By on July 25, 2011



TTAC Commentator tresmonos writes:

OK.  So I used to work for Ford and am now gainfully employed by them (again).  My dilemma is as follows:

I am rolling on a Z24 cavalier that I bought brand new in 2001.  It has 160K on the clock and the only thing I can see that’s wrong with it is a AC compressor that’s been on limp mode since 2007 (bearing), bad drum brakes due to my laziness (LMAO – SM), and interior fan’s lowest two resistors being shot.  The twin cam has a bad coil as it misses at idle, but I could care less.  The car’s exterior filth has literally out lasted my marriage. It’s been a hell of a financial savings for me.  But we all know the twin cam dream won’t last much longer.

I temporarily moved to SC and blew my car savings load on a 100% rust free 1984 lincoln continental turbo diesel.  I repainted it and have slaved over some wiring nightmares on it.  I’ve got 6K invested in the thing.  And I need a new mode of transportation.  Foolish purchase, I know… but if you would look at the clean, rust free body, and sit in that Corinthian plush leather seats whilst romping on the gas to behold two dual plumes of diesel particulate whooshing in the rear view, you’d understand.

The Focus ST is coming out and working at my current employer has me torn between a new ride and being cost effective with a used one.  When you work around the product, you want it.  I love the fact I know every little thing about my cavalier.  I know immediately when I need to address something, and luckily, it’s been just electrical issues thus far (I’ve rewired the entire acc harness in the engine bay due to cheap mexican made delphi spliced together sh**).  So, with that preference (being weary of a used vehicle), do I spring on the ST if the Cavillac stays alive long enough?  Or do I buy a lightly used Ford/Lincoln for 10K less?  I already have a Lincoln, but I cannot find a desirable used Ford sans a SVT focus, though the SVT isn’t known for quality.  What do you think I should do?  I have an easy 10-15K that I can put down on a purchase.  Used SVT focus or new ST?  Or make my household 100% lincoln?  I’m torn between my cheap habits and the desire for something fun, and I want something as trouble free as my Z24 has been.

I think you know one of my friends. (Yup, I do. – SM) I’m one of his college buddies and he mentioned you would love my new Foxbody Lincoln.  Next time you’re in Detroit, let me know and you can drive the shit out of it.

Sajeev answers:

Your college buddy called me out of the blue to tell me about your Foxy Conti.  He was there when I towed my Fox-Conti to a ranch in central Texas where it rotted for almost a decade, so he knows those cars. And now that I will be spending an ungodly/vulgar/stupid amount of cash to restore mine, I would be honored to drive your little BMW-Steyr-Foxbody-Continental at some point.  And maybe give you a spare part or two for the trouble. Thank you.

Now on to your quandary:

I wouldn’t trust a used Focus SVT, mostly because I worry about a lack of upkeep and a ton of hooning under it’s belt.  And because you are a Ford employee, you are almost obligated to lease a new car every two years. Not for corporate advancement or to “fit in”, although those undercurrents creep up in any company in some way/shape/form…but let me tell you a story:

I lived in Metro Detroit when I was a student at CCS.  One of my friends, who was very aware of private school tuition, totally surprised me when I saw a brand new Chevy S-10 (that’s how old I am) in the student parking lot.  I thought this guy MUST be a fraud, a brand spankin’ new truck?  Turns out his Dad was a GM Engineer.  And GM offered employees a sweet deal on 4-cyl 5-speed trucks…to keep their CAFE standards up?

Whatever, my point was that this little truck was only $98 a month for a two-year lease.  No money down either, I think.  So here’s my plan of action for you.

  1. Lease whatever little compact car they have on heavy incentives.
  2. Use the money saved over buying a Focus ST/fixing an SVT to tweak it with an SCT tune, bigger swaybars, Eibachs, +1 tires,  whatever you want. It’ll still be slow-ish, but it will do if you make it to your tastes.
  3. Use the money saved to buy a house, if you didn’t already come up with a down payment for one in the Detroit area using the change in your ashtray.
  4. Use the money to address problems on the Foxy Conti…you see where I am going with this?
  5. Sell the Cavalier on craigslist before it dies.
  6. Worry about getting an ST Focus or any other hot button purchase after your short term lease on a shitty car is over. Because, much like the Taurus SHO, Focus SVT and Contour SVT before it, I see this vehicle getting discounted heavily…once the small market that demands it is saturated by it’s excellence.
  7. Have your cake and eat it too, via delaying your gratification.

