By on January 28, 2014
Photo courtesy of golden2husky

Photo courtesy of golden2husky

Last week, I wrote a short article about my impending relocation to Kansas and asked for your input on my plan to purchase some kind of an old car to play around with while I am there. I got a huge response and, thanks to so many people’s thoughtful responses, I’m already considering cars I might otherwise have passed right over. Since the move is still some months away, the article was intended to help launch my search and I was having fun reading everyone’s replies and cross checking the various suggestions on Craigslist when, about 235 comments in, I got an interesting offer…

One of TTAC’s most consistent commenters, golden2husky, wrote and asked: “How about a near flawless 1995 Probe GT 5 speed, 71K, spent its life in a heated garage and never saw salt? A Corvette will be taking its place and it needs a loving home….and in Leavenworth KS, the discreet Melissa Etheridge window sticker will be a bonus!”

I won’t lie, the second generation Probe GT was already high on the list of possibilities. They seem to regularly appear on the Kansas City Craigslist at good prices and I’ve always thought they were good looking little cars that have aged really well over the past two decades. They have a sleek, modern design that makes them look surprisingly up-to-date and, although they may not be as powerful as most of the cars being built today, the 164 horsepower that wikipedia says the V6 made is more than adequate for my purposes. With a five speed stick under your right hand, a car like that can be a lot of fun and this one sounded like a peach. Naturally, I responded right away.

The pictures I received backed up golden2husky’s claims of a low mileage, garage kept one owner car and it was clear to me that the little Probe had been affectionately cared for since the day it was purchased. It was a stunning, ruby-red jewel of a car with a grey leather interior and, although he wanted a little more than I had stated I wanted to pay, his price was not outrageous for such a fine car. I was tempted, but in the end I had to decline. The reason, however, has nothing to do with the car and everything with my state of mind.

300m

Over the past decade or so I have owned two older cars that may have been as nice as golden2husky‘s Probe, my father’s 1984 Cutlass Supreme and my 2002 300M Special. In both of those cases I started out with the full intention of driving the car every day and, for a while, I did. It’s a lot of fun owning and driving an older car in great shape. People notice it. They see it parked on its own at the back of the supermarket parking lot. They ask about it when they see you pumping gas and sometimes they even chase you down with offers to buy it. Your heart swells with pride and you begin to think you have something really special, something that needs to be protected and preserved.

Soon, you buy into the notion and find yourself driving your “classic” car less and less. Every day becomes once-in-a-while and then, when the car enters the garage and you get it snugly secured under its cover, once-in-a-while becomes the occasional sunny day. Driving and tinkering goes by the wayside and you fall into an endless pattern of washing, waxing and self admiration. You feel good that you own such a wonderful car, but gradually it dawns on you that no one ever asks about it anymore, they don’t see it anywhere in the supermarket parking lot and it isn’t on the road enough to cause anyone to chase you down, either. The same impetus to protect and preserve your car has left it locked away in the garage, like a fairytale princess in a tower and you, the formerly happy owner, have become the dragon that protects it from all who could possible do it harm.

In my case, because I couldn’t find it within myself to turn my “classics” back into daily drivers, I ended up walking away. In the case of the Olds, I gave it to my nephew who used it for a while and then wisely sold it before he became trapped in the same untenable situation I had been, and in the case of the 300 sold it to a local man here in Buffalo who, for at least the time being I am sure, uses it on a regular basis. As I looked at the photos of Golden2husky’s Probe I realized where purchasing it would lead and, after a long hard look in the mirror, knew I had to take a pass. I just don’t have the self control it takes to use such a fine car every day but if you do, you know where to find it. For me, so long as I want to have any real fun at all, there can be only junkers.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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109 Comments on “Rolling History Or Rolling Junk Pile: Which Would You Own?...”


  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Yeah, I can understand that in some ways. My main issue is not having covered storage, so any nice car I bought would have to live outside and be driven on roads in various states of improvement. I wouldn’t mind using it, but it wouldn’t stay nice if I did.

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    My step son just had to get rid of his, 188k miles on it, plus being in Wisconsin. Same year, same color, everything, just not in as nice condition. It was a fun car to drive, the hatchback was very useful. Now he has a Cobalt and misses his Probe GT dearly.

  • avatar
    TheAnswerIsPolara

    Beautiful Probe. I like the first gen best. But, that’s a cool car…

    Back in the 80′s, my brother found and pristine ’69 Coronet 500 (Gold with white interior/white top). It had a 318, A/C, AM/FM factory radio. It’s owner caught the wrong side of a cow and needed a new front clip. That caused it to sit from ’72 until ’80 in a dry cool garage with less than 40K miles. He got it for quite a bargain.

    I helped him put a front clip on it and he had a local paint guy shoot it the proper gold color. What a stunning car!

    He drove it as a daily driver. And, like you, it got more and more special. But, what made him stop using it as a daily was the time it took to get parts and pieces when he needed to work on it. The internet has helped a lot with that. But, back then, if your local parts house said, “2 or 3 days”, that’s how long you waited.

    Today, my 50 yr old Imperial needed a new top cylinders and hoses. They both arrived on my doorstep in less than 2 days. I think it’s easier to own an older car today because of the internet. Try to get that kind of service in the 80′s!

  • avatar
    prndlol

    Purchase pristine car.

    Oil spray pristine car.

    USE pristine car.

