say your brakes are “wonky”, well figure out why they are wonky and do a brake job. It will cost you under $50 and it will probably take you an entire weekend of swearing, skinned knuckles and constant referral to the internet and service manuals but in the end you will know how to change brake pads and save yourself a couple hundred dollars each time for life.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I got new rotors, pads, and regreased calipers not long after I bought the car, yet the braking performance is still a bit…odd. Maybe the brakes are just crappy, GM is not exactly well known for using the best quality parts when they could save fifteen cents per unit.

          Maybe some bigger brakes meant for a J-body would fit. W cars have a different bolt pattern than my car, which I found out the hard way when I tried to mock up some nice final-gen W Regal alloys on my car.

          And I didn’t like spending $175 on an overheating issue only because my average paycheck is like 210 dollars. My mom had to pay for it and I’m paying her, because that’s just what I have to do.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          No trans dispstick on a ’95? Much facepalm.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I know, right?

            My sister’s ’92 Acclaim might have just been diagnosed with a bad case of blown head gasket, but at least it’s super easy to check the trans fluid! Dipstick is right on the front of the transmission, clearly labeled and easy to reach.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            3800 has a dipstick, don’tcha know (hint hint).

  • avatar
    ajla

    N-bodies, from these years at least, are not good. I think I’ve owned enough of them over my life to make that statement with some authority.

    I would not bother doing any upgrades on the car. You’re just lighting your cash on fire.

    What you want is an H-body (notice how DDayJ and matador had one and are extolling the virtues of a cheap car?).

    Dump the Skylark. Find a Bonneville, Lesabre, or 88 that uses option code FE3, F41, or Y56. GX3, F83, or FW2 are three other ones to look for. The option codes are on the spare tire cover.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      FE3…F41…those are suspension packages, correct? I didn’t know the H-bodies had sport suspension packages. And yeah, I found a nice green Bonneville, but it sold before I could even look at it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I agree with this. H bodies rank at the top of the beater hierarchy. Some of them even have superchargers factory equipped! Front wheel burning glory is a pulley swap away! Plus, there is actual performance stuff out there for the 3800 engine.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I would have ended up with a Bonneville SSEi if my mom hadn’t been skeeved out by the somewhat weird owner and slight body damage!

        At least I didn’t end up with the Cavalier I looked at that had DexCool problems.

  • avatar
    prndlol

    Anyone else remember the 92-93 Skylark non-airbag steering wheel? The worst.
    http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/2058/2021/5143510014_large.jpg

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @ajla: Was that for LeSabres?

    Only issue I have with the LeSabre is no supercharger, but that’s easily fixed with a trip to a junkyard or eBay. Unless you have to change the entire top end for supercharger duty…

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      The 3800 SC was offered on the Riviera, Regal, and Park Avenue. If you had to have a supercharger, the easiest thing to do would be to buy one of those. Or you could go with a Caprice, Impala SS, or Roadmaster with a 350…

      I’d probably just stick with the Skylark, though. A few mods and I think you’ll be showing off your taillights to a few Honda’s ;-)

      Plus, owning a sleeper is fun. Imagine the look of a ricer driver being beaten by a Buick. A kid in our town did it all the time with a Supercharged Regal. Why not a Skylark?

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Oh believe me, a “final years” Park Avenue Ultra with the glorious chrome wheels, big grille, and 3800 SC power is honestly on my wish list. I see one every day when I commute to school, but of course it’s not for sale.

  • avatar
    tuckerdawg

    lol that car is so lame dont even try to make it faster, it will only cause you further embarrassment. But hey its free, get a job, start saving money, and in a years time you could afford something like a decent used miata, mustang, camaro, etc. Or even better, invest in some HPDE driving lessons that will make you go fast no matter what car your driving.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Looking for two relatively cheap and easy mods to this car. FE3 loaded front struts will go a long way to improving the handling along with an upgrade out back. The second is to get the 3100 up to snuff running behavior wise using a good scanner if you can get your hands on one. Bone stock this 160 HP mill should do a 0-60 time of 8 seconds or less which is reasonable. More power can be had cheaply by finding a good set of 2000-2005 3100 heads which had larger freer flowing valves and can add another 20 HP and torque and made a noticeable difference in both low and top end power. This will also give you the chance to install an improved intake gasket which should keep this motor living for years to come.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    1. If you want to go fast you can get a different beater (or just track the Buick, why not?). Better yet go karting with your friends. It is cheaper, safer, and damn fun.

    2. Girls don’t give a crap what you drive. Keep it clean inside. And leave a nice tip when you’re on a date, it’ll go a lot further.

    3. Given 1 and 2 above, you’ve got no-one to impress, so you might as well keep it as-is.

    Those of us that are married spend a bit on cars because we like to look at them, work on them, and talk about them. Sometimes drive them, but not always. And once you have a stable income, you need to spend on SOMETHING you enjoy otherwise it’s a life of bitterness (well actually we have that too, just kidding :-)

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Oh man, please don’t make me take pictures of my car’s interior. It imploded in a sense some time before I bought it. The top of the dash curled up like a wave, the rest of the dash is warped, the plastic piece around the radio and HVAC controls is falling off, there’s lots of rust flakes on the floor because the car’s habit of taking on water has rusted the seat hardware, screws are falling out of the trim here and there, and it probably has mold in it due to the aformentioned water leak. And yet a guy I know has a similar year Grand Am and his car’s interior is fine, I always get the worst luck…

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Dude, you need to put a cage in it, cut the springs and head on down to your local 24 Hours of Lemons race. I’m sure Judge Phil (Murilee) will give you a free pass at the BS inspection with a Skylark.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Killing my car in LeMons would be loads of fun! But would a car purchased for 1500 dollars a year ago be eligible? It might be too good because the engine still works half decently. :P