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.


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41 Comments on “Piston Slap: What’s a Ford Employee to do?...”

  • avatar

    New Focus whether it’s an ST or not; they are really an excellent car (I bought a Titanium Focus this past April).

  • avatar

    Sadly, in some areas of the Motor City, you can buy an entire city block, or blocks for that ashtray money.

    I have nothing more to add than what Sajeev has already iterated: “1. Lease whatever little compact car they have on heavy incentives.” A fine plan in my mind, considering the circumstances. You might even wind up with a Taurus!

  • avatar

    Peripheral comment here – I always get a kick out of seeing the word ‘invested’ being applied to car-related spending. Would that it had ever worked out that way for me.

  • avatar

    Base model Dodge Calibe, no options. Unless there are still some ‘new’ PT Cruiser’s moldering away somewhere.

    The irony value alone justifies it.

  • avatar

    I think I know you.
    You are that guy who is driving around in that filthy old Cavalier, right? You do that drive through thing at McDonalds and Taco Bell, ordering enough food for three people, and then ordering two drinks with it all so that the clerks there think you are ordering for two? Then you sit in the parking lot in the back and eat?

    You have that old Continental leaking in the lot back at the apartments right? The one the neighbor kids were using as a backstop when they played baseball in the parking lot. You have a lot of empty KFC boxes in that car and it smells like fried chicken when you walk buy it on the way to the laundromat. Thats a diesel turbo? Cool.

    Sorry about the break up. The neighbors heard you guys all the time and were wondering when you guys would move out. That explains why it got so quiet.

    Congratulations on the new job! Get a new Focus right now. Get it in black. It looks more expensive in black. A sedan. That way chicks will think you have money. This time, wash it and don’t eat inside it. At least for a year.

    It is time for a new lease on life! Wash your clothes. Underwear in on sale at JCPenney. Don’t bother giving the stuff you are wearing to Goodwill – they’ll smile when you drop it off, but you really don’t want anyone actually digging through that stuff without rubber gloves, do you?

    Oh, and stop drinking milk. Its fattening and full of sugar. They have gym memberships on sale at the Y. It’ll give you a chance to shower twice a day. Buy a toothbrush and leave it at the gym. Chicks want fresh breath.

    You will like Ford. You will need the money from what I’ve heard from your old neighbors!

  • avatar

    Sajeev is 100% on target with this one.

  • avatar

    WHAT!?!?!? Lincoln offered a BMW diesel engine as an option back in the 80s? I never knew that.

    That story requires an entire post all to itself.

    • 0 avatar

      I know, right? I was perusing craigslist with ample money in my bank account… terrible idea.

      I went to see the car, just so I could witness one in person. I bought it on the spot.

      I love the car to death.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d love to drive a MkVII LSC from that era again. My father owned one at the time. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one of the diesels. I’d have been tempted to check out the car myself. Good thing I don’t peruse CL.

        Maybe the previous Focus ST? Decontented interior, but fun to drive, less likely to be dogged than an SVT, should be more reliable than an SVT, and should be cheap.

        A Lincoln LS could also be an interesting choice, though I’m not sure about reliability. There must be some engineers within Ford who remain proud of their car, so it could be worth some points on the inside. Anyone can appreciate the goodness of the new ST.

      • 0 avatar

        I loved my ’88 LSC. And in the center console, there was a light (that never lit) that said “water in fuel” should you have chosen the BMW diesel engine…only saw one in the wild, though.

      • 0 avatar

        Who would have thought the TTAC would show so much love to a 80’s fox body diesel? :)

    • 0 avatar

      My uncle had one, and it was a pretty sweet ride. He was a diesel mechanic in the Navy during the Korean War, and that Continental was his pride & joy. He drove it until he died twelve years ago.