    It’s really the only solution. Nothing lasts forever, so take basic precautions, and enjoy the hell out of it.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Agree. I have a 69 Mustang Mach I with the 428 engine. Most people who have these cars never drive them. I have driven this one at least weekly for the past 25 years as a pleasure vehile and sometimes for commuting. It’s not a show car but is in very presentable condition. I rebuilt the engine 86,000 miles ago and have put over 100,000 miles on the car since I bought it. Last month I took it on a 9 hour 425 mile trip. I keep up with all the maintenance and it is always garaged.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I wish I could find an 89 GT kept in similar loving conditions.

    I liked the first gen better, and 89 is the only year in the first gen that didn’t have motorized seat belts.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You just gotta get something you like and use it all the time. Quit becoming so emotionally attached and protective over cheapo cars! You aren’t allowing yourself to enjoy these fun cars you have access to because those dang emotions get in your way.

    You’ve got a cycle going which you must break. Get something like that Probe, and have your wife take away the keys to other vehicles. YOU MUST DRIVE IT. You’ve got the purple Impala SS syndrome but you don’t have a purple Impala SS.

    If you were my personal friend telling me this story, I’d say “Just freakin’ do it.”

    • 0 avatar

      +1

      My E30 has winter tires on it for this reason. Been driving it to work this week because the other, newer, costlier piece of crap car I own failed to deal with the cold.

    • 0 avatar

      my sentiments exactly.

      It would be one thing if it were a classic car that was worth a lot of money, and you actually needed that money more than the car. But even that probe is still a fungible commodity. Buy it and enjoy it!

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’ll say. This saga is frustrating to read from a far.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Gotta agree. You want a fun car to drive so drive it. Instead of having memories of the car sitting in the garage you’ll recall the day you went to the lake, or that great little restaurant you discovered, or taking your kids to he ball game.

      Drive it hard and put it away wet…then clean it!

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Here here. My recently semi-retired Trooper earned it’s retirement stripes after 230k miles of steady service. I’m fortunate in that it’s up at our summer place, and all the cheerios, juice stains, door dings, Wiggles tapes etc of my kid growing up are there to greet us in July.

        I love to look at pristine ‘classics’, but I respect even more folks who use their cars as intended, especially if they keep them for the long term.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I don’t think that your problem with daily-driving a cream puff is a lack of self-control. Self control is what you’re exercising when you cover and polish it up. I think that your problem is something deeper, the hard-wired aversion to loss that most humans share. This aversion to loss can overwhelm the pleasure that comes with gain, and often leads us to make sub-optimal decisions that placate our fear of loss at the expense of happiness. Get the Probe or some other nice car and celebrate the feeling that comes with doing something you truly like, even when the gnawing worm of loss tells you to play it safe. After all, it’s not like the Probe is a museum piece that needs to be preserved, like a Deusenberg, say. It was designed and built to be used until it wears out. Honor it for that, and remind those around you that driving can be more than necessary evil.

  • avatar
    skor

    The first gen turbo GTs were the fastest of the Probes. Second gen V6 cars were not as fast, but generally more reliable. The biggest problem with the Probes, irrespective of 1st or 2nd gen, is the weak auto trans that was installed in these cars…….the manuals were fine. Even though they were wrong-wheel-drive, they were excellent handling cars.

    It’s rare to see any gen Probe in such fine shape today, most ended up in the hands of kids who beat them to pieces. I would have jumped on this car had I come across it.

    • 0 avatar
      drylbrg

      You’re forgetting ignition modules which were notorious for going out and cam covers that would leak in to the spark plug well. Neither were huge deals. I had a ’96 and it was a pretty good handling car, FWD notwithstanding. It was also fun to spin the little six up to its 7k redline.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I had a 1990 Probe LX V6. It was a used rental so I never saw it in pristine condition. My automatic survived at least 17 years and 4 owners, but I had the fluid and filter changed. The turbo engine had higher torque and may have been harder on the automatic. My big problem was CV boots. Towards the end it was a fun beater with oxidized paint and a cracked dash, but the seats and interior hard plastic parts were undamaged.

  • avatar
    ldl20

    That looks like a well-kept ride..I’m surprised it’s not teal green!

    I get where you’re coming from, but look at it from this perspective: drive it and let it become a “junker” while under your watch and enjoy all the (hopefully positive) side-effects that come from owning a car that’s not seen too much anymore. You know you’re going to look after it, and its not a car that’s ever going to increase in value, so who cares? Just get in it and drive (though only on sunny days in the winter!), and gradually turn your rolling piece of history into a rolling junker.

    Just my 2 cents

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Back in the early 90s I drove both 1st and 2nd Gen Probe GTs. The original had a lot more power–and torque steer. But the 2nd Gen V6 was so smoooooooth, and the shifter/clutch were a joy.

    So, ignoring my brother’s advice, I told him not to trade his 94 Probe GT with 60k miles, but sell it to me. He warned me. He was right. 2 months later, water pump started leaking. I got lucky and sold it for $600 less than I paid.

    So, great car when new, not so great over time. If you wish you could’ve bought it, hopes this makes you feel better. It’s not an 80s Mustang GT, or Prelude, or Rabbit/Golf GTI (I think those are more robust)

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      So you sold the Probe because the water pump went out? Having grown up with American cars in the 1970s and 80s, I’m completely used to having to replace water pumps and alternators well before 100K miles.

