Hammer Time Rewind: The Seven Deadly Sins

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time rewind the seven deadly sins

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 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 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 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 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 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.

Join the conversation
2 of 54 comments
  • Chicagoland Chicagoland on Apr 30, 2012

    purist rag on the old Taurus, but the one bought had near 200K miles on it. Pretty good run for a so called 'bad car'. To lower income buyers, it's a luxury car. And, 2004 was one year away from the intro of the 2006 Fusion, which hasn't had any knocks against it. Can go on and on about 20+ year old mistakes of car makers, but what matters is what is running and selling now.

  • The Comedian The Comedian on Apr 30, 2012

    After twenty-years, and sales of nearly seven million cars, Ford has announced that it will no longer make the Taurus, forcing many thirty-somethings to find a new way to show the world they've given up on their dreams. -- Amy Poehler, on SNL's Weekend Update -- 10/21/2006

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.