Hammer Time: The Seven Deadly Sins

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

There are some cars that no one will appreciate… but the owners. A bad brand name. Fatal and expensive defects from times past. Even a body style made of a designer’s frump can turn a brilliant vehicle into a showroom relic. This week I majored in buying unloved cars. Seven cars. Seven sins. More than likely seventy-seven plus days on the pavement.

Gluttony: 2000 Cadillac Seville STS

They can consume oil thanks to the Northstar engine’s unique design. They can consume even more coolant thanks to GM’s patented Dex-Cool, which has finally paid for the retirement of several gifted attorneys. They can even keep Cadillac dealers closer to the black thanks to an electric system that is as complex as it is badly protected from the heat of the engine. But for $500, I figured why not? Carmax announced ‘Does Not Run’ on a 2000 STS painted in GM’s “Bronzemist.” I turned the key and drove it home. They were right. Now it doesn’t run. But it’s a camshaft sensor. Or maybe an ignition switch. Maybe. I hope.

Greed: 1997 Pontiac Grand Am SE

I was greedy. Bought a garage kept two door coupe with automatic, cd player, and the best roll down windows that GM ever put on a 1990’s car. Well, I think they actually only used the same one for everything. In practice these are actually great finance vehicles. GM was in ‘Proctor & Gamble’ mode in the late 1990’s and slapped badges on anything they thought would move in the showroom. This works out well in the buy-here pay-here business because you can literally replace most anything on this type of vehicle for peanuts. The 1997 model cost $875 and since it’s the more youthful version, it will sell. I should get $3000 by financing it with $500 down and $50 a week for 50 weeks. Most late 1990’s GM compacts usually sell for right that amount.

Envy: 1995 Ford Aerostar

If you drove one of these vehicles, you envied every other minivan on the road. Ford took a 1980’s Ford Ranger rear wheel drive chassis, added seven thrift store quality seats that absorbed stains as well as they repelled your bum and put Tonka colored plastic buttons all over the door. Because that’s what you should be looking at when you’re driving on the road. For the finishing touch, they let it languish for 10 years while adding three other minivans to their portfolio. The result? I find the only one that had an owner who kept it hermetically sealed. No stains. No paint wear. No rips. No broken buttons. Not a single thing wrong. All the replacement parts were Ford OEM. I bought this 1995 model for $800. Someone will want it. Hopefully they live near Atlanta.

Pride: 1995 Lincoln Continental

Ford took pride in having the most advanced front wheel drive suspension in the world… in 1995. The 32 valve V8 engine produced a heart palpitating 280 hoursepower at a time when Toyota Camrys were sold with less than half that oomph. The seats were splendorous. The noise levels were better than the Town Car. In all respects this car should have been a true winner for Ford. If only they had taken pride in the rest of the car. The interior dashboard and door panel materials came straight out of the rental Taurus. The design was a testament to… the Taurus. In fact, all it really was in the end… was a $40,000 Taurus. I bought it for $852 at a sealed bid auction with a little less than 150,000 miles. It needs $250 worth of paint and that’s pretty much it. Maybe a Lexus badge.

Lust: 1993 Chrysler Town & Country

Come on! You know you want it! A three-box design that would be the envy of any mini-warehouse owner. Faux wood on the dash that is so shiny, you can comb your hair if you look at it just right. What can I say. I’ve always been a sucker for a ‘dirty burgundy’ and this one had it all. Leather seats, captain’s chairs, rear air, cruise, ABS… I think you can now get all these things in a Nissan Versa. I paid through the nose on this one because the owner kept it brilliant for 16 years. $1100

Despair: 1996 Chevy Lumina

I can only imagine the despair of the last owner when Firestone bilked him out of multiple C-notes. The car wouldn’t run right. So of course they ignored everything but the throttle body. Expeditious use of a wire brush and some cleaner brought it back to brilliant shape. It was clean inside and out and with only 90k miles, it’s only middle-aged. Like me. I bought it for a thousand. I’ll probably cash it for two or finance it for three. Like the compacts, GM’s midsized cars are perfect finance fodder.

Wrath: 2004 Ford Taurus

Can you imagine driving one of these things for 193,000 miles? Someone apparently didn’t need to. The radio was steadfastly tuned on AM stations and NPR seemed to be the only FM setting that was considered. The person who spent time in here was obviously car-apathetic. Judging this Taurus from that prism of indifference, it isn’t bad at all. The leather seats are nice. All the buttons work. Sunroof operates fine. But to be blunt, this car was truly a terrible car for it’s time. I can only imagine what Ford shareholders would have done had they compared this car to a similar year top of the line Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. Ford would have been toast. Thankfully the used car market benefits from 20/20 hindsight. I bought it for $1400. It’s competitors would have easily sold for two and a half to three times that amount.

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

More by Steven Lang

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 42 comments
  • Supremebrougham Supremebrougham on Dec 07, 2009

    This car has been babied, so I am going to hope for the best and wait and see...

  • Dlnorton Dlnorton on Sep 02, 2010

    The Aerostar will never get enough love. I say, if you have one sell it, put it in the junk yard..whatever. Just means more parts for me ! ;-D My 97 Aerostar is a work horse and has been across the US twice! The engine can take a beating if the body doesn't stand up. My mom had the 98 GMC Safari (basically your Chevy Astrovan) And I could barely fit in that van. I'm 6'-2" and Astros are small in the driver seat. My Aerostar has a lot of room for me. I know there's a better set of wheels out there for me, but I can't afford to make a car payment. So for now, it's my Aerostar. Good gas mileage too.

  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon
  • Alan My comment just went into the cloud.I do believe its up to the workers and I also see some simplistic comments against unionisation. Most of these are driven by fear and insecurity, an atypical conservative trait.The US for a so called modern and wealthy country has poor industrial relation practices with little protection for the worker, so maybe unionisation will advance the US to a genuine modern nation that looks after its workers well being, standard of living, health and education.Determining pay is measured using skill level, training level and risk associated with the job. So, you can have a low skilled job with high risk and receive a good pay, or have a job with lots of training and the pay is so-so.Another issue is viability of a business. If you have a hot dog stall and want $5 a dog and people only want to pay $4 you will go broke. This is why imported vehicles are important so people can buy more affordable appliances to drive to and from work.Setting up a union is easier than setting up work conditions and pay.
  • El scotto I can get the speedometer from dad's 72 Ford truck back. I can't get dad back.
Next