      In fact, I’m working on a ‘cream puff’ 1988 Buick Park Avenue for a friend that has only 47K original miles on it (one-owner, garaged, from an estate so it’s in like-new condition). The water pump bearing on it was getting noisy so I replaced it ($30 for a quality GMB pump, Amazon prime delivered to my doorstep). I’m certainly not going to condemn the entire car because of it though.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      Dude – a water pump is $50. You can get a cheap Chinese one from Rockauto for $20 if you want to be really cheap about it.

      But if you aren’t prepared to deal with that type of maintenance an older car is certainly not for you. These older, sporty cars are great fun but they certainly aren’t for everyone.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        I certainly wouldn’t ditch a car just because of a water pump, but I would have to think that replacing a water pump on transverse V-6 would be a nightmare….it may even require engine removal. I believe certain years of Preludes with 4 cyl engines required engine removal to do a water pump, so it’s not all that unusual on FWD cars.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I had a ’96 that I ordered from Gene Butman Ford in Ypsilanti, MI when I lived in Ann Arbor. It was white with saddle leather. I kept it for about 18 months and 30k until a move to Manhattan (NY, not KS) dictated that we only have one car. It was the only car that I factory ordered and they wouldn’t let me delete the rear spoiler in ’96 like I wanted to. I sold it to a Brit and found it in a random internet search years later. He took it overseas onto the Autobahn, etc. I thought that was pretty cool until he told me he sold it to a friend that totaled it. Oh well. It was a good car and I have good memories of driving it like a maniac down 8 mile to my apartment in Northville.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m in that boat right now. My Impala saw daylight about 4 or 5 times last year and about 10 miles. It was my first car and I drove it to school every nice day. Then it started getting relegated to shows when I got a more modern car that was less temperamental. And when I went to college and was living in apartments after it didn’t move for years.
    I’ve since done a lot of work to it and if it was running better, I might feel more comfortable driving it. But as it is a perpetual project and my “plans” exceed my ability to find a shop I trust, it just sits there. I keep thinking once I have some more cash to throw at it, I’ll actually make a move on it. It’s like not having kids until you are financially ready, you’ll never have kids.

  • avatar
    groovetini

    I’m another owner of a Probe GT. The engine in that car was a real gem, but it didn’t take to neglect well. I was shocked to find 225 width wires on it, and the stock handling was really great, way ahead of it’s time.

    But those cars were not built to last. The interiors were made of pretty poor materials (but the seats were great) and poorly put together. They rattled as bad as a 4th gen F-body.

    That said, I’d love to find one in good condition, and slowly restore it to relive my high school glory.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      I had a 89, and it was still tight, and rattle free, after 210K miles.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I have no rattles despite the firm ride. They were not poorly put together, in fact a same year Mustang should be built as well. The center console is hard plastic as is some of the center stack and lower door panels but the overall materials used are quite good. Way better than what is in my Sable.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I sure wish I had that Cutlass…

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      You’re a young guy, aren’t you? Those things sold by the hundreds of thousands, yet were utterly wretched, which is why you don’t see them anymore despite being the Camry of their era in terms of sales. The ride was way on the bouncy side of soft; the steering was the very definition of imprecise; brakes were weak; power was typical of the smog/e-carb era; accessories all failed at the GM-spec rate; need I go on?

      This very year and color was my grandfather’s last car. When grandma went in the home, she offered it to me for $200. I bought it and had my broke sister pick it up and keep it, because I wanted nothing to do with it. It lasted half a year before the radiator corroded and spilled its contents into the gravel of her driveway. Idiot light (and most of the IP, for that matter) having failed, she seized the engine a few miles later. Goodbye, after all of 88K miserable miles. It’s hard to be nostalgic for cars so obviously designed to fail. Good luck if you find one! At least the author liked his, so I guess for every car there is a proper owner.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I don’t see anything that couldn’t be fixed with some time and money. Plus the ones that remain are the ones that got screwed together better than most. They have to be, no amount of babying (aside from straight up not driving it) would keep an utter lemon going this long.

        Hell, my car is only still running because some mechanic years ago refused to put DexCool in it. Had a previous owner relented to GM specifications and put in liquid engine destroyer, I wouldn’t be driving my car.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          “liquid engine destroyer”

          Lol.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I can’t think of anything else called for by a manufacturer that was more effective in causing your car’s engine to break in a big way.

            My mom’s 1999 Cutlass (decent car for a rebadged Malibu) lost its life to the DexCool menace and a bad mechanic.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Interestingly, I do see a lot of GM A/G body cars still on the road. They’re popular with hot rodders, so there’s a demographic to keep them alive. Combined with the sheer numbers produced, I still see quite a few, even in the rust belt. Maybe it’s a Detroit thing.

  • avatar
    pietalian

    Always liked first and second gen Probes.

    FWIW, I had to fight the “collector” urge when I first picked up our fun car, a Miata. Once we my wife got excited about driving it and we made a few minor upgrades to make it “ours”, it became much easier to just enjoy the car for what it is. Enjoying and abusing don’t have to be the same thing.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Its really too bad about the “state of mind” problem. You will really be missing out, and that car needs to be used. What is its future anyway? Its not a classic. What else are you going to get and how much worse will it be before the “state of mind” doesn’t ruin it?