      I would have bought it then, but the only diesel mechanic I trusted to work on it had just died, you know?

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      They were the BMW Turbo diesel 2.4 6 cyl. The same one they offered in the 524td. I don’t remember how Ford ended up buying them to put in Conti’s and MK VII LSC’s. I think they were trying to compete with GM full size diesels as well as CAFE standards since they got 30 MPG highway

  • avatar

    The 2011 Focus (or the previous model) is a steal right now. A loaded SES is cheaper than a base 2012 SE model. Still a great car, maybe not as much pizzazz as the newest. But, hey there are plenty of upgrade parts for the last of the C170 model.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s if you can still find one new. At my dealer we haven’t had 2011 Foci for over half a year. There are likely some deals on used ones though…

      I’d go for the 2012 Focus, you can get a great lease deal with your employee discount and wait for better deals in the future on the Focus ST – as there likely won’t be any discounts at launch.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    SM gives good advice. And to the OP, you Sir are a true enthusiast to keep one of those rare diesel Contis running. I always wondered how hard that would be when I would see one on eBay.

    Now I’m salivating over the clean, low option, 302V8 powered Fairmont Wagon I found on eBay yesterday. “Mustang Woody Wagon” anyone?

    • 0 avatar

      They’re relatively simple in design. The only time you need electrical is to start it and charge the battery next time you have to start it again. So it doesn’t take much to keep one going, so long as the head is babied (when it throws up a v belt for the water pump, I pull over wherever I’m at and throw another on). I just need to find a donor spare motor with a good head.

      I think mine has 150k on the clock, and you wouldn’t be able to tell if you walked up to it and sat down in the driver seat. Most of the excessive electronic acc’s still work, to my amazement.

  • avatar

    It’s been about 2-3 months and I have been thinking long and hard about this. Luckily, I travel a lot and get a fleet car while I’m away. So the crapalier has sat for about 6 weeks. It hardly gets any miles. Sajeev is right: there’s a bunch of pressure to drive all things Ford. My group isn’t exactly keen on it being ‘new,’ but I dislike having to walk to the back lot to park. Prior to this, I came up with the conclusion that I want a Town Car and that I would pull the trigger on one when this thing dies (I am extremely cheap). But maybe the cavillac will last until big discounts on a ST?

    The lease idea would be perfect if I didn’t have this travel perk. I’d say I maybe drive the cavalier 40% of the time…

    Great advice and I hope you shoot me an e-mail when you’re in the area. I need some motivation to ‘invest’ more money into the continental (Truckducken: by ‘invest,’ I really mean ‘light on fire’)

  • avatar

    Trade in both the old junky cars and buy a new Fusion.

  • avatar

    Tresmonos, see if they have any lease deals on Rangers. Seeing as they, like the Cavaliers, are the cockroaches of the highways (and I mean that as a compliment), and any gremlins were fixed, oh, 20 years ago, this would be a solid choice.

    I leased them in the 90’s thru college and my first job. Shortbox, 5-speed, A/C and a CD player for $134/mo. 24 mos., no money down. Good old A-plan.

  • avatar

    Does it make sense to recommend a bargain lease to someone who has averaged 16K miles a years in his current ride? Was there a time he was also putting miles on another car that isn’t up to daily use anymore?


    How many miles are you driving now? How many will you be driving during the course of the lease? Drive too few miles on a lease, and you’re wasting money. Drive too many, and you’ll be on the hook for excess mileage. Do lease companies even want to own cars that are driven in Detroit?

    • 0 avatar

      It doesn’t make sense to recommend a lease to anyone, ever.

      • 0 avatar

        For anyone who routinely trades every two or three years a lease makes perfect sense.

        For someone who wants more car than they could afford on a traditional finance deal, a lease also makes sense.

        In 99.999% of cases, a car isn’t an appreciating asset, so you are going to lose money no matter which way you go. Buying something with a huge down payment to minimize finance costs, or better yet buying cash, and keeping it going for ten years may be the most fiscally prudent solution, but most people don’t buy cars primarily out of fiscal prudence.