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Seriously, don’t destroy this car. If this was the disposable rental grade four banger 2.3 N-body sedan, I wouldn’t care. But you actually have the coupe with the nice greenhouse and radical 90s styling. Even if you don’t care for the styling, what you have is precisely what GM and almost everyone else refuses to build, V6 FWD midsize sport coupe you can actually see out of as opposed to tiny sedans with enlarged front doors and no real passenger seating. Enthusiasts are supposed to have unique cars, don’t lose your soul and jump into a Civrolla.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I am older than dirt but smart enough to avoid trying to talk a 21 yo out of very much. I remember the first car my parents put me in (a 47 studebaker) and it was pretty lame. I appreciate your feelings because I had them. but. you probably need a little patience. Even so, however, I can tell you a low cost way to make a pig fly.

    When I was 24 and a single petty officer in the Navy, I put a supercharger on my first new car (66 beetle). It had survived to the 2 year old point by then and I was ready for something new. Spent some time showing taillights to V8s around Phillie before I went to that 318 you mentioned. Realized I was not really the race car driver I had imagined. It’s more fun to drive a sleeper IMO than a ferrari. Surprised looks paid me back for the expense.

    If the basic car (engine/trannie/brakes) remain sound and if you develop a little better budget, that will create a real monster. Junkyard turbos and a good header system will make you ruin the night of many of the “go fast” crowd. I think the blower and header just about doubled the power of my 1300.

    If $175 is a lot of money, you are not ready. At 21, I expect you have less patience than money but that’s what you need right now. Be patient, drive what you got, and let it go out in a blaze of glory when you are ready for better.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    I had the same dilemma at around the same age. Your problems are compounded by the fact that there’s no actually fun car available in your price range.

    Don’t break — I mean modify — the only vehicle you have. Keep the cheap reliable beater and get a motorcycle as a secondary if you want something fast and exciting. You can pick up a used Ninja250 or GS500 for cheap. Budget another $1000 for protective gear.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      I’m terrified of motorcycles…especially around here, where the average Jim Bob drives the biggest truck he can finance. I don’t think I could handle the fear of being turned into pavement pizza by some idiot driving aggressively in his lifted diesel F350.

  • avatar
    Hillman

    Worthless advice from someone who is not much older but had the same problem with a 96 Cutlass. Not cool but not a bad car. Cheap to run is good when you are 21. At your age having a knock off nice watch and decent going out clothes will be much better for you social wellness then a newer car. Then save your money for something nice and get your fun though the track with a lemons team.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      But I don’t care about my clothes or watch, I care about my computer and my car! :P

      And I sure wish I lived anywhere near a track so I could figure out my car’s top speed…never had enough empty road to see if it would hit 100.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        This is something I fought, too, but eventually had to admit: nice clothes matter. Car, not so much.

        As someone who started out with a 3.1L W-Body with 20 less horsepower, hitting 100 is not a problem. Stopping with that era’s GM brakes, however, definitely can be. Dad’s Cutlass didn’t have the power to lock up the brakes in the dry from any speed, even when it was new. According to the dealer, they were all like that.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @Sajeev: There’s a local Fox-stang with fancy T-Bird/Cougar wheels on it instead of the usual Mustang alloys, it’s kind of amusing. I’ve seen Mustang wheels on non-Mustangs, but not the opposite.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    There is always the 3300 which is in vast supply from Cutlass Supremes and Century’s. They did have some intake issues or go full hog with a 3800SC.

  • avatar
    kkt

    Upgrades wouldn’t be a good idea with this vehicle. It runs, but it doesn’t have a lot of years left, and upgrades would shorten its life and not pay for themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I agree, except for the years left. Ordinary regular maintenance should keep it on the road a long time, but this isn’t the car for upgrades that cost time and money. I’d get some fuzzy dice and upgrade the radio.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        New wheels, an intake swap, and some stiffer shocks wouldn’t take THAT much time. All I would need is some shop access and someone with more skill than me to help out.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Okay, it sounds like you’re not going for the major performance package. The thing is, the shop access (with proper tools) and grizzled wrencher to guide you are going to be harder to find than the wheels, intake and shocks. You could save some money until you can get a pro to install those three and save your knuckles and sanity.

          First and foremost, get a shop manual that will give you an idea what you’re going to attempt, and have a mechanic give you an appraisal of the car for pending issues ($) before you do anything. I still would do nothing without a bit of a nest egg for unforeseen expenses, unless you can tap relatives for a loan (not recommended – I’ve been there). Hey, you’ve got a car that will take you where you want to go. You don’t want to risk rendering it unusable and having to pay a mechanic to fix your mistakes (plus towing).

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I got a family mechanic, I can get a shop manual, and I know of a few local salvage yards to take parts from. Hell, if I didn’t live in a housing development with an evil HOA and a small sloped driveway, I’d probably just enlist the help of my shadetree mechanic neighbor and his motley crew of wrenchers, because he managed to do an entire engine and transmission swap without a lift and without a few thousand dollars worth of Snap-On tools. Granted, he was doing it into a 1973 Chevy Nova…

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    If it were me, I’d keep the Skylark running and save up for a supercharged Regal GS.

    I love gramma cars. My 93 Towncar was a hit with all my friends when I was 19. All red leather interior…

    About to buy a Grand Marquis…Comfort is important!

    The elderly take (or took) great care of their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      A late 80s/early 90s “box” Panther seems like a brilliant idea for when I have a larger budget…surely ’03 era suspension bits and Mustang GT engine upgrades aren’t massively expensive. Bonus points for having a cloth top to really convince the cops that your Grand Marquis or Crown Vic will never ever go above 35.


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