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    A ’95 is a classic ? A 2002 Chrysler is an old car… wow, I’m getting old. (tbh car prices here in Norway makes us take care of cars a bit longer than most others)
    The probe looks great though. I would definitely buy it in your situation. No way near rare enough to be really afraid of wrecking, but maybe a bit too nice to use as a daily driver.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I struggle with the same issue with my cars, but in the end, I drive them. In my teens and 20s, I went to farrrr too many car shows only to see trailer queens with gold-plated brake rotors and pinstriped frame rails (thanks to the mirrored tiles always placed underneath such vehicles).

      I’d make arrangements to buy the Probe and drive the heck out of it. Keep it nice, and sell it when done with it.

      In the end, we’re dust and our cars are rust . . .

    • 0 avatar

      20 years, I think, is the threshold in the US for classic cars so in that regard, yes the Probe pictured above is a borderline classic already. The Oldsmobile certainly was and the Chrysler, providing it is taken care of will be one day as well – at least I think it will be, that’s the problem with trying to pick the classic market. I’ll tell you one thing, when I washed and waxed it and took it to a drive-in car show where the attendees were told to park on the grass close to the participants, people came over and looked at it.

      Because of the road salt, here in Buffalo cars older than 10 or 15 years are pretty thin on the ground. Most of the ones you see are in deplorable condition. Cars as old as the Probe and my Olds would have required special attention and care from day one or they wouldn’t be here. In that regard then, I do think they are classics. That may not be true in California where cars that aren’t right on the coast can last for decades with little more than surface rust providing you get the mud out of the cracks when you wash.

      Cars like this weren’t made to be around forever and they will disappear one by one. As the people who drove them when they were new hit middle age (like yours truly) we’ll go looking for them to recapture a little of our youth. In that regard, what’s classic and what’s just an old car is a matter of perspective I suppose, which is whay I put “classic” in quotes.

      • 0 avatar

        25 years. Read what Clutchcargo says, above–there are plenty of studies to back him up. Then buy the Probe and enjoy the hell out of it. Heck, if you’re then still not ready to buy it, ask your sister, the Moss Boss!

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Thomas, I lived in Lawrence, KS and then Kansas City, MO for 6 years. They don’t use sodium chloride salt on the roads so cars that get a regular coat of wax last for decades. Driving a pristine Ford Probe for a year or two in Leavenworth isn’t going to destroy it. Instead, you’ll give it exercise and most likely replace worn out parts, leaving it no worse on balance than you found it.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        When I was younger and was in my phase of buying and selling quite a few cars, I found myself gravitating toward cars that were old enough to be a little difficult to find parts for, but not quite old enough to actually be collectible.

        Now I still think of my 1984 RX7 as a modern car even though it’s been around here for 20 years, and even though I drove it so little last year that I didn’t put gas in it once. I should follow my own advice and drive it more often, but in reality I’m probably going to sell it and find myself a nice Mustang GT that I’ll be less likely to leave in the garage for weeks at a time.

        We’re only going to be on this planet for a few years, there are more cool cars around than we’ll ever get a chance to drive, so we should be getting what automotive experience we can.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Buy it Thom,

    you aren’t going to be keeping it more than a year or so anyway right? A gently used car won’t go to crap in a years time. You could just drive it when it isn’t raining/snowing out and still get lots of enjoyment out of it.

    Although rare to see now, the Probe isn’t a Hemi Cuda Convertible.

    I’m victim of the “buy it and horde it” way of things. I keep promising myself that the next cool car I buy (I think I’m really liking the 2015 Mustang GT) will get driven everyday.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      gotta agree based on the info you gave us you have a year or two in a new part of the country, you may not find the ” one” in the time you move to KS, if you like it and it mest the list wants / needs buy it, yes I get the fun of looking I do it all the time with a miata but when I searched for a saab vert 5 speed to buy I knew if I found one that worked it would be mine. The one I bought is black , not my first choice but I love driving it. This looks like a car you could enjoy and not have to be bummed it needs something so I will not drive it today.

  • avatar
    Boff

    This situation reflects one I experienced a few years ago…I had a 2004 RX-8 that was showing its age a little bit, and after some suspension and exhaust mods was a too loud and rough to tolerate every day. So I bought a Fiat 500 for daily commuting and left the RX for auto-x and weekend romps. Pretty soon I realized I rarely drove the RX anymore and didn’t enjoy it when I did because it didn’t seem to be thriving on limited use. I came to the realization that I am a one-car guy…one car to do all the tasks I need a car to do and to pour all my love into. So I traded in both cars on a Mustang GT.

    • 0 avatar
      Redshift

      What suspension and exhaust did you do? My 04 RX8 with KW Variant 3 coils, upgraded sway bars and a Mazdaspeed catback (along with some other stuff) was perfectly comfortable for a 4000km or so road trip last summer.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Missed your last story so just catching up. If you are going to the KC area, you will in the opposite end of the state from the real antiques IMO. Go to SW Ks or across the border in Ok. I grew up there and folks drive old cars because they can afford them. They last forever because of the climate.

    Buy them, spiff them up, and sell them. Rinse and repeat.

  • avatar
    1998S90

    Whatever you decide on, buy it in Oklahoma – our neighbors to the south. It will be a lot cheaper.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Personally the attaction of a plain old car that is still nice is more of a curiosity than a “classic.” An 85 Cutlass should be driven till death and not worry about it’s future. Let some other fool worry about restoring it.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    Your post really speaks to me, since I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago. I wanted to own a “classic” car that would not break the bank — particularly since the bank only provided for a $2-3 grand car max.