        You can save a lot of money living on Quaker Oates and Hamburger Helper, buying all of your clothes at Goodwill, and keeping the thermostat at 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter, but most people are willing to spend some extra money for things that make them happy. If a new car every few years or a $40,000 car on a lease for the same payment as a $25,000 car on a buy makes you happy, then go for it.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t give advice from the perspective of trying to make a buck off the person asking the question.

      • 0 avatar

        CJ –

        I actually usually make less on a lease deal than on a buy, but I do appreciate leases because there’s a greater chance to see a lease customer when it’s time for their next car than a cash or traditional finance customer.

        I’ve seen plenty of people who keep trading every three years but keep financing instead of leasing. They usually don’t want to put enough money down to offset any negative equity so they keep getting more and more upside down on each new loan until finally they’re stuck in the car until they can come up with a big wad of cash to buy down the balance or they just stay in the car until it’s paid off.

        Leasing isn’t for everyone, and for the person who plans on keeping the car for ten years and wants to lease then buy it out at the end, a traditional finance option is generally better. In most other cases leasing does give flexibility – you get a lower payment up front, you have a predetermined amount you can buy the car for at lease end if you really want to, and at lease end you can either re-lease (generally with extra incentives from the manufacturer if you choose another model from the same brand, so it will save you your next down payment) you can buy it out if your situation has changed or if the buyout price is lower than what you could buy the same car for used, you can trade and take advantage of equity if the car is worth more than the buyout price, or you can walk away free and clear.

        Yes, you need to figure out your mileage needs, but most people have a general idea of how many miles per year they’ll need based on previous driving habits. If you buy extra miles up front, your residual is lower at the end and your payment will be higher, but if you drive high miles on a vehicle you buy cash or finance the trade in amount will be lower anyway. If you don’t end up using all of the miles your lower pre-set residual value gives you a better chance at having equity at lease end, so you get some money back. I’ve had several customers come out of leases recently who have had equity in the vehicles and were able to use it towards new leases or purchases.

        If you lease it usually doesn’t make sense to do it beyond 36/39 months though. One of the nice things about a lease is that you are under full bumper to bumper warranty the whole time, and the only things you’ll be paying for besides the payment are gas and an occasionally oil change/tire -rotation. Leases that go beyond the full warranty open you up to more potential costs. In a two or three year lease you also cut out having to pay for new tires (as any new set should last 40,000 miles pretty easy) transmission fluid changes, coolant flushes, new batteries, etc.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t give advice from the perspective of trying to make a buck off the person asking the question.

        CJ, but there’s the rub. Often the best experts have a financial interest in the subject. I’ll give you an example. I do machine embroidery and I’m working on a job for a friend. She’s a nice lady but I’m thinking of charging her more next time because she can’t make up her mind when it’s being planned. Just kidding, but it’s frustrating. So she want’s me to embroider a couple of tablecloths that she’s taking to Israel. She wanted me to incorporate a monogram of the recipients’ Hebrew initial along with some traditional Jewish motifs. What I came up with was a some lettering and motifs arced around the middle and I suggested putting a monogram on each corner, for an elegant and balanced look. Yes, each one of those 4 corners costs money. But if it was my own tablecloth, that’s how I’d do it.

        Whenever you’re in business that’s the ethical dilemma but ideally, wanting to do the right job for that customer is the key.

  • avatar

    Lincolns didn’t have Corinthian leather, it was the Chrysler Cordoba.

  • avatar

    2012 Ford Focus SE hatchback, Race Red, sports package, manual.

    That’s what I’d get, anyway.

    When the lease is up, you might actually be able to get a Fiesta ST – going by the prototypes spotted with US-spec parts it looks like it might make its way over here, and would obviously be cheaper than the Focus ST.

  • avatar

    Why can’t you drive the Conti to work?

    Leasing a strippo Focus says I got pretty much the cheapest Ford product I could so it looks like I’m a company man.

    Doing mods to a leased vehicle is stupid and a waste of your money. Sure you could keep the factory wheels and put them back on but then you didn’t get any use out of them and you’ll only get a fraction of the initial purchase price.

    Drive the Conti to work until the ST comes out and get one if that is really what you want.

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