Project $1500 Volvo: What You REALLY Get For $1500

project 1500 volvo what you really get for 1500

Now that the Hyundai Genesis Coupe has gone back and our track day video is complete, Project $1500 Volvo is back in my sights. As promised, the purpose of this series will be to document what you can get as far as a cheap car goes, and like Project Debt Free over at Edmunds, we’re going to document the experience. This week sees us catch up on the various expenses that have cropped up since purchase – and there’s been a few bills to pay. Still, it doesn’t look bad after a thorough wash, does it?

When I bought Project Volvo, I knew it needed a few things to pass our inspection process, but the damage turned out to be relatively light. A new outer tie-rod, new parking brake shoes and a cable as well as rear brake rotors as pads. Total price for parts, labor, tax and the safety certificate ($75 alone) was $423. No, I couldn’t have done a cheaper or better job myself.

The car was officially road worthy according to the Ontario government, but a few issues remained. First, the front tires, while within spec for the inspection, were about one millimeter away from disintegration. The rears were a bit better, but I decided to bite the bullet and replace all four. My local tire shop had Kumho KU25 high-performance all-seasons for $113 per tire mounted and balanced. With sales tax, it came out to $512. I could have found something cheaper on The Tire Rack, but ordering to Canada is a pain, and I’d still have to get them installed. I also didn’t want to wait any longer if my younger brother was going to be driving the car and riding on nearly shot tires.

The final issue is one I’m still grappling with; cigarette smoke. I knew when I bought the car that the previous owner was a cigar smoker, and initially thought it wouldn’t bother me. I was wrong. When my younger brother came home reeking of tobacco (he’s a fitness nut and doesn’t smoke) simply from driving the car for half an hour, I knew I had to take action. Getting a detailing crew to steam clean it seemed like the most obvious idea, but I decided to take the Steve Lang route and try a “frugal” DIY solution.

Cigar(ette) smoke is actually a physical residue; steam cleaning the car would result in gross looking brown gunk being released from the cabin, but it would probably cost well into the three-figures. Having owned old cars before, I know that they all have their smell, so minimizing it as much as possible would be acceptable. I left the car with the windows down for a week – the smell was so strong that I could smell it from six feet away) and hoped that fresh air and sunlight would take their course. A good car wash, combined with periodic Febreeze spraying (the plastics and vents get wiped down, while the carpets get saturated with the stuff) has helped quite a bit. I’ll give it another week and see how things turn out. Overall, the interior is in good shape for 162,000 miles over 14 years.

Next up is the body work. This is the major flaw of Project Volvo. The car is in great shape mechanically and the body and frame are largely free of rust – but stone chips and scrapes have ravaged the front end and rear bumper, ruining the whole “wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive it” element. A cheap re-spray job is inevitable, but not right now.

So far we have:

Car: $1500

Taxes/Fees: $195

Tires: $512

Repairs/Safety Inspection: $423

Febreeze: $5

Total (as of 5/29/2012): $2635

Still a good deal behind Edmunds and their Lexus. A ball-park quote for the re-spray came to $400. A tune-up isn’t needed (according to my mechanic) and the timing belt has another 50,000 miles to go before a change. Considering I am lucky to drive 5,000 miles a year on my own car, I should be in for a pretty painless experience. I’ll likely do the front rotors and pads, and I suspect the shocks and strut mounts may need a change at some point. For now, all appears to be going well.

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  • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on May 31, 2012

    Maybe I missed an earlier entry to this series, but will other people be driving it regularly too? Maybe your little brother? This isn't much of a test of what you can get if you are lucky to put 5,000 miles on it in a year. You won't know if you have a serviceable daily driver unless you actually use the thing. I think you need to find a way to triple that mileage for this experiment to mean much.

  • Sadicnd Sadicnd on May 31, 2012

    Derek, would it be possible to create an article with a list of all the techniques of removing the smoke smell suggested by the B&B? It may help many of us in the future. Thanks.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.