    Right off the bat, I saw a beautiful 1964 Ford Falcon that looked like it had never been used. Beautiful car — but a museum piece. I just couldn’t see driving it to Costco or frankly more than a few times in the summer. I decided I wanted something that I could enjoy — cars are designed to be driven, to my mind, not just to stare at.

    I looked around a lot and ultimately found a pristine 1982 Honda Prelude — it had miles on it, but it was incredibly clean and escaped the tinworm that kills cars here in the Upper Midwest. I loved the car as a teenager and thought I could see myself driving it around all the time (at least when there was no snow on the ground). After two years, I do not regret the purchase — I get the comments from folks at the gas pump and even get stopped at lights by Honda fanboys who can’t believe that one of these cars is still on the road.

    In the end, I don’t think I would want a classic that I couldn’t use for fear of “harming” it. I’ve got enough other life responsibilities — this is something for me to enjoy and part of that enjoyment comes from using it regularly. Yes, that may expose it to the occasional door ding, but it’s not like the car is going to end up at a Barrett Jackson auction. And the car still came in on budget, so whatever maintenance is needed I can do or go to my usually reliable independent guy. My motto: if it isn’t going to be fun, don’t do it.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      That’s why I think just about the best “classic” car money can buy is a 77-90 Chevy Caprice. Extremely common, parts are pretty cheap, the non-THM 200 equipped ones are rock solid, classy looks, and you don’t have to feel bad for driving it because they aren’t rare expensive museum pieces.

      Plus you can probably get one with under 100k because a lot of them had (or still have) older owners.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Can confirm that driving an older “normal car” in really nice shape is lots of fun. (Unfortunately my wife disagrees and finds the idea vaguely embarrassing.) What’s not particularly fun, especially for someone who has no space to do his own repairs, is the greater frequency of random breakage.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      What will make maintaining these “early classics” from the 1980s-1990s more and more difficult is the abundance of plastic. It becomes brittle over time; I cannot seem to release a wiring clip without breaking the tang anymore.

      I had the same hording tendency about the “Blue Goose”; my 1995 Ford Taurus wagon. Probably made life for the kids and grandkids less than fun by being so fussy over it.

      Then, a month or so ago, I backed into my son’s pickup truck. The corner of the now-brittle rear bumper shattered like it was glass, allowing the corner of his bumper to make contact with the rear quarter panel and dent it as well. It could have been much worst — neither the rear tail light nor the side cornering light were damaged, so it is drivable, and the tailgate can still be opened. But, it is not so pristine anymore.

      Now, I am not so fussy about what happens to it. And a couple of weeks ago, I had it backed up to a store to load something when a lady came out and exclaimed “Wow! What a nice wagon! What kind of wagon is that!” I told her, and she said “that is nice!” and walked on. Made my day….

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Plastic breakage is what kills 70s and 80s GM products…my neighbor’s ’81 Eldorado is in a rather sorry state because all its plastic filler panels are missing and as far as I know there is no company that reproduces them.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          It’s not just GM cars.

          Here is a company that makes filler panels for lots of cars, including that Eldorado.

          http://www.replica-plastics.com/EditParts.aspx

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Thank goodness someone out there has a heart and doesn’t see 70s and 80s Detroit barges as heaps of junk.

            I would buy my neighbor’s Eldorado if it were for sale…it’s old and a bit tired but it deserves a new lease on life, not just to be run into the ground.

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            I like 70′s and 80′s stuff. I’ve got a 74 Firebird I tinker with.

            The parts are out there, they just aren’t all in one book yet like fixing a 69 Camaro.

            The 70′s and 80′s stuff will be desired by more people someday, probably in the not too distant future.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      dal20402, But sometimes the fun factor just isn’t enough.

      We loved my wife’s 1992 Towncar Executive but there was just too much upkeep in a Ford product of that vintage with 150+K miles on it.

      We had purchased it new, took excellent care of it, and I must have replaced every part on it that could be replaced with the help of Autozone over the years we owned it (1992-2008). But the paint became nasty and a new paint job cost more than what the Lincoln was worth.

      I ended up selling it to a young airman who was getting out of the service at the nearby Air Base and he drove it back to SC with a U-Haul in tow. He wasn’t worried about what he was seen driving and he went to work at his dad’s auto repair shop.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The Probe would’ve been a good choice.

    I’ve always liked them myself, and they have nearly all of the benefits of an Integra (light weight, acceptably sleek, good visibility, decent handling) without the drawbacks (rice reputation, constantly being stolen, cop magnet). I may yet buy one myself to serve as a psycho little weekend project.

    But you make a good point about worrying about the vehicle’s health.

    I figure that the solution is to buy it with the understanding and expectation that it’ll get dinged and dented by life, as we all do. I bought my current car as a daily drive, knowing it’d pick up the occasional scrape and scratch, I wash it at the local self-serve car wash every couple of weeks and vacuum it out every four months or so.

