Piston Slap: Brooklyn's Dream Machine?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap brooklyns dream machine
Dave writes:Hi Sajeev –

I live in Brooklyn and I have a 2011 Prius that I still owe about $10k on. Before mocking my choice of personal transportation, remember that driving dynamics mean next to nothing when you live in a place where it’s hard to go above 40 MPH at any given time and the roads resemble 1990’s Kosovo. That said, my best friend is the service manager at a Volvo dealership and she just received a 1993 Volvo 940 wagon on trade.

It has 124k miles on it, and it’s been garaged and meticulously maintained with new tires, new muffler, new brakes, etc. She’s having her shop give it a once-over and she can sell it to me for $3k and I’m impulsively forking over the money without giving it a second thought. I’ve always wanted to own a Volvo wagon; perhaps it’s because in 1993, our family owned a 1986 Nova and a 1991 Saturn and I was always painfully aware of the better options on the road. Psychoanalysis aside, I’ve been a ‘car guy’ my entire life but I don’t know the first thing about fixing a Volvo.

Here’s my plan: keep both the Volvo and the Prius for the summer and decide to sell one of them at the end of August. Forge a good relationship with a local, well-reviewed Volvo repair shop. Be honest with myself and realize that the Prius will likely get the boot come August.

Since I’m currently paying $300/month in car payments, I could save that much and presumably spend it on the Volvo (which I wouldn’t mind, knowing that I’d be driving my dream car). I don’t depend on my car to get to work and would put less than 10k/year on the Volvo were it to become my daily driver.

I can’t tell if this is the best or worst idea I’ve ever had and I’d love to get your thoughts.

Sajeev Answers:

Aside from parking availability, this is one of the smartest things I’ve seen in months. Here’s why.

One of my closest friends lives in Brooklyn, and I’ve spent a few days there with his family. I kinda loved it, as so many things were within walking distance from their apartment. So I see where you’re coming from. And your assessment of the Volvo and your need to find a reputable mechanic implies you’re covering all the bases. Considering the roads and availability of public transportation in NYC, having an old Volvo as your only mode of transport isn’t a bad idea.

It’s kind of a great idea. Plus, if you fill the cargo area with crates of PBR, you’d be the coolest cat in your borough. Sorry, I couldn’t resist making a hipster joke.

Get the Volvo, find a good indie mechanic, register on the brickboard forums and be an active lurker, sell the Prius and live a happy life with your dream car. Many of us will be jealous, but we’ll be happy that you are happy.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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  • Alfabert Alfabert on Jun 11, 2014

    Find your independent Volvo mechanic ASAP first - and go ahead and buy that 940 wagon before it gets away. I had a '93 non-turbo - just a GREAT and SOLID and REAL vehicle - and I'd expect I'd still have it except Norm the Drunk rear-ended it and punted the 945 90 feet down the street with his Volvo XC90. Everyone walked away - Norm the Drunk cuffed and supported by an officer on each side. Plan on nothing better than 20 mpg with the red block engine until you're on the open road, acceleration in the slow lane, and $1800/year maintenance at 8K-10K miles/year. But the lower car insurance and taxes compared with the Prius will make up much of the maintenance. It'll may be overdue for a replacement radiator - it's cheaper than the eventual head gasket replacement that is the alternative But this isn't about the economics - buy it because you've always wanted one, and will enjoy it. It's that simple. And then post your experiences for those of us whose 740/940 driving lives ended prematurely.

  • Kuponoodles Kuponoodles on Jun 12, 2014

    If OP was asking about a v70r or something, thats one thing. Otherwise, I believe OP just wants to feel at home when driving through Williamsburg/Carrol gardens/park slope with all the other Volvo, Subaru, Audi wagons. OP Currently owns a prius.... But isnt a commuter...... Ok..so... Why wven have that car mich less buy another? Then asks, not so much for advice but affirmation, that buying the volvo, would be a wise move. But also admits he wont drive the dream wagon that much. Who....cares....? Buy whatever you want.

  • ScarecrowRepair Too much for too little, unless you treat it strictly as a toy.
  • DedBull Mk2 Jettas are getting harder to find, especially ones that haven't been modified within an inch of their life. I grew up in an 85 GLI, and would love to have one in as close to stock configuration as I could get. This car isn't that starting point, especially sitting 3-4 years in the NY dirt. It's a parts car at best, but there might still be money in it even at that price, if you are willing to take it down to absolutely nothing left.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I bet it has some electrical gremlins as well. Nonetheless it might make an interesting El Camino pickup truck conversation with one of those kits.
  • GrumpyOldMan "A manual transmission is offered, as is a single-clutch auto. "What is a single clutch auto?
  • ToolGuy It is raining super-hard outside right now.
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