    For a weekender, remember that it’s supposed to be fun, and it’s not fun to constantly fear the real world. So buy expecting the dirt and dents and scratches, and just have fun with it.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I wish there more were GTs kicking around. The nose of the GT was so much better than the SE; always reminded me of a 944. Lovely car. Jay Leno must have it made. Cars that were once pampered and garaged are not for me relaxing and actually using daily. I feel sort of tense driving them. Lately branches and debris are always blowing. This winter, whether it snowed or not, I’ve never seen so much salt on the road. Deer are crazy and are breeding like rabbits. I bought a 740 turbo wagon 3 years ago. Supposedly the red with tan interior was a rarity in ’87 with a manual. It was very ragged out, but I could use it as a work vehicle until I got around to restoring it. The harmonic balancer went loose a mile from Mom’s Christmas Eve. It has been parked in her frozen barn since. I finally bought a house with a garage to work on it. But the house is sucking the money along with this winter’s heating bills. Yet the house will show a return. I could put another $4000 on top of the $1500 in the Volvo and still sell it for $1500. My way of thinking has changed. Get a good example and if something happens to it, well it happens. There’s a complete and drivable ’36 DeSoto Airflow on eBay right now with 5 hrs left. The description states it would make “a great restoration or even a hot rod, mild or wild.” I bet we keep cars maintained better than the average totally dependent owner. Someone is going to dong these pristine classics-it might as well be us.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    I’m telling you, man, Contour SVT.

    It doesn’t get any more Kansas. Quote Wikipedia: “All Ford Contours were produced at the Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant (KCAP) in Claycomo, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City, Missouri.”

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      My experience with those cars has been terrible. I know a guy who has a side business buying them with grenaded engines and swapping them to 3.0L duratecs. Unless Tom is into engine swaps, I advise to stay away.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      If it weren’t for the self destructing wiring harnesses, more of these cars would probably be on the road. The Contour SVT has a really well sorted clutch and shifter that made it a joy to drive.

      While not as fast, I had a 5-speed manual Mystique Sport V-6 as a company car for a while – it was fun, but the clutch wasn’t as well sorted as the SVT. My clutch released a millimeter off the floor and basically was like an on/off switch – it was really hard to drive that car smoothly…contrast that with the SVT: the clutch had a nice friction point an inch or so off the floor and you could feel the disc bite and engage. The engineer who sorted the clutch on the SVT should have been given the assignment to fix the non-SVT cars.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    For a short time I had a 3rd generation Probe with the same powertrain, a 2000 Mercury Cougar. You dodged a bullet here, Tom.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      If your Cougar was a V-6, then it was a 2.5L Duratec, which is just a smaller version of the 3.0L Duratec. The 2.5L V-6 in the Probes of this generation was a Mazda design if I’m not mistaken…

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        They’re the same engines, although Mazda did use them. The 2.5L V6 was the first “Duratec” and was originally designed for the Mondeo/Contour. It’s definitely of Ford origin.

        They seem to leak oil in the most awful hard to fix areas, the EGR passages love to carbon up and the wiring harnesses they installed on them crumbled to dust. Not a big fan.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    If you feel guilty driving something like a Probe GT, your finances are either not in great shape, or there’s something psycholgically wrong. I suspect the latter.

    <$5,000, mass produced, 20 year-old cars aren't heirlooms. Take care of it, sure, but drive it, enjoy it. If you can't do that, I don't see you being able to enjoy cars very much. I always thought it was odd to talk in such reverence of a Chrysler 300M, too. A good car, sure, but it's just a mass-produced Chrysler product, not dissimilar from my parents' '04 Concorde. No one has ever seen it as anything but transportation.

    Assuming your finances allow it, I suggest figuring out what's keeping you from enjoying nice things, and fixing it. Life's too short to feel guilty about driving cars you can afford to enjoy.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      You Sir, Clearly don’t “Get it”.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It wasn’t just a 300M, it was a 300M Special. It had SPECIAL in it’s NAME!

      I get what you’re saying though, as someone who as had hundreds of cars pass through their hands, I’m a bit jaded. When you’re not driving the weekend car, it’s not because it’s “too nice”, it’s because you really don’t like it that much. Maybe Tom just wasn’t ready to admit that about those cars.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      “A good car, sure, but it’s just a mass-produced Chrysler product…”

      May I remind you that:

      A 1968 Charger RT is just a mass-produced Chrysler product.

      A 1969 Charger Daytona is just a mass-produced Chrysler product.

      A 1971 Hemicuda is just a mass-produced Chrysler product.

      A 1997 Viper GTS is just a mass-produced Chrysler product.

      Shall I go on?

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        I notice you didn’t compare production numbers there.

        A 300M isn’t special, no matter what its name says, and even if it were, I see the point of a nice car as being enjoyed. If you’ve only got a handful left in the world, yeah, I see the point of preserving them, but that’s not the case. Ditto with the Probes of the world. These are about as commonplace as enjoyable cars get, so why not use them for what they were built for?

        You may think that I don’t appreciate these cars because I think they should be used. I, on the other hand, feel like you don’t appreciate them if you don’t want to use (but not abuse) them in the manner in which they were intended.

        For what it’s worth, my 15 year-old Miata – the most mass-produced two seater ever – has never seen snow or salt, looks and drives great, and I go to great lengths to try to avoid parking situations where it’ll get dinged. It also sees track time and I won’t hesitate to drive it 1,000 miles if it’s going to be an enjoyable drive.

        • 0 avatar
          PonchoIndian

          Ok, you get it, you just can’t communicate it very well.

          To me a 300M Special is more “special” to me than a Miata. So to each their own…

          I think Thom used the 300 exactly how you use your Miata. The Miata is a heck of a lot easier to replace than a clean 300M though.

          • 0 avatar
            JuniperBug

            So we get back to the original question of what’s keeping Thom from enjoying an older, common, fun car. He’s talking about something he’ll drive around for a year or two, not enter into a destruction derby. Even if the car gets dinged or needs maintenance, that’s nothing that a bit of time and money can’t set right again. On the off chance he gets into a wreck, well, we weren’t talking about a Tucker 48, were we? As long as he’s ok, life can easily go on with another car.

            What strikes me as especially odd is that he doesn’t seem to mind selling his cars to people who will go on and use them as regular cars, but he feels guilty about doing it himself. Maybe it would be good to take a look at why that is, and why he won’t allow himself to be the one to enjoy a car that’s subject to degeneration regardless of what he does.

          • 0 avatar

            I think the problem is that he is nuts.

            There are conflicting forces at work. When I get something nice and I want to keep it that way. That comes from a childhood of having nothing new, by the way, not even a bicycle until I got a job and paid for it myself when I was around 19 years old. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have nice things, I grew up with solid but well used hand-me-downs. Because I had to work at keeping things nice, I got invested in how they were treated. The way most people feel when they get a new car, dreading the first door ding or dent until it happens, is how I feel everyday about the cars I own. At least with the new car I kind of realize that’s inevitable, but old ones are just different to me.

            Eventually, however, I stop using something because it becomes too important to use. At the same time I know how vehicles deteriorate if they aren’t used enough so I will sell them so I don’t have to be the one who ends up using a car up. The good news is that I seldom lose any money (with the exception of the Olds but that situation is just a little different because it went to my nephew) with this approach.

            By getting something a little older, I get some joy from putting it right. I won’t say “restoring” because that isn’t my goal here, but I enjoy taking things that others fail to value and making them into something I enjoy. That’s part of the equation. The other part is that having a car that already has some bumps and bruises eases my mind a bit. I still don’t want to see it damaged or destroyed, but little problems are less likely to send me over the edge. Get it?

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      Having a pristine babied car in your garage isn’t truly living with a car. Its like a marriage, it may start out all happiness and rainbows but it takes long years of hard miles to have a real relationship with your car, and the both of you will be very different people when you’re through. Buying low quality cars you don’t care about for a cheap thrill is like buying cheap whores, and we know you’re a better man than that Tom. Go find your dream car, and grow old with that car. You both deserve it.

  • avatar
    bodayguy

    First car I bought was a 93 Probe GT. Nice little engine, really good looking car with the sunroof and the GT styling. From what I hear, though, it’s damn hard to get parts for these now.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    So now you plan is to buy some beat up, abused, worn out car that will spend most of it’s time not on the road because it’s broken down???

    • 0 avatar

      Not quite. My plan is to buy some well used, unloved but essentially solid little car that still can be brought back with some simple TLC. Not a complete basket case, but something that could use some sorting out.

      Then the plan is to use it and have some fun without needing to worry whether or not I can leave it in a parking lot or parked at the curb. Husky2′s Probe is a well cared for totally cherry little rig that doesn’t need my TLC and I know how I am with nice cars, I want to keep them that way. I’ve been down that road a couple of times before and I know how the story ends.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “well used, unloved but essentially solid little car that still can be brought back with some simple TLC.”

        Volvo 240
        Mazda Miata
        Some years of Corvette
        Panther
        Ford Probe
        Honda Prelude if you can find one.
        Pre95 BMW
        Chrysler Lebaron Conv/Chrysler TC if you can find it

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    Idk about that. I drove an 89 caprice for years and have never owned a car newer than 1999 and I have NEVER had major motor or any transmission issues.just use your eyes and your smarts to pick the right one and keep up with maintenance.if I didn’t live in the salt belt I would own older and older cars.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Thomas,

    Buy the Probe and live, dammit. We aren’t here forever you know.
    How bad could it end? What about the good times you’ll have?
    Life is short.. or so they tell me. Do it.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I had the Probe’s sister car–a Mazda MX-6LS. Fantastic car for a front driver. Small V6, 5-speed manual, and relatively light weight (around 2800 labs, if I remember correctly) made it a lot of fun to zip around in. It was a surprisingly good handler too.

  • avatar
    Atum

    Back when my dad had hair, he owned a 1989 Ford Probe LX. He barely fit in it, but he loved it. However, in 1994, it had to be traded in due to problems it was having.

    Also, my example of how reliable second gen Probes are was watching FPGT24 on YouTube. Wow… each one he bought had some major problem.

  • avatar
    wibigdog

    Wow, a Probe. I haven’t seen one of these up here in northern Wisconsin for quite some time, first or second generation. My ex girlfriend had a blue ’89 Probe LX that I really didn’t care for, but in 1997 a co-worker bought a red ’95 Probe GT just like the one pictured, and I was smitten. But I had just bought my ’96 Contour at the time, and my soon-to-be-wife was not thrilled at the aspect of replacing a newer, practical four-door with a two door coupe, especially since our other vehicle was a pickup truck. (I’m sure my insurance agent would have been thrilled, though.)

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    My “garage queens” are Jeep Wranglers. An ’02 and an ’06 Unlimited Rubicon. I start them frequently and they each typically get a few thousand miles per year. While I love them both, the ’06 is my “baby” and the rarer of the two…it’s also the one I’d keep if forced to choose between the two.

    Having said all that, I’m not afraid to use them for what they are for. I’ve driven both of them out west for offroading trips (easter Jeep safari, for example), and both of them have their share of scars on the skid plates.

    When the weather is nice (a very narrow window here in Michigan if you hate humidity like me) I’ll drive one of them a few days a week. Any more than that and I’ll be bankrupted in fuel costs at 13-15 MPG on a 60 mile round trip commute. Both of them have oversize tires and drink fuel like a 1-ton pickup…yikes!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Buy it .

    Drive & enjoy it .

    Sell it when the time comes .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’ve had my Triumph Spitfire nearly 20 years. I drive it quite a bit in the summer, but I don’t drive it very FAR. It just isn’t a long-distance sort of car. But I have no qualms about driving it to Target to do the weekly shopping. It’s nice, but no museum piece. Obviously it is completely unsuitable for driving in a Maine winter – even aside from the salt issue, you would freeze to death in short order. On the other hand, I have my other toy car, a new Fiat Abarth. I am not driving that in the winter either, but mostly because I don’t see any reason to buy winter tires for it. I have my BMW and old Range Rover that are fully equipped for winter duty, so the Fiat is sitting it out. Actually the Rover is a nice example of an older car that I have long wanted. It definitely works for a living, but it gets taken well care of too.

    So I guess what I am saying is buy the nice car that you want, and drive it. It’s just a car. If it gets dinged, get the ding fixed. I have never stressed about that sort of thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I have a twenty year old Miata that I drive about 10K/year through three seasons. Depreciation is basically zero at this point and all it costs to drive is basic maintenance. Yeah, it’s accumulated some minor scratches but otherwise I keep it clean, waxed, garaged and it still looks great from 10 feet.

      Since it’s much cheaper to drive than my other car (a Benz) I basically save money by having an old fun car.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I don’t think I could deal with being: “The guy who drives a probe”. Think of all of the jokes.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    In 1996 i bought a used 93 Probe GT. I sold it with 77k miles on it in 2000 to buy a Mustang GT. The only reason i sold it was because the first owner had been in an accident and the repaired areas had the clearcoat peeling and the driver’s door was starting to sag and i didn’t want to mess with it. I sure miss running the rpm’s up on that sweet little V6 and nice shifting 5 speed.

  • avatar
    KennethofGA

    To Quote Matt Farrah, “The ultimate luxury is not giving a f***.”. Good luck with the search though why you’d want a Probe is beyond me.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    For those who don’t know, the Probe was originally supposed to be Ford’s “new” Mustang back in the very late 80s. Yup, the plan was to turn the Mustang into a FWD jellybean-shaped car. Early renderings of the car actually had Mustang emblems on them.

  • avatar

    Thomas, I have a 1997 BMW 328i with a five-speed here in NC. 204k miles. Runs good, few issues, lots of new parts. You wouldn’t feel bad driving it every day.

  • avatar
    71charger_fan

    I can put you in my original owner ’83 Shelby Charger which I hardly have time to drive anymore despite dropping thousands into it to replace rust-damaged sheet metal, replacing a noisy 5-speed, and redoing the shocks, brakes, and clutch.

    http://www.dodgecharger.com/forum/index.php/topic,75944.0.html

    It may be just another “mass-produced Chrysler product,” but it gets noticed. Nobody under 30 even seems to know what it is or to have heard of one. Still fun to drive, but definitely not fast by today’s standards.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    Cool car Charger_fan

    short story. I had been buying $2000.00 cars ever other year and driving them into the ground for the past decade or so…to keep the fun cars out of the daily driving grind.

    I finally decide to buy a new car as a daily driver. At the time I had a 95 Dodge Spirit that I was going to trade in (didn’t have the heart to sell it knowing about the rust under it) and drove it to the local Chevy dealer to trade it in on a Cruze Eco.

    The short of the long, the sales guy I was dealing with had no idea what a Dodge Spirit was and had never seen or heard of one. I was floored! That is when I knew that 34 was actually older than I felt.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Just sounds like a sales guy who should really work at a grocery store, or in the mall.

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        well he was 19 or 20, and living in the rust belt (and the newest Spirits being 16 years old) I had to cut him some slack. I don’t think I’ve seen one on the road since I got rid of mine. There haven’t even been any on craigslist for almost a year in the Boston area that I’ve found.

        Just another instance of the younger crowd never having lived with some cars we take for granted.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I guessss. I’m probably more into cars than the average salesman. But if the kid was like “Oh man brah what is that shiz!” I’d of left. Lol.

          I’m 27, by the way.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      YOU feel old. :) A 1990 Dodge Spirit was the first car that I picked out new, bought on my own, and finally paid off. (My Dad picked out and paid for the ones before it.) Have no idea how many miles it ended up with because the odometer broke at about 175,000 miles; it was well over 200,000. Never had a major problem aside from the dark blue clearcoat failing; a dealer finally redid it for free in about 1998 or so. By 2004 it had lots of little things that needed to be fixed; but someone bought it from me and drove it away. One of the best cars I have owned; a major improvement over the 1984 Reliant wagon I owned before it.

      • 0 avatar
        PonchoIndian

        Its all relative my man :)

        It was one of the first times that I felt old in a situation like that. Once in a while I’ll say something and get the “I wasn’t even alive then” comment. Keeps the blood pumping if you know what I mean.

        Now if I could just act older than 17 my wife would be much happier with me.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Love the Cutlass. Now that is a fine car. I would love to find one just like that but with bucket seats and the 307 motor as the 231 V6 just doesn’t have the oats to keep up with today’s fast paced traffic or the strength to last much more than 100K without a rebuild. I had several back in the 90′s as daily drivers and miss them dearly.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Nice car. If it drives as good as the ’93 MX-6 that I’ve regularly maintained and occasionally driven over the last ten years, I’d buy it.


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